Mothers spend a lot of time watching and waiting. An instance that comes to mind is of an evening when I sat outside in a cold car waiting for my son Paul to come out of the warm church building so that we could go home. Well, the car wasn’t actually cold since I had the heater turned on. It was the outside that was frigid, and the longer I sat there watching him and his friends having a super time inside the warm, lighted building, the more annoyed I became.

I had things to do. There were unwashed dishes in the sink, clothes to iron and classes to prepare for. When in the world was he ever going to come out? Dressed in the sweatpants I’d earlier jogged in, I didn’t feel comfortable going inside to get him, especially since I’d exchanged my Nikes for some fluffy leopard bedroom shoes.

I decided to call my mother and whine a little bit. Surely she’d commiserate with my plight. Wrong. A wise woman, she listened to my complaint and simply said, “He’s worth waiting for.” I felt as though I’d been slapped and hugged at the same time. She was absolutely right. He was well worth waiting for, and he was inside a church building for crying out loud (a phrase she might have added).

Part of what mothers are supposed to do is watch and wait. And yet what I did is minimal when compared to the vigil of a woman named Rizpah whose story is found in II Samuel 21:2-14. Although she’s not a major player like some of the other Old Testament mothers, her story is certainly one worth telling. She was a person of no power, a concubine, and yet her actions moved a king to do the right thing.

A concubine of Saul, Rizpah had two sons named Armoni and Mephibosheth. At some point before his death, Saul had ordered the slaying of some Gibeonites, and now these people were demanding retribution. King David was anxious to appease them because he felt it would end a three-year famine. Unfortunately, the Gibeonites didn’t want money; they wanted blood, the blood of seven of Saul’s descendants. Two of these young men were the sons of Rizpah, and the other five were sons of Merab, Saul’s daughter.

David handed these seven over to the Gibeonites to be slain as human sacrifices. After the slaying, their bodies were not buried as was the custom of the day, but were left to the elements. Rizpah knew she had to take a stand not only to protect their bodies from birds and beasts but also to influence David to bury them. Bold and faithful, she basically took sackcloth, spread it on a rock, and sat there keeping watch from the beginning of barley season until nearly six months later, from April to October. Eventually, King David heard of her tenacious loyalty and buried what was left of the seven bodies. Only then did Rizpah leave the rock.

Comment on this story

Compare Rizpah’s wait to mine. She sat on a rock and braved the elements in all sorts of weather for six months. What did she eat? Did friends come and visit her and offer social support? Did she bathe, change her clothes, sleep? I waited 20 minutes in the comfort of my car while I watched my very alive son enjoy his friends inside of a warm building. Rizpah’s sons were dead. I called my mother; Rizpah didn’t call anyone. The very thought of her using a cellphone is weird. As far as we know, she was totally alone.

Rizpah loved her children with a fierce love, and her behavior showed valor and loyalty. Although it isn’t always easy, mothers have to take a stand. We have to watch and wait and shoo away all the vultures that might attack our children, and we need to do it by night and by day.

Mother of three and grandmother of seven, Bowers is an adjunct psychology instructor who's relishing her retirement years reading, writing, spoiling grandchildren and traveling. Contact her at or