|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
21:10-14 That a guilty land should enjoy many years of plenty, calls for gratitude; and we need not wonder misused abundance should be punished with scarcity; yet how few are disposed to ask of the Lord concerning the sinful cause, while numbers search for the second causes by which he is pleased to work! But the Lord will plead the cause of those who cannot or will not avenge themselves; and the prayers of the poor are of great power. When God sent rain to water the earth, these bodies were buried, for then it appeared that God was entreated for the land. When justice is done on earth, vengeance from heaven ceases. God is pacified, and is entreated for us through Christ, who was hanged on a tree, and so made a curse for us, to do away our guilt, though he was himself guiltless.
Verse 10. - Rizpah ... took sackcloth, and spread it for her upon the rock; rather, against the rock, so as to form a little hut or shelter to protect her from the glaring blaze of the sunshine. The word "upon" has led many commentators to suppose that she used it as a bed; but this is not the meaning of the Hebrew, though given by the Vulgate. The sackcloth was the loose wrapper or cloak which formed the outer dress of mourners. As regards the bodies of those crucified or impaled, the Law required that they should be taken down and buried that same evening (Deuteronomy 21:23). Here they remained exposed for six months, as a grim trophy of Gibeonite vengeance. Until water dropped upon them out of heaven; Hebrew, was poured upon them; until copious and heavy rains came. The outpouring of these rains would put an end to the famine, and be regarded as a proof that the wrath of Heaven was appeased. There is no reason for supposing that these rains came before the usual period, in autumn, which was about the middle of October. Thus, for six months, with no other protection than her mantle of sackcloth hung against the rock, this noble woman watched the decaying bodies of her loved ones, until at last her devoted conduct touched David's heart, and their remains were honourably interred.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And Rizpah the daughter of Aiah took sackcloth,.... Both as a token of mourning for her sons, and as fittest to defend from the weather, the heat by day of cold by night:
and spread it for her upon the rock; the hill on which her sons were hanged; this she spread as a canopy or tent to sit under, and be covered with it; not to cover the bodies with it, but herself, and where she sat to mourn the loss of her sons, and to watch their bodies, that they might not be devoured by birds and breasts of prey, as after observed: and here she sat
from the beginning of harvest until water dropped on them out of heaven; that is, as the Jews say (n), from the sixteenth of Nisan, when barley harvest began, to the seventeenth of Marchesvan, when the former rain fell; that is, from the beginning of April to the beginning of October: but it is not likely that she continued so long watching the bodies, nor would there be any need of it to keep the birds and beasts from them; for after they had hung so many months, there would be nothing left for them; but rather the meaning is, that she continued there until it pleased God to send rain from heaven, which had been restrained, and a famine came upon it, because of the ill usage of the Gibeonites: and very probably the order from the king was, that the bodies should hang till rain came, that it might be observed what was the reason of their suffering; and no doubt Rizpah sat there praying that rain might come, and which, as Abarbinel thinks, came in a few days after, though not usual in summertime; but this was an extraordinary case, as in 1 Samuel 12:17; and was done to show the Lord was entreated for the land; and so Josephus says (o), that upon the hanging up of these men, God caused it to rain immediately, and restored the earth to its former fruitfulness. According to the law in Deuteronomy 21:22, the bodies should have been taken down and buried the same day: but these men suffered not for their own personal, sins, but for the sins of others, and to avert a public calamity, and therefore must hang till that was removed; nor were they executed by men bound by that law; and besides their continuing on the tree was according to the will of God, till he was entreated, who could dispense with this law; to which may be added, the ceremonial and judicial laws, of which this was one, gave place to those of a moral nature (p), as this did to that of sanctifying the name of God in a public manner; hence the saying of one of the Rabbins upon this (q), which is by many wrongly expressed,"it is better that one letter should be rooted out of the law, than that the name of God should not be sanctified openly;''that is, a lesser precept give way to a greater, or a ceremonial precept to a moral one, such as the sanctification of the name of God is:
and suffered neither the birds of the air to rest on them by day; as it is usual for crows (r) and ravens, and such sort of birds, to light on bodies thus hung up, and pick their flesh:
nor the beasts of the field by night; for it seems it was usual to make the gibbets, and so in some other nations the crosses, so low, that wild beasts could easily come at the bodies and devour them; so Blandina was hung upon a tree so low, that she might be exposed to the wild beasts to feed upon her, but not one of them would touch her body (s); now Rizpah, by her servants, had ways and means to frighten away the birds, and beasts from doing any injury to the carcasses.
(n) Bemidbar Rabba, fol. 190. 1.((o) Antiqu. l. 7. c. 12. sect. 1.((p) See Stillingfleet's Origines Sacr. p. 140. (q) T. Bab. Yebamot, fol. 79. 1.((r) "---- non pasces in cruce corvos", Horat. Epist, l. 1. Epist. 16. ver. 48. (s) Euseb. Eccl. Hist. l. 5. c. 1. Vid. Lipsium de Cruce, l. 3. c. 11. & l. 3. c. 13.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
2Sa 21:10, 11. Rizpah's Kindness unto the Dead.
10. Rizpah … took sackcloth, and spread it for her upon the rock—She erected a tent near the spot, in which she and her servants kept watch, as the relatives of executed persons were wont to do, day and night, to scare the birds and beasts of prey away from the remains exposed on the low-standing gibbets.
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