Sheba’s revolt in chapter 20 marks the end of what can be considered the sequential chronology of 2 Samuel. The remaining chapters recount events that fit the author’s thematic purposes for the end of the book, but don’t tie to a strict timeline.
This is evident from at least three factors. First, the author in chapter 21 tells us that this story happened “in the days of David,” which would be a peculiar thing to say since we’ve been reading about David all along. Second, the song of deliverance in chapter 22 is a poem spoken by David on the day when the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. And third, the events of chapters 21 and 24 show a younger, more virile David than was reflected in the last few chapters.
As with the flashback stories at the end of Judges, let’s approach these chapters as though the authors knew what they were doing, and try to better understand the purpose they serve here at the end of the Books of Samuel.
Our first story is launched against the backdrop of a three-year famine, which David discovers is the LORD’s judgment for a crime perpetrated by Saul. The event referenced doesn’t appear in scripture, but the author reveals it as a breach of the promise Gibeon had exacted – albeit under false pretenses – from Joshua. David’s solution, though perhaps disturbing to us, appears to satisfy the LORD’s call for justice.
After recounting a few earlier battles with the Philistines, the author’s recounts a song David spoke to the LORD in thanks for His deliverance. Before we dive in, I’m reminded of Nathan’s rebuke in chapter 12: “I gave you…the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight?”
Consider what might have been when the younger, more innocent David who authored this song celebrates that “The LORD dealt with me according to my righteousness… For I have kept the ways of the LORD, and have not wickedly departed from my God.”
Pay attention also to how David envisions the LORD in action. “Smoke went out from His nostrils… He rode on a cherub and flew… He sent arrows and scattered them… The foundations of the world were laid bare at the rebuke of the LORD.”
Our verse for this week is Ephesians 2:8-9: For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
2 Samuel 21 and 22. Now let’s read it!
2 Samuel 21 - 22
21:1 Now there was a famine in the days of David for three years, year after year. And David sought the face of the LORD. And the LORD said, “There is bloodguilt on Saul and on his house, because he put the Gibeonites to death.” So the king called the Gibeonites and spoke to them. Now the Gibeonites were not of the people of Israel but of the remnant of the Amorites. Although the people of Israel had sworn to spare them, Saul had sought to strike them down in his zeal for the people of Israel and Judah. 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?” 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?” 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, 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.”
But the king spared Mephibosheth, the son of Saul's son Jonathan, because of the oath of the LORD that was between them, between David and Jonathan the son of Saul. 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; 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.
Then Rizpah the daughter of Aiah took sackcloth and spread it for herself on the rock, from the beginning of harvest until rain fell upon them from the heavens. And she did not allow the birds of the air to come upon them by day, or the beasts of the field by night. When David was told what Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, the concubine of Saul, had done, David went and took the bones of Saul and the bones of his son Jonathan from the men of Jabesh-gilead, who had stolen them from the public square of Beth-shan, where the Philistines had hanged them, on the day the Philistines killed Saul on Gilboa. And he brought up from there the bones of Saul and the bones of his son Jonathan; and they gathered the bones of those who were hanged. And they buried the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan in the land of Benjamin in Zela, in the tomb of Kish his father. And they did all that the king commanded. And after that God responded to the plea for the land.
There was war again between the Philistines and Israel, and David went down together with his servants, and they fought against the Philistines. And David grew weary. And Ishbi-benob, one of the descendants of the giants, whose spear weighed three hundred shekels of bronze, and who was armed with a new sword, thought to kill David. But Abishai the son of Zeruiah came to his aid and attacked the Philistine and killed him. Then David's men swore to him, “You shall no longer go out with us to battle, lest you quench the lamp of Israel.”
