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Bailey Sadler Class



Study Theme:  Let Hope In!

What This Lesson Is About:

Week of:

Lesson Title:

The focus of this lesson is based on the fact that the Bible shows us that we are never beyond hope. Regardless of the past, there is hope.


April 13

Hope Needed


April 20

Easter: But Now . . . Victory


April 27

Hope Found


May 04

Hope Personified


May 11

Hope Expressed


May 18

Hope Renewed


May 25

Hope Shared



You are never beyond hope.


2 Samuel 9:1-13





Hope Extended (2 Samuel 9:1-7)

Hope Questioned (2 Samuel 9:8)

Hope Embraced (2 Samuel 9:9-13)


David’s Kindness to Mephibosheth (2 Samuel 9:1-13)

David was not only an effective warrior and administrator, but he also was a beneficent ruler. He desired to honor the pledge he had made to Jonathan and his family (1 Sam 20:14-15). He inquired and learned from Ziba, a servant in Saul’s household, about Mephibosheth, who was Jonathan’s only surviving son. Mephibosheth was crippled and lived in obscurity (9:1-4). When he was brought before David, the king calmed his fears and returned Saul’s property to him. Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem and ate at the king’s table (9:5-13).

—Holman Bible Handbook

SOURCE: Holman Bible Handbook; General Editor David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville, Tennessee


Our past helps define us. That’s often a good thing in terms of our heritage, upbringing, and experiences. Unfortunately, our past failures, regrets, and shameful experiences can also define us. We can feel trapped by our past, which can lead us to feel nothing will change. Eventually, a sense of hopelessness develops. The Bible shows us that we are never beyond hope. Regardless of the past, there is hope.

SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.


Hope Extended (2 Samuel 9:1-7)

1 David asked, “Is there anyone remaining from Saul’s family I can show kindness to because of Jonathan?” 2 There was a servant of Saul’s family named Ziba. They summoned him to David, and the king said to him, “Are you Ziba?” “I am your servant,” he replied. 3 So the king asked, “Is there anyone left of Saul’s family that I can show the kindness of God to?” Ziba said to the king, “There is still Jonathan’s son who was injured in both feet.” 4 The king asked him, “Where is he?” Ziba answered the king, “You’ll find him in Lo-debar at the house of Machir son of Ammiel.” 5 So King David had him brought from the house of Machir son of Ammiel in Lo-debar. 6 Mephibosheth son of Jonathan son of Saul came to David, bowed down to the ground and paid homage. David said, “Mephibosheth!” “I am your servant,” he replied. 7 “Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “since I intend to show you kindness because of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all your grandfather Saul’s fields, and you will always eat meals at my table.”








1.        What was the situation surrounding this passage?

2.        Who was Jonathan; Ziba; Mephibosheth?  (See Digging Deeper.)

3.        What was David’s relationship with Jonathan?

4.        What was the issue Davie was confronted with?

5.        What indicates that David was earnest in his desire to act with kindness?

6.        How did David put Mephibosheth at ease?

7.        What promises did David extend to Mephibosheth?

8.        Why were they significant?

9.        What do you think motivated David to show kindness to Saul’s family?

10.     Do you think Mephibosheth’s physical condition contribute to his need for help?  Why, or why not?

11.     What blessings did David provide for Mephibosheth?

12.     Do you think David’s example should motivate believers to respond to others in need?  If so, how?

13.     Do you think David’s kindness toward Mephibosheth is a picture of God’s kindness toward sinners?  If so, how?

14.     Do you think it’s easy to allow hopelessness to creep into our lives as we age and encounter health problems, or financial challenges, or the deaths of spouses and friends?  Why, or why not? 

15.     As David reached out to Mephibosheth because of Jonathan, how do you think God reaches out to us today?


Lasting Lessons in 2 Samuel 9:1-7:

1.  Godly men and women reflect the love and kindness of God toward others.

2.  Many people live in hopelessness because of wrong choices they have made or because of the choices other have made.

3.  A decision to help another can change that person’s life forever.

4.  Humility is necessary if we are to receive God’s greatest blessings.



Hope Questioned (2 Samuel 9:8)

8 Mephibosheth bowed down and said, “What is your servant that you take an interest in a dead dog like me?”

1.        Why do you think it is difficult for some people to let go of the past and move forward?

2.        How did Mephibosheth express honor and gratitude to David?

3.        What does Mephibosheth’s question to David tell us about his (Mephibosheth) state of mind?

4.        Why do you think Mephibosheth referred to himself as a dead dog?

5.        What does this tell us about the impact his past had on his self-image?

6.        How were the lame viewed in Jewish culture?  (See Digging Deeper.)

7.        Do you think his handicap had a bearing on how he viewed his self-worth?  Why, or why not?  (See 2 Sam. 4:4.)


Lasting Lessons in 2 Samuel 9:8:

1.  Many discouraging situations in life can produce hopelessness in people.

2.  God is the source of help for all who are hopeless.

3.  People are not beyond help and hope if they receive God’s offer.

4.  Many fail to receive hope because of ties to the past that are unresolved.



Hope Embraced (2 Samuel 9:9-13)

9 Then the king summoned Saul’s attendant Ziba and said to him, “I have given to your master’s grandson all that belonged to Saul and his family. 10 You, your sons, and your servants are to work the ground for him, and you are to bring in the crops so your master’s grandson will have food to eat. But Mephibosheth, your master’s grandson, is always to eat at my table.” Now Ziba had 15 sons and 20 servants. 11 Ziba said to the king, “Your servant will do all my lord the king commands.” So Mephibosheth ate at David’s table just like one of the king’s sons. 12 Mephibosheth had a young son whose name was Mica. All those living in Ziba’s house were Mephibosheth’s servants. 13 However, Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem because he always ate at the king’s table. His feet had been injured.

1.        Why do you think David first approached Ziba to give him details of his plans for Mephibosheth?

2.        What were the practical actions David took to show kindness to Mephibosheth?

3.        Do you think David’s kindness had the potential to give Mephibosheth a different perspective on life?

4.        How would you describe Mephibosheth’s state of mind when he heard the orders David gave to Ziba?

5.        If so, do you think our kindness to others in need could have the same affect on them?  Why or why not?

6.        Do you think extending kindness could present an opportunity to witness to a non-believer?  If so, why/how?

7.        Do you think the shame and regret of our past can keep us from embracing the hope God offers us in Christ?  Is so, why?

8.        What concerns did David’s restoration of Saul’s lands to Mephibosheth alleviate?

9.        Based on verses 9-10, what did King David say to Ziba?

10.     How did Ziba respond to David’s kindness?

11.     What was the significance of Mephibosheth’s invitation to eat at the king’s table (vv. 10,13)?

12.     Do you think the blessings extended to Mephibosheth are symbolic of the blessing offered to believers in Jesus Christ?

13.     If so, how would you describe those particular blessings? 


Lasting Lessons in 2 Samuel 9:9-13:

1.  Hope offered does not guarantee hope will be experienced.

2.  God provides more than we can ever hope for.



  Look at the story once again from the perspective of David, Ziba, and Mephibosheth.  David had made a promise and was determined to keep it.  Ziba was caught in the position of having to decrease, so to speak, that another might increase.  That is not always a comfortable position to be in.  And Mephibosheth had lived in obscurity with an uncertain future.  Suddenly his life turned from one of despair to one filled with hope.  Clearly we all need hope to live joyful and productive lives.  In order to experience that hope, however, we must learn to be free of our past through a transformation that only God can accomplish.  Like David’s kindness transformed Mephibosheth, God, through faith in Jesus Christ, can transform each of us. 

As a Christian what measure of hope has God given to you?  How thankful are you for your hope in Jesus Christ?  Are you thankful enough to share your hope with others?  If so, on a scale of 1 (low) to 10 (high) how would you rate yourself on your witness for sharing your hope with others? Does your witness please you? God?  If not, ask Him to help you improve your witness!

