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Bible Commentaries
2 Samuel 9

The Biblical IllustratorThe Biblical Illustrator

Verses 1-13

2 Samuel 9:1-13

Is there yet any that is left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake.

A gracious temper

An affecting exhibition of the vicissitudes of human life. I do not now refer to those common changes which are taking place in the community, but to those which are calculated powerfully to affect the mind. Neither do I now particularly allude to those by which persons have rapidly risen from their original obscurity, to stations of eminent dignity, emolument, or power, so that mankind have been astonished at their sudden elevation. My reference is to events of a precisely opposite character. See, for example, the patriarch Job, the richest man in his day in the east. Listen to the language of one who was in the golden mediocrity, and bad all her wants liberally supplied, but was afterwards so reduced that she exclaimed--“Call me no more Naomi, but call me Marah for I went out full but the Lord has sent me home empty.” Look at the family of Saul. And, not to multiply examples from scripture, have we not witnessed similar events, and equally surprising, within the last twenty years of our lives? If we look into the more private circle, how many, through changes and war, through the violence and fraud of others, or through their own imprudence and ambition, have been precipitated from the summit of the mount to the very bottom of the valley! To them we may almost apply the language of Solomon--I have seen “princes sitting on dunghills.” In a word--we are taught the folly of making earthly things our rest and portion. If you possess them in abundance, they cannot give true or abiding satisfaction:--possess them!--they are so insecure, that you know not that they shall be yours by the dawn of to-morrow’s morn. “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” You may be in a palace and on a throne, and your family overloaded with opulence and secular distinctions, and in a few years the question may be asked, “Is there any left of the house of Saul?”

there is a noble triumph of a generous and gracious temper. For who was Saul? We have said he was a king; and let us not indulge towards him a radical spirit, but do him justice. For some time he acted according to the rules of equity and humanity, and law, by the advice of his wise and pious counsellor Samuel; and for a while his kingdom prospered. But at length he disobeyed the positive commands of God, distinctly given him by the prophet. With respect to David, who never treated him but with respectful courtesy and kindness, he was so jealous of his rising character and fame, that he left no means which he could command untried, to deprive him of his life. Now, mark the disposition and demeanour of David. Religion does not require us to select as our chosen associates, those who have furnished unequivocal evidence that they would injure us if it were in their power: but it does require of us to control our passions; to suppress unholy irritation; to pass by an offence; to bury it in silence; to be willing to show acts of kindness to the injurious.

Here is a beautiful specimen of delicate friendship. There was a condescension and an activity in the benevolence which is here described, and which deserve more emphatic notice. David was in his palace, surrounded by the distinctions of royalty. Mephibosheth, the last of Saul’s remaining sons, was in the shade of seclusion and poverty. But the prince did not deem it beneath his dignity to ask after the humblest or the poorest subject in his realm, and to solicit information of his condition, and to stretch out his hand to lift the impoverished relict from his obscurity, and liberally supply his wants. Let those in elevated rank, and magisterial office, wear their honours unmoved, and let those in opulence enjoy their abundance, and share in the permitted delights of the sons of men--but let them also be assured that it is no degradation to be touched with the feeling of human infirmities, or to wipe away tears from the eyes of the distressed; nor is there any enjoyment more sweet or luxurious (next to communion with God) than that with which he is inspired, who can say, “I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame; and I was a father to the poor. The blessing of him who was ready to perish came upon me, and I caused the widow’s heart to sing for joy.”

Behold in this text and history, a descriptive representation of the mind of Him of whom David was an ancestor and a type. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was a lineal descendant of David, according to the flesh. In real dignity, the Saviour infinitely surpassed him; and hence David called Him Lord; hence the proclamation “I am the root and the offspring of David, the bright and morning star,” which shines with a brilliancy above the rest (J. Clayton.)

Kindness to Jonathan’s son

The unselfish kindness of David. To send across the Jordan to Lo-debar to find a young man whom he perhaps had never seen, the grandson of Saul, who had so often sought to slay him, and whose house was a rival one in the kingdom--a young man crippled in both feet, with no prospect of being useful to the king--to alienate from the crown the forfeited estates of the house of Saul and restore them to cripple Mephibosheth--affords beautiful evidence of the unselfish kindness of David’s generous heart. David’s wonderful exaltation from the sheepfold to the kingdom had a natural tendency to repress or stifle the kindlier impulses of his heart. How many are there who in times of prosperity utterly forget the friends of former and adverse days! To seek out the lame, the halt, the blind, the poor, the wretched, to minister unto others, not to be ministered unto, is the beauty and the glory of the Christian life.

David’s kindness to the son was not only unselfish, it was also according to the covenant with his father. Twenty-two years before, David, fearing the wrath of Saul, made a covenant of friendship with Prince Jonathan, and then fled from the court. That covenant was a holy thing; it sacredly bound both David and Jonathan in life, and even after death: “Thou shalt not only while I yet live show me the kindness of the Lord, but thou shalt not cut off thy kindness frown my house for ever.” All covenants, agreements, bargains, constitutions, except those sinful in themselves, should be most faithfully observed by all the parties who enact or ratify them. One of the characteristics of the man who shall abide in the tabernacle of the Lord and dwell in His holy hill is that he sweareth to his own hurt and changeth not. Fidelity to covenant engagements, whether in daily labour, the mechanic’s shop, the marts of business, the learned professions, whether in pulpit or pew, is one of the very highest virtues of mankind. Be true to your word at the loss of property or even of life itself.

