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