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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature


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Mephib´osheth (extermination of idols; also in , merib-baal), son of Jonathan and nephew of Saul (). He was only five years of age when his father and grandfather were slain in Mount Gilboa: and on the news of this catastrophe, the woman who had charge of the child, apprehending that David would exterminate the whole house of Saul, fled away with him; but in her hasty flight she stumbled with the child, and lamed him for life (B.C. 1055). Under this calamity, which was very incapacitating in times when agility and strength were of prime importance, Mephibosheth was unable to take any part in the stirring political events of his early life. According to our notions, he should have been the heir of the house of Saul; but in those times a younger son of an actual king was considered to have at least as good a claim as the son of an heir apparent who had never reigned, and even a better claim if the latter were a minor. This, with his lameness, prevented Mephibosheth from ever appearing as the opponent or rival of his uncle Ishbosheth on the one hand, or of David on the other (2 Samuel 9). He thus grew up in quiet obscurity in the house of Machir, one of the great men of the country beyond the Jordan (; ); and his very existence was unknown to David till that monarch, when firmly-settled in his kingdom, inquired whether any of the family of Jonathan survived, to whom he might show kindness for his father's sake. Hearing then of Mephibosheth from Ziba, who had been the royal steward under Saul, he invited him to Jerusalem, assigned him a place at his own table, and bestowed upon him lands, which were managed for him by Ziba, and which enabled him to support an establishment suited to his rank. He lived in this manner till the revolt of Absalom, and then David, in his flight, having noticed the absence of Mephibosheth, inquired for him of Ziba, and being informed that he had remained behind in the hope of being restored to his father's throne, instantly and very hastily revoked the grant of land and bestowed it on Ziba (). Afterwards, on his return to Jerusalem, he was met with sincere congratulations by Mephibosheth, who explained that being lame he had been unable to follow the king on foot, and that Ziba had purposely prevented his beast from being made ready to carry him: and he declared that so far from having joined in heart, or even appearance, the enemies of the king, he had remained as a mourner, and, as his appearance declared, had not changed his clothes, or trimmed his beard, or even dressed his feet, from the day that the king departed to that on which he returned. David could not but have been sensible that he had acted wrong, and ought to have been touched by the devotedness of his friend's son, and angry at the imposition of Ziba; but to cover one fault by another, or from indifference, or from reluctance to offend Ziba, who had adhered to him when so many old friends forsook him, he answered coldly, 'Why speakest thou any more of thy matters? I have said, thou and Ziba divide the land.' The reply of Mephibosheth was worthy of the son of the generous Jonathan:—'Yea, let him take all; forasmuch as my lord the king is come again in peace unto his own house' ().

We hear no more of Mephibosheth, except that David was careful that he should not be included in the savage vengeance which the Gibeonites were suffered to execute upon the house of Saul for the great wrong they had sustained during his reign (). Another Mephibosheth, a son of Saul by his concubine Rizpah, was, however, among those who suffered on that occasion ().





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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Mephibosheth'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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