Rizpah or Athaliah?

There exist mothers of all stripes and colors.  The Bible captures many of them if we look closely.  Eve had no mother.  Sarah longed to become a mother and finally at age ninety gave birth to Isaac.  Ruth enjoyed becoming great grandmother to the future King David.  In many instances we have no record of a mother’s name at all.  She may have been a good mother or she may have been bad, or she may have fallen where most mothers fall:  average.

Some women choose a single life and some women not by their choice, but are unable to have a child.  I feel a pain for them on Mother’s Day.  Like so many holidays, the commercialism has gone out-of-hand.  Frankly, I think it is even out-of-hand in church services.  It is used as a gimmick to get mothers to church and prizes of every imaginable ability are given as some sort of reward.

Two women in the Bible strike my attention and I would guess that either name was murmured from any pulpit today; in fact, is seldom heard from a pulpit.  I have heard a message on Rizpah once, on a Wednesday service because the pastor was uniquely preaching from the passage in the Bible reading schedule for that day. She was a concubine. You say, “Well, see, who would preach about a concubine?  Today we would call her a “kept woman.”  She belonged to King Saul.  Her name is first mentioned in II Samuel 3:7 in passing as the mother of Armoni and Mephibosheth (not to be confused with Jonathon’s son).  It is in II Samuel 21:10-11 I see her noble mother’s heart.  You see, her son’s were slain and dismembered at the hands of David’s army.  She is devastated.  She brings their bodies to a particular spot and keeps away the buzzards and wild animals.  What is she to do?  She is a concubine to a now dead man and has no means of income.  When David, willing to show kindness, finds out about her, he takes care of the bodies for her.  Rizpah is an example of courageous love and respect for her sons.  Good for her.

Just a few words about Athaliah are all that are needed.  When her son, the King of Judah (Ahaziah), came to an untimely death, she saw her chance to claim the Throne.  Just to make sure that no one snatched the possibility from her, she ordered all of the royal children killed!  Wow, what a grandmother!  And where did she get that wickedness?  Oh, her father was Omri, father of Ahab, like all of the kings of the Northern kingdom of Israel, walked in the wicked ways of Jeroboam. One little grandbaby survived the slaughter:  Joash.  You can learn most about her in II Kings 11 and again in II Chronicles 22. If we could know, Jezebel learned some lessons about wickedness at her hand.  The Bible does not tell us.

Rizpah loved with a mother’s heart of loyalty and compassion.  Athaliah had no love for anyone except herself.  She wanted power.

My premise is that most of us mothers fall into the average category.  We have our ups and downs, and I’ll just tell you, it is women who were childless who gave my children an abundance of love to make up for the times when I energy to keep going.  My sweet friend, Margaret, an unclaimed blessing, shared herself and her love to my children through all of their growing up years.  I am quite certain she has earned a mother’s reward in Heaven, where, after all, it is most important.




  1. Glenda

    Happy Mother’s Day to you, first of all! I think of so many times when my children were short-changed by me, and I wish there were some way to go back and change things, but there is no “re-do” in this life. I’m very thankful that God brought my children to the point where they were able to make the decision to follow Him, and I’m also thankful that my three grandsons are being nurtured and trained in the love of God. Thank you for this lesson today. It’s comforting to know that I was not an Athaliah, at least! 🙂

  2. For a women’s prayer retreat one year, we had to represent a biblical woman. I chose Rizpah. Her name means “burning or glowing coal.” What passion she had for her sons! We could learn a lot from her to fight for our children and the children – not ours – in our community.

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