After the defeat of Absalom and his followers, David mourned his son so deeply that the people felt they could not celebrate the victory and the end of the terrible battle they had fought. Joab spoke to David and David listened, got himself together and took his place as king as he should. He then forgave the people who had followed Absalom. But there remained animosity between Israel, who had betrayed David and Judah who had remained loyal.
David, though showed no favoritism to Judah. He was a fair and forgiving king. He cared about the people and saw them as his responsibility. He forgave each person who penitently came to him. And he found out that with some such as Mephibosheth, he had been mistaken. Jonathan’s son had stayed behind in Jerusalem because Ziba had told him to. He had mourned the king’s absence the entire time (2 Samuel 19).
2 Samuel 20 tells us about some people were not so penitent. Sheba, who was a Benjamite like Saul decided the recent troubles were the perfect time to allow him to become king. He blew a trumpet and announced, “We have no portion in David, and we have no inheritance in the son of Jesse; every man to his tents, O Israel!” He appealed to Israel’s greed. What would they get out of following a Judahite? So Israel decided to follow Sheba and once again they rebelled. But Joab pursued and without a battle killed Sheba. Without David’s orders or consent, he also killed Amasa who had been Absalom’s general.
David had to deal with the concubines whom his son had defiled. He could no longer go to them. But concubines were not in God’s plan for him. They were an indulgence that was against God’s plan. David didn’t punish them but he couldn’t keep them as he had before. He set them up in a house and provided for them, but no longer went to them. They lived out their days as if they were widows. Although Absalom had defiled them, it was David who should not have had concubines in the first place. David repented of that sin and did what he could for his victims.
In 2 Samuel 21:1-14 David and Israel were faced with a famine. For three years the famine continued and year after year David asked The LORD about it. He answered David, “There is bloodguilt on Saul and on his house, because he put the Gibeonites to death.” The Gibeonites were Canaanites who tricked Joshua into allying with them instead of killing them (Joshua 9). Though they deceived Joshua, the pledge to align with them held. Saul had chosen to ignore the covenant and tried to conquer them. Israel was now paying for Saul’s sins. So David went to the Gibeonites in order to avenge them. Verses 3-6 read,
And David said to the Gibeonites, “What shall I do for you? And how shall I make atonement, that you may bless the heritage of the Lord?” 4 The Gibeonites said to him, “It is not a matter of silver or gold between us and Saul or his house; neither is it for us to put any man to death in Israel.” And he said, “What do you say that I shall do for you?” 5 They said to the king, “The man who consumed us and planned to destroy us, so that we should have no place in all the territory of Israel, 6 let seven of his sons be given to us, so that we may hang them before the Lord at Gibeah of Saul, the chosen of the Lord.” And the king said, “I will give them.”
I can’t imagine David’s sorrow. It seems there was something constantly against him, something constantly causing more deaths, and now he had to willingly let seven men die to save Israel and do what was right for the Gibeonites. It wasn’t his sin this time, it was Saul’s. Verses 7-9 tell us what happened next.
But the king spared Mephibosheth, the son of Saul's son Jonathan, because of the oath of theLord that was between them, between David and Jonathan the son of Saul. 8 The king took the two sons of Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, whom she bore to Saul, Armoni and Mephibosheth; and the five sons of Merab the daughter of Saul, whom she bore to Adriel the son of Barzillai the Meholathite; 9 and he gave them into the hands of the Gibeonites, and they hanged them on the mountain before the Lord, and the seven of them perished together. They were put to death in the first days of harvest, at the beginning of barley harvest.
Putting those men to death brought David no joy. But Saul had sinned and his descendants had to pay the debt he incurred. Does that seem unfair? God is Just and who are we to question Him? I have a feeling those seven men were not so innocent. Ezekiel 18:4 reads,
Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die.
Sin has a price and that price is death. Israel was The LORD’s chosen, but God loved the Gibeonites as well. They had been sinned against. Israel had to live up to who God was and that meant living up to the covenants they made. David lived up to his covenant with Jonathan and spared his son, Mephibosheth. He turned to the sons of two of Saul’s daughters Rizpah and Merab.
Rizpah watched her sons and nephews hang and mourned them, though she was careful not to interfere with the sentence and cause more death for other family members. She sat in mourning, watching the bodies and keeping scavengers away until rain finally fell. When David heard about it, he took the bodies of the seven men, plus Jonathan and Saul’s bones and gave them a proper burial, interring them in the family tomb in Zela.
Sin incurs debt and that debt must be paid. When those who had betrayed David went to remorsefully asked David for his forgiveness, he gave it. He reinstated positions and lands and gave others places in his army. Some refused to repent and they paid with death. All of Israel was paying for Saul’s sin until David obeyed God by sacrificing seven sons of Saul.
In God’s kingdom too, sin incurs a debt. That debt is death. Jesus, the only one who could, paid the price for all and we have to do accept that gift is repent, believe, and confess Jesus is Lord (1 John 2:2, Romans 10:9). But all around us, people are dying in their sin and paying the price. In John 4:35-38 Jesus said,
Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. 36 Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”
We are God’s chosen and like Israel had a duty to live up to God’s image, we have a responsibility to live up to the image of Christ. David did so as he pursued God’s heart. Though people sinned, even against him he forgave because he had been forgiven. Because David was a man after God’s own heart, he did all God’s will (Acts 3:22). Believer, are you doing all God’s will? Do you know that even the sins that seem to be directly against you are really against the LORD? He wants to forgive those sins not have those people suffer His wrath (2 Peter 3:9). Let us stand arm in arm with God and rejoice with Him over the harvest.