The Rizpah Factor (Be That Mom)

                                                       2 Samuel 21

: In 2 Samuel 21, we meet Rizpah, a mother grieving over the untimely deaths of her two sons. Through her silence, we are confronted with the uncomfortable realities that accompany inequitable distributions of power. Yet, it is Rizpah’s silence, as a powerful testimony of a mother’s pain, love, and courage, that reassures us to be steadfast in our faith since God can turn our most tragic moments into our greatest triumphs.


  • In 2 Samuel 21:1-14, a three-year famine has caused King David to “inquire of the Lord” of its cause. The problem, according to the Lord, is due to King Saul (now deceased) and his house who “put the Gibeonites to death” (21:1).
  • King David approaches the Gibeonites and asks what he can do to the Gibeonites to “bless the heritage of the Lord,” by which he means to bless David, the land, and the people of Judah (21:3). The Gibeonites (who are not Israelites, according to 21:2) exploit the Levitical law of retributive justice (Leviticus 24:17-22) against Saul (21:5), and since Saul is no longer living, against his descendants.
  • It is under this backdrop of revenge and retribution that Rizpah enters our purview.
  • She is the widow of the dethroned and deceased Saul, and while mentioned twice overall in biblical narrative (2 Samuel 3, 21), she makes a physical appearance only once, in the present story.
  • In 2 Samuel 3, she is the subject of Ishbosheth’s accusation against Abner of sexual assault. Although it is unclear whether Abner rapes Rizpah, the text gives voice to the vulnerability and tenuousness of her situation as a lower wife of a dead king.

I. A Mother’s Pain21:10

A. A Mother’s Pain from the Past

Rizpah only appears twice in the Bible; here in chapter 21 and in chapter 3 where she is the subject of Ishbosheth’s accusation against Abner of sin and possible assault.

Rizpah only appears twice in the Bible; here in chapter 21 and in chapter 3 where she is the subject of Ishbosheth’s accusation against Abner of sin and possible assault.

2 Samuel 3, 21 – Although it is unclear whether Abner rapes Rizpah, the text gives voice to the vulnerability and tenuousness of her situation as a lower wife of a dead king.

Applications: All people, all women, all mothers suffer as a result of their positions as moms.

Application: Being a mom requires so much time, energy, commitment, and patience. The everyday routine, responsibility, and emotions weigh can sometimes suck the life out of them.
There are moments of pure joy and bliss where everything feels right. There are other moments when you feel isolated, overwhelmed, and alone.

Things Mom suffer:

  • Let me start with childbirth!
  • Postpartum anxiety & depression
  • Breastfeeding
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Mom guilt – about whether she’s done things right or wrong.

Rizpah suffered from many things in her past.

Transition: Now, she was facing something even more terrifying.

  • A Mother’s Pain in the Present

In the present text, this widow’s woes are intensified as her sons, together with five of Saul’s grandsons, are ritually slaughtered in a shocking episode that is part human sacrifice and part sanctioned execution.

21:10 ‘Now 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. (NKJ)

Applications: All people, all women, and all mothers suffer as a result of their positions as moms.

II. A Mother’s Love

Rizpah does for her sons in death what she cannot do for them in life; that is, protect them from predators.

Here, we witness a grieving mother taking up a silent vigil over their corpses left exposed on a hill (21:9, 10). She could not stop David from taking her sons, could not stop the Gibeonites from killing them. So, she does what she can.

Wil Gafney paints a vivid portrait of Rizpah’s vigil:

Rizpah bat Aiah watches the corpses of her sons stiffen, soften, swell, and sink into the stench of decay … fights with winged, clawed, and toothed scavengers night and day. She is there from the spring harvest until the fall rains, as many as six months from Nissan (March/April) to Tishrei (September/October), sleeping, eating, toileting, protecting, and bearing witness.

Application: Now that my friends, is how a mother loves! There is nothing stronger, more tenacious or fierce as a mother’s love.

Transition: Let me know talk about Rizpah’s courage.

III. A Mothers Courage

Application: Rizpah is willing to take on any and all foes! Human or animal.

Application: Rizpah’s courage allowed her to accept the loss. Rizpah conducts herself in her grief with dignity, observing the ritual of a wake in watching over her son’s body. Her example of grace in mourning leads David to gather the bones of Saul and Jonathan and honor them before burying all of the heirs to Israel’s throne.

Moms confront, cheer, cherish and cling!

  • Confront opponents confronting theirs (momma bear)
  • Cheer in spite of the odds
  • Cherish everything big or small (child’s fingerpainting)
  • Cling till their very last breath (never give up on what they believe is possible).
  • Compare (Never) – their babies are great just the way they are.
    • They are the most beautiful son or daughter ever born.
    • There is the smartest
    • Cutest
    • Most athletic

Mom’s…we love you for being courageous just like Rizpah!

Transition: One more thing about Rizpah…she was steadfast in her faith.

IV. A Mother’s Steadfastness in the Faith

It was very unfair what happened to Rizpah, but she kept her convictions and hope.

Hope it is something/someone who would not be given to hatred, revenge, bitterness, and blame.

At the conclusion of this Bible account of Rizpah’s sad experience, God brings rain to dry land. The larger purpose of this human sacrifice was to preserve Israel’s survival against its enemies and the elements of nature. The kingdom of Israel moves on with Rizpah as one of its survivors. Rizpah’s personal life is permanently damaged beyond words, however.

This Old Testament history episode suggests we can survive through huge losses and continue to walk in faith—that there is some lesson to be learned from cruel and sad outcomes

Conclusion: Moms we honor you among other things for enduring pain, for your unconditional love, your great courage, and your faith!


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