It is hard for many of us to relate to the horror of famine. But for much of human history, and in parts of the world today, it is a reality. In ancient Israel, famine was a sign of God’s displeasure (Lev. 26:20; Deut. 28:18).
God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. Romans 3:25
We do not know exactly when the events of today’s reading took place. The final four chapters of 2 Samuel are arranged topically, not chronologically. After a three- year famine (v. 1), David sought the Lord. The Lord revealed the cause of the famine: Saul’s slaughter of the Gibeonites (v. 1). Joshua had made a solemn covenant with the Gibeonites that they would live peaceably together (Josh. 9:15–18). Saul violated this sacred agreement.
The following narrative is difficult to read and understand. Instead of asking the Lord how to atone for this sin, David asked the Gibeonites what they wanted (v. 4). The Gibeonites asked that seven of Saul’s sons be executed (v. 6). In the Torah, the punishment for murder was death (Ex. 21:23). Since Saul had already died, his sons would stand in his place. As the Moody Bible Commentary reminds us, “the only way to atone for murder and the consequent pollution of the land was for the person who committed the crime to be put to death (Num. 35:30–34)…justice could only be established through the shed blood of those who carried out the crime.”
Amid this horrific scenario stands Rizpah. Two of her sons had been executed (v. 8). She demonstrated deep love for her children by protecting their bodies from harm (v. 10). Rizpah also reminds us of the grief caused by sin. David responded by providing a proper burial (vv. 13–14).
Today’s reading is a stark reminder of the penalty for sin. Jesus’ death provided the perfect and final atonement for our sin. “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2).
Every jarringly violent scene in the Bible reminds us of the jarring evil of sin. The more we understand sin, the more we stand in awe of Your capacity to forgive. Thank You, Father!