The first cities the Israelites conquered after they entered Canaan were Jericho and Ai, Joshua 6 & 8. In spite of what we would consider primitive communications, the word spread, and just as Rahab had heard about the Red Sea, a nation of people called the Gibeonites, who lived just north of present day Jerusalem, had heard about the Israelites and Jehovah’s promise to help them drive out all the Canaanites, 9:24. Gibeonites were Hivites, a tribe of Canaanites, so they qualified for destruction, and they knew it.
They chose several men to act as ambassadors, packed up moldy bread, old clothes and shoes, and carried old wineskins. When they arrived at the Israelite encampment, they said, “We’ve come a long way. Look, everything was new when we started, and our food fresh.” They wanted to make a pact. “We will be your servants forever, if you will spare us.” Instead of going to God, the Israelites believed these people, and were deceived into making the covenant, swearing by Jehovah.
As their punishment, God held Israel to the deal. Years later, Saul killed some of the Gibeonites. They came to David for justice in 1 Samuel 21. Two of Saul’s sons by his concubine Rizpah, and five of his grandsons by his older daughter Merab were given to the Gibeonites for execution. I cannot imagine the despair in these mothers’ hearts as their sons were taken to their deaths. But even more, I cannot imagine the strength it took for one of them to do what came next.
The Law stated that a body should not be left hanging overnight, Deut 21:22,23. But those men’s bodies hung out there day after day. Rizpah took it upon herself to care for the remains, not just of her sons, but of another woman’s sons as well, until someone took notice and obeyed God’s Law. This woman, who had been a king’s wife (a concubine is a wife of second rank), living in relative luxury for many years, sat out in the open, 24/7, chasing away vultures by day and packs of snarling, scavenging jackals by night “from the beginning of harvest till the rains fell again,” possibly as long as six months! Now add to that physically taxing and dangerous chore the overpowering, nauseating smell and the hideous sight of seven decomposing bodies, in the heat of summer, and above all, the heart wrenching pain of knowing that two of those bodies were her sons. Finally, David noticed, and buried them.
Being a good parent requires strength and sacrifice, and huge quantities of time. It involves a lot of humbling dirty work. But no messy diaper or pool of vomit to clean up can come close to what this woman endured for her children. Surely with Rizpah as an example, we can do whatever is required of us for the good of our children. We can give up our selfish desires when necessary. We can administer tough love, even when it hurts We can take the time to teach them right from wrong, and teach them God’s word day in and day out, rather than expecting the church to do our God-given duty for us..
Rizpah could not save her sons’ lives, but even after their deaths, she did more, endured more for them than some parents will do for their children who are alive and well every day in their comfortable homes.
Set your heart unto all the words which I testify unto you this day, which you shall command your children to observe to do, all the words of this law, for it is no vain thing for you, because it is your life…Deut 32:46,47