Here’s my outline:
Introduction: This is a most unusual story and a most unusual text for Easter morning. Bear with me as we make the connections. For all the times I’ve read through the Bible, it was not one that was very familiar to me. It is a frightening story. It is not one that would make a good "Precious Moments" figurine!
I. The story:
A famine has come upon the land for three years. King David inquires of the Lord and finds that the famine is God’s punishment on Israel for King Saul’s poor treatment of the Gibeonites (pagan Amorites).
David desires to soften the wrath of God: "And with what shall I make atonement…?" (v. 3).
The Gibeonites suggest that seven descendents of Saul be given them to be put to death (vv. 5-6), and David agrees: "I will give them" (v. 6).
The victims are selected (v. 8). They include Armoni and Mephibosheth (not the son of Jonathan by the same name), the two sons of Rizpah, Saul’s concubine.
The punishment is delivered and the victims are "hanged on a hill before the Lord" (v. 9). The text notes that this was during the ‘barley harvest." Was this some pagan fertility ritual?
The grieving Rizpah keeps vigil over the corpses not allowing the carrion birds or beasts to tear the bodies of her sons (v. 10).
David arranges for the proper burial of their bodies along with the remains of Saul (vv. 11-14a).
The story ends in v. 14b with the note: "And after that God heeded the prayers for the land."
II. Text of Terror?
Stepping back and looking at this passage presents a challenge. Was God’s wrath satisfied by the sacrifice of these victims? What does this say about the justice of God? This is the sort of passage that makes people hate the "God of the OT."
III. Parallels between the sacrifice of the seven sons of Saul and the sacrifice of Christ.
There are at least six parallels:
1. Sevens sons: The people of Israel are suffering for the sin of Saul and bear corporate guilt.
Jesus: All mankind is suffering for the sin of Adam. "I am not a sinner, because I sin; I sin, because I am a sinner."
2. Seven sons: Seven innocent victims are chosen to make atonement.
Jesus: One innocent (and completely sinless) victim is chosen to make atonement.
3. Seven sons: The sacrifice of victims is made by hanging them before the Lord.
Jesus: Jesus suffers and dies on the cross.
4. Seven sons: A noble woman (Rizpah) cares for the dead bodies of the victims.
Jesus: His women disciples come to care for his body.
5. Seven sons: They are placed in a tomb.
Jesus: He is placed in a tomb.
6. Seven sons: God’s holy wrath is satisfied.
Jesus: God’s holy wrath is satisfied.
Now we come to the key difference: The seven sons of Saul remain in the tomb, but Jesus is raised from the dead!
We can note many examples of the few being sacrificed for the many. But what happened to Jesus is something more. God demonstrated that in raising him from the dead. In the face of our sin, our question is that of David: "With what shall I make atonement…?" And we find the answer in the cross and resurrection of Christ (see Romans 5:6-10).