Mephibosheth and Ziba


Today's passage actually comes from two places in 2 Samuel. Our story returns to Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan, grandson of Saul, and his servant Ziba. Ziba takes care of Mephibosheth’s land and resources as he is unable to do so himself due to his crippled legs. I have included both bookends of this story even though they appear a couple of chapters apart. The second reading comes from 2 Samuel 19 and concludes this story of court intrigue and the constant desire for power.

2 Samuel 16:1-4
1 When David had passed a little beyond the summit, Ziba the servant of Mephibosheth met him, with a couple of donkeys saddled, bearing two hundred loaves of bread, a hundred bunches of raisins, a hundred of summer fruits, and a skin of wine.
2 And the king said to Ziba, “Why have you brought these?” Ziba answered, “The donkeys are for the king’s household to ride on, the bread and summer fruit for the young men to eat and the wine for those who faint in the wilderness to drink.”
3 And the king said, “And where is your master’s son?” Ziba said to the king, “Behold, he remains in Jerusalem, for he said, ‘Today the house of Israel will give me back the kingdom of my father.’ ”
4 Then the king said to Ziba, “Behold, all that belonged to Mephibosheth is now yours.” And Ziba said, “I pay homage; let me ever find favor in your sight, my lord the king.”

We will discuss what happens in between these two readings in up-coming days. For now, know that David has returned to Jerusalem having conquered those who would overthrow him as king.

2 Samuel 19:24-30
24 And Mephibosheth the son of Saul came down to meet the king. He had neither taken care of his feet nor trimmed his beard nor washed his clothes, from the day the king departed until the day he came back in safety.
25 And when he came to Jerusalem to meet the king, the king said to him, “Why did you not go with me, Mephibosheth?”
26 He answered, “My lord, O king, my servant deceived me, for your servant said to him, ‘I will saddle a donkey for myself, that I may ride on it and go with the king.’ For your servant is lame.
27 He has slandered your servant to my lord the king. But my lord the king is like the angel of God; do therefore what seems good to you.
28 For all my father’s house were but men doomed to death before my lord the king, but you set your servant among those who eat at your table. What further right have I, then, to cry to the king?”
29 And the king said to him, “Why speak any more of your affairs? I have decided: you and Ziba shall divide the land.”
30 And Mephibosheth said to the king, “Oh, let him take it all, since my lord the king has come safely home.”

How do you know when someone is lying to you? They (whoever “they” are) say that there a few facial clues, but really, it’s very difficult to tell. The liar’s face might redden a little, or they may look to the left, or blink their eyes more than usual. But no one could make a case for truth or falsehood based on those observations. In the final analysis all you have are the words the person is speaking to you and the observable situation at hand. That was all David had as he encounters Ziba.

Remember that David is in essence running for his life and the lives of his family. He is no position to spend a great deal of time and energy on Ziba and his charge that Mephibosheth is looking to be crowned king over Israel also. Everyone one else was after David’s crown; why not Mephibosheth too? David makes a decision that is expedient. Later, when Mephibosheth has the chance to speak for himself, David does the only thing that he can do without launching a major investigation. (That’s what we would do – launch an investigation. I don’t think that happened very often back then.) He divides the land between the two men. Who lied? We’ll never really know. Here we see David in action as king and while his decision may have been quickly made, he did the best that he could with the information given to him. What I admire is that he didn’t look back or make apologies. He was a true king.

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