Lord, please open our eyes to Rizpah's life and story. During this Bible study, get rid of the ideologies, concepts, and identities that are preventing her tale from coming to life. Show us how the power of silence may be used in our attempts to grow your church as a countercultural protest. Empower this narrative and each learner to see this woman's experience as a gift to our faith-filled lives of learning, developing, and challenges. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ! Amen.
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“Then Rizpah, Aiah's daughter, took sackcloth and spread it on a rock for herself from the beginning of harvest until rain fell from heaven on them; she did not allow the birds of the air to come on the bodies by day, nor the wild animals by night.” 2 Samuel 21:10; 2 Samuel 21:11; 2 Samuel 21:12; 2
Introduction to Rizpah in the Bible
A three-year famine prompts King David to “inquire of the Lord” about its reason in 2 Samuel 21:1-14. According to the Lord, the problem stems from King Saul (now gone) and his family, who “put the Gibeonites to death” (21:1).
King David approaches the Gibeonites and asks what he may do to “bless the Lord's heritage,” which he understands to imply David, the country, and the people of Judah (21:3). The Gibeonites (who, according to 21:2, are not Israelites) use the Levitical code of retributive justice (Leviticus 24:17-22) against Saul (21:5) and his progeny, since Saul is no longer alive.
Rizpah enters our vision against this backdrop of vengeance and retribution. She is the widow of Saul, who was dethroned and died, and while she is referenced twice in the biblical account (2 Samuel 3, 21), she only appears physically once in this story. In 2 Samuel 3, she is the focus of Ishbosheth's sexual assault claim against Abner. Although it is unknown whether Abner rapes Rizpah, the language expresses Rizpah's helplessness and precarious position as the lesser wife of a deceased king.
In the current text, the widow's miseries are exacerbated when her sons, along with five of Saul's grandchildren, are ritually slain in a horrifying act that is equal parts human sacrifice and sanctioned execution.
The execution of Saul's seven sons by the Gibeonites is both brutal in its depiction and violent in its announcement. The callous abuse of authority and the manipulation of religious symbols that reflect negatively on David, the Gibeonites, and God are astounding under the pretext of reconciliation and retributive justice. However, the narrative's brutal tone is broken by the actions of a grieving mother. Rizpah protects her sons from predators in death, something she couldn't do for them in life. Here, we see a bereaved mother keeping a somber vigil over their bodies, which had been left exposed on a hill (21:9, 10). She couldn't stop David from abducting her sons or the Gibeonites from slaughtering them. As a result, she does the best she can.
She keeps guard “from the beginning of the harvest until the rain fell from the heavens on the bodies, she did not let the birds of the air approach them by day or the wild animals by night,” according to the text (21:10). Wil Gafney's book Womanist Midrash gives a vivid picture of Rizpah's vigil:
Rizpah bat is a type of bat found in Rizpah Aiah fights with winged, clawed, and toothed scavengers night and day while the bodies of her sons stiffen, soften, expand, and sink into the stink of decay. She sleeps, eats, toilets, protects, and bears witness from the spring harvest to the fall rains, up to six months from Nissan (March/April) to Tishrei (September/October).
Rizpah's silent vigil over these sons' dead bodies is a visible physiological response to the painful and terrible circumstances surrounding their deaths, as well as her impotence to defend them from murder. She is subject to the king's oppressive and abusive authority over the lives and bodies of his subjects. For her, justice remains elusive, not only because of unhealed wounds from terrible events, but also because she is unwilling to confront the king personally and exact the justice that her boys' deaths deserved.
Despite her weakness, her truth (and the justice it demands) shames King David, the most powerful person in her time, into acting on behalf of the dead (21:11). Her vigil becomes both a sorrow and a commemoration, drawing public attention and recourse in a plot twist. “Lynching Rizpah's and Merab's sons did not heal the country or the people,” Gafney says succinctly. As the text explains, “doing right by the several wronged lady” is only achieved after David recovers and burys the murdered. “God heeded supplications for the land” is only then that “God heeded supplications for the land” (2 Sam 21:14). These words serve as the epilogue to this terrible story, in which God not only stays with us through our tragic and painful experiences, but also helps us to triumph when we endure.
