Who was Rizpah in the Bible?

Author: BibleAsk Team


Rizpah was the daughter of Aiah (2 Samuel 21:10). She was a concubine of King Saul. Ishbosheth, Saul’s son, charged Abner the army leader of committing adultery with her (2 Samuel 3:7).    

2 Samuel 21:1-14 tells us that Rizpah was one of the mothers who lost two sons because of an Israeli conflict with the Gibeonites. The story starts when the land of Israel experienced a three-year famine in the days of King David. So, the king inquired of the Lord about the reason for the famine. And the Lord answered that the famine was because of Saul’s bloodthirsty house, because Saul killed the Gibeonites and did not honor the protection oath that the Israelites had made with them.    

So, in order to end the famine, David asked the Gibeonites, who were not part of Israel but from the remnant of the Amorites, what they wanted as an atonement for the lives they lost. And they answered back that they didn’t want silver, gold nor the death of any of the Israelites. But they wanted only the lives of seven of the descendants of King Saul who murdered some of their men. And they will hang these seven in Gibeah.  

So, King David promised that he will fulfill their request. But he didn’t hand in Mephibosheth the son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, because of David’s promise to Jonathan to protect his seed. Instead, he took Armoni and Mephibosheth, the two sons of Rizpah the concubine of Saul, and the five sons of Michal the daughter of Saul, who was married to Adriel the son of Barzillai the Meholathite. Then he handed them to the Gibeonites, and they hanged them in the days of harvest, in the first days, in the beginning of barley harvest to atone for the blood of their sons.  

We should not conclude that David had done God’s will for atoning for Saul’s evil action. In this case, the Lord weighed David’s act by his sincerity, even though He condemned the act itself. Afterwards, God answered the prayer of David for the land and the famine ended.  

Rizpah’s Vigil  

Rizpah protected her sons’ dead bodies, which were hanged as trophies of the Gibeonites at Saul’s former home in Gibeah. The Bible tells us that “Rizpah the daughter of Aiah took sackcloth and spread it for herself on the rock, from the beginning of harvest until the late rains poured on them from heaven. And she did not allow the birds of the air to rest on them by day nor the beasts of the field by night” (2 Sam 21:10). Rizpah’s vigil over her sons’ bodies continued from the spring harvest until the fall rains, which was about 5-6 months.  

It was the loving devotion of Rizpah to her sons that caused David to show his respect for the descendants of Saul. So, the king brought up the bones of Saul and the bones of Jonathan his son from there along with the bones of those who had been hanged.  Then, they buried the bones of Saul and Jonathan his son in the country of Benjamin in Zelah, in the tomb of Kish his father (Verse 13,14).    

In His service,
BibleAsk Team 

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