David and Mephibosheth
v1 One day David asked, ‘Is anyone from Saul’s family still alive? If so, I want to be kind to that person because of the promise that I made to Jonathan.’
v2 Now Saul’s family had a servant called Ziba. David’s officials called Ziba to go to David. Then King David asked him, ‘Are you Ziba?’
Ziba replied, ‘Yes, I am your servant.’
v3 David said, ‘Is there anyone still alive in Saul’s family? I want to show him God’s kindness.’
Ziba replied, ‘Yes, one of Jonathan’s sons is still alive. He cannot walk because of an injury to his feet.’
v4 ‘Where is he?’ the king asked.
Ziba answered, ‘He is in the town called Lo Debar. He lives at the house of Makir, the son of Ammiel.’ v5 So David sent men to fetch him from Makir’s house.
Jonathan was the son of King Saul. David and Jonathan had been very good friends (1 Samuel 18:1-4). Jonathan knew that David would become the next king. So, Jonathan asked David always to show love for Jonathan’s family. In 1 Samuel 20:12-17 and 20:42, David made a special promise to Jonathan and to the *Lord. Then, after David became king, he remembered this promise.
Ziba had been a servant in Saul’s palace. We do not know how important Ziba was then. But he had become an important man since Saul had died. Ziba now had 20 servants of his own (verse 10). Ziba said to David, ‘I am your servant.’ Ziba did not mean that he was actually David’s servant. It was the custom for people to speak to a king this way. It showed honour to the king as the most important person. It also meant that the person was loyal to his king. Ziba knew all about Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan. Ziba probably knew that David and Jonathan had been friends. 2 Samuel 4:4 describes what happened to Mephibosheth. He had fallen and hurt his feet. Probably the bones broke and did not mend properly. He had to live with someone who could help him. Lo Debar was on the east side of the river Jordan.
Mephibosheth was 5 years old when Saul and Jonathan died. Now Mephibosheth had a young son (verse 12). David had taken many years to do what he promised to Jonathan. Maybe David had been too busy while he was fighting his enemies. But David wanted to *keep his promise.
v6 Mephibosheth was the son of Jonathan, who was the son of Saul. When Mephibosheth came to David, he lay down with his face on the ground. Mephibosheth did this to show honour to David.
David said, ‘Mephibosheth!’
Mephibosheth said, ‘I am your servant.’
v7 David said, ‘Do not be afraid. I will be kind to you because Jonathan was your father. I will give back to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul. And you will always eat your meals at my table.’
v8 Mephibosheth lay down again to give honour to David. Mephibosheth said, ‘The king should not think about me. I am hardly better than a dead dog.’
v9 The king called for Ziba, Saul’s servant. The king said, ‘I have given your master’s grandson everything that belonged to Saul and his family. v10 You and your sons and your servants must farm the land for Mephibosheth. You must gather the crops in order to provide for him. However, Mephibosheth, your master’s grandson, will always eat his meals at my table.’ (Ziba had 15 sons and 20 servants.)
v11 Ziba answered, ‘I am your servant. I will do everything that you, the king, have ordered.’ So, Mephibosheth ate all his meals at the king’s table. He was like one of the king’s sons.
v12 Mephibosheth had a young son called Mica. All the people in Ziba’s family were servants of Mephibosheth. v13 Mephibosheth had two bad feet and he could not walk. He lived in Jerusalem and he ate his meals with the king.
Mephibosheth was probably afraid when he went to David. A king from a different family often killed all the family of the previous king. Mephibosheth lay on the floor to show David great honour. Mephibosheth could not walk so he did not have a normal life. Life is often very difficult for people with physical problems. A dead dog (verse 8) has no value or use. Mephibosheth was the grandson of a king. But he thought that he had no value. Mephibosheth could hardly believe that David would be so kind to him. David was kind because of Jonathan.
When David became king, he had probably gained all Saul’s land. But David returned it to Mephibosheth. Mephibosheth would not be able to farm it himself. Ziba had been Saul’s servant. David said that Ziba, his sons and his servants would all become Mephibosheth’s servants. Ziba obeyed David and served his new master. Then David gave Mephibosheth greater honour. In future, he would eat all his meals with David in his palace. The food from Mephibosheth’s land would feed all the servants. So, Mephibosheth moved from Lo Debar to Jerusalem. He lived as part of David’s family.
In 1 Chronicles 8:33-40, the writer calls Mephibosheth ‘Merib-Baal’. They probably changed his name to Mephibosheth. At first people used the name Baal to mean God. (The word ‘baal’ means ‘master’.) But then Baal became the name for the god of another country. So, they changed names with ‘baal’ to ‘bosheth’, which means ‘ashamed’. The passage in 1 Chronicles also records Mica’s sons and their families.