What are the implications of these truths for your life?  THE CHOICE IS YOURS, ISN’T IT!

REMEMBER, the safest place for a believer is in the center of God’s will.


Lesson Outline, Introduction, Discussion Questions, and Conclusion adapted from the following sources:

SOURCE: Life Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.

SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.



(NOTE:  Commentary for the focal verses comes from three sources: The Pulpit Commentary,The New American Commentary,” and “Expositions Of Holy Scripture: Old Testament,” and is provided for your study.)

Hope Needed— Lesson Outline & Commentary




Hope Extended      (2 Samuel 9:1-7)

Hope Questioned  (2 Samuel 9:8)

Hope Embraced      (2 Samuel 9:9-13)


The Pulpit Commentary; Volume 4: Ruth and Samuel: 2 Samuel 9:1-13

Verse 1. Is there yet any that is left of the house of Saul?  As Mephibosheth was five years old at his father's death (2 Samuel 4:4), but now had a son (ver. 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 Hebron for seven years and a half, he had been king now of all Israel for 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 (1 Samuel 20:14, 15), and which we may be sure David had never forgotten.

Verse 2.  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 (1 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 2 Samuel 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.

Verse 3. 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 (comp. Genesis 30:8, margin; 35:5; Psalm 65:9; Jonah 3:3, margin). David would show Saul's seed kindness as wonderful as are God's dealings with man.

Verse 4.  Machir, the son of Ammiel, in Lo-debar.  Of Lo-debar nothing is known, but it must have been east of the Jordan, near Mahanaim. Of Ammiel we read again in 2 Samuel 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.

Verse 6.  He fell on his face.  Mephibosheth probably expected the fate which in the East usually befalls the members of a dethroned dynasty. Subsequently in Israel each new line of usurpers put to death every male relative of its predecessor, and it was with difficulty in Judah that one babe was rescued from the hands of its own grandmother, Athaliah, when she usurped the throne. Looked at, then, in the light of Oriental policy, David's conduct was most generous.

Verse 7.  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 honour that would be more highly prized than even the possession of the estates.

Verse 8.  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 foreverything 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 (1 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.

Verse 9.  Thy master's son.  Strictly Mephibosheth was Saul's grandson, but words of relationship are used in a very general way in Hebrew.

Verse 10.  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 Jerusalem as a nobleman and Ziba would 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.

Verse 11.   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 LXX. and Syriac, which make this clause an observation of the historian pointing out the high honour 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.

Verse 12.  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 1 Chronicles 8:35-40; 9:40-44).

SOURCE:  The Pulpit Commentary; Volume 4: Ruth and Samuel; Database © 2007 WORDsearch Corp.


The New American Commentary; Volume 7; 1-2 Samuel: 2 Samuel 9:1-13

In this chapter David fulfills the pledge of familial support he made to Saul as well as to Jonathan son of Saul (cf. 1 Sam 18:3; 20:42; 23:18; 24:21–22), the one initially positioned in the Saulide dynasty as David’s chief challenger for Israel’s throne. Through this narrative the biblical writer portrays David as the supreme Israelite example of covenant faithfulness (Hb. esed), the highest virtue in Hebrew society. Judged by David’s own demanding criteria (cf. Ps 15:1, 4), the king proved himself worthy to live on the Lord’s holy hill by keeping his oath to Jonathan even though it ran the risk of hurting his own dynasty.

9:1–3.  Established on the throne in Jerusalem after having effectively put down both internal and external opposition, David was now in a position to fulfill his commitment to “the house of Saul” (v. 1). Accordingly, at an unknown point in time but perhaps before the events of 2 Sam 21:1–10 (cf. esp. 21:7), he began a search for someone to whom he could “show kindness for Jonathan’s sake.” Ziba, a well-to-do (cf. v. 10) “servant of Saul’s household” (v. 2) who apparently managed the former king’s royal estate, was called in and questioned by the king.

The narrator’s seemingly unnecessary repetition of David’s question in v. 3 (cf. v. 1) is in fact significant in establishing the theme of this chapter. It underscores that David was not an enemy of “the house of Saul” (v. 3); in fact, he was an agent of “God’s kindness” (Hb. esed; “loving faithfulness”) working to benefit Israel’s former dynastic family.

9:4–10.  Through his inquiry David learned that there was “still a son of Jonathan” (v. 4) apparently living with a wife and son (cf. v. 12) in a self-imposed internal exile “at the house of Makir son of Ammiel in Lo Debar.” Makir, mentioned here for the first time, was a wealthy and powerful individual living east of the Jordan at Lo Debar (modern Umm ed-Debar?) in the Jordan river valley of Gilead. Later he proved to be one of David’s most loyal supporters (cf. 17:27–29).

Mephibosheth, known outside of 2 Samuel as Merib-Baal (cf. 1 Chr 8:34; 9:40), was “crippled in both feet” (v. 3) as a result of an accident in early childhood (cf. 4:4). David summoned him for appearance at the royal court. Appropriately—and perhaps somewhat awkwardly—the lame young man “bowed down” before the king “to pay him honor” (v. 6).

Using a dialogic script reflective of an interchange between a social superior and an inferior (cf. 1 Sam 3:9), David called out Mephibosheth’s name; in turn, Mephibosheth referred to himself as “your servant.” After establishing the sociological parameters of this relationship by giving the proper initial exchange, David issued a magnanimous decree that changed Mephibosheth’s fortunes forever. First, David restored to the disfigured, exiled Saulide “all the land that belonged to … Saul” (v. 7). This would have meant that the family estate located about three miles north of Jerusalem in Gibeah would be returned to Mephibosheth. Second, David gave Mephibosheth a privilege that seemed to have perished the day his father Jonathan had died, the right to board at the king’s table “always.”  Saul had accorded David this dispensation during his youth (cf. 1 Sam 20:5); now David returned the favor. Third, David provided Mephibosheth with a large contingent of servants and material wealth. He ordered “Ziba, Saul’s servant” (v. 9) along with his “fifteen sons and twenty servants” (v. 10), “to farm the land” that had originally belonged to Saul “and bring in the crops” for Mephibosheth so that Jonathan’s son “may be provided for.”

Mephibosheth’s response to the king’s magnanimous pronouncements was one of abject humility (cf. 2 Sam 7:18). After bowing down once again before David, he called himself “your slave” (v. 8; NIV, “servant”; Hb. ˓ebed) and “a dead dog” (cf. 1 Sam 24:14).

9:11–13. Ziba, whose destiny had also been changed by the king’s imperial edict, had no choice but to accept the new assignment—and this he did. However, when the opportunity presented itself, Ziba apparently tried to manipulate David to issue a different, more favorable edict (cf. 16:2–4).

Mephibosheth—and presumably his entire family, including “a young son named Mica” (v. 12)—was permanently relocated back in Benjamite territory “in Jerusalem” (v. 13).  There Mephibosheth “always ate at the king’s table” even though “he was crippled in both feet.” David’s acceptance of a lame man in his house confirms that the royal pronouncement banning “the lame” in the royal residence was intended as a figurative reference to an ethnic group, not mobility-impaired individuals (cf. comments at 5:8).

SOURCE:  The New American Commentary; Volume 7; 1-2 Samuel;  Robert D. Bergen; General Editor E. Ray Clendenen; © Copyright 1996 Broadman & Holman Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee.


Expositions Of Holy Scripture: Old Testament 2 Samuel 9:1-13

This charming idyl of faithful love to a dead friend and generous kindness comes in amid stories of battle like a green oasis in a wilderness of wild rocks and sand. The natural sweetness and chivalry of David’s disposition, which fascinated all who had to do with him, comes beautifully out in it, and it may well stand as an object lesson of the great Christian duty of practical mercifulness.

I. So regarded, the narrative brings out first the motives of true kindliness.

Saul and three of his four sons had fallen on the fatal field of Gilboa; the fourth, the weak Ishbosheth, had been murdered after his abortive attempt at setting up a rival kingdom had come to nothing. There were only left Saul’s daughters and some sons by a concubine. So low had the proud house sunk, while David was consolidating his kingdom, and gaining victory wherever he went.

