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Jonathan, Part 1

INTRODUCTION: Saul, the son of Kish, was from the tribe of Benjamin and Samuel was directed by the LORD to anoint him as the first king in Israel, and Jonathan was one of his sons. Jonathan and David became unusually close in their relationship despite the evil intentions King Saul jealously developed against David. Jonathan displayed the same type of faith that David had in the strength of the LORD against the enemies of Israel, who scorned and mocked the name of the LORD.

NOTE: Bible passages are from the American KJV.


1 Samuel 13 "1 Saul reigned one year; and when he had reigned two years over Israel, 2 Saul chose him three thousand men of Israel; whereof two thousand were with Saul in Michmash and in mount Bethel, and a thousand were with Jonathan in Gibeah of Benjamin: and the rest of the people he sent every man to his tent. 3 And Jonathan smote the garrison of the Philistines that was in Geba, and the Philistines heard of it. And Saul blew the trumpet throughout all the land, saying, Let the Hebrews hear. 4 And all Israel heard say that Saul had smitten a garrison of the Philistines, and that Israel also was had in abomination with the Philistines. And the people were called together after Saul to Gilgal."

COMMENTS: This chapter has the first mention of Saul's son Jonathan, who was a leader of a third of the troops at this early part of Saul's reign, as a thousand were with Jonathan in Gibeah of Benjamin. Jonathan and his men struck out at the Philistines, and had a decisive victory. The Philistines began to organize in large numbers to respond. Since Saul was king, the word went out that he had defeated the Philistines. I have skipped past the rest of that chapter in order to concentrate on the activity of Jonathan, rather than that of King Saul.


1 Samuel 14 "1 Now it came to pass on a day, that Jonathan the son of Saul said to the young man that bore his armor, Come, and let us go over to the Philistines' garrison, that is on the other side. But he told not his father. 2 And Saul tarried in the uttermost part of Gibeah under a pomegranate tree which is in Migron: and the people that were with him were about six hundred men; 3 And Ahiah, the son of Ahitub, Ichabod's brother, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eli, the LORD's priest in Shiloh, wearing an ephod. And the people knew not that Jonathan was gone."

1 Samuel 14 "6 And Jonathan said to the young man that bore his armor, Come, and let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised: it may be that the LORD will work for us: for there is no restraint to the LORD to save by many or by few. 7 And his armor bearer said to him, Do all that is in your heart: turn you; behold, I am with you according to your heart. 8 Then said Jonathan, Behold, we will pass over to these men, and we will discover ourselves to them. 9 If they say thus to us, Tarry until we come to you; then we will stand still in our place, and will not go up to them. 10 But if they say thus, Come up to us; then we will go up: for the LORD has delivered them into our hand: and this shall be a sign to us. 11 And both of them discovered themselves to the garrison of the Philistines: and the Philistines said, Behold, the Hebrews come forth out of the holes where they had hid themselves. 12 And the men of the garrison answered Jonathan and his armor bearer, and said, Come up to us, and we will show you a thing. And Jonathan said to his armor bearer, Come up after me: for the LORD has delivered them into the hand of Israel. 13 And Jonathan climbed up on his hands and on his feet, and his armor bearer after him: and they fell before Jonathan; and his armor bearer slew after him. 14 And that first slaughter, which Jonathan and his armor bearer made, was about twenty men, within as it were an half acre of land, which a yoke of oxen might plow. 15 And there was trembling in the host, in the field, and among all the people: the garrison, and the spoilers, they also trembled, and the earth quaked: so it was a very great trembling. 16 And the watchmen of Saul in Gibeah of Benjamin looked; and, behold, the multitude melted away, and they went on beating down one another."

COMMENTS: Jonathan had a strong drive within himself to fight the enemies of the LORD once the overall conflict was engaged, and he was willing to take initiative without waiting for his father to give specific directions to every unit within the army of Israel. In this case, Jonathan and his armor bearer bravely showed themselves before a garrison of Philistines; and when the Philistines made a disparaging remark about the Hebrews and told him to come forward, he was confident that the LORD would deliver them into his hands. As he made his way forward he and his armor bearer killed about twenty men, and the others fled from the area. This very dramatic victorious encounter frightened other Philistines as they heard about what had taken place and they also began to flee. This gave an upper hand to Israel for boldness in battle as the watchmen of Saul in Gibeah of Benjamin saw the multitude of Philistines "melting away" in utter confusion.


