The events of this chapter seem to have occurred earlier in David’s reign; at least that is how many exegetes think. Saul and Jonathan had not been given a proper burial, for in 1 Samuel 31:11-14 their bodies were disposed in haste. Mephibosheth was in the king’s care (he did not come into the king’s care until C-9). Because of the actions of Saul the Lord brought judgment on the land. The form of that judgment was draught. David made a connection between the “bloodthirstyness” of Saul and the house of the Gibeonites. In order to “atone” for the land (and nation) David sought counsel from the victims. “No payment in money,” they said, “but in like judgment.” This meant that the house of Saul was to give up some of the living for the benefit of the whole nation (21:4-6). Two sons and five grandsons were given the Gibeonites for execution. After the land had been expiated the remainder of the chapter focuses on David’s battles and his particular removal from any further battles (21:17).
Bible Difficulties. In v. 2 the Amorites are identified as the Hivites in Joshua 9:7. Is there a contradiction? No. “In many passages of the OT, however, the Amorites appear as the predominate population of Canaan, and accordingly (as in the cuneiform inscriptions) give their name to the inhabitants of the whole country” (Hastings Bible dictionary, vol. 1, p. 84). **** The reading of the chapter, especially verses 1-14, is hard on the ears of people today. Because of the actions of Saul the Lord brought draught to the land. In David making the connection he gave descendants of Saul’s house to those victimized by him – a form of judgment; the guilt or innocence in the actions of Saul are not explicitly mentioned. If, however, this was done in accordance with Numbers 35:29-34, those given would have to have been guilty. These men were given “before the Lord”; in other words, to remove the pollution of blood from the land by the Lord (21:14).
Application: I find it interesting that in olden times the Lord looked upon the shedding of innocent blood as bringing guilt upon the land of Israel. What does he think about our land today?