But neither his own prosperity, nor the absence of any trace of Saul’s legitimate male descendants, made him forget his ancient oath to Jonathan. Years had not weakened his love, his sufferings at Saul’s hands had not embittered it. His elevation had not lifted him too high to see the old days of lowliness, and the dear memory of the self-forgetting friend whose love had once been an honour to the shepherd lad. Jonathan’s name had been written on his heart when it was impressionable, and the lettering was as if ‘graven on the rock forever.’ A heart so faithful to its old love needed no prompting either from men or circumstances. Hence the inquiry after ‘any that is left of the house of Saul’ was occasioned by nothing external, but came welling up from the depth of the king’s own soul.

That is the highest type of kindliness which is spontaneous and self-motived. It is well to be easily moved to beneficence either by the sight of need or by the appeals of others, but it is best to kindle our own fire, and be our own impulse to gracious thoughts and acts. We may humbly say that human mercy then shows likest God’s, when, in such imitation as is possible, it springs in us, as His does in Him, from the depths of our own being. He loves and is kind because He is God. He is His own motive and law. So, in our measure, should we aim at becoming.

But David’s remarkable language in his questions to Ziba goes still deeper in unfolding his motives. For he speaks of showing ‘the kindness of God’ to any remaining of Saul’s house. Now that expression is no mere synonym for kindness exceeding great, but it unfolds what was at once David’s deepest motive and his bright ideal. No doubt, it may include a reminiscence of the sacred obligation of the oath to Jonathan, but it hallows David’s purposed ‘mercy’ as the echo of God’s to him, and so anticipates the Christian teaching, ‘Be ye merciful, even as your Father is merciful.’ We must receive mercy from Him before our hearts are softened, so as to give it to others, just as the wire must be charged from the electric source before it can communicate the tingle and the light.

The best basis for the beneficent service of man is experience of the mercy of God. Philanthropy has no roots unless it is planted in religion. That is a lesson which this age needs. And the other side of the thought is as true and needful; namely, that our ‘religion’ is not ‘pure and undefiled’ unless it manifests itself in the service of man. How serene and lofty, then, the ideal! How impossible ever to be too forgiving or too beneficent! ‘As your heavenly Father is,’—that is our pattern. We have not shown our brother all the kindness which we owe him unless we have shown him ‘the kindness of God.’

II. The progress of the story brings out next the characteristics of David’s kindliness, and these may be patterns for us.

Ziba does not seem to be very communicative, and appears a rather unwilling witness, who needs to have the truth extracted bit by bit. He evidently had nothing to do with Mephibosheth, and was quite content that he should be left obscurely stowed away across Jordan in the house of the rich Machir (2 Sam. 17:27-29). Lo-debar was near Mahanaim, on the eastern side of the river, where Ishbosheth’s short-lived kingdom had been planted, and probably the population there still clung to Saul’s solitary representative. There he lived so privately that none of David’s people knew whether he was alive or dead. Perhaps the savage practice of Eastern monarchs, who are wont to get rid of rivals by killing them, led the cripple son of Jonathan to ‘lie low,’ and Ziba’s reticence may have been loyalty to him. It is noteworthy that Ziba is not said to have been sent to bring him, though that would have been natural.

At any rate, Mephibosheth came, apparently dreading whether his summons to court was not his death-warrant. But he is quickly reassured. David again recalls the dear memory of Jonathan, which was, no doubt, stirred to deeper tenderness by the sight of his helpless son; but he swiftly passes to practical arrangements, full of common-sense and grasp of the case. The restoration of Saul’s landed estate implies that it was in David’s power. It had probably been ‘forfeited to the crown,’ as we in England say, or perhaps had been ‘squatted on’ by people who had no right to it. David, at any rate, will see that it reverts to its owner.

But what is a lame man to do with it? and will it be wise to let a representative of the former dynasty loose in the territory of Benjamin, where Saul’s memory was still cherished? Apparently, David’s disposition of affairs was prompted partly by consideration for Mephibosheth, partly by affection for Jonathan, and partly by policy. So Ziba, who had not been present, is sent for, and installed as overseer of the estate, to work it for his new master’s benefit, while the owner is to remain at Jerusalem in David’s establishment. It was prudent to keep Mephibosheth at hand. The best way to weaken a pretender’s claims was to make a pensioner of him, and the best way to hinder his doing mischief was to keep him in sight.

But we need not suppose that this was David’s only motive. He gratified his heart by retaining the poor young man beside himself, and, no doubt, sought to win his confidence and love. The recipient of his kindness receives it in characteristic Eastern fashion, with exaggerated words of self-depreciation, which sound almost too humble to be quite sincere. A little gratitude is better than whining professions of un worthiness.

And how did Ziba like his task? The singular remark that he had ‘fifteen sons and twenty servants’ perhaps suggests that he was a person of some importance; and the subsequent one that ‘all in his house were servants to Mephibosheth’ may imply that neither they nor he quite liked their being handed over thus cavalierly.

But, however that may be, we may note that common-sense and practical sagacity should guide our mercifulness. Kindly impulses are good, but they need cool heads to direct them, or they do more harm than good. It is useless to set lame men to work an estate, even if they get a gift of it. And it is wise not to put untried ones in positions where they may plot against their benefactor. Mercifulness does not mean rash trust in its objects. They will often have to be watched very closely to keep them from going wrong. How many most charitable impulses have been so unwisely worked out that they have injured their objects and disappointed their subjects! We may note, too, in David’s kindliness, that it was prompt to make sacrifice, if, as is probable, he had become owner of the estate. The pattern of all mercy, who is God, has not loved us with a love which cost Him nothing. Sacrifice is the life-blood of service.

III. The subsequent history of Mephibosheth and Ziba is somewhat enigmatical.

Usually the former is supposed to have been slandered by the latter, and to have been truly attached to David. But it is at least questionable whether Ziba was such a villain, and Mephibosheth such an injured innocent, as is supposed. This, at least, is plain, that Ziba demonstrated attachment to David at the time when self-love would have kept him silent. It took some courage to come with gifts to a discrowned king (2 Sam. 16:1-4); and his allegation about his master has at least this support, that the latter did not come with the rest of David’s court to share his fortunes, and that the dream that he might fish to advantage in troubled waters is extremely likely to have occurred to him. Nor does it appear clear that, if Ziba’s motive was to get hold of the estate, his adherence to David would have seemed, at that moment, the best way of effecting it.

If we look at the sequel (19:24-30) Mephibosheth’s excuse for not joining David seems almost as lame as himself. He says that Ziba ‘deceived him,’ and did not bring him the ass for riding on, and therefore he could not come. Was there only one ass available in Jerusalem? and, when all David’s entourage were streaming out to Olivet after him, could not he easily have got there too if he had wished? His demonstration of mourning looks very like a blind, and his language to David has a disagreeable ring of untruthfulness, in its extreme professions of humility and loyalty. ‘Me thinks the cripple doth protest too much. David evidently did not feel sure about him, and stopped his voluble utterances somewhat brusquely: ‘Why speakest thou any more of thy matters?’ That is as much as to say, ‘Hold your tongue.’ And the final disposition of the property, while it gives Mephibosheth the benefit of the doubt, yet looks as if there was a considerable doubt in the king’s mind.

We may take up the same somewhat doubting position. If he requited David’s kindness thus unworthily, is it not the too common experience that one way of making enemies is to load with benefits? But no cynical wisdom of that sort should interfere with our showing mercy; and if we are to take ‘the kindness of God’ for our pattern, we must let our sunshine and rain fall, as His do, on ‘the unthankful and the evil.’

SOURCE: Expositions Of Holy Scripture: Old Testament; By Alexander Maclaren, D. D., Litt. D.; Electronic Edition STEP Files Copyright © 2006, QuickVerse.




