Scripture: 2 Samuel 21-23, 1 Thessalonians 1

2 Samuel 21:1 During David’s reign there was a severe famine which lasted for three full years. So David consulted the Lord about it, and the Lord said, “Saul and his family are guilty of murder; he put the people of Gibeon to death.”


This is a troublesome story.  David asks the Lord why Israel is suffering from famine for three years, and the Lord answers that it is because of Saul’s sin in killing the Gibeonites, with whom Israel had a treaty of protection.  David asks the Gibeonites what he could do to make amends (atone) for the wrong, and they ask for 7 of Saul’s descendants to be killed.  David agrees, although he honors his covenant with Jonathan by protecting his descendants.  After the 7 men are killed, “God answered their prayers for the country.” (v. 14)

This story is rooted in an ancient understanding of covenants.  Covenant breakers were often punished by death and exposure. All of this is foreign to our culture and way of thinking.  And it seems to violate Deuteronomy 24:16 which forbids children being put to death for the sins of their fathers.  Evidently this kind of covenant violation was an exception.

Add to this that one can’t help but wonder if this problem provided David with a convenient way to eliminate Saul’s descendants.  Certainly they had continued to be a thorn in his side.  For example, both Shimei and Sheba were Benjaminites (Saul’s tribe) who led rebellions against David and called for Saul’s family to be restored to the throne.  There is no hint of this in the text—but one wonders…

So what can we take from this difficult story?

First, sin has consequences. Saul’s violation of the covenant resulted in trouble years later.  Our rebellion against God, our disobedience not only affects us now, but often has repercussions that surface years later.  Don’t ever think that your sin isn’t a big deal—it is.

Second, and most important, sin must be atoned for, and atonement requires death.  This story reminds us of our fundamental problem: we have broken our covenant with God and deserve to die.  “The wages of sin is death.”  “The soul that sins must die.”  But the good news is that Jesus has taken our place.  Jesus has died and been exposed on the cross to make amends for my sin, to appease the just wrath of God, and to reconcile me to God.

Said another way: because of Jesus, this gruesome story need never be repeated.  Jesus has fully and finally atoned for our sins.  God Himself has intervened to pay for our rebellion and has done for us what we could never do for ourselves!

This ugly story shows us the problem.  Jesus is the answer.

Prayer: Lord, here is another reminder why I am so grateful for Jesus!  Thank you that we don’t have to die for our sins—You’ve already done it!