Lesson 9: Rizpah: The influence of Faithfulness
The concubine thing has always fascinated me.
I remember first asking what a concubine was at an age when I was probably too young to have been asking. I was told they were women who men slept with who were not their wives. I came away not thinking very highly of these women.
This week’s lesson however added some more light to the concept of the concubine. Though many of these women were originally maids or household slaves, being a King’s concubine seemed to be an upgrade. Their purpose was to bear heirs for the King and they were well taken care of for their service. Not a bad deal if you were a woman of Old Testament times. So you’re not a wife, but if we learned anything from Hannah (lesson 1) it was that a woman’s chief role back then was to strengthen the nation with heirs. So if your life’s purpose was to have someone’s babies, why not a King’s? It is also worthwhile to note that the man to whom the concubine bore a child was considered her ‘husband’.
Being the concubine of a powerful man also seemed to add a level of importance to a woman. Quite a few major scuffles in Old Testament time were provoked by issues related to a King’s concubine. See 2 Samuel 16:21 and 1 Kings 2 for details. One such concubine was Rizpah.
We first hear about Rizpah in 2 Samuel 3 where a rumour with her name attached to it starts a conflict between Saul’s son Ishbosheth and Abner that ends with Abner defecting to the House of David.
We see her again in 2 Samuel 21 when her sons are given to be killed in retribution for the acts of Saul. Here we see Rizpah’s faithfulness as she watches over the dead bodies of her sons and the other heirs of Saul who died with them.
I cannot imagine how Rizpah must have felt – watching her sons killed, not for anything they had done, but because of the actions of their father. She must have felt that to be the plight of her life – constantly being used and having her family used as a pawn in someone else’s drama.
Anyone who’s had to suffer because of someone else’s actions will understand how easy it is to grow bitter about such a situation. But there is no record of this from Rizpah. All we know is that she quietly and faithfully went about taking care of the bodies of her sons.
Life will inevitably deal us some unfair blows. The real question is: how will we respond to them? Will we be faithful to God and to our responsibilities? Or will we take actions that the rest of the world would see as justified? And even if we choose to be faithful, how long will we hold out?
Rizpah watched her sons’ bodies for many weeks. Even though the eventual result was that David ordered the proper burial of her sons along with Saul and his descendants, she had no way of knowing if and when this would have happened.
Like Rizpah we may not know when God will reward us for our faithfulness. But we know for sure that He will – If not in this life, then in the life to come.
Furthermore, we do not know how far reaching the influence of our faithfulness may be. Rizpah was one concubine, whose influence was more than the sons she bore for the King. What will your influence be?