Paid homage—The Hebrew verb rendered paid homage describes a position of humility before a person of authority.  The verb can be used to describe prostration before God in worship (Gen. 24:52).  The verb can also be used to describe humility before another person.  Interestingly, the verb is used to describe an encounter between David and Jonathan before David was forced to flee from Saul’s wrath.  David bowed (same verb) three times before Jonathan as a sign of deep friendship (1 Sam. 20:41).  In our passage (2 Sam. 9:6), Jonathan’s son humbled himself before King David as a sign of respect and fear.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

Did reverence (KJV):  A subject coming before his king would be expected to show honor and respect.  Therefore, in David’s presence, Mephibosheth acknowledged his subservient role by acts of reverence (v. 6).  Reverence in its primitive root meant “to depress.”  It came to mean “to prostrate one’s self (lie flat), to bow, to stoop” as an act of homage or obeisance to one of superior rank.  The word was also used to describe one’s act of worship before God.

SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

Dead dog—The Hebrew phrase dead dog occurs only three times in the Old Testament, and all of them are in 1 and 2 Samuel.  David used the phrase of himself in conversation with Saul (1 Sam. 24:14).  Saul entered a cave where David was hiding and David allowed him to leave unharmed.  David then called out to Saul using the term as a humble reference to himself.  In 2 Samuel 9:8 Mephibosheth used it of himself when he appeared before David.  Abishai also use the words in 2 Samuel 16:9 when Shimei cursed David.  Dogs were not pets in the ancient near east but were considered worthless scavengers.  A dead dog described someone who made no boast of importance or worth.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

Dead dog:  In ancient society dogs were not the pets we prize in our day.  Most dogs were scavengers.  They had little value alive, so they were completely worthless when dead.  Dog was a term of contempt when applied to another person (1 Sam. 17:43).  To apply it to one’s self, as Mephibosheth did in 2 Samuel 9:8, was to declare one’s unworthiness for a favor he was receiving from a superior.  However, keep in mind that the Eastern man was a master of hyperbole, meaning he often used exaggeration to make a point.  David applied the term dead dog to himself (24:14), but he also had a strong self-image and confidence that came from his trust in the Lord (17:45-46).

SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

JONATHAN (Jahn' uh thuhn):  Personal name meaning, “Yahweh gave.” Eldest son of King Saul; mother: Ahinroam; brothers:  Abinadab, Malchishua and Ish-baal; sisters Merab and Michal; son Mephibosheth (Merib-Baal).

Jonathan possessed courage, fidelity, and friendship. He led 1,000 soldiers to defeat the Philistines at Geba (Gibeah) (1 Sam. 13:2-3). Then Jonathan took only his armor-bearer to the rocky crags at Michmash and brought panic to the Philistines by killing twenty of them (1 Sam. 14:1-16). Saul discovered that Jonathan was missing, called for the ark of God, went to battle, and defeated the Philistines. Jonathan ate honey, unaware that Saul had forbidden the people to eat that day. Saul would have had Jonathan put to death, but the people spoke in praise of Jonathan and ransomed him from death (1 Sam. 14:27-46).

The next four accounts about Jonathan focus on his friendship with David. First, Jonathan formed a close friendship with David by giving him his robe, armor, sword, bow, and girdle (18:1-5). Second, Jonathan pleaded successfully with Saul to reinstate David (19:1-7). Third, Jonathan left Saul’s table angrily to inform David that the king would never receive David again (20:1-42). Fourth, Jonathan held a final meeting with David at Horesh. They made covenant with one another as Jonathan acknowledged David as the next king (23:16-18).

The end of 1 Samuel reports the end of Saul and three of his sons, Jonathan, Abinadab, and Melchishua, at Mount Gilboa (1 Sam. 31:1-13). Their bodies were first hung on the wall of Beth-shan and later retrieved to Jabesh. Eventually, David had the bones buried in the land of Benjamin, in Zela in the tomb of Kish, Jonathan’s grandfather (2 Sam. 21:12-14).

ZIBA (Zi' buh):  Personal name, perhaps Aramaic for “branch.” Servant of Saul. When David desired to show kindness to surviving members of Jonathan’s family, Ziba directed David to Mephibosheth (2 Sam. 9:1-8). David placed Ziba in charge of Mephibosheth’s restored property (9:9-13). During Absalom’s rebellion, Ziba assisted David with supplies and (falsely) accused Mephibosheth of treason (2 Sam. 16:1-4). David rewarded Ziba with Mephibosheth’s property. Mephibosheth met David on his return to power in Jerusalem and accused Ziba of deception (2 Sam. 19:24-29). David, either uncertain whom to believe or else desiring to leave no strong rivals, divided Saul’s property between Ziba and Mephibosheth.

MEPHIBOSHETH (Me phibo sheth):  Personal name meaning, “shame destroyer” or “image breaker.”  A son of Jonathan, who was granted special position and privilege in David’s court (2 Sam. 9). Jonathan was killed in battle when Mephibosheth was five years old. Fearing that the Philistines would seek the life of the young boy, a nurse fled with him, but in her haste she dropped him and crippled him in both feet (2 Sam. 4:4). Mephibosheth may be an intentional change by copyists to avoid writing the pagan god’s name “baal.” The original name would be Merib-Baal (1 Chron. 8:34).  When David invited Mephibosheth to be a part of his court, he entrusted the family property to a steward, Ziba. During the Absalom rebellion Ziba tried unsuccessfully to turn David against Mephibosheth. Upon the king’s return to Jerusalem, Mephibosheth vindicated himself and was allowed to remain in the king’s house (2 Sam. 16; 19). 

SOURCE: Holman Bible Dictionary; General Editor, David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville, Tennessee.

LAME lām (פִּסֵהַpiṣēaנָכֵהnākhēhχωλόςchōlós):  (1) The condition of being unable or imperfectly able to walk, which unfitted any descendant of Aaron so afflicted for service in the priesthood (Lev 21:18), and rendered an animal unsuitable for sacrifice (Dt 15:21). The offering of animals so blemished was one of the sins with which Malachi charges the negligent Jews of his time (Mal 1:8-13).  (2) Those who suffered from lameness, such as Mephibosheth, whose limbs were injured by a fall in childhood (2 Sam 4:4; 9:3). In the prophetic description of the completeness of the victory of the returning Israelites, it is predicted that the lame shall be made whole and shall leap like a hart (Jer 3:18; Isa 35:6). The unfitness of the lame for warfare gives point to the promise that the lame shall take the prey (Isa 33:23). Job in his graphic description of his helpfulness to the weak before his calamity says, “And feet was I to the lame” (Job 29:15). The inequality of the legs of the lame is used in Prov 26:7 as a similitude of the ineptness with which a fool uses a parable.

In the enigmatical and probably corrupt passage describing David’s capture of Jerusalem, the lame and blind are mentioned twice. In 2 Sam 5:6 it was a taunt on the part of the Jebusites that even a garrison of cripples would suffice to keep out the Israelites. The allusion in 5:8 may be read, “Whosoever smiteth the Jebusites let him … slay both the lame and blind, which hate David’s soul” as it is in Septuagint. The Vulgate (Jerome’s Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) says, “David had offered a reward on that day to the man who should smite the Jebusite and reach the water pipes of the houses, and remove the blind and lame who hated David’s soul.” It is possible, however, that Budde’s emendation is more correct and that it is a threat against the indiscriminate slaughter of the Jebusites: “Whoso slayeth a Jebusite shall bring his neck into peril; the lame and blind are not hated of David’s soul.” The proverbial saying quoted in 5:8 cannot be correct as rendered in the King James Version, for we read in Mt 21:14 that the lame came to our Lord in the temple and were healed.

The healing of the lame by our Lord is recorded in Mt 11:5; 15:30, 31; 21:14; Lk 7:22; 14:13. In Heb 12:13 the Christians are counseled to courage under chastisement, lest their despair should cause that which is lame to be “turned out of the way.”

