Rizpah, King Saul’s concubine went through unimaginable circumstances, yet she stood strong in her faith.
What Was Rizpah in the Bible?
Though a concubine was little more than a royal slave, after Saul died, Rizpah found herself in the middle of a political power struggle. Ishbosheth, Saul’s son who took over the throne, accused Abner, his army commander, of sleeping with Rizpah. Highly offended, Abner then parted ways with Ishbosheth and devoted himself to transfering the throne to David.
Years later, when David was king, the land experienced a famine that lasted for three years. David inquired of God, asking the reason for the famine, and God said it was due to Saul’s bloodthirsty killing of the Gibeonites, even though they’d signed a peace treaty with them.
In his attempts to make things right, David went to the Gibeonites asking what he could do to appease them. They responded that they wanted seven of Saul’s descendants to be hung.
David agreed to their request, sparing Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth, but handing over Rizpah’s two sons and five of Saul’s grandsons.
The seven young men were put to death during the first days of the barley harvest, but though God’s law stated that when a man was put to death, his body should be buried that same day, no one assumed responsibility for their burial.
Rizpah watched as her sons were hoisted onto the trees and left to die. Her heart broke as they cried out in pain. She watched helplessly as they each breathed their last breath, innocent victims of the sins of their father. When nightfall came, she assumed someone would come remove them from the crosses, and she would anoint them and prepare their bodies for a proper burial. But no one came.
Rizpah took sackcloth and laid it on the rock in front of the bodies. Night and day she stood guard over the bodies, keeping the birds away during the day and the wild beasts during the night.
For five months Rizpah camped out on that hill.
For five months she watched as their bodies slowly decayed.
For five months she remained vigilantly by their sides, though the stench was overwhelming.
How worn out and weary she must have felt all alone on that hill with no one to comfort her or care.
Only she wasn’t alone. God was with her.
Rizpah sat on sackcloth. Sackcloth was not just for mourning. It was for repentance. What did Rizpah do while she guarded her sons’ bodies? I expect she spent a lot of time pouring out her heart to the Lord.
Did she yell at Him for allowing such tragedy to befall her? Perhaps, although there’s no record of that? Did she pray for comfort and healing in their land? Maybe. Did she find peace in the midst of her trial? I believe so.
Eventually word reached David about Rizpah’s vigilance and he gathered up the bones of Rizpah’s sons, Saul’s five grandsons, and the bones of Saul and Jonathan, and had them buried in the tomb of Kish, Saul’s father.
2 Samuel 21:14 tells us that after they buried them, God heeded the prayer for the land and sent down rain from heaven.
What prayer for the land? Could it be Rizpah’s prayer? I like to think so. She was the one on the sackcloth. She was the one who sat there until the rain poured down. She was the one who stood faithful until David eventually heard about her watch and was led to do the right thing.
Rizpah was weary and powerless, but God gives strength to the weary and strengthens the powerless.
Rizpah may not have been able to save her sons from death, but during her time with God on that rock, she found comfort and peace.
What Can We Learn From Rizpah
It’s unlikely you’ll ever have to endure a situation quite like Rizpah, and yet there will be times where you’ll be falsely accused, where your children will suffer for the sins of others, and where you’ll be helpless to do anything other than pray.
There’s nothing worse than feeling helpless, especially when it concerns our loved ones. We want to take their burdens upon ourselves. But we can’t always do that.
But what better response than to pull out the sackcloth and cast our cares on the Lord? God is greater than any burden you may be carrying.
Psalm 55:22 tells us to cast our burdens upon the Lord, and He will sustain us.
Though you may feel forsaken and forgotten by the rest of the world, God never forsakes or forgets. He sees you. He is there on that hill when the rest of the world has seemingly abandoned you. He hears your cries, and when the time is right, He will send down healing rain.
Lord God, what a horrific story this is. Oh, how this poor woman suffered. It’s so hard for us to understand why these innocent young men had to die for the sins of their father, and why no one thought to take them off the crosses and give them a proper burial. Lord, sometimes things happen that we just don’t understand. But we know that whatever happens, we’re not alone. You are always there to carry our burdens. Remind us of that so that we don’t try to carry them on our own. Lord, forgive us for feeling we have to do everything ourselves. Help us to remember to lay our burdens at your feet. Thank You for always being there for us. We love You. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.
Bible Study Review
- What was Rizpah’s position?
- Why was she the object of gossip?
- Why were her sons killed?
Thoughts to Ponder
- Was Rizpah a good mother?
- Could Rizpah have prevented her sons’ death?
- Who was there for Rizpah in her darkest days?
- Have you ever had to watch someone you loved suffer and/or die? How did you respond?
- What can we learn from Rizpah’s example?
- How are you like/unlike Rizpah?
This concludes our Worn Out Women series on All God’s Women.
We’re coming into February, so to celebrate the Month of Love, we’re doing a series of Love and Marriage, a look at the love stories of women in the Bible. We’ll look at beautiful romances we can use as role models, but we’ll also have a few to learn what not to do.
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