What Happened in Lo-Debar in the Bible?

Lo-Debar isn't a famous Bible location, but it was a very important one in the life story of Jonathon's son Mephibosheth... and it tells us something very important about David too.

Contributing Writer
Updated Jan 23, 2023
What Happened in Lo-Debar in the Bible?

Mephibosheth awakened to another nightmare, his pulse pounding. The taste of fear felt rancid in his mouth. If only he could forget the screams of men, women, and children as they rushed to escape the palace. If only he could erase the cry torn from his mother’s throat when the messenger pronounced the fateful words, “I’m sorry. King Saul and your husband, Jonathan, have both died in battle.”

But he remembered them as clearly as the moment when he hurtled from the safety of his nurse’s arms down a flight of stone stairs as they raced toward safety. The pain that shattered Mephibosheth’s legs at the tender age of five equaled the distress in his heart.

Then he disappeared into the safety of a remote town. Few knew what happened in Lo-Debar.

Who Lived in Lo-Debar?

Once a palace prince, Jonathon’s son Mephibosheth lived in obscurity under the watchful care of a generous benefactor named Makir, son of Ammiel.  Mentioned twice in Scripture, Makir was a man of means. Not only did he support Mephibosheth. Later, when David escaped from his son Absalom, Makir provided the king and his soldiers with bountiful food and supplies. (2 Samuel 17:28).

Makir’s name, meaning “salesman,” hints at his profession. Ammiel, his father, was a Levite at the tabernacle. Many commentators believe he was Bathsheba’s father. As a result, Makir likely held both economic and religious sway in the small village of Lo-Debar.

Whether out of respect for Makir or because of his ability to obtain desired goods, the town’s residents remained quiet about the boy’s presence. As a result, Mephibosheth grew up in relative anonymity—even though some might have thought he presented a threat to the new king.

What Does the Name Lo-Debar Mean?

Dependent upon Makir and unable to provide for himself, Mephibosheth lived as an impoverished orphan. Even the name of the town in which he sought shelter reflected his tragic circumstances. What does the name Lo-Debar mean? No pasture. More literally, if we break the word down into its singular parts, lo means “no,” and debar means “word” or “thing.” The settlement was so devalued that people called it “nothing.”

Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s beloved son, became a man without a place to call his own. He lived on the edge of the wilderness in a parched land. An unreachable land. A hopeless land. A town in the middle of nowhere—with nothing to offer.

Perhaps you relate to Mephibosheth. Do you feel as though you are in your own Lo-Debar? The land of no pasture? Have you suffered relationally, emotionally, or physically?

Can I encourage you not to give up hope? Even in places like Lo-Debar, God sees the hurt. He will provide.

Psalm 23:1-2 reads, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.  He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.” These verses and the remainder of the Psalm assure us of God’s tenderhearted care.

While Mephibosheth may not have recognized God’s hand at the time, the Lord spared his life, provided a father figure, family, and physical sustenance. God shepherded the hurting boy through his grief and loss because he had something better in mind for him.

Consider the rest of Mephibosheth’s story.

What Happened to Mephibosheth After He Moved Out of Lo-Debar?

Perhaps prompted during a walk through the gardens or while journaling about Jonathan, David remembered a covenant he once made with his best friend. Through Ziba, Saul’s servant, David learned that Mephibosheth was alive and determined he must fulfill his promise.

Imagine the fear Mephibosheth experienced when David’s horsemen arrived to escort him to the palace. Sequestered in a far-off village, Mephibosheth never suspected discovery. But the man who sat on the throne now requested an audience with him. Would he, too, die? Shuffling into position, Mephibosheth knelt before the king. He could not have known David’s words to Ziba, “Is there no one still alive from the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s lovingkindness?” 

Can you see Mephibosheth trembling as he stands before the king? His body quakes, and he bows as low as his uncooperative legs allow. When the king speaks, Mephibosheth peers from beneath his eyelashes. His eyes widen when David smiles and offers a hand. 

Mephibosheth struggles to understand. He knows the truth about his grandfather. Did he hear correctly? Don’t be afraid.

David’s actions reflect hesed, often translated as “lovingkindness” in Scripture. Hesed also infers mercy and several other key ideas. As Michael Card writes in Inexpressible: Hesed and the Mystery of God’s Lovingkindness, “In Genesis, hesed indicates an exceptional favor from God. In Exodus…  [it] is used by God… to describe his character. In the historical books, hesed has to do with a reciprocal expectation between to human beings.” 

David shared God’s hesed by upholding the promise to a beloved companion and extending unexpected favor to someone he might have chosen to dispatch. David spoke gently to Mephibosheth, restored his family’s land, and gave Mephibosheth—and his little boy—an invitation to dine at the king’s table every day. 

Mephibosheth and his son Micah, now wealthy recipients of David’s kindness, enjoyed the company of the king and his family. Not only that, but Ziba and his sons and servants were assigned to serve Mephibosheth and farm his fields. As a result, Mephibosheth gained Ziba’s jealous attention. Years later, when Absalom revolted against David, Ziba seized an opportunity to gain the king’s favor. He convinced David that Mephibosheth planned to usurp power and the angry monarch responded by giving Ziba half of Mephibosheth’s property. 2 Samuel 19:24, though, reveals that while David was exiled, Mephibosheth spiraled into depression—refusing to care for his personal needs.

When David finally returned, Mephibosheth expressed his love and appreciation—even declaring that Ziba could have all the property because “…you gave your servant a place among those who eat at your table.” 

Some years later, Scripture reports that David “spared Mephibosheth” (2 Samuel 21:7) when the Gibeonites exacted revenge on Saul’s family.  

God had redeemed the orphan’s story.

What Lessons Do We Learn About God from the Story of Mephibosheth and Lo-Debar?

1. The story David and Mephibosheth share offers a picture of God’s redemptive love. We, the spiritually impoverished sinners and the outcasts, are refused entrance into the heavenly kingdom. But, like David, the Lord seeks a relationship with those who do not know Him. Through a covenant with an advocate, Jesus, we can feast at the great banquet. When we accept the invitation with humility, our King forgives us of the past and any future sins.

2. Although multiple scriptures confirm God’s compassion for the orphan and those living with disabilities, Mephibosheth’s narrative beautifully relates His abundant love for those who struggle and provides a template for believers as we honor others unlike ourselves. Ignorance of suffering is no excuse. As God’s ambassadors, we are to actively pursue ways in which we can love and serve people both inside and outside the body of Christ.

3. When we are surviving a wilderness season reminiscent of Lo-Debar, we can trust God will move on our behalf. The days of no pasture will end, and He will guide us to new places—fresh and abundant with His presence.

Further Reading:

Who Is Mephibosheth and What Does His Life Teach Us about Unexpected Blessings?

How David Honored God with His Kindness and Integrity

Who Was King Saul in the Bible?

Photo Credit: Getty Images/nodostudio

Tammy KenningtonTammy Kennington is a writer and speaker familiar with the impact of trauma, chronic illness, and parenting in the hard places. Her heart is to lead women from hardship to hope. You can meet with Tammy at her blog www.tammykennington.com where she’ll send you her e-book, Moving from Pain to Peace-A Journey Toward Hope When the Past Holds You Captive.

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