Summary: Rizpah, though insignificant in status, proved to be the focus of two defining events in the life of God’s people. It is from her story I hope we can learn some valuable lessons!
Rizpah (Riz-puh) was a concubine of King Saul who had bore Saul two sons. She is, in one sense, a very insignificant character. As a concubine, she had very little status nor influential power. Concubines were considered as “secondary wives,” they were inferior to the “primary wives.” In reality, a concubine was nothing more than a slave. Whether purchased (cf. Ex. 21:7-11; Lev. 25:44-46) or won in battle (cf. Num. 31:18) a concubine was entitled to some legal protection (cf. Deut. 21:10-14), but was her husbands property. Rizpah, though insignificant in status, proved to be the focus of two defining events in the life of God’s people. It is from her story I hope we can learn some valuable lessons!
After Saul’s death, the commander of his Army (Abner) had placed Saul’s son Ish-bosheth on the throne over Israel (cf. 2 Sam. 2:8-10). The tribe of Judah, on the other hand, anointed David as their king (cf. 2 Sam. 2:7). Abner was able to keep the ten northern tribes (Israel) loyal to Ish-bosheth for a while, yet severe losses in battle at the hand of David’s army weakened the house of Saul (cf. 2 Sam. 2:17; 32; 3:1). A defining turn of events surround a rumor that Abner had had relations with Rizpah. This is the first, of the two contributions made by Rizpah that were significant in the life of God’s people.
1st Defining Event - The House of Saul, Destroyed by a Rumor!
Text: (2 Sam. 3:7-12)
Vs. 7 - Ish-bosheth said to Abner, “Why have you gone in to my father’s concubine?”
There is no indication elsewhere in the text to support this allegation; hence, it must be treated as a rumor. Likewise, Abner takes offense to it, thus we must conclude his denial of such an act.
Ish-bosheth was naturally upset, but more so due to political ramifications, rather than any specific concern for the concubine or his father. Why? If this allegation were true, the act might suggest Abner intended to take the throne of Israel for himself. After all, we learn from vs. 6 that Abner was making himself strong in the house of Saul.
Vs. 8 - Abner was very angry over the words of Ish-bosheth ...
Abner was deeply offended by this accusation. After all, it had been his influence that had kept the northern tribes loyal to Ish-bosheth. This allegation challenged Abner’s honor! If an ancient man lost his honor, he lost everything.
Vs. 12 - … my hand shall be with you to bring all Israel over to you.
With his honor impugned, Abner establishes communications with David, setting the wheels in motion to transfer the kingdom to him. Hence, a mere rumor about an insignificant concubine, named Rizpah, led to the uniting of God’s people under David.
Lesson for Today - Rumors Can and Do Destroy!
What is a rumor? Webster defines a rumor as general talk not based on definite knowledge; mere gossip; hearsay. What does the Bible say regarding gossip? "Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth, each one of you, with his neighbor… do not give the devil an opportunity… Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear" (Eph. 4: 25, 27, 29). Notice the list of folks who will not inherit the kingdom of God: "… thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers …" (1 Cor. 6:10). A reviler is simply an abusive gossip or slander!