Who was Mephibosheth?
He was 5 years old when his father and grandfather were slain. He was living in charge of a nurse, possibly because his mother was dead. Tidings of the disaster at Jezreel and the onsweep of the Philistines terrified the nurse. She fled with her charge in such haste that a fall lamed the little prince in both feet for life. His life is a series of disasters, disappointments, and anxieties.
It is a weary, broken, dispirited soul that speaks in all his utterances. The nurse carried him to Lo-debar among the mountains of Gilead, where he was brought up by Machir, son of Ammiel (2 Samuel 9:4 ). There he evidently married, for he had a son Mica when he returned later at David's request. When David had settled his own affairs and subdued his enemies, he turned his inquiries to Saul's household to see whether there were any survivors to whom he might show kindness for Jonathan's sake (2 Samuel 9:1 ).
The search caused the appearance of Ziba, a servant of Saul's house (2 Samuel 9:2 ), who had meanwhile grown prosperous by some rapid process which can only be guessed at (2 Samuel 9:9 , 2 Samuel 9:10 ). From him David learned about Mephibosheth, who was sent for. His humble bearing was consistent with his chronically broken spirit. David put Ziba's property (which had belonged to Saul) at Mephibosheth's disposal and made Ziba steward thereof. Mephibosheth was also to be a daily guest at David's table (2 Samuel 9:11-13 ). Seventeen years pass, during which Mephibosheth seems to have lived in Jerusalem.
Then came Absalom's rebellion. David determined to flee, so distraught was he by the act of his son. At the moment of flight, in great depression and need, he was opportunely met by Ziba with food, refreshment and even means for travel. Naturally, the king inquired for Ziba's master. The treacherous reply was made (2 Samuel 16:1-4 ) that Mephibosheth had remained behind for his own ends, hoping the people would give him, Saul's grandson, the kingdom. David believed this and restored to Ziba the property lost. Not till many days after did the lame prince get his chance to give David his own version of the story.
He met David on his return from quelling Absalom's rebellion. He had not dressed his feet, trimmed his beard nor washed his clothes since the hour of David's departure (2 Samuel 19:24 ). At David's anxious request Mephibosheth told his story: his servant had deceived him; he wanted to go with David, had even asked for his beast to be saddled; but Ziba had left him, and had slandered him to the king. But he would not plead his cause any more; David is "as an angel of God"; whatever he decides will be well! (2 Samuel 19:26 , 2 Samuel 19:27 ). Thus characteristically continued the speech of this lame, broken, humble man, son of a proud family (2 Samuel 19:28 ).
David wearily settled the matter by dividing the property between the prince and his servant, the prince expressing utmost content that Ziba should take all so long as David remained friendly (2 Samuel 19:29 , 2 Samuel 19:30 ).
That David accepted Mephibosheth's explanation and was drawn out in heart toward the character of the broken man is shown by the fact that when some expiation from Saul's household was considered necessary to turn away the famine sent by an offended deity, Mephibosheth is spared when other members of Saul's household were sacrificed (2 Samuel 21:7 ). The character of Mephibosheth well illustrates the effect of continued disaster, suspicion and treachery upon a sensitive mind.
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IBSE, (in the public domain) with minor edits.