2 Samuel 9:1–13comment (0)
August 12, 2010
By James Barnette
Related Scripture: 2 Samuel 9:1–13
Bible Studies for Life
Associate Professor, Department of Religion, Samford University
2 Samuel 9:1–13
Determine to Show Kindness (1–3)
The introduction of Mephibosheth at the outset of this passage highlights the fact that Saul’s descendants posed a potential threat to David and his dynastic line. Under similar circumstances, it was common for the ruler of a new dynasty to exterminate the entire house of his predecessor. However, by the time of this episode, most of Saul’s descendants were completely gone. A key theme to this story is David’s practice of hesed, the rich Hebrew term meaning “lovingkindness” or “covenant faithfulness.” Three times in verses 1–8 this word is used. David had promised hesed toward Saul and Jonathan and intended to follow through on these oaths. David’s initial motive for seeking out Mephibosheth was not to show sympathy to a poor, lame person but rather to honor Jonathan, Mephibosheth’s father. David practiced this covenant-based kindness “for Jonathan’s sake” (1 Sam. 20:11–17). Mephibosheth was 5 years old when his father died in battle (2 Sam. 4:4), so he was now about 21 years old and had a son of his own. David could not show kindness to Jonathan at this point, so he sought out one of Jonathan’s relatives to whom he could offer his care. One cannot help but liken this to the Son of David, Jesus, who sought us out that we might experience the hesed of His grace. As David made the first move to surprise a lowly, lame person with grace, so Jesus made the first move to surprise us when He brought us out of our darkness into His marvelous light.
Seek Opportunities to Show Kindness (4–6)
David learned of a candidate to receive his kindness from Ziba, a well-to-do servant of Saul’s household who apparently managed the former king’s estate. Ziba informed David that there was “still a son of Jonathan” living with a wife and son in self-imposed exile at the house of a man named Makir. Mention of the detail that this son of Jonathan was crippled was perhaps reported to explain to David why he had never heard of him. Or it is possible that his handicap was mentioned to assure David that the man was no political or military threat. It is noteworthy that the man’s name is not mentioned at this point. He is a no-name. He is someone who appears not to matter, yet he becomes entitled to the house of David. Once again, we cannot help but apply this to ourselves as undeserving no-names who become entitled to Christ’s inheritance. The lame young man understandably was terrified by the sudden summons to appear before the king. Mephibosheth inquired as to what King David would have to do with a “dead dog” like himself. He was utterly defenseless. Henlee Barnette, the leading Southern Baptist ethicist of his generation, was once asked what he had learned through all of his studies in Christian ethics. Barnette replied, “You can measure the character of someone by how he or she responds to a defenseless person.” Here, then, David displayed the high character marked by kindness toward a frail, powerless soul.
Practice Kindness (7–13)
David’s words “eat at my table” are found four times in these verses. In spite of Mephibosheth’s self-designation as a “dead dog,” he now would be treated as one of David’s sons. Many have theorized as to why this chapter closes oddly with a reiteration of the fact that Mephibosheth was “crippled in both feet.” Some have suggested that the concluding line was a reminder that Mephibosheth was disqualified from leading a separatist movement. A more likely reason for its presence is to spotlight the kindness of David toward one who does not appear to deserve such extravagant treatment. A heretofore “nobody” was now given the grace of eating at the king’s table. Another key theme of this passage is the kingship of David. The name “David” is used at least six times in the chapter; several times he is referred to as “the king” and “King David.” No one but King David could have shown such extravagant kindness to a lowly, lame man like Mephibosheth. One cannot help but liken this fact to the Son of David who is King of all kings. No one has such riches to dispense to lowly, lame sinners like us except the King who sits on the throne of heaven.