Biblical Women Rizpah

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Rizpah : 

Rizpah Mother and concubine of King Saul Copyrighted material that appears in this article is included under the provisions of the Fair Use Clause of the National Copyright Act, which allows limited reproduction of copyrighted materials for educational and religious use when no financial charge is made for viewing.

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Rizpah’s name means “A Hot Stone” or “Coal.” She was one of King Saul’s concubines and had a Gentile background. In the Bible a concubine is a female conjugally united to a man, but in an inferior way to that of a wife. She had no authority in the family, nor could she share in the household government. In short a concubine could be used for sexual activity but had no rights at all in the man’s family. Rizpah’s tale of woe begins in 2 Samuel 3:7 (997 B.C.) and comes to an end in 2 Samuel 21:1-11. You will recall that Israel’s first king was Saul and he turned out to be less than adequate. A king’s job is to care for the people in his charge and naturally to follow God’s commands, Saul failed.

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David was the next king and Israel had had a famine which lasted three years. David prayed to the Lord asking why this affliction was brought on the people. The Lord told him, “There is bloodguilt on Saul and his family because he put Gibeonites to death.” (2 Sa 21:1). The Gibeonites lived in Canaan before it was invaded and became Israel. The Gibeonites had tricked Joshua into swearing by God’s name that they would not be harmed and so it was up until Saul came to power. Saul decided to wipe out or ethnically cleanse the area of the Gibeonites. As a result of Saul’s oath-breaking Israel suffered from famine. David then struck a “deal” with the Gibeonites who wanted all seven males of Saul’s offspring.

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Surely they would be killed but the famine would end. Rizpah had had two sons by Saul and Saul’s daughter, Merab, had provided him with five grandsons. The young men were sent to the Gibeonites who promptly dismembered them in Gibeon. Both Rizpah and Merab had become victims of the most important men in their lives Saul and David. Rizpah attended the spring time execution of her sons for the guilt of their father.

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The Gibeonites left their bodies on the mountain for the sun to rot, and the birds and wild beasts to eat (2 Samuel 21:10). But that would not happen because Rizpah remained on the hill for five months protecting the bodies of her sons as best as she could until the rains came and David arranged for their burial in October.

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A mother’s courage and loyalty to her children has no match in all of human history. If she hadn’t remained with her sons there would have been noting left of them to bury by the time the rains came. Everyone would have forgotten the sons’ sacrifice if it had not been for her vigil. She forced the country to recognize her loss, Saul’s sin and God’s saving power. Because of her sacrifice she prevented other mothers of Israel having to watch their children die of starvation.

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