Rizpah daughter of Aiah took sackcloth and spread it out for herself on a rock. From the beginning of the harvest till the rain poured down from the heavens on the bodies, she did not let the birds touch them by day or the wild animals by night. When David was told what Aiah’s daughter Rizpah, Saul’s concubine, had done, he went and took the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan from the citizens of Jabesh Gilead. (They had stolen their bodies from the public square at Beth Shan, where the Philistines had hung them after they struck Saul down on Gilboa.) David brought the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan from there, and the bones of those who had been killed and exposed were gathered up.
They buried the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan in the tomb of Saul’s father Kish, at Zela in Benjamin, and did everything the king commanded. After that, God answered prayer in behalf of the land.
Once again there was a battle between the Philistines and Israel. David went down with his men to fight against the Philistines, and he became exhausted. And Ishbi-Benob, one of the descendants of Rapha, whose bronze spearhead weighed three hundred shekels and who was armed with a new sword, said he would kill David. But Abishai son of Zeruiah came to David’s rescue; he struck the Philistine down and killed him. Then David’s men swore to him, saying, “Never again will you go out with us to battle, so that the lamp of Israel will not be extinguished.”
In the course of time, there was another battle with the Philistines, at Gob. At that time Sibbekai the Hushathite killed Saph, one of the descendants of Rapha.
In another battle with the Philistines at Gob, Elhanan son of Jair the Bethlehemite killed the brother of Goliath the Gittite, who had a spear with a shaft like a weaver’s rod.
In still another battle, which took place at Gath, there was a huge man with six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot—twenty-four in all. He also was descended from Rapha. When he taunted Israel, Jonathan son of Shimeah, David’s brother, killed him.
These four were descendants of Rapha in Gath, and they fell at the hands of David and his men.
- 2 Samuel 21:10-22
As the first video below states, providing a memorial for fallen soldiers and sailors in war has been a tradition for thousands of years.
War is not a clean, sweet thing. The Scripture above starts off by talking of Rizpah who guarded seven dead from her family, but how they died seems harsh in modern times. In Joshua 9, people from Gibeon tricked Joshua into thinking that they lived far away and were in fear for their lives. They had Joshua swear an oath to protect them. Then Joshua discovered that they were actually the people of the next city that he was to destroy. He held to his oath, even coming to their rescue when their cousins, the Amorites, attacked them. But king Saul sought to even the score, attempting to destroy all the Gibeonites. Long after Saul died and David became king, there was a famine and in enquiring to God, the Lord told David that the Gibeonites must be avenged. In counsel with the remnants of the Gibeonites, who then lived with the Amorites, seven of Saul’s extended family were killed and the bodies left on display to signify that the Gibeonites were avenged.
The remainder of the chapter speaks of the wars with the Philistines late in King David’s reign. In a way, it memorializes some of the soldiers.
In thinking of the seven members of Saul’s family, it makes me think of the National Cemetery in Arlington, VA. I have been to a few locations in the cemetery, including the tombs of the unknowns. It is a sobering experience. I was never that good at military bearing. I could have never measured up to be a member of the Old Guard.
I wanted to take my boys to Arlington to visit the tombs when we were living in South Carolina, but we could not find a parking place. We drove from the Lincoln Memorial across the river to Arlington, and we wondered why there were cars parked illegally along the outer lane in both directions. We soon learned that the closest parking (legal parking) was near the Smithsonian Castle. It was 1984 and they were having the internment ceremony for the Vietnam War Unknowns. We showed our respects from afar.
While the first internment of an unknown soldier in 1921 was made there and identified as an American soldier, the remaining unknowns are truly unknown, even as to which side the body parts belonged. They could be enemy remains, yet honor is due for they died for their country. The internment for the World War II and Korean Conflict unknowns was in 1958. Maybe with DNA testing, we will not inter any others.
The following video provides a history of Memorial Day.
But for many people, Memorial Day is personal. When we were in Washington, DC in 1984, unaware of the Vietnam War internment until we tried to go to Arlington, I did not personally know anyone who had lost his life in that war, but my wife served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War, in the USA and not in Vietnam, and I had obtained my military commitment during the war, the war having ended just before I graduated college. We were connected, but we knew no one who had died. I had known a lot of people who were in Vietnam and they knew plenty of the names on the wall.
Maybe seeing the pain in my friend’s eyes is why I have a hard time watching this clip from M*A*S*H where Col. Potter (Harry Morgan) remembers his friends.
Our freedoms came at a price. Maybe in knowing that, it hurts me that much more when the younger generations of the USA are so willing to give up those freedoms in exchange for entitlements from the government.
The military are not the only ones who remember. The families that are left behind will never forget their loved ones. In a movie, Kevin Bacon portrayed a Lieutenant Colonel who escorted a fallen soldier from his hometown back home to be buried. At one point the Bacon character asked what the point of all this was, and an old Korean War veteran told him that the boy had come home. Otherwise, so many of our brave military would simply vanish. They may become nothing more than a name on a wall.
I have written about the year (2011) that my brother died, three weeks later my father died, and then two months later my mother died. My wife thought it odd, and a bit disturbing that I never shed a tear. But I cam close, when the casket flag was removed from the casket, folded meticulously, and handed to my mother with the appropriate words for an Army veteran (both World War II and Korea). I wondered at the time if my wife would receive the flag in my passing or I for hers. The flag in the photo is that flag, and it will be used again. And I shed a few tears in writing this.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.