SOURCE: International Standard Bible Encyclopedia; James Orr, M.A., D. D., General Editor; Parsons Technology, Inc.; Cedar Rapids, Iowa.



David’s Care for Mephibosheth:  2 Samuel 9:1-13 

2 Samuel 9:3:  lame in both feet. See the comment on Mephibosheth and his disability in 2 Samuel 4:4.

(Comment:  2 Samuel 4:4:  Mephibosheth’s injury. Although the biblical text does not clarify the details, it is generally believed that the battle at Mount Gilboa in which Saul was killed led to Philistine control of the entire central region. If that is true, it is likely that the Philistines would have sacked Saul’s capital at Gibeah. Such circumstances would explain the frantic flight of Saul’s household and the subsequent injury of Mephibosheth. A neck or spine injury could have made Mephibosheth a paraplegic, but it need not have been so extensive as that. Broken legs or ankles improperly set or poorly treated could likewise lame him. Splinting to set bones was a practice known in the ancient world, but compound fractures were often considered hopeless.)

2 Samuel 9:4:  Lo Debar. This was an area north of the Yarmuk River in Transjordan that was allied with Saul and later transformed into a vassal state by David. The site of Tell Dober, which has evidence of occupation in the Iron I and II periods, may well be the city that controlled this region. It lies at the southwestern tip of the Golan and is north of the Yarmuk.

2 Samuel 9:7:  David’s action contrasted to normal. Mephibosheth had good cause to be afraid of David. There is wide precedent in Mesopotamian texts for the elimination of all rival claimants to the throne when a king comes to power (compare Baasha’s murder of Jeroboam’s family in 1 Kings 15:29). Such purges also occurred years later as a form of revenge for political opposition or rebellion attempted against previous rulers. For example, Ashurbanipal mutilated, executed and fed the bodies of his grandfather’s rivals to dogs as part of his first official acts as king of Assyria. David, however, treats Mephibosheth, the only surviving male member of the royal family, as the rightful heir to Saul’s estates. His generosity is coupled with the command to eat at David’s table. In this way Mephibosheth is treated with honor, though some have noted it also keeps him under observation should he be inclined to subversion.

eating at the king’s table. Political prisoners were seldom kept in prison cells. It was more advantageous for the king to hold them in confinement within his palace or royal city, treating them to the pleasures of the “king’s table” but always keeping a close eye on their activities. Reports in ration lists from the Babylonian and Assyrian periods provide evidence of food, clothing and oil provided to “guests” of the king. Persian courts contained political detainees as well as “allies” who were kept in the king’s presence to insure a continual flow of taxes and soldiers for the army. Thus Mephibosheth, like Jehoiachin many years later (2 Kings 25:27-30), enjoyed the largesse of the king’s court but was not truly free.

SOURCE: IVP Bible Background Commentary Old Testament; by Craig S. Keener; InterVarsity Press; Downers Grove, Illinois 60515




DAVID The King and His Kingdom

By John Traylor

John Traylor is a retired pastor, First Baptist Church, Monroe, Louisiana.


HICH OF THE FOLLOWING EPITAPHS would you prefer to grace your tombstone: “A Man of God,” “A Man After God’s Own Heart,” or “He Served His Generation by the Will of God”?  David or his loved ones could have chosen any of these epitaphs to grace David’s tombstone.  The Chronicler spoke of David as “the man of God” (2 Chron. 8:14).1  God identified David as “a man after his own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14; see also Acts 13:22).  Scripture reports that David “served his own generation by the will of God” (Acts 13:36).

David’s Youth

David was the youngest of Jesse’s sons (1 Sam. 16:10-11).  He was of the tribe of Judah, the tribe God ordained to rule over Israel until the Messiah should come—after which He (the Messiah) was to rule (Gen. 49:10; Ezek. 21:25-27).  David was of the lineage of Judah through Perez, whom Judah sired through his incestuous relationship with Tamar, his daughter-in-law (Gen. 38:24-30; 1 Chron. 2:3-5,9-15).  David’s ancestors included his great-great-grandmother Rahab, his great-grandfather Boaz and his great grandmother Ruth, and his grandfather Obed (Josh. 2:1; Ruth 4:12-22; Matt. 1:5).  David testified of his mother’s godliness by speaking of her as the Lord’s “handmaid” (Ps. 116:16).

David spent his youth in Bethlehem, his ancestral home (1 Sam. 17:58; Ruth 2:4; Luke 2:4).  The Book of First Samuel brings David on the scene at the time God was rejecting Saul as Israel’s king because of his disobedience to the Lord (1 Sam. 13:14; 15:23).  David was described as “ruddy, with bright eyes, and good-looking” (16:12, NKJV).  As a shepherd, he showed skill and courage when he killed a lion and courage when he killed a lion and a bear, thereby delivering his lambs from them (17:36).  David played the harp and later wrote many of the Psalms.  He was recommended to Saul as “skillful in playing, a mighty man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a handsome person; and the Lord was with him” (16:18, NKJV).  Most important, God identified David as a man after His own heart, whom He had chosen to be Israel’s king to fulfill all His will (13:17; 16:11-13; 1 Kings 8:16; Acts 13:22).

David’s Service Under Saul

King Saul summoned David to his court to play the harp to comfort him from the evil spirit that troubled him (1 Sam. 16:14,19).  At first, Saul loved David and made him his armor-bearer (v. 21).  “In this role David served as Saul’s personal bodyguard, an office reserved for one who enjoyed the king’s complete confidence.  Thus David became a regular member of Saul’s court.”2  Saul’s love turned to hate, however, as David’s warrior feats, such as killing Goliath and victories over Philistines, made David more popular than Saul (17:50; 18:6-9).  Saul first tried to kill David with a javelin and then by challenging David to collect the dowry of 100 Philistine foreskins necessary to marry Michal, Saul’s daughter (18:11,25).  David, however, “behaved himself wisely in all his ways; and the Lord was with him” (v. 14).  God even gave David the love and protection of Jonathan, Saul’s son, who was heir to Saul’s throne (18:1-4; 19:1-7).  Moreover, Michal, whom Saul hoped would be a snare to David, loved David and helped him escape the king’s threats (18:21,28; 19:12-18).

David’s Days as a Fugitive

God continued to protect David during the days David eluded Saul and was fleeing for his life (23:14).  Both Saul and his son Jonathan knew God had anointed David to reign over Israel in place of rejected Saul (13:13-14; 16:12-13).  Jonathan bowed to God’s will for David to reign instead of him and would have gladly served as David’s chief helper (23:16-18).  But Saul sought to kill David, an action that would have established Jonathan on Israel’s throne (20:30-31).

In spite of Saul’s determination to kill him, David remained loyal to King Saul.  Moreover, rather than usurp the kingship, David trusted God to establish him on Israel’s throne at His appointed time.  Most significant was David’s treatment of Saul at the times God delivered the king into his hands (24:1-22; 26:5-25).  David refused to avenge himself against Saul; he instead left Saul’s judgment to God (24:12; 26:10,23).  Moreover, David continued to honor Saul as God’s anointed king of Israel.  He refused to put Saul to death and even repented of the disrespect he had shown to God’s anointed by cutting off the skirt of Saul’s robe when the king was in the cave (24:5-8).  David pledged to care for Jonathan’s family and later expanded this pledge to include caring for all of Saul’s descendants (20:13-17; 24:21-22).

David’s Kingship

God’s time for David to reign came after the Philistines killed Saul, Jonathan, and Saul’s other sons in battle (31:1-6).  God then commanded David, who was 30 years old at the time, to go to Hebron where the men of Judah anointed him as king (2 Sam. 2:1-7; 5:4).  Then, after 71/2 years of war with Saul’s house, David became king over all Israel and Judah—from Dan to Beersheba (3:1,10; 5:1-5).

