Biblical Personalities-King David’s Dilemma
On the 16th of Nisan King Saul’s seven sons were killed (Bamidbar Rabbah; Nasso): During the reign of David, there was a famine for three successive years; so David sought the face of God. God said, “It is on account of Saul and his blood-stained house; it is because he put the Gibeonites to death (When Shaul destroyed Nov, the City of Kohanim, he displaced all the Givonim who were the woodchoppers and water carriers there).”
The king summoned the Gibeonites and spoke to them. Now the Gibeonites were not a part of Israel but were survivors of the Amorites; the Israelites had sworn to spare them, but Saul in his zeal for Israel and Judah had tried to annihilate them. David asked the Gibeonites, “What shall I do for you? How shall I make atonement so that you will bless God’s inheritance?”
The Gibeonites answered him, “We have no right to demand silver or gold from Saul or his family, nor do we have the right to put anyone in Israel to death.”
“What do you want me to do for you?” David asked.
They answered the king, “As for the man who destroyed us and plotted against us so that we have been decimated and have no place anywhere in Israel, let seven of his male descendants be given to us to be killed and their bodies exposed before God at Gibeah of Saul, God’s chosen one.”
So the king said, “I will give them to you.”
The king spared Mephibosheth son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, because of the oath before God between David and Jonathan son of Saul.
But the king took Armoni and Mephibosheth, the two sons of Aiah’s daughter Rizpah, whom she had borne to Saul, together with the five sons of Saul’s daughter Merab, whom she had borne to Adriel son of Barzillai the Meholathite.
He handed them over to the Gibeonites, who killed them and exposed their bodies on a hill before God. All seven of them fell together; they were put to death during the first days of the harvest, just as the barley harvest was beginning.
Rizpah daughter of Aiah took sackcloth and spread it out for herself on a rock. From the beginning of the harvest till the rain poured down from the heavens on the bodies, she did not let the birds touch them by day or the wild animals by night.
When David was told what Aiah’s daughter Rizpah, Saul’s concubine, had done, he went and took the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan from the citizens of Jabesh Gilead. They had stolen their bodies from the public square at Beth Shan, where the Philistines had hung them after they struck Saul down on Gilboa. David brought the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan from there, and the bones of those who had been killed and exposed were gathered up.
They buried the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan in the tomb of Saul’s father Kish, at Zela in Benjamin, and did everything the king commanded. After that, God answered prayer in behalf of the land.(II Samuel 21:1-14).
Haggadah: Ten Plagues: God punished the Egyptians measure for measure, as, in this story, Shaul Hamelech’s family is punished!