He initiated his plan by a search for any of Jonathan’s descendants (v. 1). He knew both Jonathan and his father, King Saul, had died in battle with his three sons on Mt. Gilboa (1 Sam. 31:6). It was a common occurrence in those days that a new king would eliminate anyone who might aspire to inherit the former leader’s position. King Herod, just prior to the time of Jesus had his favorite wife and two sons killed to forestall any opposition to himself. As the emperor observed, it was safer to be Herod’s dog than one of his kin. David, for his part, professed only to show kindness for Jonathan’s sake.
As the word spread, someone reported to the king who professed to be one of Saul’s servants (vv. 2-3). Apparently, the informants had identified the servant as Ziba because David addressed him by name. Ziba admitted he was the one and immediately offered his services to David. To the inquiry about any surviving descendants of Jonathan, he identified a surviving son who was “lame on his feet,” the only identification proffered at that time. We know how the injury occurred. After the battle on Mt. Gilboa in which Saul and his three sons, including Jonathan, were killed, David was installed as King of Judah (2 Sam. 2:4). In the confusion before David gained control of Israel, Ish-bosheth, one of Soul’s sons, gained control for two years (2 Sam. 2:10). At some point, Mephibosheth, age five, was under the care of his nurse as they fled from Jerusalem. Along the way, the boy “fell, and became lame” (2 Sam. 4:4).
About 18 years after the deaths on Mt. Gilboa, David and Saul’s descendants made initial contact (vv. 4-5). When David asked whether there were any survivors of Jonathan, Ziba identified the house of Machir as the location. Mention of Machir’s name deserves amplification. He was a successful business man whom David probably already knew. Later, when David left Jerusalem following the rebellion of his son, Absalom, Machir and others in supplied the king and his loyal staff with provisions (2 Sam. 17:24-29). Machir’s contribution represents a tacit connection between government and civilian alliances, a process still relevant. In the early stages of WW II, for example, a business man named Higgins developed landing craft that made possible landings of troops and supplies on island shores as well as in the invasion of Normandy in 1944.
The Bible continues with David’s assurance of a positive outcome (vv. 6-8). At David’s summons, Mephibosheth responded by appearing before David by “falling on his face” in an attitude of reverence. He knew that his fate rested solely in the hands of David, who assured him of his honorable intention to reward him for the kindness Jonathan had given to David. Mephibosheth acknowledged David’s words, but called himself nothing more than a “dead dog,” that is, a person of no importance (1 Sam. 34:15).
The king then summoned Ziba and informed him he was awarding Mephibosheth with Saul’s property (v. 9). Later events show that Ziba resented that allotment (2 Sam. 16:1-4). Nevertheless, David did not take offense and later reapportioned Saul’s holdings between Ziba and Mephibosheth (2 Sam. 19:25-29).
We conclude this study with David’s care for the disabled (v. 13). The Bible mentions Mephibosheth’s lame feet five times (2 Sam 4:4 [twice]; 9:3, 13; 14:26). We note that the maimed and disabled defenders of our country also need help. Communities rally to build houses for those unable to care for themselves. Various wounded warriors projects enable people from all walks of life a chance to say, “Thank You.”
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