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?
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.
And there was of the house of Saul a servant whose name was Ziba. And when they had called him unto David, the king said unto him, Art thou Ziba? And he said, Thy servant is he.
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.
And the king said, Is there not yet any of the house of Saul, that I may shew the kindness of God unto him? And Ziba said unto the king, Jonathan hath yet a son, which is lame on his feet.
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; Genesis 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.
And the king said unto him, Where is he? And Ziba said unto the king, Behold, he is in the house of Machir, the son of Ammiel, in Lodebar.
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.
Then king David sent, and fetched him out of the house of Machir, the son of Ammiel, from Lodebar.
Now when Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, was come unto David, he fell on his face, and did reverence. And David said, Mephibosheth. And he answered, Behold thy servant!
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.
And David said unto him, Fear not: for I will surely shew thee kindness for Jonathan thy father's sake, and will restore thee all the land of Saul thy father; and thou shalt eat bread at my table continually.
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.
And he bowed himself, and said, What is thy servant, that thou shouldest look upon such a dead dog as I am?
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.
Then the king called to Ziba, Saul's servant, and said unto him, I have given unto thy master's son all that pertained to Saul and to all his house.
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.
Thou therefore, and thy sons, and thy servants, shall till the land for him, and thou shalt bring in the fruits, that thy master's son may have food to eat: but Mephibosheth thy master's son shall eat bread alway at my table. Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants.
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.
Then said Ziba unto the king, According to all that my lord the king hath commanded his servant, so shall thy servant do. As for Mephibosheth, said the king, he shall eat at my table, as one of the king's sons.
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.
And Mephibosheth had a young son, whose name was Micha. And all that dwelt in the house of Ziba were servants unto Mephibosheth.
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; 1 Chronicles 9:40-44).
So Mephibosheth dwelt in Jerusalem: for he did eat continually at the king's table; and was lame on both his feet.