After this there was again war with the Philistines at Gob. Then Sibbecai the Hushathite struck down Saph, who was one of the descendants of the giants. And there was again war with the Philistines at Gob, and Elhanan the son of Jaare-oregim, the Bethlehemite, struck down Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver's beam. And there was again war at Gath, where there was a man of great stature, who had six fingers on each hand, and six toes on each foot, twenty-four in number, and he also was descended from the giants. And when he taunted Israel, Jonathan the son of Shimei, David's brother, struck him down. These four were descended from the giants in Gath, and they fell by the hand of David and by the hand of his servants.
22:1 And David spoke to the LORD the words of this song on the day when the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. He said,
“The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation,
my stronghold and my refuge,
my savior; you save me from violence.
I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised,
and I am saved from my enemies.
“For the waves of death encompassed me,
the torrents of destruction assailed me;
the cords of Sheol entangled me;
the snares of death confronted me.
“In my distress I called upon the LORD;
to my God I called.
From his temple he heard my voice,
and my cry came to his ears.
“Then the earth reeled and rocked;
the foundations of the heavens trembled
and quaked, because he was angry.
Smoke went up from his nostrils,
and devouring fire from his mouth;
glowing coals flamed forth from him.
He bowed the heavens and came down;
thick darkness was under his feet.
He rode on a cherub and flew;
he was seen on the wings of the wind.
He made darkness around him his canopy,
thick clouds, a gathering of water.
Out of the brightness before him
coals of fire flamed forth.
The LORD thundered from heaven,
and the Most High uttered his voice.
And he sent out arrows and scattered them;
lightning, and routed them.
Then the channels of the sea were seen;
the foundations of the world were laid bare,
at the rebuke of the LORD,
at the blast of the breath of his nostrils.
“He sent from on high, he took me;
he drew me out of many waters.
He rescued me from my strong enemy,
from those who hated me,
for they were too mighty for me.
They confronted me in the day of my calamity,
but the LORD was my support.
He brought me out into a broad place;
he rescued me, because he delighted in me.
“The LORD dealt with me according to my righteousness;
according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me.
For I have kept the ways of the LORD
and have not wickedly departed from my God.
For all his rules were before me,
and from his statutes I did not turn aside.
I was blameless before him,
and I kept myself from guilt.
And the LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness,
according to my cleanness in his sight.
“With the merciful you show yourself merciful;
with the blameless man you show yourself blameless;
with the purified you deal purely,
and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous.
You save a humble people,
but your eyes are on the haughty to bring them down.
For you are my lamp, O LORD,
and my God lightens my darkness.
For by you I can run against a troop,
and by my God I can leap over a wall.
This God—his way is perfect;
the word of the LORD proves true;
he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.
“For who is God, but the LORD?
And who is a rock, except our God?
This God is my strong refuge
and has made my way blameless.
He made my feet like the feet of a deer
and set me secure on the heights.
He trains my hands for war,
so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
You have given me the shield of your salvation,
and your gentleness made me great.
You gave a wide place for my steps under me,
and my feet did not slip;
I pursued my enemies and destroyed them,
and did not turn back until they were consumed.
I consumed them; I thrust them through, so that they did not rise;
they fell under my feet.
For you equipped me with strength for the battle;
you made those who rise against me sink under me.
You made my enemies turn their backs to me,
those who hated me, and I destroyed them.
They looked, but there was none to save;
they cried to the LORD, but he did not answer them.
I beat them fine as the dust of the earth;
I crushed them and stamped them down like the mire of the streets.
“You delivered me from strife with my people;
you kept me as the head of the nations;
people whom I had not known served me.
Foreigners came cringing to me;
as soon as they heard of me, they obeyed me.
Foreigners lost heart
and came trembling out of their fortresses.
“The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock,
and exalted be my God, the rock of my salvation,
the God who gave me vengeance
and brought down peoples under me,
who brought me out from my enemies;
you exalted me above those who rose against me;
you delivered me from men of violence.
“For this I will praise you, O LORD, among the nations,
and sing praises to your name.
Great salvation he brings to his king,
and shows steadfast love to his anointed,
to David and his offspring forever.”