Meet Mephibosheth: Son of Jonathan Adopted by David

Mephibosheth Was Saved by a Christlike Act of Compassion

Mephibosheth
King David's Kindness to Mephibosheth. Public Domain

Mephibosheth, one of the many incidental characters in the Old Testament, served as a poignant metaphor for redemption and restoration by Jesus Christ.

Who Was Mephibosheth in the Bible?

He was a son of Jonathan and also the grandson of King Saul, Israel's first king. When Saul and his sons died in battle at Mount Gilboa, Mephibosheth was only five years old. His nurse picked him up and was fleeing, but in her haste she dropped him, injuring both his feet and making him lame for life.

Many years later, David had become king and inquired about any descendants of King Saul. Instead of planning to kill the previous king's line, as was the custom in those days, David wanted to honor them, in memory of his friend Jonathan and out of respect for Saul.

Saul's servant Ziba told him of Jonathan's son Mephibosheth, who was living in Lo Debar, which means "land of nothing." David summoned Mephibosheth to court:

“Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table.” (2 Samuel 9:7, NIV)

Eating at the king's table meant not only enjoying the best food in the country, but also falling under royal protection as a friend of the ruler. Having his grandfather's land restored to him was an unheard-of kindness.

So Mephibosheth, who referred to himself as a "dead dog," lived in Jerusalem and ate at the king's table, like one of David's sons.

Saul's servant Ziba was ordered to farm Mephibosheth's land and bring in the crops.

This arrangement continued until David's son Absalom rebelled against him and tried to seize the throne. While fleeing with his men, David encountered Ziba, who was leading a caravan of donkeys laden with food for David's household.

Ziba claimed Mephibosheth was staying in Jerusalem, hoping the rebels would return Saul's kingdom to him.

Taking Ziba at his word, David turned over all Mephibosheth's holdings to Ziba. When Absalom died and the rebellion was crushed, David returned to Jerusalem and found Mephibosheth telling a different story. The disabled man said Ziba had betrayed him and slandered him to David. Unable to determine the truth, David ordered Saul's lands divided between Ziba and Mephibosheth.

The final mention of Mephibosheth occurred after a three-year famine. God told David it was on account of Saul slaughtering the Gibeonites. David called their leader in and asked how he could make amends to the survivors.

They asked for seven of Saul's descendants so they could execute them. David turned them over, but one man he spared, the son of Jonathan, the grandson of Saul: Mephibosheth.

Accomplishments of Mephibosheth

Mephibosheth managed to stay alive—no small accomplishment for a disabled man and grandson of a deposed king—many years after Saul was killed.

Strengths of Mephibosheth

He was humble to the point of being self-abasing about his claims on Saul's legacy, calling himself a "dead dog." When David was absent from Jerusalem escaping Absalom, Mephibosheth neglected his personal hygiene, a sign of mourning and loyalty to the king.

Mephibosheth's Weaknesses

In a culture based on personal strength, the lame Mephibosheth thought his disability rendered him worthless.

Life Lessons

David, a man of many serious sins, showed Christlike compassion in his relationship with Mephibosheth. Readers of this story should see their own helplessness to save themselves. While they rightfully deserve to be condemned to hell for their sins, instead they are rescued by Jesus Christ, adopted into the family of God, and all their legacy restored. 

References to Mephibosheth in the Bible

2 Samuel 4:4, 9:6-13, 16:1-4, 19:24-30, 21:7.

Family Tree

Father: Jonathan
Grandfather: King Saul
Son: Mika

Key Verses

2 Samuel 9:8
Mephibosheth bowed down and said, “What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?”  (NIV)

2 Samuel 19:26-28
He said, “My lord the king, since I your servant am lame, I said, ‘I will have my donkey saddled and will ride on it, so I can go with the king.’ But Ziba my servant betrayed me.

And he has slandered your servant to my lord the king. My lord the king is like an angel of God; so do whatever pleases you. All my grandfather’s descendants deserved nothing but death from my lord the king, but you gave your servant a place among those who eat at your table. So what right do I have to make any more appeals to the king?” (NIV)

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Fairchild, Mary. "Meet Mephibosheth: Son of Jonathan Adopted by David." ThoughtCo, Apr. 6, 2017, thoughtco.com/mephibosheth-profile-4136180. Fairchild, Mary. (2017, April 6). Meet Mephibosheth: Son of Jonathan Adopted by David. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/mephibosheth-profile-4136180 Fairchild, Mary. "Meet Mephibosheth: Son of Jonathan Adopted by David." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/mephibosheth-profile-4136180 (accessed May 21, 2018).