Demonstrate Kindness

2 Samuel

Lesson Focus:  This lesson can motivate you to demonstrate godly kindness.

Determine to Show Kindness: 2 Samuel 9:1-3.

[1]  And David said, "Is there still anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?" [2]  Now there was a servant of the house of Saul whose name was Ziba, and they called him to David. And the king said to him, "Are you Ziba?" And he said, "I am your servant." [3]  And the king said, "Is there not still someone of the house of Saul, that I may show the kindness of God to him?" Ziba said to the king, "There is still a son of Jonathan; he is crippled in his feet."   [ESV]

David’s question was Is there still anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake? The word translated kindness is the Hebrew word “hesed” and it is used three times in this passage [1,3,7]. Hesed is the devoted love promised within a covenant. It is love that is willing to commit itself to another by making its promise a matter of solemn record. So when David mentions hesed and for Jonathan’s sake we know he is alluding to the sacred commitment Jonathan had asked David to make in 1 Samuel 20:15: and do not cut off your steadfast love (hesed) from my house forever, when the Lord cuts off every one of the enemies of David from the fact of the earth. And David swore a covenant oath to Jonathan that he would keep the covenant made between them. Now David is preparing to fulfill that covenant promise. David’s officials locate a certain Ziba, a servant connected to Saul’s family, and summon him for a royal interview. David inquires and Ziba informs him that there is still one of Jonathan’s sons left, one who is crippled in his feet. He is living in Lo-debar, east of the Jordan, under the patronage of Machir [4]. It has now been fifteen to twenty years since David had made that promise and entered into that covenant with Jonathan. We do not have an exact chronology but we do have some clues. We know Mephibosheth was five when he suffered his tragic injury when his father Jonathan was killed at Mt. Gilboa [2 Sam. 4:4]. When news of Saul and Jonathan’s death came, the boy’s nurse quickly took the boy and fled. In her haste she dropped the boy and he became crippled in both feet. David reigned for seven and a half years in Hebron before ruling all Israel from Jerusalem [2 Sam. 5:5]. David would likely consume a great deal of time consolidating his rule at home and abroad. If Mephibosheth already had a small son by the time David summoned him to court, he may have been twenty years old at this time. The episode in our text then could be as much as fifteen years after the debacle of Gilboa, and David’s covenant with Jonathan [1 Sam. 20] could easily have been five years prior to Gilboa. But, even after this period of time, the covenant he made with Jonathan still controlled and directed David’s behavior. That solemn word promised to his dear friend, given in that solemn ceremony, under a solemn curse, constrained him to act with devoted love (hesed). Nothing about it being a long time ago, about conditions being different, about it being only a formality entered into David’s mind to prevent him from honoring his covenant promise to his faithful and devoted friend.

Here is an example of the power that covenant promises exercise – a covenant promise made in the past directs fidelity in the present. Does this not press upon us the urgency of keeping all our covenants? This is something our world and culture does not understand, especially in the area of the marriage covenant. What the world does not see is that love that truly loves is willing to bind itself, is willing to promise, willingly and gladly obligates itself so that the other may stand securely in that love. If you are a Christian, your life consists of covenant obligations, times when you have made sacred promises, whether these are formal or informal promises. For example, when you agree to teach a Sunday School class, you have made a covenant promise that you will faithfully carry out the responsibilities of being a Sunday School teacher. This covenant promise is first of all between you and your class but it is also between you and God as you serve as a leader in His Church. When you become a member of a church, in effect, you make a covenant promise to be a faithful member of that church. Thus all believers have covenant obligations that they are responsible to be faithful in keeping.

Seek Opportunities to Show Kindness:  2 Samuel 9:4-6.

[4]  The king said to him, "Where is he?" And Ziba said to the king, "He is in the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, at Lo-debar." [5]  Then King David sent and brought him from the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, at Lo-debar. [6]  And Mephibosheth the son of Jonathan, son of Saul, came to David and fell on his face and paid homage. And David said, "Mephibosheth!" And he answered, "Behold, I am your servant."  [ESV]

Through his inquiry David learned that there was still a son of Jonathan apparently living with a wife and son in a self-imposed internal exile at the house of Machir son of Ammiel in Lo-debar. Machir, mentioned here for the first time, was a wealthy and powerful individual living east of the Jordan at Lo-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 Chron. 8:34; 9:40], was crippled in both feet as a result of an accident in early childhood [4:4]. David summoned him for appearance at the royal court. Appropriately the lame young man bowed down before the king to pay him honor. Using a dialogue reflective of an interchange between a social superior and an inferior, David called out Mephibosheth’s name; in turn, Mephibosheth referred to himself as your servant.