David’s kindness was not only unselfish and according to covenant; it was the kindness of God. “Is there not yet any of the house of Saul that I may show the kindness of God unto him?” Referring to the covenant, we find that Jonathan made David swear that he would show the kindness of the Lord to him and his house. Even the tender mercies of man are cruel. True and unselfish kindness of man to man must have its origin in God--kindness that flows into the human soul from God, and is akin to the kindness of His great and loving heart. Show me not man’s kindness, but the kindness of God. We hear much in these days of the enthusiasm of humanity, and the brotherhood of man; but whence comes this enthusiasm, and who first taught this brotherhood of man? The so-called “natural religions” never inspired in man any love for humanity, and the Christless teachers of the race never proclaimed the brotherhood of man it is simple historic verity to assert that apart from Christ and His religion there has never been any true and lasting humanitarianism on the earth. David had felt in his own soul something of the great and wondrous kindness of God, and this kindness he will show to Jonathan’s crippled son.

The kindness shown was for the sake of another kindness to the son for the father’s sake. How many since David have shown kindness to the children of the old and tried friends of former days for the parents’ sake? Years ago you had a dear friend who stood by you in the darkest hour of your sorest trial, and now he is no more; but his children remain, and how deeply concerned are you in their welfare and happiness? how ready are you to aid them in every possible way, to share in their joys and sympathise in their sorrows, and by word and deed to show the kindness of God to the children for the father’s sake? The child of an old friend is far nearer to us all than the child of the stranger. If the unseen spiritual history of souls could be laid bare to mortal gaze, it would be seen that thousands and tens of thousands of the most active and useful Christians of every age of the Church were saved in virtue of covenanted mercy and pious ancestors. Of many it may be said, as of Timothy, “The unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois and thy mother Eunice.” God has shown His marvellous kindness to many wayward and wicked children for the sake of sainted father or mother--saved, in the infinite mercy of God, by His kindness for another’s sake. God’s covenant of love with the parent abides in all the fulness of Divine blessing for children and children’s children, even unto a thousand generations of such as love Him and keep His covenant and commandments. The kindness of God shown by David to Mephibosheth for the sake of another affords a most striking and beautiful illustration of the method whereby God shows His saving kindness to sinners. We are saved through the infinite mercy and kindness of God bestowed on us abundantly solely for the sake of another, even Jesus Christ our Lord. Kindness to one for another’s sake is the law of Christian service. When we give meat to the hungry and drink to the thirsty, when we clothe the naked ‘and visit the prisoner and minister to the sick, we show the kindness of God unto our brethren for the sake of the Elder Brother, and He recognises the service as rendered unto himself. If in all of our ministries of mercy to the “lame” of body or mind or soul we realised and acted on the principle of thus showing the kindness of God for the sake of our Saviour, how full of joy and blessedness would all our service be! Let each Christian ask himself daily, “Is there yet any one of Adam’s lost race to whoa I may show the kindness of God for my Saviour’s sake?” (A. W. Pitzer, D. D.)

David and Mephibosheth, a faint image of God and the world

The fragment of history of which this chapter is composed may be looked upon in two lights.

1. As supplying a fine illustration of human friendship. Between David and Jonathan there existed a friendship the most tender and strong.

2. As a faint image of Divine love to the world. We are far from regarding David here as a type of the Eternal. I see more of the Eternal in the true kindness of a holy man--such kindness as David now displays--than I can see in any part of material nature. It is a brighter reflection of the Infinite One than stars or suns. I see the sun in the ray;--the dew-drop mirrors the Atlantic.

The Disinterestedness Of The Kindness Is Illustrative Of The Divine.

1. The kindness which David displayed to Mephibosheth was unmerited. Was David under any obligation to show this kindness? Was there any excellence in the son of Jonathan to call it forth? No; David had the affection even before he knew there was such a person. Was God under any obligation to show mercy to the world? or did He see aught of excellence in the world to call it forth? No; if He had left humanity to perish for ever in its sins, no one could have complained. Angels would still have sung on, “Just and right are Thy ways,” &c. Was there an excellence in man to call it forth? No; “God commendeth His love to us in that while we were yet sinners,” &c.

2. The kindness which David showed Mephibosheth was unsought. The son of Jonathan did not make any application;--he did not knock at the door of royalty entreating favour. Did the world seek the gift of Christ? No, for two reasons:--

(1) Because it did not feel the need of a Saviour.

(2) If it had it never could’ have supposed that such a gift was possible. God sent Christ into the world not only without the world’s request, but against the world’s will. “He came to His own, but His own,” &c.

The occasion on which this disinterested kindness was displayed is illustrative of the Divine.

1. The kindness which David showed Mephibosheth was in consideration of some one else. It was “for Jonathan’s sake.” Why all this love to the poor lame youth more than to some one else? Hundreds in the empire perhaps required and desired more than he. Because of Jonathan. Why does God show love to this world more than hell? Hell requires mercy. Because of some One else. Christ is not the cause of God’s love, but He is its channel. All blessings, temporal and spiritual, come through Christ. “He took not on Him the nature of angels,” &c.

2. The kindness which David showed Mephibosheth was on account of some one else who was very near to the heart of the king. You remember David’s wail over Jonathan: “I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan,” &c. How dear is Christ to the Everlasting Father. “Mine Elect, in whom my soul delighteth.” “My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” I do not understand the mysterious connection subsisting between Jesus and the Everlasting Father. My intellect bows reverently before the mystery. But the Bible tells me that it is that of “an only-begotten Son.”

The results which this disinterested kindness realised are illustrative of the divine.

1. It found out Mephibosheth. “Then King David sent and fetched him out of the house of Machir, the son of Ammiel, from Lo-debar.” Christ came to seek and to save; like the man who had lost one of his sheep, the woman her silver, the father his son, the apostles were sent out in search of god’s objects of love. “God’s love searches men out.” Providence, conscience, and the Gospel are His Messengers. (Matthew 22:2-10.)

