The unedited full-text of the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia
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Only son of Jonathan, son of Saul, first king of Israel. The chronicler gives him the name of Merib-baal (I Chron. viii. 34), meaning, perhaps, "Ba'al contends." The relation of the two names is similar to that existing between Ishbosheth = "man of shame," and Esh-baal = "man of Baal" (ib. verse 33). Upon the slaughter of Saul and his sons on Mt. Gilboa, the nurse in Jonathan's house fled with Mephibosheth, and in the flight the child fell and became a permanent cripple (II Sam. iv. 4). When David came to the throne his formerlove for Jonathan impelled him to inquire whether any of Saul's house remained alive, that he might show them kindness for the sake of his former bosom friend. Through Ziba, who had been a servant of Saul, he learned of the cripple Mephibosheth. David had him brought to Jerusalem, restored to him the estate of Saul, and made him a perpetual guest at the royal table (ib. ix. 1-8).

When David fled from Absalom this royal heir remained in Jerusalem—according to Ziba's story (ib. xvi. 3), that he might be ready to take the throne which was about to be restored to his father's house. On David's triumphal return to Jerusalem Mephibosheth went out to meet and greet him. He was unwashed and unkempt. When David questioned him concerning his reason for having remained behind, Mephibosheth threw the blame on Ziba, and as evidence of his own sincerity pointed out his unkempt state (ib. xix. 24-30). The king was evidently perplexed at the conflicting stories; and he decided that the estate of Saul should be divided equally between the questionable characters with whom he had to deal. Mephibosheth had a son, Micah (I Chron. viii. 34, 35).

E. G. H. I. M. P.
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