Shmuel 2-Chapter 21: The famine and reburial of Shaul and his descendants

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Chapter 21: The famine and reburial of Shaul and his descendants

1. The famine in the times of Dovid:

  • In the days of Dovid there was a famine for three years.
  • G-d reveals to Dovid the reason behind the famine: After a year of famine, Dovid sought to ask G-d [through the Urim Vetumim[1]] as to the reason behind the famine, and G-d answered him that it is due to the fact that King Shaul [was not properly eulogized and was buried in a hurry[2]], and is likewise due to the fact that [King Saul] murdered [the city of Nov of Kohanim[3]], and due to the fact that he murdered [seven members[4] of] the Givonim.

2. Dovid offers reconciliation to the Givonim, for having been murdered by King Shaul:

  • After Dovid heard from G-d the reason behind the famine, he called to the Givonim, to try to make amends with them [and convince them to forgive the household of Shaul[5]].
  • Who were the Givonim: The Givonim were not from the tribes of Israel but rather from the Amorite nations. The Jewish people [in the times of Yehoshua[6]] had made a pact with them, and King Saul had desired to smite at them, and annihilate them, in order to purify the Jewish people and the house of Judah.
  • Dovid asks as to how they can be appeased: Dovid asked the Givonim, “What can I do for you and in what way can I atone [for the sin of King Saul] in order so you pray for the inheritance of G-d.”
  • The Givonim ask for seven descendants of Saul to be killed: The Givonim replied that they are not interested in the gold and silver of the house of Shaul, and that they do not request to take the lives of any other member of Israel [but they do request to take the lives of the household Shaul]. [Dovid tried appeasing each member of the Givonim individually, offering them silver and gold, but they refused to be appeased with money and rather desired the blood of Shaul’s family to be spilled.[7]] The king thus reluctantly agreed to give in to whatever they would request, and they therefore told the king, “The man who annihilated us and who desired to destroy us and banish us from within the borders of Israel [i.e. Shaul] hand over to us seven of his descendants and we will hang them in front of G-d [i.e. for the sake of heaven to show everyone the punishment for murder]. We will hang them in the Valley of Shaul who was the chosen one of G-d.” Dovid acquiesced and said that he will fulfill their request and give them seven descendants from the children of Shaul.

3. Seven descendants of Shaul are killed by the Givonim:

  • Mifiboshes is saved by Dovid from being given to the Givonim: The king had mercy on Mifiboshes, the son of Yehonason, the son of Shaul, as he had made an oath in the name of G-d between him and between Yehonason, the son of Shaul [to help and assist his descendants]. [The descendants of Shaul were each required to pass in front of the Aron Habris, and whoever was chosen by the Aron would be put to death. Hence, Dovid prayed to G-d that Mifiboshes would not be chosen.[8]]
  • The seven descendants who were chosen for death: The king took the two sons of Ritzpah the daughter of Ayah who gave birth for Shaul, Armoni, and Mifiboshes[9], and the five sons of [Meirav, whose stepmother was[10]] Michal, the daughter of Shaul, who had birthed from Adriel the son of Barzilaiy from Micholasi.
  • The hanging: The above seven individuals were handed over to the Givonim and hung on a mountain in front of G-d [i.e. in front of the Aron and Urim Vetumim[11]]. All seven died together. They were put to death in the very beginning of the time of harvest of the fields of barley [in the month of Nisan[12]].
  • Ritzpah guards the bodies from the birds: Ritzpah the daughter of Ayah took a sack and covered it over the rock [that they were hung by] in order to protect them from the birds of the heavens that they should not attack them during the day, and to protect them from the animals of the field at night. The bodies remain covered until the time of the rain season [in Tishreiy[13]]. [Thus, the bodies remained hanging for six months from Nisan until Tishreiy. This was done in order to publicize to the nations of the world the severity of even harming a convert, and certainly against harming the Jewish people.[14]]

4. Shaul and his son Yehonason are reburied and the famine ceases:

  • Dovid was informed that which Ritzpah the daughter of Ayah, the concubine of Shaul did [to protect the corpses from the animals and birds, and he learned from her a lesson as to how to treat a dead body with respect].
  • Gathering the bones: Dovid went, and he took the bones of Shaul and the bones of his son Yehonason, from the property of Yaveish Gilad who had originally stolen the bodies from Beit Shean, from the area where they were hung by the Philistines on the day that the Philistines had killed Shaul in Gilboa. He gathered the bones of Shaul and the bones of his son Yehonason, as well as the bones of the seven descendants who were hung.
  • The burial: Dovid buried the bones of Shaul and of his son Yehonason [as well as of the seven descendants[15]] in the land of Benjamin, in the area called Tzeila, by the grave site of his father Kish.

5. The famine ends:

  • The people did all that the king had instructed [regarding eulogizing Shaul throughout all the cities of Israel[16]], and so Hashem answered the prayers of the Jewish people and removed the famine from the land.

6. The wars of Dovid against the Philistines:

  • The battle in Nov and death of Yishvi the giant: There was a further war between the Jewish people and the Philistines. Dovid went together with his servants to battle the Philistines and Dovid was exhausted. There was a man named Yishvi who lived in Nov, who was a descendant of the giant Harafa. The casing of his spear weighed 300 copper coins, and they had new swords, and desired to kill Dovid. Avishaiy the son of Tzeruyah helped Dovid to smite the Philistine, and he killed him. On that day the men of Dovid swore saying that from now on he will no longer go out with us to war in order so the candle of Israel not be extinguished.
  • The battle in Gov and death of Saf and Goliath the giant: Afterwards there was a further war against the Philistines in the town of Gov. In that war, Sibchaiy Hachushasi killed Saf, who was from the children of Harafah. The war with the Philistines continued in the city of Gov, and Elchanan the son of Yairi Orgim from Beis Lechem [i.e. Dovid[17]] had killed Goliath the Gitite.
  • The battle in Gath and the death of the giant: There was a further battle in the city of Gath. There was a certain man there who was very tall and had 24 fingers, six on each foot and six on each hand. He was also a child of Harafah. He blasphemed the Jewish people and was smitten by Yehonason the son of Shimi, the brother of Dovid. All four of these giants were children of Harafah in Gath, and they all fell in the hands of Dovid and the hands of his servants.


[1] Metzudos Dovid 21:1

[2] Rashi 21:1; Yevamos 78b

[3] Rashi 21:1

[4] Rashi 21:1

[5] Rashi 20:2

[6] Rashi 20:2

[7] Rashi 21:4

[8] Rashi 21:7; Yevamos 79a

[9] This is a different Mifiboshes, who was the son of Shaul, and is not to be confused with Mifiboshes the son of Yehonason, who was the grandson of Shaul.

[10] Rashi 20:8

[11] Radak 21:9

[12] Rashi 21:9

[13] Rashi 21:9

[14] Rashi 21:10; Yevamos 79a

[15] Metzudos Dovid 21:14

[16] Rashi 21:14

[17] Rashi 21:19

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