2. it restored him to his patrimonial inheritance, “I will restore thee all the land,” &c.(2 Samuel 9:7). Thou shalt walk the fields and meadows which thy father often trod. God’s love restores us to our lost possessions. Salvation is “paradise regained.” “All things are yours,” &c.

3. Exalted to distinguished honours. “And thou shalt eat bread at my table continually” (2 Samuel 9:7). “If any man hear My voice, I will come in unto him,” &c.

4. The command of suitable attendants. “Thy sons and thy servants shall till the land for him,” &c. What agents God employs for the objects of His love I “All things work together for good.” “Are they not all ministering spirits?” &c. (Homilist.)

David’s treatment of Mephibosheth

The chapter opens with a question which we should have thought at one period of our study to have been utterly impossible. There is a most subduing melancholy in the inquiry. The king’s own sweet music is lost in that atmosphere. The question sounds hollow, dismal, like a poor voice struggling in a cave of wind. “Is there yet any that is left of the house of Saul?” Can such a house die? Are there influences at work which can crumble the pyramids? “I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree. Yet he passed away,”--a very subtle suggestion of an infinite effect operating continually in human affairs. If questions of this kind were not asked, the heart might sometimes at least secretly wonder whether God be not really partial to the rich and strong and great. He seems to spare the tempest from their roof, and to turn away the wind when it would strike their flocks or their lives. But it is not so. With God there is no respect of persons. “That I may show him kindness” (2 Samuel 9:1). Once leave David to himself, and he blossoms into wonderful grace of character. He never began a war. David was no aggressor. The shepherdly heart was David’s: he began at the sheepcotes, and he never left them as to all high moral pastoral solicitude and love. He was often in war, but always challenged, provoked, defied. A man may add a little to his own respectability by pronouncing judgment on the errors and sins of David. But remember that again and again when the hand of pressure is taken from him he wants to be a shepherd, to do acts of kindness, to go out after that which is lost until he find it. David always saw where another chair could be put to the banqueting-table. He observed how much food was taken away from that table that might have been consumed there by necessity, could that necessity have been discovered and urged by hospitable welcomes to partake of the feast. But can Saul or Jonathan have left any man to whom kindness can be shown? Their sons will be wealthy. The inheritance of such men must be a boundless estate. Quite a sad thing is it to be in such circumstances that nobody can do us a kindness; and sadder still to be supposed to be in such circumstances when in reality we are not. We are effusive in our kindness to people who are lying in the street; but there are many men of really radiant face, and merry life, and joyous, happy, witty speech would be glad of the help of a little child’s hand. They are the men who are to be inquired about. Persons are to be glad that the question may be put to them, Where are such men? They will require to be found at twilight, for they shrink from noonday, and their gloom would make midnight a darkness impenetrable. “For Jonathan’s sake.” It is an honest word. Not “for Saul’s sake” there are some memories we cannot honour; but “for Jonathan’s sake”: there are some memories we can never forget. How the past lives and burns! We can never repay, in the sense of being equal with, any man who ever did us kindness. Kindness is not to be repaid, in the sense of being discharged, struck off the book of memory, and no longer constituting a pious recollection. We cannot pay for our salvation; silver and gold have no place in the region opened by that infinite word: they are terms unknown. Nothing Could be done for Jonathan: he had passed away; but there is always the next best thing to be done. Blessed are they whose quick ingenuity is inspired to find out the next best thing. We cannot do the departed any good, for they have passed beyond the human touch; but we can do deeds to the poor, the ignorant, the out-of-the-way, the suffering, which will be a happy memorial to those we have lost. Take some poor child, open its way in life, and when you have done so set up in your heart’s memory a stone bearing the inscription, “Sacred to the memory of a loving parent.” So write the epitaph of the dead, and the writing shall never be obliterated. “Then King David sent . . . ” (2 Samuel 9:5). What has David to do with such matters now? He is the king. Why should kings stoop to look after obscure subjects? Does not elevation destroy responsibility? Does not a throne excuse from human solicitude and pity? Does not a great public position exonerate a man from care for those he has left behind? The man struggles up through the king: there is a spirit in man, and the inspiration of the Almighty gives him understanding. David was first a man, then a shepherd, then a king; and in proportion as he was fit to be king he cared nothing for his kingship. Mephibosheth was worthy, too, of his father. He quietly accepted his degradation. He was not one of the men who had a grievance and was continually fomenting the people in order to have that grievance remedied. There was no little philosophy in Mephibosheth. He saw how history had gone; he recognised Providence in events, and he had rest in proportion as he had true piety. There are many men in obscurity who ought not to be there when looked upon from a certain point of view. They could easily establish a grievance, and bring an accusation against public policy or social justice. Mephibosheth waited until he was sent for. Blessed are they who can accept their fortunes, and who can call fate by the name of Providence. The great, the eternal truth underlying all this is, that there comes a time when sonship rises above accident. Mephibosheth had come to that happy time. He was Jonathan’s son. True, he was lame; true, he was in an obscure position; true, he had counted himself as little better than a dead dog: but there came a time when sonship was the principal fact of his life. So it shall be in the great search which God makes in His universe for the obscure and the lost, the woebegone and the friendless. (J. Parker, D. D.)

David’s kindness to Mephibosheth

The first, and, perhaps, one of the most obvious lessons is the mutableness of all human affairs.

1. David is on the throne, and none of Saul’s family is left but a lame grandson, who is living in such obscurity, that except to a few faithful and generous adherents, his existence appears to be unknown.

