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What Was Her Name?

II Sam. 21: 5-14


Name some great mothers in the Bible.  There are many.  But have you ever heard of Rizpah?  Probably not, but she is a great example for us all this Mother’s Day.

By what other names do we call Mother?  Wife, homemaker, teacher, maid, cook, lover, referee, rescue squad, tutor, psychiatrist, taxi driver, and example -- all put together spells MOTHER! The text points out an unusual story of a mother with an unusual name…not well known. Listen attentively as we look at Rizpah, an example to all mothers.

Rizpah was the mother of a special needs child.  Mephibosheth was handicapped.  There’s something wonderful about a dedicated mother of a special needs child.  And that’s exactly what my wife is.  [not a special needs child, but the mother of one!]

I.    Rizpah was a Mother of Example In Her DEVOTION. v 10 

This lady named Rizpah was Saul's concubine. She bore him two sons. She may have been a Gentile of the Horites. Her name means hot stone or glowing stone. This may have reference to physical appearance. Most likely she would not have been a concubine if she did not possess some outstanding physical beauty. This may also be the reason one of Saul's sons was accused of taking Rizpah as his concubine after Saul's death (2 Sam. 3:7).

Whatever else Rizpah was, she rose to demonstrate her devotion to her sons. There was a famine in the land. Rizpah may have known it was caused by Saul’s sin in that he broke a treaty with the Gibeonites. Saul's action caused God to send the drought and famine. If she knew this she may have also realized the sons of Saul would be required as a sacrifice by the Gibeonites. She did not want her sons to die.  But they may have to die.  That may not be under her control.  Certainly she didn't want her sons becoming a feast for the vultures and wild beasts. If they had to die she wanted them to have a place of burial.

Rizpah loved her sons and her devotion to them is an example. Her devotion caused her to identify with the suffering and embarrassment of these boys. She did not shun her sons in their time of need. She was there by her sons. Her devotion caused her to stay with them during the months of their shame. Family is needed most in time of need. They understand and their presence is most helpful.

Verse 10 tells us she spread a sackcloth on the land. There can be several reasons for this - 1) she may be indicating her repentance and the repentance of the land 2) she may have used it for a place to lie down 3) she may have used it as a tent for shelter. But since it is sackcloth, it is my opinion it had something to do with repentance. Since she was Saul's concubine it would seem she could have gotten other kinds of covering if she did not want to emphasize repentance.

The latter part of verse 10 tells of her activity during these months of agony. She kept the birds of prey and the wild beasts from devouring the bodies of her sons. It was the intent of the Gibeonites to have these sons of Saul ripped apart by the vultures and wild beasts. There is an order to this in nature. The vultures come while the jackals wait. When they are done they do their eating of the flesh and finally, the crows come to pick the bones clean. Some animals will pull the skeletons apart and scatter them for miles.  Rizpah wanted a burial for her sons. She stood by and did her best to keep the vultures away. Why?  She did this because of her devotion to her sons.

What wouldn’t you do for your kids?

Real devotion will sometimes reveal itself in the form of ‘tough love’.

Prov. 22:6       Train up a child…

Ill.—“We had the meanest mother in the whole world! While other kids ate candy for breakfast, we had to have cereal, eggs, and toast. When others had a Pepsi and a Twinkie for lunch, we had to eat sandwiches. And you can guess our mother fixed us a dinner that was different from what other kids had, too. Mother insisted on knowing where we were at all times. You'd think we were convicts in a prison. She had to know who our
friends were, and what we were doing with them. She insisted that if we
said we would be gone for an hour, we would be gone for only an hour or less. We are ashamed to admit it, but she had the nerve to break the Child Labor Laws by making us work. We had to wash the dishes, make the beds, learn to cook, vacuum the floor, do laundry, and all sorts of cruel
jobs. I think she would lie awake at night thinking of more things for
us to do. She always insisted on us telling the truth, the whole truth,
and nothing but the truth. By the time we were teenagers, she could read
our minds. Then, life was really tough! Mother wouldn't let our friends
just honk the horn when they drove up. They had to come up to the door
so she could meet them. While everyone else could date when they were 12 or 13, we had to wait until we were 16. Because of our mother we missed out on lots of things other kids experienced. None of us have ever been shoplifting, vandalizing other's property, or even arrested for any crime. And it’s all her fault. Now that we have left home, we are all God-fearing, educated, honest adults. We are doing our best to be mean parents just like Mom was. Hey, maybe that's what's wrong with the world today. It just doesn't have enough mean moms anymore.”

