After the short mention of five-year-old Mephibosheth in 2 Samuel 4:4, we don’t hear anything about him for the next five chapters. Those five chapters cover many years of biblical history, and when we reach 2 Samuel chapter 9, Mephibosheth is a grown man with a son of his own. David had been settled into his role as King of Israel for several years.
In 2 Samuel 9, King David has a moment of awakening. He suddenly remembers a promise that he made to old friend years ago. His friend’s name was Jonathan—the same Jonathan who was the son of King Saul and would become the father of Mirab Baal (Mephibosheth). Jonathan and David were good friends long before David became king.
To understand the context of this promise, let’s look at 1 Samuel 20:14-15 where we see a conversation between Jonathan and David. Jonathan said, “But show me unfailing kindness like the Lord’s kindness as long as I live, so that I may not be killed, and do not ever cut off your kindness from my family…” Jonathan knew that David had been anointed as the next king of Israel. This meant that Jonathan would not assume the throne after his father’s death. He also knew that when a kingship changed bloodlines it was customary for the new king to kill everyone in the previous royal family to eradicate any disloyalty. Jonathan wanted to ensure that his friend David would not do this to him and his family.
In 2 Samuel 9:1, we see the moment where David remembers his promise to his deceased friend, Jonathan. David says, “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?”
After searching the kingdom, they found a former servant of the house of Saul named Ziba. King David had Ziba brought before him and asked him if anyone from Jonathan’s household remained.
Ziba’s response to King David is very telling of the attitude that existed in his day toward people with disabilities. Ziba answers the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is lame in both feet.” (2 Samuel 9:4)
Don’t overlook the fact that Ziba didn’t even mention Mephibosheth by name. He was just a son of Jonathan. The only characteristic that Ziba mentions is the fact that Mephibosheth was disabled. For Ziba, Mephibosheth was his disability. This is a dangerous perspective because Ziba had dehumanized Mephibosheth. Ziba and much of his society viewed people with disabilities as a burden, a wasted life. We must remember there was no ADA during the reign of King David. There were not wheelchair ramps and elevators. Disability rights did not exist. People-First language was not practiced.
King David doesn’t even acknowledge the callousness of Ziba. Instead, he decided to challenge this judgmental attitude through his actions. He did more than just ignore Ziba’s attitude, he led by example.
King David basically said to Ziba, “I don’t care where he is, go get him!” King David, motivated by keeping a promise to a friend, would change the attitude of many towards people affected by disability. He reached out to Mephibosheth to show him kindness and to offer him a place of belonging.
May King David’s example remind us that we must move beyond simply advocating for people affected by disabilities through mediums like social media. We must act. We must be determined to not only speak kind words but also to show kindness. May your actions speak louder than your words today. May your example change the attitudes of others.
Read the other posts in this series by clicking here.
Ryan Wolfe has served in disability ministry for many years. Proverbs 31:8a, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,” has become Ryan’s calling. He strives to be an advocate and champion for people with disabilities and their families. Connect with Ryan by following him on Twitter (@ryanewolfe).