2. And, then, what an illustration of the changefulness of human life we have in the fact that “David said, Is there yet any that is left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” Another illustration of our changeful life is Jonathan. David wishes to show kindness to Saul’s house for Jonathan’s sake. And then, there is Mephibosheth, the obscure orphan, whom David’s affectionate remembrance of his departed friend has brought to light: who was only five years old at the time of his father’s death, and has been ever since dependant on charity. Do we not witness the same change in men’s lives? Monarchs are cast down from their high places, their thrones are overturned, and they are compelled to flee in disguise from their native land. Other men, born in humble circumstances, rise from one position to another till they reach the highest places of power. Some sink from wealth to pauperism; other rise from pauperism to wealth. So rapid is the fall of some, that when you hear of it the words of the poet spring to your lips--

“Ships, wealth, general confidence: all were his;

He counted them at break of day;

And when the sun set, where were they?”

With the same rapidity others rise. We see the good and true die, as the basehearted die; one event happeneth alike to all--to the righteous and to the wicked. The dearest friendships are dissolved; death puts the most close friends far apart. Children that come into the world amid the most auspicious circumstances are oftentimes early deprived of earthly love and care, misfortunes befall them, and while their life is but young and tender, it is nipped in the bud. In all these respects we witness the same mutation as men have witnessed in all former times. The providence of God is uniform in successive ages. “That which hath been is new; and that which is to be hath already been; and God recalleth that which is past.”

A second lesson this narrative teaches us is, the beauty and excellency of faithful friendship. “Is there,” said David, “yet any that is left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” David has been concerned in the establishment of his throne, and the cares and duties of his kingdom. He has had little leisure from State business and war, to attend to matters of a more private nature. But now he remembers the ancient covenant made between him and his friend long dead. “Friendship,” says Jean Paul, “requires action.” Well, here is a befitting action. What strength of expression David employs! He desires to show to the house of Saul, for Jonathan’s sake, “the kindness of God.” In that tender, solemn hour, when the two friends covenanted in the open field, and swore eternal love and faithfulness, Jonathan said to David, “And thou shalt not only while yet I live show me the kindness of the Lord, that I die not, but also thou shalt not cut off thy kindness from my house for ever.” And David sware he would not. The kindness of the Lord! The expression is strong; but it carries with it its own exposition and defence. It was kindness, the covenant of which God was called to witness, and it was kindness cherished in God’s sight and fear, and for His glory. Friendships change. Friends die. But there is one friend that sticketh closer than a brother. Jesus Christ will not neglect nor despise you because you are unfortunate and poor. Your adversities and distresses awaken his tenderest sympathies and compassion, lie knows where you dwell. He sees that there is a “need be” for your present trials. He liveth for evermore.

That this chapter teaches us God’s care for the fatherless, especially the seed of His servants. Mephibosheth was only five years old when his father was slain, His nurse, in her anxiety to escape with him, let him fall, so that he was lame for life. See how God cared for him. Machir, the son of Ammiel, of Lodebar, the same man who in after years joined with Shobi and Barzillai in supplying David and his people with beds and food at Mahanaim, clearly a large-souled, benevolent man, took him into his house and brought him up in his family. Now, as the result of David’s inquiry, the lame, orphan youth is raised to sit at the king’s table. In every age God has shown Himself the Father of the fatherless. Especially does God care for the children of those who love Him; He remembers them for their fathers’ sake. He suffers not all the pains taken to be unrewarded--all the tears shed un-noticed all the prayers offered unheard. “A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children’s children.”

This chapter illustrates the truth that even in this world vice brings its own punishment and virtue its own reward,

1. See from this chapter, how He punishes sin! Saul was proud and disobedient; and God makes that saying good, “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall;” and that other saying, addressed to the guilty monarch personally, “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.”

2. Now mark how God rewards piety on earth! No man serves Him for nought. Follow the career of David. He begins life in the fear of God. Some of his most devout and beautiful psalms appear to have been composed while he was yet a youth. He took care to cleanse his way by a diligent use of God’s word. He loved the exercise of Divine worship. He endeavoured to acquit himself well in all stations. In his father’s house, among his flocks, at court, as Saul’s armour-bearer and companion; in banishment, leading a roving life; on the throne of Israel--everywhere he sought to please God. There is a lesson here conveyed to all. Whatever your position may be, however humble and obscure, discharge its duties in the fear of God. “Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.” May that blessedness be yours and mine! Amen! (W. Walters.)

David and Mephibosheth

It is a proof that the bloody wars in which David had been engaged had not destroyed the tenderness of his heart, that the very chapter which follows the account of his battles opens with a yearning of affection--a longing for an outlet to feelings of kindness. This proceeding of David’s in making inquiry for a fit object of beneficence may afford us a lesson as to the true course of enlightened kindness. Doubtless David had numberless persons applying for a share of his bounty; yet he makes inquiry for a new channel in which it may flow. The most clamorous persons are seldom the most deserving. Enlightened benevolence aims at something higher than the mere relief of passing distress. There are other debts besides money debts it becomes you to look after. In youth, perhaps, you received much kindness from friends and relatives which at the time you could not repay; but now the tables are turned; you are prosperous, they or their families are needy. And these cases are apt to slip out of your mind. It is not always hard-heartedness that makes the prosperous forget the less fortunate; it is often utter thoughtlessness. Thoughtlessness regarding his neighbours is not a poor man’s vice. The empty house is remembered, even though it costs a sacrifice to send it a little of his own scanty supplies. Few men are so hardened as not to feel the obligation to show kindness when that obligation is brought before them.

