Commentary on Sabbath School Lesson for 11.27.10
Have you ever known someone whose life seems like a series of tragedies? Sometimes we look from our secure and comfortable worlds and think things like, “Well, she (or he) just brought that on themselves. If she’d just…” or “If he hadn’t…” It’s easy to second guess someone else’s life.
But what if the events really are out of that person’s control? Things start out bad and just get worse. There’s a story in the Bible that isn’t mentioned very often about a woman named Rizpah. What we learn about her life in the couple of chapters that mention her, is pretty awful.
Rizpah is first mentioned in 2 Samuel 3:7 where we find out that she is one of Saul’s concubines. And before you jump to any snap judgment like, “Well there’s your problem; she was a concubine”, consider this. It’s more likely that she did not have the opportunity to choose how she spent her life. It was probably chosen for her, by Saul. Whether Saul just happened to see her and pick her to be essentially breeding stock, or he conquered her tribe and took her as part of the spoils of war, Rizpah had no choice in the matter at all. And nobody asked for her opinion.
She isn’t mentioned again in until many years later: “But the king took Armoni and Mephibosheth, the two sons of Aiah’s daughter Rizpah, whom she had borne to Saul, … He handed them over to the Gibeonites, who killed them and exposed their bodies on a hill before the LORD. All seven of them fell together; they were put to death during the first days of the harvest, just as the barley harvest was beginning. Rizpah daughter of Aiah took sackcloth and spread it out for herself on a rock. From the beginning of the harvest till the rain poured down from the heavens on the bodies, she did not let the birds touch them by day or the wild animals by night.” 2 Samuel 21:7-9
So, Saul is dead and David is king, so she and her children are probably not on the social circuit for the new administration. But then things get really ugly and two of Rizpah’s sons are chosen for execution whether they were guilty or not, we don’t know. I don’t believe their guilt or innocence was really that important to Rizpah anyway.
I think I would be tempted, at that point, to just give up – crawl under the covers and stay there. Rizpah didn’t do anything like that, though. She did maybe the most noble and seemingly pointless things she could have done. She moved out to the place where her sons’ bodies were hanging and stayed with them…not just for a couple of days or even weeks, but for months!
That must have been horrific in every sense. First of all, her sons are dead, their bodies are still hanging (people who have died by hanging are especially grotesque because of what happens to their facial features) on display. Then we’re talking about a warm time of the year and not just two decaying bodies, but seven.
Rizpah stayed with the bodies, while they decomposed, and kept the vultures and crows and whatever other animal would normally have scavenged, away for months!
Why? It really seems pointless, doesn’t it? I mean, they were already dead, right? Keeping the scavengers away from their bodies was not going to change anything, was it? Why? What difference was Rizpah’s decision to protect her sons bodies make?
Ya know what? I don’t know. I don’t really understand why she felt that was important…but she did it, and she was steadfast in doing it. And ultimately it wasn’t a totally wasted act. David finally noticed and agreed to give these seven and Jonathan and Saul honorable burials.
Doesn’t seem like much of a pay-off for spending months of your life guarding your sons’ dead bodies, does it?
I have to say, I’m not really sure why this story is important, except to show that Rizpah never, ever gave up…not even after her sons were dead. She did what she thought she needed to do.
So, what should we do when life gives us lemons? Chuck’em at the buzzards – or stand faithfully and wait for Jesus to come and take us home…”He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” Revelation 22:20