Have you heard of Rizpah?
She's one of the least known women in the Bible, not in the same league with the popular Ruth, Esther, Mary, Eve, Sarah, and Hannah. In fact, she was mentioned only four times in the Old Testament, KJV (2 Samuel 3:7; 21:8; 21:10-11).
But zooming in on what Rizpah had done as a mother, a fellow mom like me can't help but be stunned.
As Mothers' Month ends today, let us ponder this extraordinary mom, one of King Saul's concubines.
Rizpah lived at a time when God had brought famine in Israel as a consequence of King Saul's murder of Gibeonites, when Saul was still living.
The new king, David, appeased the remaining Gibeonites by offering them five of Saul's descendants—two were Rizpah's sons—who were then murdered, in retaliation, by hanging. Their bodies were left publicly by the Gibeonites as a sign of retribution.
Grieving the loss of her two sons, Rizpah spread a sackcloth over a rock, sat down and watched over them day and night. She fought off birds and beasts that tried to prey on her boys. Rizpah remained there until finally the rains began to fall—about five months in all.
How horrible it might have been to see and smell the stench of rotting bodies! But her love for her sons made her protect them from being ripped apart by beasts.
This amazing mom, who had breastfed and cuddled her sons, now both dead, abandoned everything and devoted herself to preserve her two sons' dignity in death.
Word of Rizpah's sorrow and sacrifice reached King David, who was both touched and shamed by her actions. He ordered the bodies of Rizpah's sons to be given a proper burial—along with the bodies of Saul and Jonathan, David's best friend.
The honorable burial ended Rizpah's five-month vigil. God likewise ended the famine after King David had made the right decisions and showed compassion.
We do not hear of Rizpah in the Bible again. However, her story remains a shining example of motherly love—characterized by strength, faith and hope.
The closest I got to being a Rizpah was when one of my little sons was hospitalized. He was so movable I had to hold his hand for one day and one night, ignoring sleep, so his IV won't be dislodged. That was nowhere close to five months of braving incessant danger in the wilds.
Under the worst of circumstances, I do believe God's rainfall of grace will cascade down to every mother, so that her strength, faith and hope may be sustained.
Artwork: Gustave Dore