3. Accustomed to think that his wisest course was to conceal from David his very existence, and looking on him with the dread with which the family of former kings regarded the reigning monarch, he must have come into his presence with a strange mixture of feeling. He had a profound sense of the greatness which David had achieved and the honour implied in his countenance and fellowship. But there was no need for his humbling himself so low. There was no need for him calling himself a dog, a dead dog--the most humiliating image it was possible to find. We should have thought him more worthy of his father if, recognising the high position which David had attained by the grace of God, he had gracefully thanked him for the regard shown to his father’s memory, and shown more of the self-respect which was due to Jonathan’s son. In his subsequent conduct, in the days of David’s calamity, Mephibosheth gave evidence of the same disinterested spirit which had shone so beautifully in Jonathan, but his noble qualities were like a light twinkling among ruins or a jewel glistening in a wreck. Every arrangement was thus made that could conduce to his comfort. His being a cripple did not deprive him of the honour of a place at the royal table, little though he could contribute to the lustre of the palace. The lameness and consequent awkwardness, that would have made many a king ashamed of such an inmate of his palace, only recommended him the more to David. Regard for outward appearances was swallowed up by a higher regard--regard for what was right and true. There is yet another application to be made of this passage in David’s history. We have seen how it exemplifies the duty incumbent on us all to consider whether kindness is not due from us to the friends or the relatives of those who have been helpful to ourselves. This remark is not applicable merely to temporal obligations, but also, and indeed emphatically, to spiritual. We should consider ourselves in debt to those who have conferred spiritual benefits upon us. Should a descendant of Luther or Calvin, of Latimer or Cranmer or Knox, appear among us in need of kindness, what true Protestant would not feel that for what he owed to the fathers it was his duty to show kindness to the children? (W. G. Blaikie, D. D.)

David and Mephibosheth

There is so much Gospel in this quaint incident that I am embarrassed to know where to begin. Whom do Mephibosheth, and David, and Jonathan make you think of?

Mephibosheth, in the first place, stands for the disabled human soul. Lord Byron described sin as a charming recklessness, as a gallantry, as a Don Juan; George Sand describes sin as triumphant in many intricate plots; Gavarini, with his engraver’s knife, also shows sin as a great jocularity; but the Bible presents it as a Mephibosheth, lame on both feet. Sin, like the nurse in the context, attempted to carry us, and let us fall, and we have been disabled, and in our whole moral nature we are decrepit. Sometimes theologians haggle about a technicality. They use the words “total depravity,” and some people believe in the doctrine and some reject it. What do you mean by total depravity? Do you mean that every man is as bad as he can be? Then I do not believe it either. But do you mean that sin has let us fall, that it has disfigured, and disabled, and crippled our entire moral nature until we cannot walk straight, and are lame in both feet? Then I shall admit your proposition. I do not care what the sentimentalists or the poets say in regard to sin; in the name of God I declare to you to-day that sin is disorganisation, disintegration, ghastly disfiguration, hobbling deformity.

Mephibosheth stands for the disabled human soul humbled and restored. When this invalid of my text got a command to come to King David’s palace be trembled. The fact was that the grandfather of Mephibosheth had treated David most shockingly, and now Mephibosheth says to himself: “What does the king want of me? Isn’t it enough that I am lame? Is he going to destroy my life? Is he going to wreak on me the vengeance which he holds towards my grandfather Saul? It’s too bad.” But go to the palace Mephibosheth must, since the king has commanded it. With staff and crutches, and helped by his friends, I see Mephibosheth going up the stairs of the palace. Consider the analogy. When the command is given from the palace of heaven to the human soul to come, the soul begins to tremble. It says: “What is God going to do with me now? Is He going to destroy me? Is He going to wreak His vengeance upon me?” My friend, we come out with our prayers and sympathies to help you up to the palace. If you want to get to the palace you may get there. Start now. The Holy Spirit will help you. All you have to do is just to throw yourself on your face at the feet of the King, as Mephibosheth did.

Mephibosheth stands for the disabled human soul saved for the sake of another. Mephibosheth would never have got into the palace on his own account. Why did David ransack the realm to find that poor man, and then bestow upon him a great fortune, and command a farmer by the name of Ziba to culture the estate and give to this invalid Mephibosheth half the proceeds every year? Why did King David make such a mighty stir about a poor fellow who would never be of any use to the throne of Israel? It was for Jonathan’s sake. It was what Robert Burns calls for “auld lang syne.” David could not forget what Jonathan had done for him in other days. Now, it is on that principle that you and I are to get into the King’s palace. The most important part of every prayer is the last three words of it--“For Christ’s sake.” They are the most important part of the prayer. When in earnestness you go before God and say, “For Christ’s sake,” it rolls in, as it were, upon God’s mind all the memories of Bethlehem, and Gennesaret, and Golgotha. If there is anything in all the universe that will move God to an act of royal benefaction, it is to say, “For Christ’s sake.” If a little child should kneel behind God’s throne and should say, “For Christ’s sake,” the great Jehovah would turn around on His throne to look at her and listen. No prayer ever gets to heaven but for Christ’s sake. No soul is ever comforted but for Christ’s sake. The world will never be redeemed but for Christ’s sake.