She Is Called and We Are Called
Emmett Till, a 14-year-old African American, was taken from his relatives' house in Mississippi by two white men on a hot summer night in August 1955. His lifeless body was dumped in the Tallahatchie River after he was stripped naked, pistol-whipped, and shot in the head. When Emmett Till's body was given to his mother in Chicago, she refused to be buried quietly after witnessing the degree of the brutality perpetrated on her son's bloated, unrecognizable corpse. “I wanted the world to see what they did to my baby,” she added, insisting on an open casket funeral. The mangled body of Emmett Till on display to the entire world would humiliate a nation and usher in the Civil Rights Movement.
In a modern context, Rizpah's silent vigil echoes the cry for justice raised by countless mothers like Mamie Till-Mobley who have seen their sons sacrificed to state-sanctioned brutality and the political and socio-economic exigencies of our society (Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Kady Diallo, and others). In his book Bible Lives, Jonathan Magonet suggests that Rizpah's actions All that is left for her to do is maintain the dignity of their memory and continue to bear witness to and hold the world's rulers accountable.”
We are urged to give witness by “being with” these mothers as they deal with the agony of loss and the “de-centering” experiences that will forever transform the world as they know it, just as these mothers bear witness to the memory of their loved ones. In essence, we are invited to be present with the traumatized in the most inconvenient of settings, delivering a ministry of presence where there are no easy answers. This is the work of the church and those who have been called to Christian service, not just the job of the shepherd or pastoral care. When seen in this light, it is no longer just one woman's win, but a triumph for all of us. “When you have done this for the least of them, you have done it for me,” Christ said (Matt. 25:40).
Rizpah's act could be interpreted as a little act of restorative justice. Rizpah's vigil is interpreted by some Christian theologians as a demonstration of the gift of impotence, sprinkled with the grace of surrender. This knowledge allows her to see her vigil as an act of resistance with the possibility of healing. In other words, she comes out on top in the end.
However, it is critical to ask who and what is being restored in this story. Rizpah's vigil is effective, but it isn't redeeming. While seeing her and Merab's sons buried brings her satisfaction and closure, her grief and the agony of their deaths remain raw wounds. As a result, Rizpah's vigil cannot be viewed exclusively as an act of a gentle warrior with a tranquil heart and a warlike soul. She must not be labeled or defined as a nonviolent opponent of the situation's evil. Her tale serves as a wake-up call for those in theological education and the church to engage in redemptive work that tackles the realities of traumatic suffering and assists people in making sense of their traumas.
In the shadow of the cross, current-day Rizpahs can be ministered to. Traumatized people, we argue, do not require church or biblical clichés; instead, they require a therapeutic language that allows them to speak witness to their experience. If, as Shelly Rambo indicates, trauma is a “storm that won't go away,” the church must be ready to serve as lifeboats of redemption anchored in the Spirit and love of Christ.
What does Rizpah mean in the Bible?
Rizpah (riz'-pa, “coal,” “hot stone”) was Saul's concubine and the daughter of Aiah. Armoni and Mephibosheth were her children (2 Samuel 3:7; 21:811).
According to the Bible, Abner was accused of sleeping with Rizpah after Saul's death, resulting in a feud between him and Saul's son and successor, Ishbosheth. (3:78) (2 Samuel 3:78) Abner defected to David, who was then king of the breakaway Kingdom of Judah (2 Samuel 3:1721), as a result of the disagreement. This episode resulted in Ishbosheth's demise and David's ascension to the throne of an unified Kingdom of Israel.
During the first half of David's reign in Jerusalem, Israel experienced a three-year famine. This disaster occurred as a result of “Saul and his bloodthirsty house, since he slaughtered the Gibeonites,” according to God. The Gibeonites were not Israelites, but rather the Amorites' remnants, whom Saul pursued from within Israel. When David asked the Gibeonites what kind of satisfaction they wanted, they said that nothing could make up for what Saul had done to them except the death of seven of Saul's sons. 2 Samuel 21:16; 2 Samuel 22:16; 2 Samuel 23:1
As a result, David gave them two boys of Rizpah and five sons of Merab, Saul's eldest daughter, who had given birth to Adriel. The Gibeonites executed these people and hung their bodies at Gibeah's sanctuary. (89) (2 Samuel 21:8) Rizpah then took her place on the rock of Gibeah, where she remained for five months, watching over her children's suspended bodies to keep them from being devoured by beasts and birds of prey (2 Samuel 21:10), until they were finally taken down and buried by David (2 Samuel 21:13) in the family grave at Zelah with the bones of Saul and Jonathan. Only after both atonement for Saul's betrayal of the Gibeonites and an olive branch extended to Rizpah and Saul's house by granting Saul's sons the honor of being buried beside their father had been made did God react to the land's appeal and put an end to the famine (2 Samuel 21:14).
