S soon as the kings of the nations around Israel saw that a strong man was ruling over the tribes, they began to make war upon David, for they feared to see Israel gaining in power. So it came to pass that David had many wars. The Moabites, who lived on the east of the Dead Sea, went to war with David, but David conquered them, and made Moab submit to Israel. Far in the north, the Syrians came against David; but he won great victories over them, and took Damascus, their chief city, and held it as a part of his kingdom. In the south, he made war upon the Edomites, and brought them under his rule.
For a number of years David was constantly at war, but at last he was at peace, the ruler of all the lands from the great river Euphrates on the north, down to the wilderness on the south, where the Israelites had wandered; and from the great desert on the east to the Great Sea on the west. All these lands were under the rule of King David, except the people of Tyre and Sidon, who lived beside the Great Sea on the north of Israel. These people, the Tyrians, never made war on Israel, and their king, Hiram, was one of David's best friends. The men of Tyre cut down cedar-trees on Mount Lebanon for David, and brought them to Jerusalem, and built for David the palace which became his home.
When David's wars were over, and he was at rest, he thought of the promise that he had made to his friend Jonathan, the brave son of Saul (see Story 59), that he would care for his children. David asked of his nobles and the men at his court, "Are there any of Saul's family living, to whom I can show kindness for the sake of Jonathan?"
They told David of Saul's servant, Ziba, who had the charge of Saul's farm in the country; and David sent for him. Ziba had become a rich man from his care of the lands that had belonged to Saul.
David said to Ziba, "Are there any of Saul's family living, to whom I can show some of the kindness which God has shown toward me?"
And Ziba said, "Saul's son Jonathan left a little boy, named Mephibosheth, who is now grown to be a man. He is living at Lo-debar, on the east of Jordan."
This child of Jonathan was in the arms of his nurse when the news came of the battle at Mount Gilboa, where Jonathan was slain. The nurse fled with him, to hide from the Philistines, and in running fell; and the child's feet were so injured that ever after he was lame.
Perhaps he was kept hidden in the distant place on the east of Jordan, from fear lest David, now that he was king, might try to kill all those who were of Saul's family; for such deeds were common in those times, when one king took the power away from another king's children.
David sent for Mephibosheth, Jonathan's son; and he was brought into David's presence, and fell down on his face before the king, for he was in great fear. And David said to him, "Mephibosheth, you need have no fear. I will be kind to you, because I loved Jonathan, your father, and he loved me. You shall have all the lands that ever belonged to Saul and his family; and you shall always sit at my table in the royal palace."
Mephibosheth, Jonathan's son, before David
Then the king called Ziba, who had been the servant of Saul, and said to him, "All the lands and houses that once belonged to Saul I have given to Mephibosheth. You shall care for them, and bring the harvests and the fruits of the fields to him. But Mephibosheth shall live here with me, and shall sit down at the king's table among the princes of the kingdom."
So Mephibosheth, the lame son of Jonathan, was taken into David's palace, and sat at the king's table, among the highest in the land. And Ziba, with his fifteen sons and his twenty servants, waited on him, and stood at his command.
This kindness of David to Mephibosheth might have brought trouble to David; for Mephibosheth the son of Jonathan, and the grandson of Saul, might have been the king if David had not won the crown. By giving to Saul's grandson a place at his table, and showing him honor, David might have helped him to take the kingdom away from himself, if Mephibosheth had been a stronger man, with a purpose to win the throne of Israel. But David was generous, and Mephibosheth was grateful, and was contented with his place in the palace.