oa Journal for Semitics - Rizpah : activist in nation-building : an analysis of 2 Samuel 21:1-14

Volume 14, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1013-8471



Rizpah, concubine of Saul and daughter of Aiah, features twice in scripture. The first story, recounted in 2 Samuel 3, takes place at the beginning of David's reign in Hebron, around 10 I 0 BCE. The second, recounted in 2 Samuel 24, is set at an indefinite time well into David's reign as king over all Israel. In the first story, Rizpah serves as a catalyst: at the mention of her name, a kingdom changes hands. In the second story, she serves as an activist: her courage in defying a sitting king rivets a nation. In both stories, she remains silent. In each passage, the narrator muzzles her, refusing to allow her to respond to accusations, to express her feelings about two life-threatening situations, or to share her views on the justice of the actions taken. Nevertheless, Rizpah emerges in the first story as a fulcrum in the king-making struggle between the House of Saul and the House of David, and in the second as a moral force the winning king, David, must reckon with. This article concludes a two-part series from a literary perspective on Rizpah, an obscure but surprisingly influential woman in the biblical text.

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