July 12, 2013

Who was Mephibosheth?

A son of Jonathan (2 Sam 4:4). When five years old his father and grandfather, King Saul, were killed at Gilboa (1:4; 1 Chron 10). His nurse, hearing of the defeat and fearful of the advancing Philistines, fled with the boy in such haste as to occasion a crippling fall, leaving him lame in both feet. This began a train of sorrows to which the young prince was heir during his melancholy life. In Gilead, at Lo-debar, Mephibosheth found refuge with Machir (2 Sam 9:4). Through Ziba, a prosperous former steward in Saul’s house, David learned that a son of Jonathan was living (9:3). Summoned to Jerusalem by David, Mephibosheth (with his son Mica) ate at the king’s table continually (9:12). Saul’s estate was given to him; and Ziba and household were made steward and servants to him. When, on occasion of Absalom’s rebellion, David fled from his capital (ch. 15), Ziba met his company at the [[Mount of Olives]] with provisions (16:1). Ziba reported that Mephibosheth had remained in Jerusalem in hope of kingship. David seems to have been dubious; but he forthwith consigned Mephibosheth’s property to the informant (16:1-4). When Absalom’s rebellion was quashed, David challenged Mephibosheth’s loyalty, but the latter alleged that Ziba had slandered him. And his sincere grief as shown in his unkempt appearance since David’s flight, lent credence to his good faith (see 19:24-30). David cut the knot by dividing the land between Mephibosheth and Ziba (19:29). Later he spared Mephibosheth’s life (21:7).

The name is also mentioned as a son of Saul by his concubine Rizpah (21:8). Saul had tried to exterminate the Gibeonites (21:2), who had tricked Joshua into a pledge of protection when Israel had invaded Pal. (Josh 9). In answer to David’s offer to atone for Saul’s bloody deed in order to secure the Gibeonites’ blessing on Israel, they demanded the hanging of seven of Saul’s sons (2 Sam 21:3ff.). This Mephibosheth was one of the seven (2 Sam 21:8).

For more information, check out the BT Library article on Mephibosheth.