Thematic Connections Between
Mephibosheth/Ziba and the Two Women

In ancient Israel, David succeeded Saul as King of Israel.  David’s best friend was Jonathan, who was Saul’s son.  Jonathan and his father, King Saul, died on the same day (1 Samuel 2:2,6).

Jonathan had a son, Mephibosheth, who was dropped by his nurse and became crippled when he was five years old (2 Samuel 4:4).  When David became king, not only did he give Mephibosheth all the land that belonged to his grandfather, Saul, but he invited Mephibosheth to eat at his table from that time forward (9:7).

Some time later, David had to flee Jerusalem because his son Absalom was trying to seize his throne (2 Samuel 15:13,14).  When David had gone a short distance beyond the summit of the Mount of Olives, there was Mephibosheth’s servant, Ziba (who previously had been Saul’s servant), waiting to meet him (2 Samuel 16:1).

David asked Ziba where Saul’s grandson was, and Ziba said that Mephibosheth had remained in Jerusalem because he thought that he would be given back his grandfather Saul’s kingdom (2 Samuel 16:3)—that is, that he would become king in place of David.  David, feeling that he had been betrayed, decreed that everything that belonged to Mephibosheth would be given to Ziba (16:4).

Eventually, David’s son Absalom was killed (2 Samuel 18:9-15), and David proceeded to return to Jerusalem to take his place as king again.  Mephibosheth went out to meet David, and David asked him why he had not gone with him when he fled from Jerusalem (19:24,25).  Mephibosheth said that he had planned to go with David; however, his servant Ziba had betrayed him by not saddling his donkey, thus leaving him behind, and he also said that Ziba had slandered him to David (19:26,27).

Hearing this, David ordered that the fields of Saul be divided between Mephibosheth and Ziba (2 Samuel 19:29).  However, Mephibosheth told the king that, since he had returned safely, Ziba could have all of the property (19:30).  Now, the lingering question that we might have is this:  Which one, Mephibosheth or Ziba, had told the truth to David, and which one had lied?  The answer to this never is explicitly provided in the Bible.  Interestingly, though, we can discern the answer by using a “thematic connection” between this account and a later account, involving King David’s son, King Solomon.

Soon after he became king, Solomon made a judicious ruling between two women.  Living in the same house, they each had a baby within three days of each other (1 Kings 3:17,18).  However, one woman’s baby had died; so in the middle of the night, she had switched her dead baby with the other woman’s live baby (3:19-21).  The woman who allegedly had made the switch denied that this had happened (3:22).

To determine which woman was telling the truth, wise King Solomon had a sword brought to him.  He ordered that the live baby should be cut in half, with one half being given to one woman and one half to the other woman (1 Kings 3:24,25).  The real mother, having compassion on her baby, pled with the king not to kill her baby but, rather, to give him to the other woman; however, the other woman said, “Cut him in two!” (3:26).  Knowing that only the real mother wanted so much for her son to live that she would be willing to part with him, Solomon ruled correctly that she should be given her baby (3:27).

Now, let’s us take a closer look at the similar “themes” between the account of Mephibosheth and Ziba and the account of the two women:

  • In both cases, rulings were made by kings (David and Solomon).
  • David did not know who was telling the truth: Mephibosheth or Ziba.  Likewise, Solomon did not know which mother was telling the truth.
  • David ruled that the property would be split between Mephibosheth and Ziba.  Similarly, Solomon ordered that the living baby would be divided in two and each woman would receive half.
  • Mephibosheth said, “Let him take everything.”  The real mother said, “Give the living baby to the first woman.”
Therefore, by examining the thematic connections between the two accounts, we can see that Mephiboseth was telling the truth, since he was willing to give his entire inheritance to Ziba, just as the mother of the live baby was willing to give him up to the other woman.  The Bible is filled with countless thematic connections that enable us to determine information that otherwise would be unclear to us or even would be completely hidden from us.

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