David and Mephibosheth – 2 Samuel 9

Read the Passage: 2 Samuel 9

David’s Kindness (9:1–5)

As we saw earlier, 2 Samuel 7 records the inauguration of the Davidic Covenant. Following this, details of David’s military victories over the Philistines, the Moabites, the Syrians, and others is recorded in 2 Samuel 8. David’s further victories over the Syrians and Ammonites is reported in 2 Samuel 10. In short, David’s reign as King of Israel is summarized in the observation, “So the Lord preserved David wherever he went” (2 Sam. 9:6). After listing David’s political cabinet in 2 Sam. 8:15–18, in 2 Samuel 9 the author of this book narrates the interaction between David and Mephibosheth. Back in 2 Sam. 4:4 Mephibosheth was introduced, as we learned that he was a son of Jonathan and a grandson of King Saul. Moreover, it is recorded that after Saul’s death, when Mephibosheth’s nurse was fleeing with him in haste, he was accidentally dropped, which left him crippled in his legs for life.

In 2 Sam. 9:1–2 David inquired about any surviving relatives of the house of Saul. With this inquiry, David was specifically seeking out children of Jonathan, with whom he had made a covenant of protection at 1 Sam. 18:3; 20:14–15, 42; 24:20–21. At the inauguration of this covenant Jonathan had told David, “You shall not cut off your kindness from my house forever, no, not when the Lord has cut of every one of the enemies of David” (2 Sam. 20:15). At 2 Sam. 9:3 David learned of the existence of Mephibosheth from Ziba, one of Saul’s former servants who appears for the first time in Scripture in this chapter. Note that Mephibosheth is also called Meribbaal at 1 Chron. 8:34; 9:40. We ought not to confuse Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan and grandson of Saul, with Mephibosheth, the son of Saul and daughter of Rizpah (cf. 2 Sam. 21:7–9). To clear, then, Saul had both a son and a grandson named Mephibosheth.

Mephibosheth’s Character (9:6–10)

Surely, when Mephibosheth received news that he was being summoned to David’s court, it was not a welcomed message. In this era, it was common for kings to eradicate any relatives of preceding kings in order to prevent rival claims to the throne, as well as sedition. Mephibosheth would likely not have known about David’s private covenant with his father Jonathan; although he would have known about Saul’s persecution of David. Note that Mephibosheth would have been about 12 years old when his uncle, King Ishbosheth, had been murdered. When Mephibosheth appeared before David in 2 Sam. 9:6–10, he did so with fear and humility. Unexpectedly, rather than be executed by David, Mephibosheth learned that David would restore all of Saul’s property to him and had appointed Ziba to be his own servant. Given his crippled state, such news must have seemed unbelievable to Mephibosheth.

Zeba’s Service (9:11–13)

The land and estate that Mephibosheth received from David was evidently quite large, for it was served by Ziba, his 15 sons, and his 20 servants. Moreover, David honored Mephibosheth by perpetually feeding him at his own table. Note that Mephibosheth also had a son named Micha, who later had children of his own (cf. 1 Chron. 8:35–38; 9:41–44). Mephibosheth would eat at David’s table, like one of the king’s own sons, and govern his estate for the next 17 years. What a change this must have been for Mephibosheth. He went from being marginalized to being favored, from experiencing great want to having great blessings. Don’t miss the gospel overtones of David’s relationship with Mephibosheth: of his own accord a king approaches his enemy, adopts him into his own family, and provides him with unrepayable blessings, all because of a prior covenant.

Mephibosheth, as well as Ziba, disappears from the biblical record until the time of Absalom’s treason, recorded from 2 Sam. 15–19. In 2 Sam. 16:1–4 we read that Ziba met David with supplies when he fled from Jerusalem. Surprisingly, when David inquired about Mephibosheth, Ziba claimed that Mephibosheth had remained in Jerusalem with hopes of being restored to the throne. Given Mephibosheth’s character in 2 Sam. 9, as well as the context of Absalom’s treason, this claim seems highly unlikely. Nevertheless, David hastily gave Saul’s estate to Ziba. Then, upon his return to Jerusalem, at 2 Sam. 19:24–30 David met Mephibosheth. He claimed that Ziba deceived him and slandered him to David. Upon hearing this news, David then divided the estate between Mephibosheth and Ziba. Note the fact that David later spared Mephibosheth’s life is significant (cf. 2 Sam. 21:7).

Application Questions:

  1. What does David’s kindness to Mephibosheth demonstrate about his character (cf. Gal. 5:22–23)? Why did King David show such kindness to Mephibosheth?
  2. Why does David seek to keep his covenant with Jonathan, even after Jonathan’s death? What would Mephibosheth have thought about David’s summons?
  3. Like Mephibosheth, have you ever received a completely unexpected blessing from God (cf. Eph. 3:20–21)? If so, how did this shape your theology?
  4. In what ways does David’s treatment of Mephibosheth reflect the gospel? Have you ever had opportunity to show kindness, grace, and mercy to your enemy?
  5. Whom do you think was telling the truth at the time of Absalom’s treason: Ziba or Mephibosheth? Was David’s decision to divide the land a just and fair ruling?