Burial of the Dead


Burial of the Dead (2 Samuel 21:10-14)

Die letzten Kapitel (21–24) sind Nachträge. Hier findet sich die bewegende Geschichte von Rizpa, einer Nebenfrau Sauls (21,1–14): Es herrscht Hungersnot und David fragt den HERRN nach dem Grund. Er erfährt, dass auf dem Haus Sauls eine Blutschuld laste. Denn Saul habe die Gibeoniter trotz eines Friedensabkommens (Jos

Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) and Robert Duncarton (1744-1811), Rispah, ca. 1811. Etching and mezzotint. London, Tate Gallery.

Biblical Text

Then Rizpah daughter of Aiah, the mother of two of the men, spread burlap on a rock and stayed there the entire harvest season. She prevented the scavenger birds from tearing at their bodies during the day and stopped wild animals from eating them at night. When David learned what Rizpah, Saul’s concubine, had done, he went to the people of Jabesh-gilead and retrieved the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan. When the Philistines had killed Saul and Jonathan on Mount Gilboa, the people of Jabesh-gilead stole their bodies from the public square of Beth-shan, where the Philistines had hung them. So David obtained the bones of Saul and Jonathan, as well as the bones of the men the Gibeonites had executed. Then the king ordered that they bury the bones in the tomb of Kish, Saul’s father, at the town of Zela in the land of Benjamin. After that, God ended the famine in the land.

For Adults

Although Rizpah cannot bring her sons back to life with her long vigil, she nevertheless manages to convince David to bury all the dead of Saul’s family together through her perseverance and deep motherly love. Seen from today’s perspective, the murder of Saul’s seven innocent grandsons cannot be justified in the name of atoning a former blood guilt (21:1). In the reasoning at that time, the execution of Saul’s descendants was supposed to eliminate the guilt by restoring the original equilibrium which had been thrown out of balance by the act of violence. Thus, this impressive story about the silent, desperate protest of a deeply affected mother can become a model of behavior. She dares to fight even in hopeless situations for the honor and dignity of innocent people and is prepared to make any sacrifice. Her love is as fierce as death (Song of Songs 8:6).

Picture Credit
Photo: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b5/Rizpah_keeps_watch_in_the_tranquil_night_over_the_decaying_b_Wellcome_V0034314.jpg?uselang=de

Text Credit
The Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.