A divine friendship revealed within the Bible via Jonathan

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Jonathan comes from the tribe of Benjamin. His clan is Matrites. Jonathan's grandfather was Kish. His father is the notorious Saul, the first king of Israel. His mother is Ahinoam daughter of Ahimaaz.

He had three younger brothers: Abinadab, Malchishua, Ish-bosheth (traditional spelling) and two sisters: Merab and Michal. His son is Mephibosheth (2 Samuel 4: 4), his grandson is Micah, the son of Mephibosheth (2 Samuel 9:12).

Jonathan's and David's loyal friendship

The friendship of Prince Jonathan and Israel's future King David is one of the most amazing friendships ever recorded.

Jonathan is described as a great warrior (1 Samuel 13: 3; 1 Samuel 14: 1-13) who is honest (1 Samuel 14:43) and ready to face death (1 Samuel 14: 43). How different from his father Saul!

After David defeats Goliath, Jonathan moves to David. He makes a covenant with David, strips off his robes and armor (his privilege and position) and passes everything on to David. He loves David “as himself” (twice in 1 Samuel 18: 1-3).

In this way he is a prime example of the greatest commandment of the Bible: to love the Lord God with all your heart and "to love your neighbor as yourself".

It seems that Jonathan's covenant with David is one-sided: Jonathan is fully committed to his friend David, with whom he apparently became friends while serving at King Saul's court (1 Samuel 16) and whom he was God's anointed future king of Israel recognized.

The former is amazing considering what the latter meant. Without knowing what will happen in the years to come, Jonathan willingly confers his right to the throne on his friend. What a remarkable, self-sacrificing love!

After King Saul drove David out, Jonathan reestablishes fellowship with his increasingly insane father. –1 Samuel 19: 1-7. It does not take long.

A while later, Jonathan made a second covenant with David because of his true love for him (1 Samuel 20: 1-17) and promised that he would do anything for David (1 Samuel 20: 4). Then, despite his father's attacks, Jonathan asks David to show kindness and compassion to his family, which David is happy to promise (and is happy to do so in 2 Samuel 9: 1-13).

Jonathan tries again to bring David back into fellowship with his father, King Saul (1 Samuel 20: 18-34), only to narrowly escape his father's spear himself.

Jonathan finally realizes the unstoppable nature of his father's insane anger and jealousy against David and tells David to flee. Before David leaves, reaffirm their covenant (1 Samuel 20: 35-42).

Jonathan later seeks out David and finds him. This seems to be their last time together. Jonathan encourages David and places himself under David again (1 Samuel 23: 16-18).

Jonathan is not mentioned again until 1 Samuel 31, when he obediently goes with his father to fight the Philistines only to be killed in battle.

Jonathan's life is an example of true friendship and character, tarnished by a mad father's jealousy and anger towards his dear friend.

Jonathan's relevance

David Wilkerson never said it while living among the New York gangs. Amy Carmichael and Mother Teresa never said it when they lived in the slums of India. Like these and others who have ventured into dangerous regions or done difficult tasks, Jonathan never said, "I am only one person. What can God do through me?"

This is particularly evident when Jonathan defeats a group of Philistine soldiers almost single-handedly (1 Samuel 14). Jonathan is brave for God and depends only on Him. He tries difficult tasks for God's glory.

Of course, he always seeks God's will before taking risks. And he doesn't go alone. On the other hand, he doesn't trust his gun bearer, whom Jonathan instructs to climb behind and not in front of him.

Jonathan and his armor bearer are down one cliff and up another, and easy targets for the Philistine soldiers. However, Jonathan is confident that God has a plan to overcome the odds and use them to defeat the enemy.

These two men killed well over 20 soldiers that day. They set in motion a state of panic which, when amplified by an earthquake, disperses the entire Philistine army. The Israelite army then pursues and defeats them.

No wonder Jonathan is drawn to David as a dedicated lifelong friend. The climber meets the giant killer. The first young man climbs a mountain with hands and feet to fight a well-armed situation.

The other young man takes five small stones and hurls one at a giant. Both young men know what it means to trust God's power in the face of overwhelming adversity.

Statistics can be intimidating on color charts. However, depending on God's power and the search for God's glory, you and I can overcome anything, regardless of what the numbers say.

Writings on Jonathan

If you want to read just three Bible chapters about Jonathan, take 10 minutes to read 1 Samuel 14, 1 Samuel 19, and 1 Samuel 20. Or, take a minute to read 2 Samuel 1: 17-27, in which David's depth is depicted lament: "How the mighty have fallen."

Most of Jonathan's story is told in 1 Samuel 13-14 and 1 Samuel 18-20. His death is recorded in 1 Samuel 31: 2, 2 Samuel 1: 4-5, and 1 Chronicles 10: 2, and (as noted above) his death is lamented in 2 Samuel 1: 17-27. His burial is recorded in 1 Chronicles 21: 12-14.

Jonathan and his descendants are named at 2 Samuel 4: 4, 9: 1-13, and 21: 7. Their genealogy is recorded in 1 Chronicles 8: 33-34 and 1 Chronicles 9: 39-40.

In all other cases from 2 Samuel 15:27 through Jeremiah 40: 8, "Jonathan" refers to others of the same name who lived after the time of Prince Jonathan.

For further reading:

How do I love my neighbor as myself during COVID-19?

What is Christ's love?

What Does Agape Love Really Mean in the Bible?

On the front steps with a brave woman

How Samuel served God at every age

How did a man fall so far into sin after God's heart?

What does love look like in action?

Photo credit: © iStock / Getty Images Plus / Finn Hafemann

David Sanfords Book and Bible projects have been published by Zondervan, Tyndale, Thomas Nelson, Doubleday, Barbour, and Amazon. His latest book is Life Map Devotional for Men, which was published at the same time as his wife Renee's new book Life Map Devotional for Women.

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