[KJV]2 Samuel 21:

8 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: 9 And he delivered them into the hands of the Gibeonites, and they hanged them in the hill before the Lord: and 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 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.

This is the touching story of a Mother's love for her children even in death.

I know that sackcloth was used for morning the dead, but then it was worn on the body. It didn't say she wore it . It said she spread it upon the rock.

I wondered if her use of sackcloth instead of something else was an indication of the land's repentance. For in the Bible I see it used that way, (ex.

[KJV]Nehemiah 9:1: Now in the twenty and fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, and with sackclothes, and earth upon them.)

  • Can you please quote the verses rather than just the addresses please? Thanks. (There is an "edit" button, kind of hard to see.)
    – Ruminator
    Nov 27, 2018 at 1:38
  • 1
    Yes I can. Sorry to all. I am new to this board, and have not learn how to use it. Reading the guide did help a bit. Thank you, for bring to my attention my error.
    – user27276
    Nov 27, 2018 at 6:11
  • I tried to do some cleanup. Hopefully I didn't mess anything up. Your post still needs the version info; IE: KJV or what have you. Also you give the address for 1 King 21:9 but cited Nehemiah 9:1. Please clean that up. Thanks.
    – Ruminator
    Nov 27, 2018 at 11:30
  • Again thank you! (I Must learn how to posting format on this board)
    – user27276
    Nov 28, 2018 at 7:57
  • @user27276, what do you mean by "land's repentance"?
    – user35953
    Apr 16, 2021 at 15:27

3 Answers 3


I don’t believe there is biblical evidence that the land could repent. Sackcloth was worn by many people in the OT to reflect certain states of mind.

Used as sign of mourning:

Genesis 37:34 (AKJV) 34 And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days.

Used as a sign of repentance.

Nehemiah 9:1 (AKJV)

9 Now in the twenty and fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, and with sackclothes, and earth upon them.

Used as in a call for deliverance:

2 Kings 19:1-2 (AKJV) 19 And it came to pass, when king Hezekiah heard it, that he rent his clothes, and covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of the LORD. 2 And he sent Eliakim, which was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and the elders of the priests, covered with sackcloth, to Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz.

So, in reference to 2 Samuel 21: 8-10, I would say that the context supports personal mourning.

  • The only time I rent my clothes is if I have to rent a tux to attend a wedding or a funeral. :)
    – Ruminator
    Nov 27, 2018 at 1:37

I think not. I think that the poser of the question associates "sackcloth" (σάκκος) with "repentance" but in reality sackcloth was used by the Jews for multiple purposes involving mourning.

Given the context it seems most compelling that she spread out the sackcloth as a rough blanket or bed but the symbolism of the cloth relates to her tremendous grieving, not to repentance.

  • It was also seen as a form of penance/repentance: "Woe to thee, Corozain, woe to thee, Bethsaida: for if in Tyre and Sidon had been wrought the miracles that have been wrought in you, they had long ago repented in sackcloth and ashes." Matthew 11:21. Job 42:6 "Therefore I reprehend myself, and repent in dust and ashes." After all, sackcloth is horrible to wear. As is ashes to and dust to throw over yourself. Clearly it's a form of penance and self "affliction" — however grating that is to the ears of people who theologically need it to to be only a sign of mourning. Aug 14, 2021 at 18:17
  • I didn't say that "it to to be only a sign of mourning"... that's your strawman. I even BOLDED "Given the context." Please... no strawmen.
    – Ruminator
    Aug 14, 2021 at 18:51
  • I guess I misread the first sentence. Apologies. I would also add Judith, which I'm currently reading, "And she wore haircloth upon her loins, and fasted all the days of her life, except the sabbaths, and new moons, and the feasts of the house of Israel." Aug 14, 2021 at 19:24
  • No worries. I don't doubt that it was used such, but not exclusively: [Genesis 37:34 NASB20] (34) So Jacob tore his clothes, and put on a sackcloth [undergarment] over his waist, and mourned for his son many days. [2 Samuel 3:31 NASB20] (31) Then David said to Joab and to all the people who were with him, "Tear your clothes and put on sackcloth, and mourn before Abner." And King David walked behind the bier.
    – Ruminator
    Aug 14, 2021 at 19:39
  • Fasting, wearing sackcloth, casting ashes upon the head etc., and mourning, are certainly associated, however, I don't think it's provable from this textual data alone that they were done in these instances, over and against some others, solely for the purpose of mourning. It could have been done for either the same reason or a primordially similar one to that which the book of 2 Maccabees makes reference, when the Jews who fought against the Hellenistic tyrants prayed for the fallen soldiers of the Lord that their sins of collecting pagan amulets for their value might be blotted out. Aug 14, 2021 at 19:54

The use of the sackcloth seems to be just a practical necessity.

Keil and Delitzsch:

And Rizpah took sackcloth, i.e., the coarse hairy cloth that was worn as mourning, and spread it out for herself by the rock - not as a tent, as Clericus supposes, still less as a covering over the corpses of those who had been executed, according to the exegetical handbook, but for a bed

It was a token of her mourning and used practically as a bed over many days.

"from the beginning of the harvest till water was poured out upon them (the crucified) from heaven," i.e., till rain came as a sign that the plague of drought that had rested upon the land was appeased; after which the corpses could be openly taken down from the stakes and buried,

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