Hope Needed

2 Samuel

The Point:  You are never beyond hope.

David and Mephibosheth:  2 Samuel 9:1-13.

[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." [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." [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]

“Now that his kingship was firmly in place and all opposition from the supporters of Saul had been quelled or eliminated, David might have recalled his covenant with Jonathan fifteen to twenty years earlier [1 Sam. 20] and thought that he was no longer obligated to that covenant. He could have reasoned that considerations of dynastic security precluded showing favors to survivors of a previous, rival dynasty. However much David would have liked to honor his word, current circumstances forced him to renege. Such, however, was not David’s way. Instead he practiced covenant loyalty and this chapter in 2 Samuel is the record of it. At first blush this chapter does not appear to be very theological or devotional. But it has a good bit to teach us about covenant. Above all, 2 Samuel 9 asserts that life under the covenant gives you a firm place to stand and ought to evoke a sense of security, privilege, and wonder from you.”

[1-4]  “In verse 1, David asks the question, Is there still anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake? The word translated kindness in verses 1, 3 and 7 is the Hebrew word hesed. This is the word used in the Old Testament for the devoted love promised within a covenant. Thus hesed is love that is willing to commit itself to another by making its promise a matter of solemn record. So when David mentions kindness (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 from my house forever, when the Lord cuts off every one of the enemies of David from the face of the earth. And David swore an oath to Jonathan that he would uphold this covenant promise. Now David is preparing to fulfill that pledge. 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. It has now been fifteen to twenty years since David had made that promise and entered into that covenant with Jonathan. But it still controlled and directed his behavior. That solemn word, given in that solemn covenant ceremony, under a solemn curse, constrained him to act with devoted love to his dear friend, Jonathan. Nothing about it being a long time ago, about conditions being different, about it being only a formality. Here is the power covenant exercised – the 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. For example, the marriage covenant has become a mere, empty formality. 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: when we publicly confess our faith in baptism before the congregation; when someone assumes church office; when we enter into marriage or any contractual agreements. One does not keep such vows because it is dramatic but because it is faithful. Sometimes you do not keep your covenants because you feel like it but simply because you promised.”

[5-10]  “These verses (especially verse 7) form the heart of this chapter. Let us make several literary observations that are germane to this point. (1) Mephibosheth’s name first occurs in this chapter in verse 6. To this point he has been spoken of generally as a son of Jonathan. Significantly, the writer introduces him as Mephibosheth the son of Jonathan, son of Saul; he is a member of the old, rival regime. (2) When the writer passes on David’s interviews with Ziba he usually refers to David as the king. However, when conversing with Mephibosheth [6-7] he is simply David. Perhaps the writer intends to suggest a more personal touch with Mephibosheth? (3) The literary structure of the chapter seems to conspire in placing special stress upon David’s statement in verse 7. Here at the hinge and heart of the chapter David promises Mephibosheth: protection (do not fear, for I will show you kindness); provision (I will restore to you all the land of Saul your father); and position (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 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. In such circumstances hesed (steadfast love) would be shown by sparing Jonathan’s life. Then in 1 Samuel 20:15, Jonathan continues, and do not cut off your steadfast love from my house forever. 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 Yahweh’s – with whom there is no such thing as bare hesed [Ps. 23:1; John 1:16; 6:35; Rom. 8:32].”

[11-13]  “Four of the seven references to Mephibosheth occur in these 3 verses. The king has placed Ziba under orders to manage Saul’s estate for Mephibosheth, your master’s grandson. 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 verse 13 reminds us of that. But there is something worse about Mephibosheth – his heredity. He is Saul’s grandson. Mephibosheth is, quite simply, the wrong stuff. He is the enemy. He belongs to the previous regime. Ordinarily, a new dynasty would waste no time getting rid of the former rival dynasty. 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. We can understand why Mephibosheth must have been trembling when David summoned him. He certainly knew what normally happened to the remnants of defunct dynasties. But David’s do not fear [7] signals that Mephibosheth will not receive the expected, simply due to the covenant that David made with Jonathan. And that covenant was Mephibosheth’s shelter.”  [Davis, pp. 119-127].

Questions for Discussion:

1.         Who was Mephibosheth? Why was he lame in both legs (see 2 Sam. 4:4)?

2.         Most kings in David’s day tried to wipe out the families of their rivals in order to prevent any descendants from seeking the throne. Thus Mephibosheth was in hiding. Imagine what went through his mind when he was summoned to appear before the king. Note his actions and words before David. What three things does David promise Mephibosheth in verse 7?

3.         Verse 7 is the key verse of this passage. Why did David seek out Mephibosheth and want to show kindness (hesed) to him? What does this tell us about David’s character?

4.         A covenant is basically a promise between two parties. What do we learn about covenant agreements or promises in this passage? In today’s world, covenant promises (such as marriage) are easily broken. But God’s Word calls upon believers to be faithful to their covenant promises just as God is faithful to His covenant promises. What type of covenant agreements are you involved in (marriage, church covenants, church leaders, business contracts, etc.)? Ask God to enable you to be faithful to all of your covenant promises so that the world may see your good deeds and glorify God [1 Peter 2:12].


1, 2 Samuel, Robert Bergen, NAC, B & H Publishing.

2 Samuel, Dale Ralph Davis, Christian Focus.

1,2 Samuel, Ronald Youngblood, EBC, Zondervan.

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