2 Samuel 21:8-14
But the king took the two sons of Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, whom she bore to Saul, Armoni and Mephibosheth…
And Rizpah the daughter of Aiah took sackcloth, etc. (ver. 10; 2 Samuel 3:7). The days of harvest had come; but not the fruits of harvest. The heaven was brass, and the earth iron (Deuteronomy 28:23). The misery of famine was accompanied by a sense of Divine wrath on account of sin. The guilt of blood was on the land, and especially on "the house of Saul," for the destruction of the Gibeonites. Nothing would satisfy the demand of the sorrowing bondservants of Israel, or (as it was believed) restore Divine favour, save the death of seven men of Saul's family (John 11:50). These, therefore, two of them being sons of Rizpah, were taken and crucified (Numbers 25:4) at once on the hill before Jehovah, and their remains left unburied, a prey to ravenous birds and beasts. And in her maternal grief and affection, spreading sackcloth on the rocky floor (either for her bed or as a rough tent to shelter her), she watched them there, under the scorching sun by day and the drenching dews by night, and protected them from molestation until they received an honourable burial. "They were accounted as accursed and unworthy of the burial of dogs; but she would not cast them out of her heart. The more they were shunned by others, the more she clung to them; and the deeper the disgrace, the deeper her compassion." Observe -
I. HER SPECIAL DESIRE AND AIM; for it was more than an instinct of natural affection that prompted her watching near the dead. Regarding their unburied condition as one of ignominy (Psalm 79:2), and perhaps as, in some way, affecting their happiness in the future life, she was desirous of their being honourably interred. It was deemed necessary (unlike what was required in other instances, Deuteronomy 21:22, 23) that they should remain exposed before Jehovah till assurance was given, by the fall of rain, that the satisfaction was accepted. If she could not do what she would, she would do what she could (Mark 14:8); and, by preventing further injury, render the fulfilment of her desire possible. Her intense maternal love led her to seek the safety and honour of the dead; well may a similar love lead others to seek the safety and honour of the living!
II. HER EXTRAORDINARY DEVOTION; as it appears in:
1. Her unquenchable attachment. Others might despise them as criminals, but she could only regard them and cling to them as children (Song of Solomon 8:7).
2. Her humble submission and resignation to what was unavoidable. "Truly this is a grief, and I must bear it" (Jeremiah 10:19).
3. Her entire self-surrender and self-sacrifice. If she could not remove their reproach, she could share it with them.
4. Her patient endurance of suffering; through long and lonely nights, and dark and dreary days.
5. Her ceaseless vigilance, zeal, and courage.
6. Her unwearied, faithful, hopeful perseverance. "The emotions in woman act as powerful motives on the will, and, when strongly called forth, produce a degree of vigour and determination which is very surprising to those who have usually seen the individual under a different aspect" (Carpenter).
7. Her importunate prayers for the fulfilment of her desire. "She refrained from all violent and illegal methods of gaining her object. She used no force or stratagem to secure for her beloved ones a safe and decent burial; but waited watchfully, meekly, and humbly, for the time appointed by the Lord. Neither did she give way to despondency, and quit the melancholy scene in wild despair; but did what she could to alleviate the dreadful evil. Though her heart was broken and her grief too bitter for utterance, she still hoped in God, still looked for his merciful interposition, and waited day after day, and night after night until the rain of heaven came down and released the bodies of her beloved ones" (Hughes, 'Female Characters of Holy Writ').
III. HER EFFECTUAL ENDEAVOUR. At length (how long is not stated) "showers of blessing" fell, and her wish was accomplished. Loving, faithful, devoted service:
1. Exerts an undesigned influence on others. "And it was told David," etc. (ver. 11).
2. Fails not, sooner or later, to receive its due reward.
3. Is followed by effects greater than any that were desired or expected. "David was pleased with her tenderness, and was excited by her example to do honour to the bodies of Saul and Jonathan (1 Samuel 31:12, 13; 2 Samuel 2:5-7), and thus showed that he did not war with the dead, and that his recent act in delivering up Saul's sons was not one of personal revenge, but of public justice" (Wordsworth). She did more than she intended;. and what she did is to this day "told for a memorial for her." - D.
Parallel VersesKJV: But the king took the two sons of Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, whom she bare unto Saul, Armoni and Mephibosheth; and the five sons of Michal the daughter of Saul, whom she brought up for Adriel the son of Barzillai the Meholathite:
WEB: But the king took the two sons of Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, whom she bore to Saul, Armoni and Mephibosheth; and the five sons of Michal the daughter of Saul, whom she bore to Adriel the son of Barzillai the Meholathite.