1 Samuel 14 "24 And the men of Israel were distressed that day: for Saul had adjured the people, saying, Cursed be the man that eats any food until evening, that I may be avenged on my enemies. So none of the people tasted any food. 25 And all they of the land came to a wood; and there was honey on the ground. 26 And when the people were come into the wood, behold, the honey dropped; but no man put his hand to his mouth: for the people feared the oath. 27 But Jonathan heard not when his father charged the people with the oath: why he put forth the end of the rod that was in his hand, and dipped it in an honeycomb, and put his hand to his mouth; and his eyes were enlightened. 28 Then answered one of the people, and said, Your father straightly charged the people with an oath, saying, Cursed be the man that eats any food this day. And the people were faint. 29 Then said Jonathan, My father has troubled the land: see, I pray you, how my eyes have been enlightened, because I tasted a little of this honey. 30 How much more, if haply the people had eaten freely to day of the spoil of their enemies which they found? for had there not been now a much greater slaughter among the Philistines?"

COMMENTS: Since Jonathan had not heard the oath issued by his father, he did the normal thing to refresh himself after the vigor of battle. When he was told about the oath by some of those he had joined as they were returning to assemble with the other men of King Saul, Jonathan said the overall victory for the LORD would have been enhanced if others had also refreshed themselves. He did not anticipate the development that would cause his father to swear that the offender of the oath would die.


1 Samuel 14 "36 And Saul said, Let us go down after the Philistines by night, and spoil them until the morning light, and let us not leave a man of them. And they said, Do whatever seems good to you. Then said the priest, Let us draw near here to God. 37 And Saul asked counsel of God, Shall I go down after the Philistines? will you deliver them into the hand of Israel? But he answered him not that day. 38 And Saul said, Draw you near here, all the chief of the people: and know and see wherein this sin has been this day. 39 For, as the LORD lives, which saves Israel, though it be in Jonathan my son, he shall surely die. But there was not a man among all the people that answered him. 40 Then said he to all Israel, Be you on one side, and I and Jonathan my son will be on the other side. And the people said to Saul, Do what seems good to you. 41 Therefore Saul said to the LORD God of Israel, Give a perfect lot. And Saul and Jonathan were taken: but the people escaped. 42 And Saul said, Cast lots between me and Jonathan my son. And Jonathan was taken. 43 Then Saul said to Jonathan, Tell me what you have done. And Jonathan told him, and said, I did but taste a little honey with the end of the rod that was in my hand, and, see, I must die. 44 And Saul answered, God do so and more also: for you shall surely die, Jonathan. 45 And the people said to Saul, Shall Jonathan die, who has worked this great salvation in Israel? God forbid: as the LORD lives, there shall not one hair of his head fall to the ground; for he has worked with God this day. So the people rescued Jonathan, that he died not. 46 Then Saul went up from following the Philistines: and the Philistines went to their own place."

COMMENTS: When King Saul sought approval by God for the plan he had to attack the Philistines, he was not given any kind of answer through the priest. So, he believed someone had sinned by breaking the oath he had set, even though the text did not attribute that oath to the LORD. Though Saul had sworn that the offender would die, he gave in to the voice of the people and did not harm Jonathan. After that, there was no immediate engagement for battle between Israel and the Philistines.


1 Samuel 14 "49 Now the sons of Saul were Jonathan, and Ishui, and Melchishua: and the names of his two daughters were these; the name of the firstborn Merab, and the name of the younger Michal: 50 And the name of Saul's wife was Ahinoam, the daughter of Ahimaaz: and the name of the captain of his host was Abner, the son of Ner, Saul's uncle. 51 And Kish was the father of Saul; and Ner the father of Abner was the son of Abiel. 52 And there was sore war against the Philistines all the days of Saul: and when Saul saw any strong man, or any valiant man, he took him to him."

COMMENTS: Saul's son Ishbosheth is not in this family list in chapter 14, but after Saul and Jonathan both died in battle with the Philistines, he began his reign as king over some of the northern territory in Israel when he was forty years old. There is no passage in 1 Samuel to give the years that Saul reigned, but if Ishbosheth was only forty when his father died, his name may not have been in the above passage because of his young age.