Rizpah has been characterized by British rabbi Jonathan Magonet as “Every mother who witnesses her sons being slaughtered before their time for governmental reasons, whether in peace or war.
All that is left for her to do is maintain the dignity of their memory and continue to bear witness to and hold the world's rulers accountable “..
What is concubine in the Bible?
A concubine (Hebrew: plege) is a true wife in Biblical terms, albeit of lower rank. The concubine was unquestionably accepted as part of Israel's culture, living in the household on a regular basis and being recognized and provided for by Israelite tradition.
What is the meaning of the name Mephibosheth?
Mephibosheth (or Mephibaal) was the son of Jonathan, the grandson of Saul, and the father of Micah, according to the Tanakh's Books of Samuel. The Hebrew name for this person is. mw-parser-output.script-Hebrew,.mw-parser-output.script-Hebrew,.mw-parser-output.script-Hebrew
How did David marry ahinoam?
Some experts believe the two are one and the same person. “I handed your master's house to you, and your master's women into your arms,” God tells David through the prophet Nathan in 2 Samuel 12:8. According to Jon Levenson, this means David kidnapped Ahinoam from Saul. “Such a supposition would require David to have run off with the queen mother while Saul was still on the throne, which seems doubtful,” Diana V. Edelman argues. Nathan's remark can be tied to David's ultimate possession of Saul's women once he claimed the throne in the wake of Eshbaal's death, in light of the royal harem as a claim to royal legitimacy…”
Ahinoam is always mentioned before Abigail, and she births David a son before Abigail, therefore Levenson concludes that “she was already wedded to David when the conflict with Nabal arose.” According to 1 Samuel 27:3, David carried his two wives Ahinoam and Abigail with him when he escaped from Saul and stayed with Achish, king of Gath.
Source critics argue that references to a lady named Ahinoam being Saul's wife correspond to the account of the republican source of the Books of Samuel, whereas the only mention of a woman named Ahinoam in the portions attributed to the monarchial source is her depiction as David's wife.
Because Ahinoam's name normally comes before Abigail's, it's been speculated that David married Ahinoam before Abigail. If Ahinoam's son Amnon was David's firstborn son, the arrangement of their names could imply Ahinoam's role as the crown prince's mother. Ahinoam is with David during his stay with King Achish of Gath, and when the Amalekites invade Ziklag, David's Philistine base, he is kidnapped, but David rescues him. When David becomes king of Judah, she is among those who accompany him to Hebron (2 Sam 2:2).
Furthermore, men are forbidden from marrying their mothers-in-law according to Leviticus 20:14, and Ahinoam, Saul's wife, was the mother of David's first wife Michal, whom David considered to be his legal wife even after fleeing, and David was never indicted by any prophets for his marriage to Ahinoam.
Who was the mother of King Saul?
Saul reigned for two years according to the Hebrew text of the Bible, although biblical critics generally think that the narrative is flawed and that a reign of 20 or 22 years is more likely.
According to the Tanakh, Saul was the son of Kish, of the Matrites family, and a member of the Benjamin tribe, one of Israel's twelve tribes. He seems to have come from Gibeah.
What does the Bible say about Mephibosheth?
“Saul's son Jonathan had a son who was lame in his feet. When word of Saul and Jonathan arrived from Jezreel, he was five years old, and his nurse picked him up and fled. And it just so happened that he fell and became lame as she dashed away. The Bible says in 2 Samuel 4:4 that his name was Mephibosheth (NKJV).
When word of the defeat and the murders of Jonathan and Saul reached the palace, everyone panicked. They knew they'd died, either at the hands of the Philistines, who had come to claim their prize, or by the new king. When a new monarch assumes power, the royal family is routinely assassinated to avoid future conflict.