2

2 Samuel 21:8-10 (NKJV)

8 So the king took Armoni and Mephibosheth, the two sons of Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, whom she bore to Saul, and the five sons of Michal a the daughter of Saul, whom she brought up for Adriel the son of Barzillai the Meholathite; 9 and he delivered them into the hands of the Gibeonites, and they hanged them on the hill before the LORD. So they fell, all seven together, and were put to death in the days of harvest, in the first days, in the beginning of barley harvest. 10 Now Rizpah the daughter of Aiah took sackcloth and spread it for herself on the rock, from the beginning of harvest until the late rains poured on them from heaven. And she did not allow the birds of the air to rest on them by day nor the beasts of the field by night.

Could rizpah have watched over the dead bodies for five months from beginning of harvest (April) to early rains ( October) or God sent late rains well before the late rains

  • "Guard" or "watch over" is probably a better than "watch". – Abu Munir Ibn Ibrahim Dec 20 '16 at 5:38
2

There are, in general, no rains from the barley harvest in May until after the autumn harvest and the the feast of Tabernacles ("Succot")1. So the text does intend to say that Ritzpah bat Ayah did in fact protect the unburied bodies of both her own two sons and those of Michal, the seven condemned men, for at least five months. In the dry climatic conditions of the hill country of Benjamin the corpses would dry out but not necessarily rot or even stink.

Since the men had been given over to the Gibeonites to do as they saw fit, and Ritzpah was a private individual at this point, she could not take the bodies down and bury them herself.

The guarding of the bodies was an exceptional act of respect for the dead. The narrative in verse 11 intends to show that David was not aware of Ritzpah's acts until the rains came. Once David hears of it, he brings the bodies of her husband (Saul) and Johnathan from across the Jordan in Yabesh Gilad and buries them together with the seven condemned men in the family grave of Kish. Since David was the sovereign, he had the power to demand the bodies from the Gibeonites. The narrative thus portrays David as showing respect for the dead and care of a widow.

A less apologetic interpretation of the events is that Ritzpah's actions are a provocative protest that forces David, after a scandalously long time, to show respect for the bodies of the men whose deaths he caused and for the body of his predecessor and rival Saul, and for Johnathan.

Regardless of the interpretation, it is these acts of respect for the dead by David and Ritzpah bat Ayah that end the famine (last clause of verse 14).

Even in the apologetic interpretation there is still an element of criticism of David for not promptly burying Saul and Johnathan, as required by tradition, and for not fulfilling his responsibility as the sovereign to bury the seven condemned men who were executed by the Gibeonites2.

Some commentators see a parallel with the Ugaritic Epic of Aqhat, KTU.1.17, KTU.1.19, particularly in showing respect for widows.


  1. The notable exception is of course I Samuel 12:17
  2. Even the condemned to death must be buried the same day as they are executed, as commanded in Deuteronomy 21:23 and shown in Joshua 10:26.
| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.