Mephibosheth

MEPHIBOSHETH (mē-fĭb'ō-shĕth, Heb. mephîvōsheth)

1. A son of King Saul and his concubine Rizpah. Together with his brother and other men, Mephibosheth was delivered to the Gibeonites to be hanged, with David’s consent (2Sam.21.8).

2. A son of Jonathan and grandson of Saul. His name appears as Merib-Baal in 1Chr.8.34; 1Chr.9.40. After the disaster at Mount Gilboa, where both Saul and Jonathan were killed in the battle against the Philistines (2Sam.1.4; 1Chr.10.1-1Chr.10.8), Mephibosheth as a child of five was carried by his nurse to Lo Debar east of the Jordan, where they took refuge in the house of Makir, the son of Ammiel (2Sam.9.4).

On David’s accession to the throne, Mephibosheth was called back to Jerusalem, given his father’s inheritance, and allowed to eat at the king’s table for the rest of his life. Saul’s servant Ziba was commanded to serve him. The servant, however, tried to ingratiate himself with David at the expense of his master by representing Mephibosheth as a traitor (2Sam.16.1-2Sam.16.4). David did not fully believe the servant’s story, for later he received Mephibosheth in a friendly manner (2Sam.19.24-2Sam.19.30).

Mephibosheth was the father of Mica (2Sam.9.12), or Micah in 1Chr.8.35.


MEPHIBOSHETH mĕ fĭb ə shĕth (מְפִיבֹֽשֶׁת, he scatters shame). The primary form presumably is preserved in 1 Chronicles 8:34 and 9:40: מְרִ֥יב בַּ֖עַל, meriba’al. מְפִי disguises the original, and בֹֽשֶׁת avoids idolatrous implications, although Eshbaal seems reasonably free of such taint (see Hos 2:16); yet in 2 Samuel 2:8 it is Ish-bosheth, man of shame.

1. 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).

2. 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).

Bibliography

J. Bright, History of Israel (1959), 187ff.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

(mephibhosheth, "idol-breaker," also MERIB-BAAL (which see); Memphibosthe):

(1) Son of Saul by his concubine RIZPAH (which see), daughter of Aiah (2Sa 21:8).

See also ARMONI.