Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
The account of David’s kindness to the house of Saul (entirely omitted in Chronicles).
(1) For Jonathan’s sake.—There is no note of time to show when this occurred, but, as Mephibosheth was only five years old at the time of his father’s death (2Samuel 4:4), and now had a young son (2Samuel 9:12), it must have been several years after David began to reign in Jerusalem. His motive is sufficiently expressed—for the sake of his early and much-loved friend Jonathan.
(3) The kindness of God.—Comp. 1Samuel 20:14, = kindness such as God shows, very great, and in the fear of God. The crippled Mephibosheth, the only surviving descendant of Saul in the male line, disheartened by the misfortunes of his house, and probably fearing the usual Oriental custom of cutting off all the heirs of a monarch of another line, was living in such obscurity that he was only found through the information of his servant Ziba, a man of considerable substance, and perhaps known to some of the court.
(4) Machir, the son of Ammiel, in Lo-debar.—From 2Samuel 17:27-29, the situation of Lo-debar must have been east of the Jordan, and near Mahanaim, and Machir appears as a man of wealth and position. Up to this time he was probably secretly an adherent to the house of Saul; but David’s kindness to his master’s son won his heart, and afterwards, in David’s own great distress during his flight from Absalom, he proved a faithful friend. If this Ammiel is the same with the one mentioned in 1Chronicles 3:5 (called Eliam in 2Samuel 11:3), Machir must have been the brother of Bath-sheba; but the name was not an uncommon one.
(7) Fear not.—Mephibosheth could not have remembered the affection between David and his father Jonathan, and was naturally in fear. (See 2Samuel 9:3.) David at once reassures him, promises him all the real estate of his grandfather, which had either fallen to David or else to distant relations, and adds, “thou shalt eat bread at my table continually,”—a mark of great honour in Oriental lands. (See 2Samuel 19:33; 1Kings 2:7; 2Kings 25:29, &c.)
(8) Such a dead dog.—The most contemptible thing possible. (See 2Samuel 3:8; 2Samuel 16:9; 1Samuel 24:14.) Mephibosheth’s humility is more than oriental; it is abject, arising no doubt in part from his infirmity.
(10) Thy sons, and thy servants.—According to the latter part of the verse, and to 2Samuel 19:17, Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants, and was therefore able to take care of a large estate.
May have food to eat.—This is to be taken in the general sense of means for the support of his household as a royal prince.
(11) He shall eat at my table.—If these are taken as David’s words, it is remarkable that he should have repeated them for the third time; but they are not likely to have been spoken, as some have suggested, by Ziba, either as a repetition, by way of assent, of David’s words, nor as equivalent to saying, “but for this he should have eaten at my table.” It is better to take them as a part of the narrative. In that case, David himself must have written this account, unless, with the LXX. and Syriac, we read, “at the table of David,” instead of “my table.”
And David said, Is there yet any that is left of the house of Saul, that I may shew him kindness for Jonathan's sake?