07 February 2010

Famine and Human Sacrifice

The Bible doesn't say much about this killing. It all happens in a single verse.
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 21:1
We 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 21:5-6
David 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 21:8-9
And 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.
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."
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!
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


skanksta said...

Steve, are you counting this as 3,000 or 3,007 ?

twillight said...

This really starts to be a long gruesome list.

Steve Wells said...

I'm counting a total of 3007, 3000 for the famine and 7 for Saul's 2 sons and 5 grandsons.

Daniel Clements said...

Am I becoming increasingly sensitized to this horror show, or are these stories getting more and more horrid?

Steve Wells said...

I'm not sure, Daniel. I often think as I'm writing these summaries, "OK, this is the worst killing." But then the next one comes along and seems ever worse.

I wish a believer would stop by and explain why each of God's killings was good, necessary, right, and just. We used to have some that at least tried. Where have they gone?

I'd like to have a guest post from a believer for each killing, but so far at least, Brucker is the only one who has even tried. (And he seems to have given up.) Are they that indefensible?

busterggi said...

"Are they that indefensible?"

Why yes, they are.

Daniel Clements said...

I suppose many Christians could point out that they are not literalists, and that these stories are allegories, and many of the ideas and themes are metaphors. Then, if you also take into account the social dynamic of the times in which they were written, because it was quite different from now, then the stories are... still not defensible.

Anonymous said...

One of my "favourite" arguments by bible literalists is that the Isrealites were justified in their wars against the heathens because these heathen would perform gruesome acts of human sacrifice to please their gods (Especially Ba'al). In wiping them out, the Isrealites were actually ensuring that there would be less killing in the future, since these practices would no longer be carried out.
I then point out cases like this, or when Jephthah kills his daughter for victory over his enemies, or when god asks for a share of the prisoners of war to be sacrificed to him. At which point the "it was god's will, we wouldn't understand" justifications begin.

Erp said...

Note that Michal daughter of Saul had also been David's wife though her sons who were killed were by a different husband.

Rizpah, the other mother deprived of her sons, according to the Bible stayed by their bodies so the scavengers wouldn't eat them until David had them properly buried several months later. It is a strange episode

Matthew Blanchette said...

Sex! Violence! Human sacrifice!

All reasons why the Bible is rightly considered the sacred book of Western civilization; am I right, folks?