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Bible Dictionaries

Fausset's Bible Dictionary


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1. Saul's son by Rizpah (2 Samuel 21:8); "crucified" (yaqah; not talah , which would mean "hanged up") with six others before Jehovah by the Gibeonites to avert the famine; from barley harvest until the rains of October the bodies remained exposed to the sun (compare Numbers 25:4), but watched by Rizpah's pious care, and finally were committed to Kish's sepulchre.

2. Saul's grandson, son of Jonathan. Originally Merib-baal, an ancestor being named Baal (1 Chronicles 8:30; 1 Chronicles 8:33; 1 Chronicles 8:24; 1 Chronicles 9:36). (See ISHBOSHETH; JERUBBAAL.) When Saul and Jonathan fell at Gilboa Mephibosheth was but five years old. His nurse at the sad tidings took him up and fled; in her haste she let him fall from her shoulders (Josephus Ant., vii. 5, section 5), whereon children in the East are carried, and he became lame of both feet (2 Samuel 4:4; 2 Samuel 9:13). He had been for a considerable time living in obscurity with Machir in Lodebar beyond Jordan, near Mahanaim, his uncle Ishbosheth's seat of government, when David through Ziba heard of him, and for the sake of Jonathan, and his promise respecting Jonathan's seed (1 Samuel 20:15; 1 Samuel 20:42), restored to him all the land of Saul and admitted him to eat bread at his table at Jerusalem continually. (See MACHIR.)

Ziba, from being a menial of Saul's house, had managed to become master himself of 20 servants; with these and his 15 sons he, by David's command, tilled the land for Mephibosheth, for though Mephibosheth was henceforth David's guest, and needed no provision, he had a son Micha (1 Samuel 9; 1 Chronicles 8:34-35) and a retinue to maintain as a prince. His deformity, added to the depression of Saul's family, produced in him an abject fear and characteristic humility which are expressed in a manner sad to read of when one remembers the bygone greatness of Saul's house. It is a retribution in kind that the representative of Saul's family now calls himself before David by the contemptuous title which once David in self abasement used before Saul, "dead dog" (2 Samuel 9:8; 1 Samuel 24:14).

The same depressed spirit appears in 2 Samuel 19:26-28. Seventeen years subsequently, in Absalom's rebellion, Ziba rendered important service to David by meeting him as he crossed Olivet, with two strong "he donkeys" (chamor ) ready saddled for the king's use, bread, raisins, fruits, and wine. With shrewd political forecast, guessing the failure of the rebellion, Ziba gained David's favor at the cost of Mephibosheth, whom he misrepresented as staying at Jerusalem in expectation of regaining the kingdom (2 Samuel 16:1-4). David in hasty credulity (Proverbs 18:13; John 7:51 on the spot assigned all Mephibosheth's property to Ziba. On David's return to Jerusalem Mephibosheth made known the true state of the case, that Ziba had deceived him when he desired to saddle the donkey and go to the king, and had slandered him (2 Samuel 19:24-30). His squalid appearance, with unwashed feet, unattended beard, and soiled clothes, indicating the deepest mourning ever since the king departed, attested his truthfulness.

David saw his error, but had not the courage to rectify it altogether. Ziba's service to him in his extremity outweighed his perfidy to Mephibosheth. Impatiently (for conscience told him he had been unjust to Mephibosheth and still was only half just) David replied, "why speakest thou any more of thy matters? Thou and Ziba divide the land." Mephibosheth had everything to lose and nothing to gain from Absalom's success. A cripple and a Benjamite could never dream of being preferred by Judah to the handsome Absalom; interest and gratitude bound him to David. Ziba had it completely in his power to leave him unable to stir from Jerusalem during the rebellion, by taking away the asses; the king and his friends were gone. So not merely servility, but sincere satisfaction at David's return, prompted his reply: "let Ziba take all, forasmuch as my lord is come again in peace." David's non-mention of Mephibosheth on his death bed is doubtless because Mephibosheth had died in the eight years that intervened between David's return and his death.

Mephibosheth typifies man once son of the King; then having lost his right by the fall, as Mephibosheth did by Saul's and Jonathan's death at Gilboa. Bearing a name of reproach like Mephibosheth, instead of his name of innocence; banished to the outskirts of the moral wilderness, like Mephibosheth in Lodebar; liable to perish by the sword of justice, as Saul's other sons (2 Samuel 21); paralyzed by original sin, as Mephibosheth lamed from infancy in both feet; invited by the Lord and Savior, after having spoiled principalities, to sit down at the royal table (Matthew 8:11; Revelation 19:7; Revelation 19:9), as Mephibosheth was by David after conquering all his foes, on the ground of the everlasting covenant (Jeremiah 31:3); as David regarded Mephibosheth because of his covenant with Jonathan (1 Samuel 20:15; 1 Samuel 20:42). Fear is man's first feeling in the Lord's presence (Luke 5:8); but He reassures the trembling sinner (Isaiah 43:1; Revelation 2:7), as David did Mephibosheth, restoring him to a princely estate.

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Bibliography Information
Fausset, Andrew R. Entry for 'Mephibosheth'. Fausset's Bible Dictionary. 1949.

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