Mephibosheth stands for the disabled human soul lifted to the King’s table. It was more difficult in those times even than it is now for common men to get into a royal dining-room. The subjects might have come around the rail of the palace and might have seen the lights kindled, and might have heard the clash of the knives and the rattle of the golden goblets, but not got in. Stout men with stout feet could not get in once in all their lives to one banquet, yet poor Mephibosheth goes in, lives there, and is every day at the table. Oh, what a getting up in the world for poor Mephibosheth! Well, though you and I may be wofully tamed with sin, for our Divine Jonathan’s sake, I hope we will all get in to dine with the King. O, my soul, what a magnificent Gospel! It takes a man so low down and raises him so high! What a Gospel! Come, now, who wants to be banqueted and empalaced? I come out now as the messenger of the palace to invite Mephibosheth to come up. I am here to-day to tell you that God has a wealth of kindness to bestow upon you for His Son’s sake. The doors of the palace are open to receive you. The cupbearers have already put the chalices on the table, and the great, loving, tender sympathetic heart of God bends over you this moment, saying: “Is there any that is yet left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jesus’ sake?” (T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)

Kindness to Jonathan’s son

It appears from the story that David had never known of his existence, or had forgotten it in the stress of his anxieties and struggles. The boy was born after he and Jonathan parted from each other in the wood at Ziph, and so completely had he been kept out of the way that the courtiers at Jerusalem could only summon Ziba--a prosperous servant of Soul’s family--to ask him the question David proposed. There was every reason for keeping him in concealment. Oriental fashions would have prompted a new king to kill all surviving members of a rival household, and David might destroy the possible claimant. David, no doubt, looked forward with tremulous eagerness to the coming of Jonathan’s son. He already loved him. He looked eagerly upon the cripple prostrate before him, “longing for the touch of a vanished hand and the sound of a voice that is still.” It requires no stretch of imagination to see in Mephibosheth many excellent qualities. This modest, humble, loyal youth had inherited something of his father’s generous spirit. He was perfectly content to be as his father, in a place second to David’s. He was, in a sense, entitled to the throne. He might easily have been made a claimant for it by soured politicians, who would have rallied round his supposed interests to advance their own. History is full of such instances. Mephibosheth chose, and kept in perfect obscurity. Physical deformity has a varied effect upon the sufferer. It embitters some against God and man. Lord Byron seems to have been made miserable by his lameness. Shakespeare represents King Richard

as full of rage at his misfortunes, and determined to work mischief.

“I, that am curtailed of this fair proportion,

Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,
Have no delight to pass away the time,
Unless to spy my shadow in the sun,
And descant on mine own deformity.

I am determined to prove a villain.”

But, on the other hand, grace sometimes compensates for nature’s lack. Multitudes will approach the study of this chapter, wondering what there is in it worthy their time and of the Bible itself.

But it teaches us a few valuable lessons. Let us note among them how--

It corrects our estimate of what we call small deeds. David did a great many notable things that impress us far more than this one; but it is just here that we see far into his true character. The Bible makes this record because of its importance in the portraiture of a great character, and our estimate of it will be a test of our own spirit. Is there not something here worth remembering and copying? What is to come up at the judgment-day as the ground of our acceptance, but trifling deeds of love done spontaneously and soon forgotten, simply because they were the natural outworking of our dispositions? The story is told of a Russian soldier exposed to intense cold while on duty as a sentinel. A poor working man, going home, took off his coat and gave it to him for his protection. That night the sentinel perished. Not long after the working man was brought to his deathbed, and fell into a slumber, in which he dreamed that he saw Jesus wearing his old coat. “You have my coat on,” he said to him. “Yes,” was the answer of the Lord. “You gave it to me the cold night I was a sentinel in the forest. Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

This story illustrates the humaneness of the whole Bible. It balances some of the recorded cruelties of the early ages. Now, the world is full of inequalities, selfishness, and strife for place and power and of forgotten friends. Hence it needs, early and late, the lessons of love, the lessons that show us the obligations of friendship, no matter what the relative position of the friends may come to he, and the claims of the children upon the friends of their parents. This, the Bible tells us, was one of the great acts of David’s life. The whole world responds to a touch of humanity, and the Bible is for the whole world. That spirit is cultivated by it which led Webster to remember his early neighbours when he came to greatness and power; which led Governor Andrew to say, “I never despised a man because he was ignorant or because he was poor or because he was black.” No one illustrates it as Christ Himself does, in Whom dwells all the fulness of the Godhead. This narrative proves that--

The kindness of man to man is a godlike quality. David gives two reasons for finding Jonathan’s son: first, his old covenant, which included the children of both parties; and, second, the Divine law of love. He wished to show “the kindness of God” to Mephibosheth. The phrase, “kindness of God” may be taken to mean either the kindness God requires of man or shows to man. Robert-son Smith says (“Prophets of Israel”) that it is not necessary to distinguish between Jehovah’s kindness to Israel, which we should call his grace, or Israel’s duty of kindness to Jehovah, which we should call piety, and the relation between man and man, which embraces the duties of love and mutual consideration. To the Hebrew mind these three are essentially one, and all are comprised in the same covenant. As Portia says:--

“We do pray for mercy,

And that same prayer doth teach us all to render

The deeds of mercy.”

Christian love alone will enable us to show one another the “kindness of God.” David uses this beautiful expression, “kindness of God;” but his ideas of it were extremely limited as compared with those we find all through the Gospels. He showed kindness towards his old friend’s son. There is pathos and gentleness and a right royal spirit in his act. We cannot., with Christ on the cross before us, construe our duties and our privileges as men once did before he read the law anew and told us its real meaning. In Christ God Himself has come down. He has sought out the lame, the halt, the blind, the paralytic, the forgotten, the dead in trespasses and sins. A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoking flax He will not quench. He devises means by which His banished may not be expelled from Him. This is God’s kindness, leading to sacrifice for the fallen and the perishing. This is the love of God towards men. By the work of the Holy Spirit this love becomes the possession of men. (Monday Club Sermons.)


Mephibosheth resembles the sinner and his salvation:--

He was an enemy to the king, not the king his enemy.