Over 200 years ago a lady named Suzanna Wesley reared 19 children. She was devoted to the task and had 16 rules. They are as follows:

(1) Eating between meals not allowed.
(2) As children, they are to be in bed by 8 PM.
(3) They are required to take medicine without complaining.
(4) Subdued self-will in a child working together with God to save the child's Soul.
(5) Teach a child to pray as soon as he can speak.
(6) Require all to be still during Family Worship.
(7) Give them nothing they cry for, and only that which they ask for politely.
(8) To prevent lying, punish no fault which is first confessed and repented.
(9) Never allow a sinful act to go unpunished.
(10) Never punish a child twice for a single offense.
(11) Commend and reward good behavior.
(12) Any attempt to please, even if poorly performed should be commended
(13) Preserve property rights, even in smallest matters.
(14) Strictly observe all promises.
(15) Require no daughter to work before she can read well.
(16) Teach children to fear the Lord.


Since our world is teaching our kids to hate themselves, their race, their gender, their religion…we should fight off these wild beasts.

Parents today need to be prepared for what to say if their kid comes to them and says, I think I’m really a girl/boy.  What would be your response?  How can we be ready for that moment?  Is there a class we should take?

Here’s an idea of how you can respond:  “No, you’re not!”

Obviously, it goes deeper than that.  They need to know how they are fearfully and wonderfully made in God’s image, male and female, with nothing in between, and what chromosomes are, and the difference between right and wrong.

Perversion is always wrong.  [Kuna island]  It happened in Sodom.  It was wrong then and it’s wrong now!  And any blurring of the sexes is wrong, as we try to change God’s natural creation.

When tempted to do something wrong, we must say no…not live by feelings.  “Be true to yourself?”  No, be true to the truth!

Rizpah is an example of some rules we ought to have today. As she kept vultures and wild beasts away, we also should do that in a spiritual sense. There is a vulture of sex waiting prey for our youth. This is a vulture when it is taken out of a Biblical context. Pre-marital and promiscuous sex is a vulture. I heard of a mother (supposed to be a Christian) who equipped her daughter with birth control techniques because of the way many youth live today. “Since you can’t be good…be careful!”

That's not fighting vultures.

There is a wild beast of drugs. We should fight that beast off.

We must fight off the wild beast of pornography.

Much of today’s music is a wild beast. Mom and Dad need to fight off these wild beasts.

Although those thoughts are not really in the text, the parallel can easily be made. Rizpah is an example because she was devoted to the task. Notice her example in her demonstration.

II.    Rizpah was a Mother of Example In Her DEMONSTRATION.

v 10

Rizpah was just a concubine. She was not a wife. If, in fact, Rizpah's father, Aiah, is the Horite mentioned in I Chron. 1:40, she would be a Gentile concubine. The people would not have much respect for her and this makes her demonstration even more noticeable. She risked personal abuse by demonstrating her love, nevertheless, she is an example.

To the people of this day, dying in the manner of Rizpah's sons was regarded as the greatest ignominy that could befall the dead. Still Rizpah demonstrated her love and identification with her sons. She was demonstrating a conviction by expressing "I'll die here before I let some wild beast have the corpses of my sons." I think she was also demonstrating that she would make any personal sacrifice necessary in order to gain a burial place for her children.

A seminary student in Ft. Worth, Texas, was visiting a cemetery. He noticed a woman alone. She was weeping bitterly. He went over to her and learned she was the mother of Oswald, the accused assassin of John F. Kennedy. She asked, "Does anybody care that my son is dead?" No one else was there but the mother, but just like Rizpah, she was demonstrating her love.

A boy who afterwards became Governor of the State of Massachusetts once came near being drowned. The boat in which he was sailing was capsized, and he had to swim more than mile; but he finally reached the shore in safety; and when he reached home and told his mother what a long distance he had to swim, she asked him how he managed to hold out so long. "I thought of you, Mother," replied the boy, "and kept on swimming." The thought of Mother helped him in the moment of his greatest need, and thus saved his life, not only to himself and to his mother, but also to the state and the nation.


