Then there was a famine in the days of David three years, year after year; and David enquired of the LORD. And the LORD answered, It is for Saul, and for his bloody house, because he slew the Gibeonites. 2 Samuel 21:1We only know that God sent a three-year famine on Israel because Saul killed some Gibeonites. (The Bible doesn't say when or where Saul supposedly did this.)
So David asked the Gibeonites what he could do to make God stop starving the Israelites.
The Gibeonites said that David should give them Saul's seven sons so they could hang them up before the Lord.
And they answered the king ... Let seven men of his sons be delivered unto us, and we will hang them up unto the LORD. 2 Samuel 21:5-6David agreed, giving them two of Saul's sons and five of his grandsons. "And they hanged them in the hill before the Lord."
The king took the two sons of Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, whom she bare unto Saul, Armoni and Mephibosheth; and the five sons of Michal the daughter of Saul ... And he delivered them into the hands of the Gibeonites, and they hanged them in the hill before the LORD. 2 Samuel 21:8-9And that satisfied God so that he quit starving the Israelites to death.
And after that God was intreated for the land. 2 Samuel 21:14
The Bible doesn't say how many Israelites were starved to death by God during the three year famine. I'll guess 3000 -- 1000 each year for the famine, plus another 7 for Saul's 2 sons and 5 grandsons.
This story (part of it, anyway) is highlighted in The Poverty and Justice Bible. Here are the highlighted words (2 Samuel 21:1-3).
While David was king, there were three years in a row when the nation of Israel could not grow enough food. So David asked the Lord for help, and the Lord answered, "Saul and his family are guilty of murder, because he had the Gibeonites killed.And that does sound nice, doesn't it? David is trying to make amends with the Gibeonites for past injustices done by the Israelites. What a model for peace and justice today!
David called the Gibeonites to him, and he talked with them. He said, "What can I do to make up for what Saul did, so that you'll ask the Lord to be kind to his people again."
The editors aren't bothered by the idea that God would starve people to death for what their former and now-dead king did long ago.
And they are completely OK with the idea of sacrificing to God the sons and grandsons of the former king to encourage God to "be kind to his people again" (by not starving them to death).
Oh well, I guess they had to find something to highlight in 2 Samuel!
God's next killing: David's mighty men and their amazing killings