Was sought in his indifference.

Received in his deformity.

Received for the sake of another.

Received a rich inheritance.

Received into daily fellowship with the king. (Homilist.)

The kindness of God

In the first place, we have here a splendid instance of that “charity which suffereth long, and is kind.” This is certainly not the manner of men, not the rule of the world, as we have to deal with it, and as we note its character and policy from day to day. It was the manner of Christ, who commanded only that which He Himself performed, whose worshipper David then was, and who had received into his heart the disposition of charity, which must be found with every true follower of the forgiving and merciful Saviour.

We cannot hide it from our reflections that this purpose or act of David was undertaken at a late period in his history, A long interval had passed since his escape out of trouble, by the death of Saul--fully fifteen years; and eight of these were spent in possession of the throne of Israel, as well as that of Judah. After so long a time, at the very least eight years of perfect freedom from all the emergencies which arose from the pretensions of Saul’s family to the government--after so long a time it is that he enters upon the work of charity. Here was no false shame, but diligent and anxious inquiry, proving that necessity alone had caused the previous delay of kindness. If we doubt this, be it remembered that the law of common life is to forget favours, but never injuries; seldom to requite the former, but most usually the latter. “Nevertheless the chief butler remembered not Joseph, but forgot him.” We may take this passage as a general expression of human deportment. In the present case, time had not effaced the memory of Jonathan’s friendship, nor did any extraordinary incident cause its sudden revival. Hence we must view it as an act of serious deliberation, and, in this form, it speaks to us with much solemnity. There are many stirring persuasives, and imperative compulsions to Christian piety, which carry us along, perforce, in the way of obedience. But here was no immediate appeal to passion, no interposition of witness, none to applaud, none to condemn--calmly, deliberately, on principle alone, the past is considered, and the duty is determined on.

1. So should we meditate and act as rational Christians. We may possess true piety, but yet a piety which is nourished by continual excitement, by a restless temperament, which seeks insatiably after enterprise and events, to maintain its own fire of enthusiasm.

2. We must be Christians on principle, and when the world is shut out, and every external persuasion to godliness removed, we must find the soul within determined on the service of the Lord.

3. We must be deliberating Christians. We should trace over the years that are past, to mourn for our positive transgressions, to derive from them fresh abhorrence of evil.

We may now take into account the reference made in the text to the early friendship which existed between Jonathan and David. Some fifteen or sixteen years had elapsed since the interruption of that friendship occurred, by the unhappy death of Jonathan. Yet David’s heart yearns after his departed friend, his love is as ardent as ever.

1. True friendship--Christian friendship, must suffer nothing from time, or absence, or separation. It must outlast all, and if it experience any change--change only to improvement in strength and purity.

2. Next, it must bear upon and include all relations. It is but a mockery of friendship, if we pretend to love a man in one consideration alone, and will net serve him in all his wants and circumstances. If he need our labour for his temporal good, he must have it as well as our spiritual kindness.

In the text we have the quality and degree of the favours which were intended.

1. Primarily, the phrase signifies that here was no spontaneous movement of generosity, but the fulfilling of a bond--the observance of an obligation mutually imposed between David and his friend, prior to his final flight from the house of Saul.

2. The kindness here mentioned requires some farther notice with regard to its extent, as it is called the kindness of God. His kindness extends from generation to generation, even to a “thousand generations of them who love Him and keep His commandments. After looking thus closely on holy friendship as enduring and extensive, we must not omit its quality, the regulation of its acts, prescribed by the expletive--the “kindness of God.” Its acts are like the acts of Divine benevolence, ever for the true good of the object. This you understand by the contrast which the false friendships of the world present. Men make leagues and covenants of amity offensive and defensive, for mutual advantage, the furtherance of gain, the increase of pleasure, the successful prosecution of guilty purposes. There is a friendship here, no doubt, and sometimes a durable one, but it is like the wisdom of this world, earthly, sensual, devilish. Finally, we may take the phrase as the Hebrew form of the superlative degree, signifying the utmost kindness, and here our research upon the subject must end. This sacred friendship sanctions such a kindness, such an extreme or superlative one, when occasion requires it. (C. M. Fleury, A. M.)


1. We have no reason to think that Mephibosheth had any special ability to advise in affairs of state, or that David needed any adviser. He had done nothing to attract the king’s notice, and in fact his very existence seems to have been unknown to him till special enquiry was made for any representatives of the fallen house that had survived the fatal day. He certainly was no ornament at the king’s table. But he was there

(1) Because of the covenant David had made with Jonathan. Jonathan, knowing well that David would reign, had secured his oath in favour of his seed. That oath David held sacred, and now upon the poor cripple he lavished the love that used to be given to Jonathan.

(2) Because of the abounding grace of David. The letter of the covenant might by many have been thought sufficiently kept in merely sparing the lives of Jonathan’s descendants, but as David had made the covenant in love he now fulfils it with love. Going far beyond the letter he restores to Mephibosheth the estates which had belonged to the house of Saul; thus securing to him a princely revenue. Then he set him among princes by appointing him a position at the royal table. So should it be done to the man whom the king delighted to honour! In this honoured cripple we may see ourselves, lost and ruined by the fall, helpless, unworthy, living quietly without God, fearing Him rather than desiring Him, till divine mercy sought us out and found us. Not for our sake but for Christ’s sake, for the Covenant’s sake, sealed with the blood of atonement, mercy has been extended to us: and this in no grudging spirit.

