Did David Murder Saul's Successors in 2 Samuel 21:1-14 and Does It Matter?

Keywords: 2 Samuel 21, David, Centralization of Worship, law, Archaic 3ms suffix


A semantic reading of this text alters the structure of the episode as a whole to reveal a story-within-a-story: the death of the seven Saulides and the expiation performed by Rizpah. The purpose of this sub-plot is to point to the perpetrator of the initial crime causing a famine, by presenting an analogous circumstance. By analogy we are directed to the conclusion that David is responsible for the famine after engineering the deaths of Saul and Jonathan. David’s exploitation of the differences between Ancient Near Eastern and Israelite law resulting in seven dead claimants to the throne of Israel, suggests that the episode has been compiled as a rejection of kingship; the centralization of worship, and the promulgation of the law-code. Fundamental to all these, is the rejection of the popular sovereign practice of murdering any potential successors to the throne.

Author Biography

Alice Deken, University of the Free State, South Africa

Research Fellow

Department of Old and New Testament Studies

Faculty of Theology and Religion