As Israel’s king, David had many accomplishments.  One was to establish Jerusalem as the nation’s capital and religious center (5:6-7; 6:12-19)—a designation that resulted in people referring to Jerusalem as “the city of David” (compare 2 Sam. 5:7; 1 Kings 8:1).  He also unified Israel and extended its borders to approach the ideal boundaries of the promised land (Gen. 15:18; 2 Sam. 8:1-14).  Although God denied David’s desire to build Him a house, David put into Solomon’s hands the God-given pattern for the temple, gathered materials to build it, and provided for continuous musical praise to God in it (1 Chron. 22; 25; 28:11-12).

Most significant was the covenant God made with David to fulfill His redemptive purposes for humankind.  The covenant called for God to establish David’s house, his kingdom, and his throne forever (2 Sam. 7:16).  Although God would fulfill His covenant promises, David’s successors would have to walk in God’s ways as David had done (1 Kings 9:4-5).  Because Solomon followed other gods, though, the Lord divided the kingdom in the days of Solomon’s son Rehoboam and left David’s descendents to reign only over Judah (11:1-13; 12:19).  The covenant found further fulfillment in the coming of Jesus Christ—the Messiah—who was (and is) David’s Son and at the same time David’s Lord (Ps. 110:1; Matt. 1:1-17; 22:41-45).  He will reign not only over Judah, but “over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:33).  In the Messiah’s finished work, His kingdom will include not only Israel’s redeemed but the redeemed of “every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation” (Rev. 5:9).

Tragically David marred his reign by growing weary in well-doing, committing adultery with Bathsheba, murdering her husband in an attempt to cover Bathsheba’s pregnancy from the adultery (2 Sam. 11:1—12:15).  Nathan the prophet announced David’s sin—true to sin’s destructive nature—would cause the sword never to depart from David’s house, his wives to be violated, and evil to rise against him out of his own house.  Moreover, because David “treated the Lord with such contempt in this matter,” the child conceived by his adultery would die (12:14).

Further, David numbered his army in sinful pride and failed to discipline his own children (24:1-10; 1 Kings 1:6).  As predicted, violence continued in David’s house through his last days.  When he was quite old, David had to put down the attempt of Adonijah—his eldest son—to usurp the throne from Solomon, God’s appointed king (1 Kings 1:1-38; 1 Chron. 22:9-10; 23:1; 29:22).  In his last recorded interaction with Solomon, David charged his son to walk in God’s ways.  Doing so would mean Solomon would prosper as king and always have a son on Israel’s throne (1 Kings 2:1-4).3  David died at the age of 70 and was buried in Jerusalem.  David had served as king of Judah and then of all Israel for a total of 40 years (vv. 10-11).

David’s Legacy

How does God use David the man after His own heart to bless others even today?  I’ll mention only four of the ways.  One is to inspire godliness.  Reading and rereading the biblical account of David led my wife to say, “I want to be a woman after God’s own heart.”  A second is to encourage godly leadership.  Rulers are to be God’s representatives through whom He leads people to walk in His way.  As we lead in our various capacities, may we do right in the sight of the Lord as David did (2 Kings 18:3).  A third is to illustrate forgiveness through genuine repentance.  David’s sin reminds us “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).  However, if we like David will repent when we violate God’s will and His Word, then we too will find in God’s mercy cleansing, renewal, and restoration to His favor (2 Sam. 12:13; Pss. 32; 51).

A fourth way God uses David is to call thirsty and hungry humanity to come to Him for life and soul satisfaction.  Those who come will enter a free and everlasting covenant with God based on “the sure mercies of David” (Isa. 55:1-4).  The One through whom God continues to make this covenant is the Second David,4 even the Suffering Servant who gave Himself as an offering for our sin (Jer. 30:9; Isa. 52:13—53:12; Luke 23:33-46).  This David—the Lord Jesus Christ—was indeed born of the seed of David and was declared to be the Son of God by His resurrection from the dead (Acts 13:34-39; Rom. 1:3-4).  He truly satisfies the hungry and thirsty soul that comes to Him.  Referring to Himself, Christ said: “I am the bread of life.  He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst” (John 6:35, NKJV).                                                                                                                     Bi

1.  Unless indicated otherwise, all Scripture quotes are from the King James Version.

2.  Ben F. Philbeck, Jr., “1-2 Samuel” in Broadman Bible Commentary, gen ed. Clifton J. Allen, vol. 3 (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1970), p. 52.

3.  In his parting words David also instructed Solomon to exact retribution on Joab and Shimei and to show kindness to the sons of Barzillai (1 Kings 2:5-9).

4.  For a fuller discussion of the prophecies concerning Jesus as the Second David, see F. F. Bruce, “The Sure Mercies of David” in The Annual Lecture of the Evangelical Library (London: The Evangelical Library, 1954), p. 9-10.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Vol. 39, No. 4; Summer 2013.


Jonathan, a Forgotten Hero

By Joseph Beckler

Joseph Beckler is a church planter and resort minister in Durango, Colorado.


ONATHAN IS A HERO whom we tend to forget in the midst of Israel’s unfolding history.  First Samuel, the Old Testament record that captures Jonathan’s story, brilliantly tells about Samuel, Saul, and David.  Yet, woven into the story line of these prominent leaders, we find Jonathan, the son of King Saul.  Readers might describe his life with terms such as courage, loyalty, military skill, submissions, and bravery.  At other times, though, he appeared frustrated, hurt, and angry.  Although his story is not the main theme of 1 Samuel, Jonathan was a crucial and strategic part of God’s plan for Israel.

Who Was Jonathan?      

Jonathan’s name literally means “The Lord gave.”  He was Saul’s oldest son.  His mother’s name was Ahinoam.  His brothers were Abinadab, Malchishua, and Ish-bosheth.  His sisters were Merab and Michal.  His son was Mephilbosheth.1

What we know about Jonathan starts with descriptions of military courage in 1 Samuel 13.  Being the king’s eldest son, Jonathan received leadership responsibility for half of the military troops, with Saul keeping the other half under his leadership.  Jonathan took his troops to attack a Philistine garrison (or governor2).  This attack initiated a showdown between Israel and the Philistines.

First Samuel 13-14 records Saul mustering the Israelites for war and then waiting with a sense of hesitancy.  Jonathan, however, appeared anxious and ready to attack.  Despite the military weakness of Israel’s troops, Jonathan saw God as the giver and taker of military victory.  While contemplating a two-man assault on a Philistine outpost, Jonathan proclaimed to his armor bearer, “Perhaps the Lord will help us.  Nothing can keep the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few” (1 Sam. 14:6).  Scripture reveals that Jonathan exhibited trust and confidence in his God.  This was in contrast to his father Saul, who seemed uncertain and insecure towards God, especially on the battlefield.3

Jonathan, being a courageous warrior, was likely an underlying reason for much of Saul’s military success.4  As well, Jonathan’s military skill and courage certainly influenced his approval of David.  Jonathan was impressed with the warrior stamina of this young man, who defeated Goliath with faith in God and a sling.  David, unlike Saul, was a man who understood that God was the conqueror of Israel’s enemies.  This, no doubt, resonated with Jonathan, who knew that the Israelites’ battles hinged on the Lord’s power.5

Why Didn’t Jonathan Assert His Right to Be the Future King of Israel?

Jonathan’s role was complicated by the fact he maintained loyalty to Saul, his father and Israel’s king.  At the same time, he loved and protected David, whom Saul perceived to be his chief political threat.  King Saul tragically lost God’s blessing (see 15:26), and he was certainly concerned that David threatened Jonathan’s succession of kingship.   In an argument with Jonathan, Saul confirmed this fear when he cried out, “Every day Jesse’s son [meaning David] lives on earth you [meaning Jonathan’ and your kingship are not secure” (20:31).

