2 Samuel 21:1 – Bloodguilt

We’ve explored previously the importance of vows made (http://garyritter.com/leviticus-2728-29-surely-be-put-to-death/) and guilt that comes upon the land for the shedding of innocent blood (http://garyritter.com/numbers-3533-blood-pollutes-the-land/). Because of how seriously God takes these issues, Scripture repeats the lessons for us.

As the Israelites conducted their conquest of Canaan, i.e. the taking of the Promised Land as God had directed, the Gibeonites tricked them.  The Gibeonites were a nearby tribe belonging to the Amorite people.  Their deception (Joshua 9) was that they lived far away, had heard of Israel defeating all their enemies in the land, feared them, and wanted to make peace.  Rather than consulting Yahweh, Joshua made this treaty, vowing to protect them, and thus acted against God’s will.  When the Israelites learned the truth, they couldn’t rescind the vow.  They couldn’t kill the Gibeonites, but did make them servants.

This was the importance of a vow, and why Jesus later said in Matthew 5:37:

“Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.”

When Saul was king, he disregarded this sacred vow and killed Gibeonites during his reign. Watch what happened as a result of this action in 2 Samuel 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.”

The promise made by Joshua had been violated.  God took that vow seriously and imputed guilt to Israel about 200 years later.  For Israel breaking that vow, Yahweh brought a famine onto the land.  David had no clue at the time for the reason of the famine. Only when he consulted God, did he learn the problem.  Isn’t that astounding?  God held Israel to her word and brought judgment because she broke it, but only a much later date.  God never forgets.

In Saul’s violating this sacred trust, he shed innocent blood.  Because of that treaty, God saw the Gibeonites as an innocent people.  By pursuing them in his zeal, Saul trespassed against the Lord.  Their blood had to be atoned for.  In 2 Samuel 21:2 we see the problem:

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.

David wanted to make things right with God, so he asked the Gibeonites how he could do that, and thus come out from under the vow’s curse.  The Gibeonites demanded blood for blood in the house of Saul.  They asked for, and David gave them, seven men descended from Saul.

Two items of interest in this situation:

  1. David spared the life of Saul’s grandson Mephibosheth because he himself had previously made a vow with Jonathan to preserve his children.
  2. The seven men who were put to death as atonement for Saul’s sin were, for all intents and purposes as far as we know, innocent of any wrongdoing other than having Saul’s blood in their veins.

Upon the execution of Saul’s descendants, the bloodguilt was atoned for and the curse of the vow removed.  As a result, we see in 2 Samuel 21:14 what then occurred:

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.

David made this issue right with God, and He responded to David’s prayer for the healing of the land with the ending of the famine.

Once more we see how critical it is that we realize our words have power and meaning, and that God holds people to what they promise before Him.  An idle vow can be dangerous because God will hold us accountable.

Additionally, we see that God remembers the shedding of innocent blood.  He may allow time to pass before accounting for it, but it must be atoned for.

This is why the blood shed by our nation in the killing of innocent children by abortion will not go unpunished.  America has blood on its hands.  Even the church shares in that blood for not having stood firmly against the secular culture with its desire to kill the unborn for its own convenience.

It would not surprise me that this is one reason the church generally has fallen deep into apostasy.  Sin begets sin.  It also tends to cause people to stray from the Word of God.  When the church ignores Scripture, it does so at its own peril.  If people don’t read the Bible, they don’t know what God requires of them.  This causes a continuing spiral downward that often includes sexual immorality as another factor and byproduct.  It’s why we see many pastors exposed for their sexual sins.  God sees it all, and he outs it when the time is right.

Following Jesus and walking in His way is both simple and difficult.  Look how easy salvation is since it’s a gift from God.  All we need to be saved is to ask.  But then, we must walk out and live our salvation.  That’s a little tougher.

Thank God He gives us the Holy Spirit.  We can consult Him each day.  As we do, He renews His blessings upon us and gives us the grace to follow hard after Him.  Why would we want to do anything different?

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