Rizpah

RIZPAH (rĭz'pa, Heb. ritspâh, hot stone). A daughter of Aiah, a Horite (1Chr.1.40, called Ajah in Gen.36.24). Saul took her as a concubine (2Sam.3.7). Ish-Bosheth, a son of Saul, accused Abner, a cousin, of committing incest with her (2Sam.3.7). The accusation enraged Abner, who transferred his allegiance from Saul to David (2Sam.3.8-2Sam.3.21). In his zeal to establish Israel, Saul had killed a host of Gibeonites, and as a result a serious famine had come to Israel. On consulting Gibeonites about restitution for the evil, David learned that only the death of Saul’s sons would atone. Among those turned over to Gibeon were two sons by Rizpah (2Sam.21.1-2Sam.21.8). Because of Rizpah’s devotion to her sons, David had the bones of her sons and those of Saul and Jonathan buried in the tomb of Saul’s father, Kish (2Sam.21.14).


RIZPAH rĭz’ pə (רִצְפָּ֣ה, LXX ̔Ρεσφὰ; meaning a glowing stone).

A daughter of Aiah (possibly the Horite mentioned in 1 Chronicles 1:40 and Genesis 36:24) and a concubine of Saul. After the death of Saul Ishbaal, Saul’s son and now king in name only, accused Abner the real king of taking her as his wife. If true, this act would have amounted to a claim to the throne (cf. 2 Sam 16:20-22; 1 Kings 2:22). In response to Ishbaal’s prob. false accusation Abner promptly proferred the northern kingdom to David (c. 997 b.c.) (2 Sam 3:7).

Later (c. 970 b.c.) a three years’ famine was divined to the displeasure of Yahweh at the slaughter of the Gibeonites by Saul in violation of the covenant Israel had made with them (Josh 9:3, 15-20). When David inquired of the Gibeonites what atonement he should make, the Gibeonites, in accordance with the Mosaic law (Num 35:33), refused money compensation, but demanded seven sons of Saul to expose before Yahweh. The king gave them two of Rizpah’s, and five of Michal’s (RSV Merab’s) sons. Then Rizpah spread sackcloth on the rock—a sign that the land repented—and began her heroic vigil by the bodies, keeping off the birds and beasts of prey (cf. Ps 79:2) from the beginning of barley harvest (c. April) until the anger of Yahweh relented and “water was poured upon them from heaven” prob. in connection with the early rain (c. October). For her devotion David had their bones with the bones of Saul and Jonathan buried in the tomb of Saul’s father, Kish (2 Sam 21:1-14).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

In 2Sa 3:7 the subject of a coarse slander. 2Sa 21 contains the pathetic story of Rizpah’s faithful watch over the bodies of her dead sons Mephibosheth and Armoni (21:10,11). Did this story suggest Tennyson’s "Rizpah"? A three years’ famine had made David anxious, and in seeking a reason for the affliction he concluded that it lay in Saul’s unavenged conduct to the Gibeonites (21:2). To appease Yahweh he gave up to the Gibeonites the two sons of Saul, Mephibosheth and Armoni, as well as Saul’s 5 grandsons (whether by Michal or Merab; see Merab). These seven were hanged at Gibeah. Rizpah watched 5 months over their exposed bodies, but meanwhile the famine did not abate. Word was brought to David of Rizpah’s act (21:10,11), and it is possible that her action suggested to David his next step in expiation. At any rate, he remembered the uncared-for bones of Jonathan and Saul lying in ignominy at Jabesh-gilead, whither they had been carried by stealth after the Philistines had kept them hung in the streets of Beth-shan for some time. The bones were recovered and apparently mingled with the bones Rizpah had guarded, and they were together buried in the family grave at Zelah. We are told that then "God was entreated for the land" (21:14).