Jonathan saw things differently.  He appeared to be at peace with David’s destiny as the next king.  To understand this, one must reach back to the battle scene at Michmash (see 1 Sam. 14).  After Jonathan and his armor bearer successfully raided a Philistine outpost at the pass of Michmash, Israel’s enemies were thrown into confusion.  Saul, zealous for a victory, called down a rash oath on his soldiers, saying, “Cursed is the man who eats food before evening, before I have taken vengeance on my enemies” (v. 24).

Unaware of this oath, Jonathan ate some honey as he pursed the Philistines.  Later, when one of Israel’s soldiers revealed than an Israelite had violated the oath, Saul vowed to keep his promise—namely to kill the man who had violated the oath . . .even if it were his own son!  When the king discovered that Jonathan had unknowingly broken the oath, Saul intended to kill him; but the Israelite soldiers protested, preventing Jonathan’s death.  But the curse of Saul was, nonetheless, never lifted from his son.  This curse affected Jonathan’s capacity to envision himself as a future king.6

Marked by the curse, Jonathan knew that another was destined to be king.  This is evident in the scene of 1 Samuel 18:3-4 where Jonathan gave David his robe, belt, bow, and sword.  These gifts were markers of Jonathan’s status as a prince.7  Giving them to David was a sign of Jonathan bestowing the political right of kingship on David.8

In Jonathan’s story we see an increase in his loyalty and love for David.  At the same time, the level of estrangement between himself and his father also increased.  Jonathan, on two distinct occasions, pleaded for David.  At one point, his petition succeeded (see 19:1-7).  But on the second occasion, Jonathan angered his father to such a degree that Saul not only tried to kill him but also issued a second curse on Jonathan:  “You son of a perverse and rebellious woman!  Don’t I know that you are siding with Jesse’s son to your own shame and to the disgrace of your mother?” (20:31).  In so many words, Saul humiliated and hurt Jonathan, saying he was a “bastard”!9  Ironically, Saul, who desperately wanted Jonathan to be king, was the very one who consistently cursed his son and pushed him away from kingship.

What Was Jonathan’s Legacy for Israel?

To the very end, Jonathan lived a complicated life.  He loved David, God’s anointed one, who was destined for kingship.  At the same time, he stood loyal to his father, who hated David!  This allegiance to family and Israel ultimately carried Jonathan to the battlefield one last time, along with his father and brothers.  At Mount Gilboa, Jonathan was slain in a battle he probably knew, like his father, would be his last (See 1 Sam. 31; 2 Sam. 1).

David’s very own lament for Jonathan shows a deep sense of gratitude for his lost friend (2 Sam. 1:17-27).  David sang a lament for both King Saul and Jonathan, called “The Song of the Bow.”  Though the lament is for both men, the song clearly concludes in honoring Jonathan.10  David sang:

How the mighty have fallen in the thick of battle!

Jonathan lies slain on your heights.

I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother.

You were such a friend to me.

Your love for me was more wonderful than the love of a woman for me” (vv. 25-26).

Ultimately, Jonathan’s legacy was his willingness to pursue what was right for the future of Israel.  He was wise enough to recognize that self-preservation was not his chief aim.  Instead, he saw David as God’s anointed and wanted God’s best for Israel’s future.  Indeed, such heroes are easily lost in the story as larger, more important characters outshine them.  But we must not forget Jonathan.  His love, courage, and loyalty helped Israel come into its own golden age, as David took the throne.                Bi

1.Omer J. Hancock, “Jonathan” in Holman Bible Dictionary, gen. eds. Chad Brand, Charles Draper, and Archie England (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003). 1505-06.

2.See 1 Samuel 13:4 footnote on use of “garrison” in Holman Christian Standard Bible.

3.P. Kyle McCarter, The Anchor Bible: 1 Samuel (New York: Doubleday: 1980), 242; Ronald F. Youngblood “1 and 2 Samuel” in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 3, ed. Frank e. Gaebelein (Grand    Rapids: Zondervan, 1992), 3:662.

4Youngblood, 660.

5.Observe the similarity between Jonathan’s words to his armor bearer in 1 Samuel 14:6 with David’s words in 1 Samuel 17:37.

6.McCarter, 252.

7.Youngblood, 707.  See also McCarter, 305.

8.This was in contrast to an earlier scene where King Saul offered armor to David (see 1 Sam. 17:38-39).  David refused Saul’s armor, but he didn’t refuse the gifts from Jonathan.  Jonathan, slated in his  family line for kingship, knew he was not the future king.  The prince’s robe belonged to David.  Jonathan affirmed through his gifts an understanding that David would rightfully be the next king.  See Youngblood, 707.

9.Ibid, 724.

10.David would show honor to Jonathan long after his death.  In one way, he kept his word to his deceased friend by protecting and caring for Jonathan’s son, Mephilbosheth.  As well, David had the bones of Saul and Jonathan moved to the land of Benjamin, the land of Saul’s father Kish.  Such an act was to honor the former king and as well as to honor Jonathan.  “Jonathan” in Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, eds. F.F. Bruce, R.K. Harrison, Ronald Youngblood, and Kermit Ecklebarger (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1986), 591.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Spring 2008.



By Leon Hyatt, Jr.

Leon Hyatt, Jr. is retired director of missions ministries Louisiana Baptist Convention, Alexandria, Louisiana.


WO DESCENDANTS OF SAUL were named Mephibosheth: a son by his concubine Rizpah (2 Sam. 21:8) and a grandson by his oldest son Jonathan (2 Sam. 4:4; see also 1 Chron. 8:34, where he is called Meri-Baal, NIV).  This article focuses on Jonathan’s son who saw himself as a dead dog in David’s presence (2 Sam. 9:8).  Several interesting but inconclusive suggestions have been offered for the meaning of Mephibosheth’s name and the reason for its variation.1 Scripture reveals four phases of Mephibosheth’s checkered life.

Privileged Son of Israel’s Crown Prince

For the first five years of his life, Mephibosheth was the only son of Jonathan, the expected heir to Israel’s throne (2 Sam. 4:4).  Jonathan customarily ate at his father King Saul’s table, with the dignitaries of the land (1 Sam. 20:25-27), though he also had a house of his own (1 Sam. 23:18).  Events related to Saul’s estate after his death indicate it was expansive and luxurious (2 Sam. 9:9-10; 16:1-4; 19:24-30).  Scripture tells nothing about Jonathan’s living conditions, but they must have been among the finest in the land.  Mephibosheth spent his first five years pampered by the lavish attentions of his royal father and grandfather.

Sole Surviving Heir of Saul

Saul’s family was ravaged with tragedy as a result of his sins.  His three oldest sons were killed in battle when the Philistines totally destroyed Saul’s army.  As a result, Saul killed himself (1 Sam. 31:1-13).  Soon afterward Judah made David their king (2 Sam. 5:1-5), but Philistine control was so strong in the north that the northern tribes were not able to have a king for five and a half years.  When those tribes were able to gain a measure of independence, Saul’s general, Abner, set up Saul’s son Ish-Bosheth (called Esh-Baal in 1 Chron. 8:33, NIV) as their king (2 Sam. 2:8-11).2 Ish-Bosheth ruled weakly for two years, and then tension arose between him and Abner.  As a result, Abner switched his loyalty to David.  In the turmoil that followed, David’s general, Joab, murdered Abner; and two Israelite army captains murdered Ish-Bosheth (2 Sam. 3:7—4:12, NIV).

Seven other male descendants of Saul were executed as a result of a vicious act of misplaced zeal by Saul, which he probably committed during the desperate waning days of his reign. He sought to annihilate the residents of Gibeon, a Canaanite city with whom Joshua had made a league of friendship when the Israelites first entered the land (Josh. 9:3-27).  In punishment for Saul’s outrageous act, the Lord struck Israel with a famine during David’s reign, probably early in his reign over Judah alone.  When David asked the Gibeonites what restitution they required to relieve the drought, they demanded the execution of seven male descendants of Saul.  David yielded to the demand and delivered to the Gibeonites two sons of Saul by his concubine Rizpah and five grandsons of Saul by one of his daughters (2 Sam. 21:1-9).  Later David looked for any descendant of Saul who might still be alive and learned the only Mephibosheth remained (2 Sam. 9:1-3).