2. What return Mephibosheth made for his privileges. What silver and gold he had he derived from the king’s bounty. He was incapable of military or state service. He could only love the king, and this he did. When David fled from Jerusalem he left at least one true heart behind him, and when lie returned a pitiful spectacle met his eyes, Mephibosheth had neither dressed his feet, nor trimmed his beard, nor changed his clothes, since the king fled; the days of the King’s absence had been to him days of mourning. If tie could not show his love in one way he could in another. What return are we making to our King? We may often vainly wish that we were able to do something really great for Him. But from Mephibosheth let us learn--

“To do what we can, being what we are,

To shine like a glow-worm, if we cannot like a star.”

Let us love our King with our whole heart, and that love will be ingenious in finding its own modes of expression. It is not want of opportunity or ability, but too often want of real love that occasions so great a lack of the ready service that should be rendered to our King. (C. O. Eldridge, B. A.)

Early friendship remembered

Agrippa I. (Acts 12:1) had been in earlier years on terms of friendship with Caligula, the grandson of Tiberius, and having offended the emperor, thereupon was thrown into prison and a chain put upon him. When Caligula became emperor, he not only released and promoted Agrippa, but gave him a golden chain equal in weight to the one he had worn in prison. Lord. Grey and the Rev. Sydney Smith had long been friends; but the latter was very poor, and his noble friend was unable to secure for him a better living. As soon, however, as Lord Grey became Prime Minister, he is said to have exclaimed, “Now, I can do something for Sydney Smith!” And he did.

Kindness shown for the love of another

In the late Crimean War, I have heard that a New York merchant helped every youth that might come to him bearing the uniform of his son. This he had, however, to stop, but on one occasion a young man walked into his office, at first to receive a blunt refusal, but the youth produced a note and handed it to the merchant, which ran something like the following: “The bearer of this note has come home to die. He has been fighting in the front with me. Do all you can for him. Call in a nurse, and let him have my room. Engage the family physician. For Charlie’s sake.” Needless to say that the father’s heart was opened at once. What he had done brought: but the plea of the boy. So it is, through the plea of God’s son, we have been spared, and mercy and forgiveness are offered. (Newton Jones.)

Grateful memories expressed in deeds

An interesting story is told of Dr. Livingstone and of the respect which his courage in going about unarmed inspired among the Arabs. “On one occasion,” a traveller Says, “I” was for two days the guest of an Arab chief near the south end of Tanganyika, who had formerly been a famous slave-trader. I had a good deal of conversation with him regarding Livingstone, whom he had known intimately. III taking leave of him I thanked him for his hospitality, when he replied, ‘For the sake of the Doctor.’”

For Christ’s sake

Sir Henry Burdett, perhaps the greatest living authority upon hospitals and their working, has recently said concerning nurses: “Those trained in religious institutions are the best from the patients’ point of view. The religious idea embodies devotion to duty, abnegation of self, concentration upon the case in hand, and a determination to do everything possible for the patient’s welfare. To such a nurse the patient is always a human being, not merely a case--which makes all the difference. They are women, and not mere money-making machines.” Is not this the secret of all true helpfulness to others? “For Christ’s sake” is the only motive that will outlast all temptation to weariness, to abandoning our service in disappointment or despair. The service of man is, in its highest and best, only possible as it is also the service of God. (H. O. Mackey.)

For another’s sake

In a historic sketch of Robert Bruce, king of Scotland, occurs this paragraph: King Robert was now alone, and he left the cottage very sorrowful for the death of his foster-brother, and took himself in the direction toward where he had directed his men to assemble after their dispersion. It was now near night, and, the place of meeting being a farmhouse, he went boldly into it, where he found the mistress, an old true-hearted Scotch-woman, sitting alone. Upon seeing a stranger enter, she asked him who and what he was. The king answered that he was a traveller, who was journeying through the country. “All travellers,” answered the good woman, “are welcome here for the sake of one.” “And who is that one,” said the king, “for whose sake you make all travellers welcome?” “It is our lawful King Robert the Bruce,” answered the mistress, “who is the rightful lord of this country; and, although he is now pursued and hunted after with hounds and horns, I hope to live to see him king over all Scotland.” “For the sake of one,” and that One Jesus, as a motto in our Church life. How it would smooth the way for doing effective work for God and souls, if for His sake we would be charitable, long-suffering, kind, not criticising, but helpful.

Physical imperfections

In Count Tolstoi’s “Childhood, Boyhood, and Youth,” he tells us that he felt deep pain when at the early age of six years, he heard his mother confess that he was only a plain homely boy. “I fancied,” he says, “that there was no happiness on earth for a person with such a wide nose, such thick lips, and such small grey eyes as I had: I besought God to work a miracle, to turn me into a beauty, and all I had in the present, or might have in the future, I would give in exchange for a handsome face.” Yet there is something far more beautiful than these in that rugged face: the deep impress of great moral and spiritual power.

Verse 9

2 Samuel 9:9

I will give unto thy master’s son all that pertained to Saul and to all his house,

A lost inheritance recovered

When Warren Hastings was a boy he had to grieve at the fact that his family had lost their paternal estate at Dayleford, and he formed an early resolution of bringing it back once again into the family.

To purchase that forfeited estate became to him a great ambition of his life, and he ultimately succeeded: he bought back the estate, and died at Daylesford. But no such possibility lay before the disinherited prince Mephibosheth. As far as his own achievements go, he must live and die alienated from his ancestral possessions. What, however, is impossible to Mephibosheth to achieve is not beyond the grace of David freely to bestow, and thus the grant of Saul’s patrimony to his forlorn and impoverished grandson is analogous to the method of Divine grace whereby, in Christ, the lost station and purity of Adam are restored to us who have inherited his fallen condition (Charles Deal.)


Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "2 Samuel 9". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tbi/2-samuel-9.html. 1905-1909. New York.
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