II Samuel 9

 

 

 

1 “And David said, Is there yet any that is left of the house of Saul,

that I may shew him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?”  Is there yet any that

is left of the house of Saul? As Mephibosheth was five years old at his father’s

death (ch. 4:4), but now had a son (v. 12), a sufficient time must have elapsed for

him to grow up and marry; so that probably the events of this chapter occurred

seventeen or eighteen years after the battle of Gilboa. As David was king at

Hebron for seven years and a half, he had been king now of all Israel for

about nine years. But during this long period he had been engaged in a

weary struggle, which had left him little repose, and during which it might

have been dangerous to draw the house of Saul out of obscurity. But he

was at last firmly established on the throne, and had peace all around; and

the time was come to act upon the promise made to Jonathan (I Samuel 20:14-15),

and which we may be sure David had never forgotten.

 

2 “And there was of the house of Saul a servant whose name was

Ziba. And when they had called him unto David, the king said unto

him, Art thou Ziba? And he said, Thy servant is he.”  A servant whose name

was Ziba. It is evident from this that David was not certain that Jonathan had

left behind him a son; but not because of the change of name from Meribbaal

(I Chronicles 8:34); for Baal retained its innocent meaning of “lord” until the

time of Jezebel. It then became the title of the Phoenician sun god; and Jezebel’s

shameless worship of this deity, and her cruelty to Jehovah’s prophets, made the

people henceforth change the name Baal into Bosheth, “the shameful

thing” (see note on ch. 2:8). Mephibosheth had not changed his

name, but had lived in obscurity in the wild region beyond Mahanaim.

Meanwhile Ziba had probably taken care of Saul’s property in the tribe of

Benjamin. There is no reason to doubt that he had been steward there for

Saul, and after his master’s death had continued in possession of the estate.

David, we may feel sure, would not interfere with it, and Ziba would hold

it for Saul’s heirs, who could not themselves take possession. To him

David now sends, not because he expected to hear of a son of his dear

friend Jonathan, but because he was ready to show kindness to any

representative of the fallen monarch.

 

3 “And the king said, Is there not yet any of the house of Saul, that I

may shew the kindness of God unto him? And Ziba said unto the

king, Jonathan hath yet a son, which is lame on his feet.”

The kindness of God. That is, extraordinary kindness. The

devout mind of the Orientals saw in everything that was more than

common a manifestation of God, and thus the epithet “of God” came to be

applied to anything that was very great (compare Genesis 30:8, margin;

Psalm 65:9; Jonah 3:3, margin). David would show Saul’s seed kindness

as wonderful as are God’s dealings with man.

 

4 “And the king said unto him, Where is he? And Ziba said unto the

king, Behold, he is in the house of Machir, the son of Ammiel, in

Lodebar.  5 Then king David sent, and fetched him out of the house of

Machir, the son of Ammiel, from Lodebar.

Machir, the son of Ammiel, in Lo-debar. Of Lo-debar

nothing is known, but it must have been east of the Jordan, near

Mahanaim. Of Ammiel we read again in ch.17:27, where we find

that he was a man of wealth, who helped to supply the wants of David and

his men during the rebellion of Absalom. Possibly this kindness of David

towards one for whom he had feelings of loyalty, as representing a royal

house to which he had remained faithful, won his heart. There was a

magnanimity about it which would commend it to a man who was himself

generous and true

 

6 “Now when Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan, the son of Saul,

was come unto David, he fell on his face, and did reverence. And

David said, Mephibosheth. And he answered, Behold thy servant!”

He fell on his face. Mephibosheth probably expected the fate

which in the East usually befalls the members of a dethroned dynasty.

Subsequently in Israel each new line of usurpers put to death every male

relative of its predecessor, and it was with difficulty in Judah that one babe

was rescued from the hands of its own grandmother, Athaliah (II Kings 11:2),

when she usurped the throne. Looked at, then, in the light of Oriental policy,

David’s conduct was most generous.