Though David’s search for an heir of Saul is recorded first, the execution of Saul’s seven male descendants must have occurred first because when David made his search, only Mephibosheth remained alive.  This conclusion is supported by at least three other considerations: (1) The famine in punishment of Saul’s sin must have occurred soon after the deed.  Delay until David had been king for many years would have been unnatural and unjust.  (2) After the execution, David buried Saul’s bones in the tomb of Saul’s father Kish (2 Sam. 21:14).  Their burial would not have been delayed for years.  (3) The seven who were executed were all young, and no mention is made of their having wives (2 Sam. 21:10-13).

Scripture records four insights into Mephibosheth’s life during the first years after Saul’s death.  (1) He was crippled.  When news of Saul’s death reached Saul’s capital Gibeah, Mephibosheth’s nurse picked him up in haste and fled to safety.  In the rush, she either dropped him or he fell.  His legs likely were broken and healed without proper setting.3 Whatever the exact circumstances, the accident crippled both his feet for life (2 Sam. 4:4; 9:3; 19:26).  (2) David deliberately spared Mephibosheth’s life when he delivered Saul’s seven other male descendants to the Gibeonites (2 Sam. 21:7).  He spared Mephibosheth because of an oath he had made to Jonathan, who had been his treasured friend and who had helped him escape from Saul’s plan to kill him.  He had promised Jonathan that, when he came to power, if Jonathan were alive, he would spare him; and if Jonathan was not alive, he would show mercy to Jonathan’s family (1 Sam. 18:1-4; 20:1-17).  (3) Mephibosheth was protected by Makir in Lo Debar (2 Sam. 9:4, NIV) across the Jordan River.  Lo Debar was near Mahanaim (2 Sam. 17:27), a town Moses had assigned to the tribe of Gad (Josh. 13:24-28).  Abner had set up Ish-Bosheth’s capital in Mahanaim (2 Sam. 2:8-9).  Evidently that area favored Saul and his family.  Makir was wealthy and generous (2 Sam. 17:27-29), and the pro-Saul attitude of the area made it easy for him to extend his natural generosity to Mephibosheth.  Because of Makir’s wealth, Mephibosheth probably lived comfortable during those years.  (4) Mephibosheth married and fathered a son named Mica (2 Sam. 9:12).

Honored Guest of King David

After David became king of the whole nation, he spent about nine years establishing his authority.4 During those years he conquered and subjugated almost every nation that bordered Israel (2 Sam. 8).  Then he had time to give attention to personal concerns.  High on his agenda was completing the promise he had made to Jonathan years before.  Though David had spared Mephibosheth’s life early in his reign, afterward he had been too preoccupied with overcoming enemies to keep up with what had happened to Mephibosheth.  He must have had Mephibosheth especially in mind when he sought to know if any of Saul’s descendants were still alive.  He learned that one of the managers of Saul’s property named Ziba was still supervising Saul’s estate.  He called for Ziba and learned from him that Mephibosheth was Saul’s only living heir and that he was living with Makir in Lo Debar (2 Sam. 9:1-4).

David sent for Mephibosheth, who responded to the summons with great fear.  He wondered if David intended to execute him, following the practice of oriental kings to annihilate any possible rival.  David quickly put Mephibosheth at ease and returned to him the ownership of Saul’s estate.  David instructed Ziba to continue managing the estate but to give Mephibosheth the rent that belonged to the owner.  In addition, he invited Mephibosheth to move to Jerusalem and eat at his table like one of his own sons (2 Sam. 9:5-13).  For the next 11 or 12 years,5 Mephibosheth shared the honor of David’s court and lived in luxury.

Under Suspicion of Treason

One of the greatest tragedies of David’s life was the alienation and rebellion of his third and probably oldest surviving son, Absalom.6 Absalom’s rebellion was so strong that David, his family, and his administrative leaders had to flee from Jerusalem and take refuge across the Jordon River.  As they fled and crossed the top of the Mount of Olives, Ziba was waiting for them with a pair of saddled burrows for transportation, laden with bread and fruit for food and a bottle of wine for medicine.  David asked where Mephibosheth was.  Ziba answered the Mephibosheth had remained at home, hoping the rebellion result in his being made king as the rightful heir of Saul.  David believed Ziba and deeply resented Mephibosheth’s ingratitude.  He gave a hasty order that everything belonging to Mephibosheth should be given to Ziba (2 Sam. 16:1-4).

After Absalom and his supporters were defeated and while David and his followers were returning to Jerusalem, Mephibosheth met David just before David crossed back over the Jordan River (2 Sam. 19:24-30).  Mephibosheth’s unkempt appearance confirmed that he had been in deep mourning during all the time David had been away from Jerusalem.  David asked him why he had not gone with him when he fled.  Mephibosheth answered that he had intended to saddle a burrow and ride with David.  Since he was crippled, securing and saddling a burrow was a slow process for him.  Ziba had rushed ahead of him and hastened to David.  Then Ziba had slandered him by telling David he had stayed behind deliberately.  David made another hasty decision, without waiting for evidence as to whose story was true.  He decreed a compromise settlement, by which Saul’s estate was divided between Ziba and Mephibosheth.  Since the settlement was made without witnesses or evidence, Mephibosheth’s guilt or innocence was never proven.  He must have lived the rest of his life under suspicion that he had betrayed his great benefactor in his hour of deepest trial.  Nevertheless, Mephibosheth accepted David’s decision without complaint, recognizing that he was alive only because of David’s graciousness to him for Jonathan’s sake.

The factor that most characterized Mephibosheth’s life was that all his experiences were the result of someone else’s actions.  He accepted what came to him, which was admirable; but other than fathering a son he achieve nothing on his own.

1.  See various views in R. Payne Smith, “II Samuel” in The Pulpit Commentary  (New York and London: Funk and Wagnalls Company, n. d.), 36; “Mephibosheth” in Holman Bible Dictionary, Trent C. Butler, gen. ed. (Nashville, Tennessee: Holman Bible Publishers, 1991), 946; Butler, “Meribaal,” 949-50; J. A. H. Balchin, “Mephibosheth” in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia  (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1986), 3:320; see “Mephibosheth” in Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible  (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1988), 2:1438-1439; W. F. Boyd, “Mephibosheth” in Dictionary of the Bible,  James Hastings, ed. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1963), 643-644; “Mephibosheth” in The Anchor Bible Dictionary  (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 4:696-697.

2.  Robert D. Bergen, “1, 2 Samuel” in The New American Commentary  (Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1996), 300-301.

3.  Cundall, 1439.

4.  Smith, 240.

5.  To calculate the number of years Mephibosheth ate at David’s table, see Smith, 324 (David’s 13- or 14-year rule over all Israel up to Amnon’s sin and Absalom’s revenge); 2 Samuel 13:38 (plus Absalom’s 3 years in Geshur); Smith, 367 (plus Absalom’s plotting against David for 4 years before his rebellion); Smith, 240 (less the 9 years David ruled over all Israel before Mephibosheth began to eat at his table).

6.  Smith, 64, 102; Ben F. Philbeck, “1-2 Samuel” in The Broadman Bible Commentary  (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1970), 93; P. Kyle McCarter, Jr., “II Samuel” in The Anchor Bible  (Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1984), 102; though see a differing view in Bergen, 306.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Summer 2002.




What Is The Answer To & Where In The Bible Is This Week’s Trivia Question Found? (04/13/14) Who was (1) the king of Judah who died of a foot disease (2) because . . . ?  (A two-part answer.) Answer next week:  (1)  (2)

 The answer to last week’s trivia question:  Who said how a husband should treat his wife?   (This is a two part answer.) (04/06/14)  Answer: (1) Peter, (2) With honor; 1 Pet. 3:7 (KJV).




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