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Rizpah’s Messages

by Marlene Houk

Burke CountyMarlene Houk Burke County

And Rizpah the daughter of Aiah took sackcloth, and spread it for her upon the rock, from the beginning of harvest until water dropped upon them out of heaven, and suffered neither the birds of the air to rest on them by day, nor the beasts of the field by night. 2 Samuel 21:10

Ask any Bible scholar about Rizpah, and she or he might hesitate, trying to remember her place in Scripture. She lived as the only concubine (mistress) of King Saul, the first king of God’s chosen people, the Israelites. The sons of her union with King Saul were hanged as punishment for King Saul’s breaking an oath. And she kept the vultures and beasts from devouring their bodies during the time of harvesting barley. Her drama unfolds in the book of 2 Samuel, chapters 3 and 21.

We hold much in common with her: roles in life, emotions, tragedy, and a God-sized purpose for pain. Honor and horror create a contrast of luxury and lament in the ancient pages of the Bible about this obscure member of the royal court. Rizpah’s narrative shows the paradox of 2 Corinthians 12:10: “for when I am weak, then am I strong.” When life throws us into a pit of despair and hopelessness, Jesus casts our story on the stormy waters of life. And others draw strength from our survival, savoring the way God transforms our troubles into spiritual triumph.

Rizpah sends us simple solutions to cope with life’s sorrows. Here are five of her priceless treasures of wisdom:

  1. Neither enemies nor the horror of our circumstances changes our identity in Christ. Strangely, Rizpah’s life—whether living in the lap of luxury in the palace as the king’s consort or outside on the lonely hillside, guarding her sons’ dead bodies—her father is mentioned four times. Like Rizpah, as Christians, our heavenly Father God stays connected to us through our life’s ups and downs. What a joy to read John 1:12 as a beloved child of God! “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:
  2. Rizpah shows us that determining to honor God in our crises banishes the vultures of hopelessness and the beasts of despair. Our trust in God’s plan allows Him to use us in extraordinary ways. When we look beyond our trouble to how the Lord helps others gain fortitude from our failures, priceless closure heals us. Listen closely to 2 Samuel 22:33, and you will hear the heartbeat of God’s love for us, especially in our sadness. “God is my strength and power: and he maketh my way perfect.”
  3. She examples for us how to find treasure in the pit of despair as our life tumbles into an abyss. When she laid her sackcloth of mourning on the rock, God magnified her message for us 3,000 years later by laying down a priceless revelation. When I lay my sorrows on the Rock (a strong symbol for God in the Bible), He will send out ripples of wisdom to others through my experiences. Like Rizpah, my life contains the potential for God to magnify His grace, riches, and mercies as my story lives on in His bigger picture. I can echo the heroes of faith in Hebrews chapter 11 with my own faith.
  4. When life freezes us, we choose to look beyond our barriers to God who empowers our worst with His grace and proves through us His strength and care. God’s plan for us eclipses our boundaries in life according to 2 Corinthians 4:18. “While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.
  5. Rizpah focused beyond her suffering to honoring her sons, revealing a critical concept in coping with life. She points to looking beyond our season of sorrow to honoring the Lord. Of all the blessings of a Lord-focus, hope springs up in our souls as we think about an eternity of enjoying His love. We can revel in the riches of Christ in us as Christians as explained in Colossians 1:27. “To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:

Rizpah stands as the sixtieth-named woman of the Bible, signaling to us how to survive sorrow. Her story offers relevant and reliable ways to handle trouble, and I’m glad God revealed His wisdom through her actions!


Marlene is an author and teacher of Bible studies. She may be reached at

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Blue Ridge Christian News covers Avery County, Burke County, McDowell County, Mitchell County, Yancey County, and Madison County in North Carolina, and Christian news from around the country.