 

7 “And David said unto him, Fear not: for I will surely shew thee

kindness for Jonathan thy father’s sake, and will restore thee all the

land of Saul thy father; and thou shalt eat bread at my table

continually.”  All the land of Saul thy father. David probably restored to

Mephibosheth not only the lands at Gibeah, which Ziba had managed to

hold, but Saul’s estates generally. There seems, nevertheless, to have been

on Ziba’s part a grudge against Mephibosheth for thus getting back from

the king what he had hoped to keep as his own. The privilege of being the

king’s friend, and eating at his table, was an honor that would be more

highly prized than even the possession of the estates.

 

8 “And he bowed himself, and said, What is thy servant, that thou

shouldest look upon such a dead dog as I am?”  A dead dog. At first

sight this extreme self-humiliation makes us look on Mephibosheth as a poor

creature, whom early misfortune and personal deformity had combined to

depress But really this is to impose on an Oriental hyperbole a Western

exactness of meaning. When in the East your entertainer assures you that

everything he has to his last dirhem is yours, he nevertheless expects you to

pay twice the value for everything you consume; but he makes his exaction

pleasant by his extreme courtliness. So Ephron offered his cave at Machpelah to

Abraham as a free gift, but he took care to obtain for it an exorbitant price

(Genesis 23:11, 15). Mephibosheth described himself in terms similar to those

used by David of himself to Saul (I Samuel 24:14); but he meant no more

than to express great gratitude, and also to acknowledge the disparity of

rank between him and the king.

 

9 “Then the king called to Ziba, Saul’s servant, and said unto him, I

have given unto thy master’s son all that pertained to Saul and to

all his house.”  Thy master’s son. Strictly Mephibosheth was Saul’s grandson,

but words of relationship are used in a very general way in Hebrew.

 

10 “Thou therefore, and thy sons, and thy servants, shall till the land

for him, and thou shalt bring in the fruits, that thy master’s son

may have food to eat: but Mephibosheth thy master’s son shall eat

bread alway at my table. Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty

servants.”  That thy master’s son may have food to eat. Instead of

“son,” Hebrew ben, some commentators prefer the reading of a few Greek

versions, namely, “house,” Hebrew, beth. But the difficulty which they

seek to avoid arises only from extreme literalness of interpretation. Though

Mephibosheth ate at the king’s table, he would have a household to

maintain — for he had a wife and son — and other expenses; and his

having “food to eat” includes everything necessary, as does our prayer for

“daily bread.” He would live at Jerusalem as a nobleman and Ziba would

cultivate his estates, paying, as is usual in the East, a fixed proportion of

the value of the produce to his master. Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty

servants (slaves). He had evidently thriven; for, beginning as a slave in

Saul’s household, he had now several wives and many slaves of his own,

and had become a person of considerable importance. He would still

remain so, though somewhat shorn both of wealth and dignity in becoming

only Mephibosheth’s farmer.

 

11 “Then said Ziba unto the king, According to all that my Lord the

king hath commanded his servant, so shall thy servant do. As for

Mephibosheth, said the king, he shall eat at my table, as one of the

king’s sons.”  As for Mephibosheth, said the king, he, etc. These words are

difficult, because they make David say the same thing thrice. The text is

probably corrupt, as it requires the insertion of some such phrase as the

“said the king” of the Authorized Version to make it intelligible. Of the

many emendations proposed, the most probable is that of the Septuagitn and

Syriac, which make this clause an observation of the historian pointing out

the high honor done to Mephibosheth in placing him on an equality with

David’s own sons. It would then run as follows: So Mephibosheth ate at

the king’s table as one of the king’s sons.

 

12 “And Mephibosheth had a young son, whose name was Micha. And

all that dwelt in the house of Ziba were servants unto Mephibosheth.” 

Micha. This son of Mephibosheth became the representative

of the house of Saul, and had a numerous offspring, who were leading men

in the tribe of Benjamin until the Captivity (see I Chronicles 8:35-40;

9:40-44).

 

13 “So Mephibosheth dwelt in Jerusalem: for he did eat continually at

the king’s table; and was lame on both his feet.”

 

 

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