Magnanimous Mephibosheth

“And Mephibosheth the son of Saul came down to meet the king, and had neither dressed his feet, nor trimmed his beard, nor washed his clothes, from the day the king departed until the day he came again in peace. And it came to pass, when he was come to Jerusalem to meet the king, that the king said unto him, Wherefore wentest not thou with me, Mephibosheth? And he answered, My lord, O king, my servant deceived me: for thy servant said, I will saddle me an ass, that I may ride thereon, and go to the king; because thy servant is lame. And he hath slandered thy servant unto my lord the king; but my lord the king is as an angel of God: do therefore what is good in thine eyes. For all of my father's house were but dead men before my lord the king: yet didst thou set thy servant among them that did eat at thine own table. What right therefore have I yet to cry any more unto the king? And the king said unto him, Why speakest thou any more of thy matters? I have said, Thou and Ziba divide the land. And Mephibosheth said unto the king, Yea, let him take all, forasmuch as my lord the king is come again in peace unto his own house” (2 Samuel 19:24-30).

Introduction

Mephibosheth was truly delighted when he heard that David was returning, but for some unknown reason he failed to speak with him at the Jordan, instead he managed to have an audience with the king in Jerusalem.

The attire

Mephibosheth (Jonathan’s son and grandson of Saul) was loyal to David and was grief stricken when he was forced into exile by Absalom. His mourning was evident by his appearance. Since he remained in the royal court, it was expected that his appearance and attire should be respectable and well groomed, but he refused to kowtow to the new government and so stood firm in his love for David.

The answer

Though David could see the obvious loyalty and sincerity of Mephibosheth at this instance, he questioned why he had not accompanied him into exile. David up until now only had Ziba’s account of what happened, so this accusation of disloyalty would have cut Mephibosheth to the heart.

Mephibosheth’s answer revealed that David had been deceived by Ziba. Instead of trying to return the rebuke on the king, Mephibosheth explained that they had both been tricked by Ziba. Ziba had lied to Mephibosheth about why he was saddling the donkey, for instead of using it to carry him to David, it was used to take provisions to the king in an attempt to make it appear he was a loyal servant (2 Samuel 16:1). Ziba had invented a story to defame Mephibosheth and stated that his master was now plotting to become king himself (2 Samuel 16:3). What is remarkable about Mephibosheth’s version of events is that he, while stating the facts, does not ask for permission to take revenge upon Ziba, nor did he slander him in any way.

Mephibosheth makes it very clear to the king that he has and always will be a loyal subject. His submission is revealed as he leave the judgement of Ziba in David’s hands, and also in the acknowledgement that everything he had was due to the king’s generosity and grace. He was willing to lose everything he owned just for the opportunity to live in David’s court. In fact David had already given Ziba everything Mephibosheth owned (2 Samuel 16:4).

The acceptance

David accepted that Mephibosheth was telling the truth about what went on and that they had both been duped by Ziba. For whatever reason David did not fully reverse his decision about giving Ziba Mephibosheth’s property, but instead divided it between them. There is a suggestion by some commentators that because of the political influence of Ziba (he was a Benjaminite) David wanted to avoid offending him. He seems to be very harsh with Mephibosheth and tells him to stop moaning over what had happened to him. In light of the evidence David’s new judgement was not fair to Mephibosheth, for in some respect he was honouring and rewarding an evil man. “David did evil in taking his land from him before he knew the cause, but much worse, that knowing the truth, he did not restore them” (Geneva Bible Notes). “And the judges shall make diligent inquisition: and, behold, if the witness be a false witness, and hath testified falsely against his brother; Then shall ye do unto him, as he had thought to have done unto his brother: so shalt thou put the evil away from among you” (Deuteronomy 19:18-19). Is it possible that David found it too hard to admit he was wrong? Was David not partly breaking his promise to Jonathan about protecting his offspring?

Once again, instead of being hurt by David’s remarks, Mephibosheth accepts the judgement of David and was willing to let Ziba keep everything he had stolen from him. As far as he was concerning the best blessing of all was the safe return of David to Jerusalem. We see that Mephibosheth had suffered wrong throughout his life and never once complains about his lot. He was deformed, deceived and defamed by others but he keeps his eyes on his true blessings.

Conclusion

Mephibosheth was one of those rare noble characters that exhibited no guile even when greatly opposed and offended. He knew the truth and stood full square upon it despite terrible events in life turning against him. He celebrated rather than complained. He was an unselfish servant of the king. Mephibosheth a man of integrity and magnanimity.

© 23/8/2010