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
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
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.
relative of its predecessor, and it was with difficulty in
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
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;
13 “So Mephibosheth dwelt in
the king’s table; and was lame on both his feet.”
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