2 Sam 9:1 David asked, “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?”
The summary which Paul gives of David’s life in Acts 13:36 is that “he served God’s purpose in his own generation.” Here we read of his faithfulness to his own promises to Jonathan and his kindness towards Jonathan’s son, Mephibosheth, for Jonathan’s sake.
Just as the house of Saul had declined, (2 Sam 3-4) so the house of David was now in the ascendency, (2 Sam 5-10) because God was with him, 1 Sam 16:18.
“Is there anyone still left…? – There had been few survivors in Saul’s family, following the murder of Ishbosheth. Those who had survived were no doubt making themselves scarce, for fear of further retribution: hence David’s enquiry.
Note that David does not wait to be asked for help: he actively seeks out ways in which he can honour his covenant with Jonathan. Do we actively seek out opportunities to do good, or are we merely content to do no harm? For ‘the most proper objects of our kindness and charity are such as will not be frequently met with without enquiry. The most necessitous are the least clamorous.’ (MHC)
“Kindness” – It might be thought (and some scholars have maintained) that David wanted to seek out the remnants of Sual’s family so that he could avert some kind of threat by them to his own dynasty. But this is contrary to both the general tenor and also the plain teaching of the text. The ‘kindness’ David had in his heart he calls in v3 ‘God’s kindness’.
“For Jonathan’s sake” – The covenant between David and Jonathan is referred to in 1 Sam 18:3-4 and 1 Sam 20:15. Though the promises were made long ago, David now brings them to mind, and intends to honour them. The passage of time does not cancel out the importance of keeping our promises. How faithful are we to the promises we have made?
2 Sam 9:2 Now there was a servant of Saul’s household named Ziba. They called him to appear before David, and the king said to him, “Are you Ziba?” “Your servant,” he replied.
2 Sam 9:3 The king asked, “Is there no one still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?” Ziba answered the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is crippled in both feet.”
Miphibosheth’s disability is mentioned twice, perhaps to emphasise his helplessness. He had been injured in a fall, 2 Sam 4:4. He doesn’t seem like a threat to David, despite Ziba’s later accusation, 2 Sam 16:3.
Although, as recorded here, Ziba will mention only Mephibosheth by name, it transpires that there were others who might have had a similar claim on David’s kindness, 2 Sam 21:8.
2 Sam 9:4 “Where is he?” the king asked. Ziba answered, “He is at the house of Makir son of Ammiel in Lo Debar.”
Makir son of Ammiel – he is also mentioned in 2 Sam 17:27-29. As host to one of Saul’s descendants, he would have been a man of some wealth and influence. He seems to be protecting Mephibosheth out of kindness and generosity, rather than any animosity towards Daivd, for he shows kindness to David himself when he fled from Absalom.
Lo Debar – The location of this city is uncertain; it was possibly in Gilead not far from Mahanaim, which was for a time Ishbosheth’s capital on the east of the Jordan River.
2 Sam 9:5 So King David had him brought from Lo Debar, from the house of Makir son of Ammiel.
2 Sam 9:6 When Mephibosheth son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, came to David, he bowed down to pay him honor. David said, “Mephibosheth!” “Your servant,” he replied.
Mephibosheth is referred to in 2 Sam 4:4 2 Sam 9:6-13 2 Sam 16:1-4 2 Sam 19:24-30; and 2 Sam 21:7. He is called Merib-baal in 1 Chron 8:34. A different person with the same name is mentioned in 2 Sam 21:8. Mephibosheth had been five years old at the time of his father’s death, 2 Sam 4:4, but now had a son of his own, v12.
2 Sam 9:7 “Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table.”
“Don’t be afraid” – Mephibosheth might well have felt some fear – mixed with resentment – at being brought to David’s court.
All the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul – This would have been quite extensive, as the workforce mentioned in v10 indicates. David’s gesture is not only kind, but somewhat risky, for to restore this property to a member of a previous regime might encourage thoughts of usurping the throne.
“You will always eat at my table” – See 2 Kings 25:29. This was clearly an act of kindness on David’s part, and an honour for Mephibosheth. Aside from the hospitality involved, this would mean that Mephibosheth would have access to David’s senior advisers.
2 Sam 9:8 Mephibosheth bowed down and said, “What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?”
“Dead dog” – A term of abasement, used previously by David before Saul, 1 Sam 24:14. On the term ‘dog’ as an insult, see 2 Sam 3:8 2 Sam 17:43 2 Kings 8:13.
2 Sam 9:9 Then the king summoned Ziba, Saul’s servant, and said to him, “I have given your master’s grandson everything that belonged to Saul and his family.
2 Sam 9:10 you and your sons and your servants are to farm the land for him and bring in the crops, so that your master’s grandson may be provided for. And Mephibosheth, grandson of your master, will always eat at my table.” (Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants.)
Mephibosheth is amply provided for: not only is he given extensive property, but also an experienced team to manage his estate. He would have food enough to eat from his own estate, and to eat at David’s table has more to do with trust and honour than with nutrition.
2 Sam 9:11 Then Ziba said to the king, “Your servant will do whatever my lord the king commands his servant to do.” So Mephibosheth ate at David’s table like one of the king’s sons.
Ziba will demonstrate a certain treachery in 2 Sam 16:3.
2 Sam 9:12 Mephibosheth had a young son named Mica, and all the members of Ziba’s household were servants of Mephibosheth.
2 Sam 9:13 And Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, because he always ate at the king’s table, and he was crippled in both feet.
David’s situation is reversed, cf. 1 Sam 20. Once he had been helped by Jonathan when driven from Saul’s table. Now he repays his debt to Jonathan by giving his son security and honour.
‘Now because David was a type of Christ, his Lord and son, his root and offspring, let his kindness to Mephibosheth serve to illustrate the kindness and love of God our Saviour towards fallen man, which yet he was under no obligation to, as David was to Jonathan. Man was convicted of rebellion against God, and, like Saul’s house, under a sentence of rejection from him, was not only brought low and impoverished, but lame and impotent, made so by the fall. The Son of God enquires after this degenerate race, that enquired not after him, comes to seek and save them. To those of them that humble themselves before him, and commit themselves to him, he restores the forfeited inheritance, he entitles them to a better paradise than that which Adam lost, and takes them into communion with himself, sets them with his children at his table, and feasts them with the dainties of heaven.’ (MHC)