When the prophet Nathan confronted David about his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah, he prophesied, “The sword shall never depart from [David’s] house” (2 Samuel 12:10). Although David repented and was forgiven, the consequences of those sins and many others, including polygamy, will continue staining his reign in Jerusalem with jealousy, intrigue, conflict, and bloodshed.
God’s Word isn’t interested in polishing David’s halo; it gives us the truth. God wants to remind us all, that sin can have devastating consequences, not only for us, but also for those around us.
David has returned to Jerusalem as Israel’s king. He has put down the rebellion of Absalom, but he now faces another uprising. The first verse of 2 Samuel 20 tells us that a man named Sheba calls for the northern tribes of Israel to break away from the tribe of Judah. He says, “We have no portion in David . . . every man to his tents, O Israel.”
Sheba wants to take advantage of the tension between the northern and southern tribes so that he can make a run for the palace and become king. Initially, he has some success; verse 2 says, “All the men of Israel withdrew from David and followed Sheba.”
David responds by calling on his new commander, Amasa, to gather troops from Judah to deal with this rebellion. But when Amasa fails to take care of the matter swiftly, David turns to Abishai, one of his officers:
And David said to Abishai, “Now Sheba . . . will do us more harm than Absalom. . . . pursue him, lest he get himself to fortified cities and escape from us.” (verse 6)
So, they set out after Sheba. Abishai is accompanied by his brother Joab, the former general, along with a small army. Joab has not been happy about being demoted. He is a proven military leader, but he’s also devious and cunning. Now Amasa joins this force as they make their way in pursuit of Sheba. And Joab sees his chance for revenge. We read here in verse 10:
Amasa did not observe the sword that was in Joab’s hand. So Joab struck him with it in the stomach and spilled his entrails to the ground without striking a second blow, and he died.
Earlier Joab had murdered Abner because he saw him as a threat to his position. Now he murders Amasa, the man David had promoted. But there are no apparent consequences for his actions. In verse 23 we are told that Joab is back “in command of all the army of Israel.”
Well, Sheba and his men take refuge in the city of Abel, north of the Sea of Galilee. Joab’s army lays siege to this city and begins to batter the wall. A wise woman who lives in the city calls down from the wall and asks Joab why they are attacking the city. When Joab explains that they will leave if Sheba is given up to them, this woman promises in verse 21, “His head shall be thrown to you over the wall.” I don’t know who this woman was, but she was able to convince the city’s leaders to do that very thing. And in verse 22, we’re told that “Joab returned to Jerusalem to the king.”
Now we arrive at chapter 21, where Israel is in the grip of a three-year famine. David discerns that there is a spiritual cause behind the calamity, so we read in verse 1:
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.”
It’s not clear from Scripture when this took place, but it violated the treaty Joshua had made with the Gibeonites back in Joshua chapter 9. Saul did not honor the treaty and evidently killed many of the Gibeonites.
So in verse 2, David asks the Gibeonites what he can do to make things right. And they respond with a rather straightforward solution here in verse 6: “Let seven of [Saul’s] sons be given to us, so that we may hang them before the Lord at Gibeah.” David replies, “I will give them.”
“Sons” here simply means descendants of Saul. Keep in mind there’s no suggestion that innocent men are handed over for the death penalty. We have every reason to believe that these seven men had been personally involved in this unjust killing of Gibeonites.
The mention of rain coming in verse 10 indicates the famine has ended because justice has been served. And only then are the bodies taken down. The mother of two of those executed protected their bodies from animals, day and night, until they were taken down.
Her actions move David to retrieve the bones of Saul and Jonathan, and verse 14 tells us he gave them a proper burial in the tomb of Saul’s father.
Now the rest of 2 Samuel chapter 21—as well as 1 Chronicles 20:4-8—records further conflicts with the Philistines. And in each conflict, a single Israelite is highlighted for his heroics in striking down a Philistine giant.
David takes part in the first battle, but 21:15 says, “David grew weary.” He is not the young, giant-killer he used to be. In fact, verses 16-17 tell us that one of the descendants of the giants tried to kill David, but Abashai “came to his aid and attacked the Philistine and killed him.” After this close call, David’s men insist that he no longer go with them into battle. They refer to him as the “the lamp of Israel” (verse 17), and they are afraid that lamp will be extinguished—that David will be killed.
So now, in further conflicts with the Philistines, we find these Israelite warriors killing a number of giants. Sibbecai kills a giant in verse 18. Elhanan of Bethlehem kills another giant here in verse 19.
Finally, as if to dramatically conclude all these giant slayings, we are told that a giant “who had six fingers on each hand, and six toes on each foot” is killed by David’s own nephew (verses 20-21).
Let me make a few observations here. First, there was clearly an entire clan of giants among the Philistines, and they rose to become great warriors. Verse 22 says that “these four were descended from the giants in Gath,” and among them was the giant Goliath, whom David had killed years earlier (1 Samuel 17).
Second, verse 22 tells us that theses giants were killed “by the hand of David and by the hand of his servants.” In other words, just as David had earlier killed Goliath, so these Israelite soldiers defeated the giants because of the protection and faithfulness of God.
Third, even though this text tells us that Israel experienced these victories as a nation, do not overlook the fact that individuals with faith and courage were uniquely instrumental in these victories. Let’s not underestimate what God can do through one person putting his or her life on the line for the glory of God.
This is a great lesson for us today. Facing these giants was not a one-time event. Goliath had relatives. So do problems that face us today, and they come in all sizes and shapes.
So, let’s keep walking by faith, trusting the Lord, and asking Him to empower us to face the challenges of this day. No matter how big, how intimidating, or how great, let’s trust His wisdom and His Word and His power in our lives today.