And Rizpah the daughter of Aiah took sackcloth, and spread it for her upon the rock, from the beginning of harvest until water dropped upon them out of heaven, and suffered neither the birds of the air to rest on them by day, nor the beasts of the field by night. — 2 Samuel 21:10
I read a story a while ago about a dog in Scotland that had demonstrated an amazing amount of loyalty and faithfulness to his master. The dog was known as “Greyfriars Bobby.” For years, he and his master were inseparable. After his master died and was buried in Greyfriars Churchyard, Bobby took up post on his master’s grave every night for fourteen years — until his own death.
Certainly, the devotion of a dog is not the same thing and really cannot be compared to the devotion portrayed in this chapter. Rizpah exhibited amazing love and faithfulness to her two dead sons during what must have been an agonizing ordeal for her. She stayed by their bodies through the entire harvest season to prevent the vultures from tearing at them during the day and the wild animals from eating them at night.
The pain over the loss of her loved ones — not to mention the way they were killed — had to be excruciating, but seeing their deteriorating bodies as she kept her vigil and protected them for what was likely months is hard to comprehend. What an example of devotion she demonstrated!
As we consider what she did, perhaps we can get a little better understanding of the immense love and the magnitude of the faithfulness that God extends to us. I suspect that there was a lot of love between Rizpah and her sons, and she performed this act of devotion in part because of the love she received as well as the love that she had for her sons.
Even though many people throughout the ages have turned God aside, He sent His Son to earth to sacrifice Himself for us. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. He has been, and still is caring for us. Regardless of how much we have hurt Him, Jesus has been faithfully watching and waiting — not for a season, but since creation — ready to take us into His family.
By His sacrifice on the Cross, and His promise that He will never leave us nor forsake us, Jesus gave us the ultimate example of unselfish love. How have we responded?
Some 400 years before this time, the Gibeonites had tricked Joshua into making a treaty with them (Joshua 9). They dressed in old clothes, and brought old, dried, moldy bread with them, making it appear as though they had traveled a great distance to meet with Joshua. Due to their appearance, Joshua thought they had indeed come from far away and thus were not a people dwelling in the land of Canaan, which he was conquering. Hence, he had no problem signing a treaty with them. It was due to this treaty that the Gibeonites were allowed to remain in the land, though essentially they were slaves of the Israelites.
A concubine of King Saul, Rizpah had borne him two sons. Concubines had very little status or influential power; they were considered “secondary wives,” and were inferior to the “primary wives.” Rizpah was the concubine that Abner (Saul’s commander) had taken, and then Ishbosheth (Saul’s son that Abner had made king in Israel) challenged him on the matter (2 Samuel 3:7). This made Abner angry, so he transferred his allegiance to David. Her actions in this chapter show that Rizpah was a loving and courageous mother.
According to the Law, bodies were to be buried on the day of death. However, these bodies were unburied until the rain came — the evidence that the famine would end. Rizpah protected the bodies from April until October — the harvest season. Her actions prompted David to gather the bones of Saul and of his sons to give them a proper burial in the family tomb, which was important to an Israelite.
The battles listed in verses 15-22 happened earlier and are recounted here. These conflicts were all with descendants of the giants. They may have been of renown at the time, since their names were mentioned. Ishbi-benob’s spear weighed between seven and nine pounds. Abishai was David’s nephew, and he rescued him. After this conflict, David’s military commanders declared that he was too valuable to go with them to the battlefield any more.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
A. The famine because of Saul’s wrath (21:1-14)
1. The request of the Gibeonites (21:1-6)
2. The appeasement of the Gibeonites (21:7-9)
3. Rizpah’s sorrow (21:10-11)
4. The interment of the bones of Saul and Jonathan (21:12-14)
B. The destruction of Goliath’s descendants (21:15-22)
1. Ishbi-benob (21:15-17)
2. Saph (21:18)
3. Goliath (21:19)
4. Another giant (21:20-22)
Often when people choose to do things their own way rather than looking to God and striving to follow His will, it ends in tragedy. Both the famine and the killings of Saul’s sons and grandsons could have been avoided had Saul looked to the Lord for guidance. In our lives too, we can avoid trouble and problems by following God’s plan rather than our own.