RIZPAH (Heb. רִצְפָּה), daughter of Aiah and concubine of Saul. After Saul's death, Rizpah probably withdrew to the palace of her son *Ish-Bosheth (Ishbaal) at Mahanaim, where *Abner took possession of her (II Sam. 3:7). Abner was reprimanded for this by Ish-Bosheth, whose anger may be explained in light of the custom that the king's harem used to pass on to his successor (cf. II Sam. 16:21), and should have therefore passed on to Ish-Bosheth. Abner's action can also be seen against the background of the Near Eastern custom that the marriage of a former king's wife bestows legitimacy even on an aspirant to the throne who has no sufficient claim (cf. 16:21; I Kings 2:17–22). Abner's action was thus regarded as a step toward claiming the throne.
At a later period in David's reign, a three-year famine broke out which was thought to have been caused by Saul's guilt in slaying the Gibeonites. The Gibeonites demanded the blood of the guilty house of Saul, and David made expiation by handing over seven of Saul's sons, among them the two sons of Rizpah, Armoni and Mephibosheth, to be hanged (II Sam. 21:1–9). The Gibeonites hanged them in the first days of the barley harvest, and brought the bodies to Gibeon to be exposed. Rizpah displayed her devotion by keeping a constant vigil over the bodies to protect them from the birds of prey from the beginning of the barley harvest until the rain finally came (21:10). When David heard of Rizpah's fidelity, he brought her sons' bones to burial (21:13–14).
Bright, Hist, 176; de Vaux, Anc Isr, 116; M. Tsevat, in: JJS, 9 (1958), 273–93.
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.