Practice Kindness:  2 Samuel 9:7-13.

[7]  And David said to him, "Do not fear, for I will show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan, and I will restore to you all the land of Saul your father, and you shall eat at my table always." [8]  And he paid homage and said, "What is your servant, that you should show regard for a dead dog such as I?" [9]  Then the king called Ziba, Saul’s servant, and said to him, "All that belonged to Saul and to all his house I have given to your master’s grandson. [10]  And you and your sons and your servants shall till the land for him and shall bring in the produce, that your master’s grandson may have bread to eat. But Mephibosheth your master’s grandson shall always eat at my table." Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants. [11]  Then Ziba said to the king, "According to all that my lord the king commands his servant, so will your servant do." So Mephibosheth ate at David’s table, like one of the king’s sons. [12]  And Mephibosheth had a young son, whose name was Mica. And all who lived in Ziba’s house became Mephibosheth’s servants. [13]  So Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, for he ate always at the king’s table. Now he was lame in both his feet.  [ESV]

[7-10]  Here David promises Mephibosheth: (1) protection (Do not fear, for I will show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan); (2) provision (and I will restore to you all the land of Saul); and (3) position (and you shall eat at my table always). David’s Do not fear must have spelled relief to Mephibosheth, whose actions in verse 6 (falling on his face, showing homage, confessing his servant status) seem to betray apprehension. Mephibosheth knew he was a descendant of the previous rival king, and he knew what usually happened to such folks when the opponent became king. Restoring Saul’s farm land to Mephibosheth and charging Ziba and his sons and servants to work it would provide income for Mephibosheth [9-10]. Perhaps Saul’s estates had reverted to the crown; or it could be that Ziba had horned in and appropriated them for his use. We do not know. In any case, Mephibosheth’s place was not to grovel like a servant at the king’s feet but to sit at his table like one of the king’s sons – a point mentioned four times [7,10,11,13]. David’s provision for Mephibosheth seems to have gone well beyond David’s promise to Jonathan. At least a case can be made for this contention. In 1 Samuel 20:14 Jonathan foresees that he could still be alive when David comes to power. If so, Jonathan asks, show me the steadfast love of the Lord, that I may not die. Here Jonathan is asking David to spare his life since the normal policy is to kill off the king’s family when a new king assumes power in order to remove the threat of a descendant of the former king trying to take the throne. Jonathan continues in 1 Samuel 20:15: And do not cut off your steadfast love from my house forever, when the Lord cuts off every one of the enemies of David from the face of the earth. Interpreting verse 15 in the light of verse 14 suggests that Jonathan’s concern is that David will also show hesed toward Jonathan’s descendants by sparing rather than liquidating them. Jonathan’s covenant does not limit David to merely sparing Jonathan’s family, but that seems to be its major concern. Here in 2 Samuel 9, however, David goes far beyond any bare requirement. David does not merely spare Mephibosheth’s life but heaps goodness on him. He not only protects his life but restores his inheritance. He not only saves him from the shadow of death, but prepares a table for him. David’s kindness goes beyond survival to sustenance. Mephibosheth is cared for by and with the king and will never face destitution. It takes no imagination but only faith to see that David’s hesed is but a faithful reflection of the Lord’s, with whom there is no such thing as bare hesed [Ps. 23:1; John 1:16; 6:35; Rom. 8:32].

[11-13]  The king has placed Ziba under orders to manage Saul’s estate for Mephibosheth, your master’s grandson (three times in verses 9-10). Then there are four statements about Mephibosheth to close out the chapter, the last the most poignant: So Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, for he ate always at the king’s table. Now he was lame in both his feet. There are two elements of Mephibosheth’s condition that are stressed in the text. The first is his lameness. Ziba had informed David that Jonathan’s son was crippled in his feet [3] and the last line of the chapter sadly reminds us of that. Though a prince’s son, he is a helpless, dependent cripple. But there is something worse mentioned in verses 11-13 about Mephibosheth – his heredity. He is the grandson of Saul, David’s enemy. He belongs to the previous regime. And yet he is spared because of David’s covenant oath to Jonathan. Though Mephibosheth is technically the enemy he is embraced in the safety of the covenant. 

Questions for Discussion:

1.         Why did David seek out Mephibosheth? What does this tell you about David’s character?

2.         What does David do for Mephibosheth? Why does he go beyond what he had promised to Jonathan?

3.         What do we learn about covenant love and faithfulness in this passage? Think about the love and faithfulness that God shows in His covenant relationship with His people.


The Message of Samuel, Mary Evans, Intervarsity Press.

2 Samuel, Dale Ralph Davis, Christian Focus.

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