If the sons of Rizpah had lived after this time they would have remembered her demonstration.  “Her children arise up and call her blessed.”  [Proverbs] 

III.    Rizpah was a Mother of Example In Her DEDICATION. v 9-11 




‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all thru the abode

Only one creature was stirring, & she was cleaning the commode.

The children were sleeping, all snug in their beds,

with visions of a brand new X Box in their heads.

The dad was snoring afront the TV,

with a half-constructed bicycle propped on his knee.

So only the mom heard the reindeer hooves clatter,

which made her sigh, "Now what is the matter?"

With toilet bowl brush still clutched in her hand,

She descended the stairs, & saw the old man.

He was covered with ashes & soot, and he shrugged,

"Oh great," muttered mom, "Now I have to clean the rug."

"Ho Ho Ho!" cried Santa, "I'm glad you're awake."

"your gift was especially difficult to make."

"Thanks, Santa, but all I want is time alone."

"Exactly!" he chuckled, "So, I've made you a clone."

"A clone?" she queried, "What good is that?"

"Run along, Santa, I've no time for chit chat."

Then out walked the clone – Her own perfect twin,

Same hair, same eyes, same double chin.

"She'll cook, she'll dust, she'll mop every mess.

You'll relax, take it easy, watch The Young & The Restless."

"Fantastic!" the mom cheered. "My dream has come true!"

"I'll shop, I'll read, I'll sleep a night through!"

From the room above, the youngest did fret.

"Mommy?! Come quickly, I'm scared & I'm wet."

The clone replied, "I'm coming, sweetheart."

"Hey," the mom smiled, "She sure knows her part."

The clone changed the small one & hummed her tune,

as she bundled the child in a blanket cocoon. "You're the best mommy ever.  I really love you."

The clone smiled & sighed, "And I love you, too."

The mom frowned & said, "Sorry, Santa, no deal."

That's my child's LOVE she is trying to steal."

Smiling wisely Santa said, "To me it is clear,

Only one loving mother is needed ‘round here."

The mom kissed her child & tucked her in bed.

"Thank You, Saint Nick, for clearing my head.

I sometimes forget, it won't be very long,

When they'll be too old for my cradle & song."

The clock on the mantle began to chime.

Santa whispered to the clone, "It works every time."

With the clone by his side Santa said "Goodnight.

Merry Christmas, dear Mom, You know, you’re alright!"


That’s a true mother’s heart.  And the text says that Rizpah stayed with the dead bodies of her sons "from beginning of harvest until it rained on them from the sky;..." Most commentators indicate this means from April to October. Verse 13 tells us the bones of the sons were buried, therefore it had to be a long time since only the bones were left.

Because Rizpah wanted to be a mother who kept vultures and wild beasts away, she goes down in history as a great example to all moms. Dedication makes a difference. Dedication eventually gets noticed. Verse 11 indicates David became aware of Rizpah's action. She wanted a burial for her sons but she never dreamed they would receive a royal burial. Her dedication was rewarded.  David also cared for the remaining son, the lame Mephibosheth.

The sculptor spends hours in shaping the features of the face; the painter labors to give color to the hair or expression to the face. Their work is to stand for ages to come. But a mother is shaping substances more imperishable than canvas or marble. She can afford to be patient and wait long enough for results. She has all eternity in which to watch development.


Mothers, how much time are you willing to give to the responsibility of Motherhood? How diligent, persistent and dedicated are you willing to be? Right now it may not be as you wish with your children. The final results are not in. Rizpah didn't succeed in a month or two, but her dedication led her onward.  Mother, don't give up hope; continue to be dedicated to the ongoing task of Motherhood.

What was her name?  It doesn’t matter.  The best moms in the world may only be remembered by the few who gathered under their wings for a time.  But for those few, the benefits are eternal, and so today we remember moms like that who have gone on before us.  And if we’re privileged to still have her, we should honor her everyday!  And some today will be called of God to BE that mom…and now they can answer His call!


Some of you here today are trying to be a Mother, but you don't have a relationship with Christ. We invite you to make a public commitment to Jesus. And kids, the greatest present you can give to your Mom is a Christian son or daughter. Make your decision as we extend the invitation.

[based on sermon by James McCullen]



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