2 Samuel 2 "8 But Abner the son of Ner, captain of Saul's host, took Ishbosheth the son of Saul, and brought him over to Mahanaim; 9 And made him king over Gilead, and over the Ashurites, and over Jezreel, and over Ephraim, and over Benjamin, and over all Israel. 10 Ishbosheth Saul's son was forty years old when he began to reign over Israel, and reigned two years. But the house of Judah followed David, who had become king at Hebron."


1 Samuel 16 "1 And the LORD said to Samuel, How long will you mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? fill your horn with oil, and go, I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite: for I have provided me a king among his sons. 2 And Samuel said, How can I go? if Saul hear it, he will kill me. And the LORD said, Take an heifer with you, and say, I am come to sacrifice to the LORD. 3 And call Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do: and you shall anoint to me him whom I name to you."

1 Samuel 16 "10Again, Jesse made seven of his sons to pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, The LORD has not chosen these. 11 And Samuel said to Jesse, Are here all your children? And he said, There remains yet the youngest, and, behold, he keeps the sheep. And Samuel said to Jesse, Send and fetch him: for we will not sit down till he come here. 12 And he sent, and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and with of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to. And the LORD said, Arise, anoint him: for this is he. 13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the middle of his brothers: and the Spirit of the LORD came on David from that day forward. So Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah."

COMMENTS: The LORD directed Samuel to anoint a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite to be the next King over Israel after King Saul. Samuel was grieved and reluctant to follow the direction by the LORD, but he was obedient to follow through. This was done even before David began to serve King Saul as a musician and a leader of the king's warriors. David was never willing to harm Saul in order to take his place as king, even though Saul jealously wanted David to be killed. Since the later record shows that David was only 30 when he became king in Hebron after Saul's death, he would not have been very old when he killed Goliath and became part of Saul's troops.

2 Samuel 5 "4 David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. 5 In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months: and in Jerusalem he reigned thirty and three years over all Israel and Judah."


1 Samuel 17 "57 And as David returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, Abner took him, and brought him before Saul with the head of the Philistine in his hand. 58 And Saul said to him, Whose son are you, you young man? And David answered, I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite."

1 Samuel 18 "1 And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking to Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. 2 And Saul took him that day, and would let him go no more home to his father's house. 3 Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. 4 And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle. 5 And David went out wherever Saul sent him, and behaved himself wisely: and Saul set him over the men of war, and he was accepted in the sight of all the people, and also in the sight of Saul's servants. 6 And it came to pass as they came, when David was returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, that the women came out of all cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet king Saul, with tabrets, with joy, and with instruments of music. 7 And the women answered one another as they played, and said, Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands. 8 And Saul was very wroth, and the saying displeased him; and he said, They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed but thousands: and what can he have more but the kingdom?"

COMMENTS: Again, since this is a study concentrating on the character and actions of Jonathan, I have not included much about the ways in which Saul displeased the LORD, and failed to promote the continuance of his line for leadership in Israel. However, Jonathan was very much drawn to David as the text clearly states that as soon as David had finished speaking with Saul, "the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul." Saul did not let David return to his father's house after that, then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. What Jonathan did next was highly complementary for the son of the King to do for another man. Jonathan took off his robe and garments (likely of royal distinction) and gave them to David. He also gave David his sword and bow, and his protective combat girdle. Jonathan was already old enough to lead one third of his father's troops in the second year of King Saul, and David was only thirty years old when he became king at Hebron after Saul died in battle; therefore it is likely that David was somewhat younger than Jonathan. Jonathan was humble enough before the LORD that he was even willing to give David the items that had marked himself as the king's son.

David went out wherever Saul sent him, and behaved himself wisely: an Saul set him over the men of war. But when David returned from victories, the women joyfully played instruments and sang that "Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands." Saul was very upset by that comparison, and he believed the next step would be for David to take over the kingdom unless he was stopped, and Saul wanted David to be killed to make that definite.


1 Samuel 19 "1 And Saul spoke to Jonathan his son, and to all his servants, that they should kill David. 2 But Jonathan Saul's son delighted much in David: and Jonathan told David, saying, Saul my father seeks to kill you: now therefore, I pray you, take heed to yourself until the morning, and abide in a secret place, and hide yourself: 3 And I will go out and stand beside my father in the field where you are, and I will commune with my father of you; and what I see, that I will tell you. 4 And Jonathan spoke good of David to Saul his father, and said to him, Let not the king sin against his servant, against David; because he has not sinned against you, and because his works have been to you-ward very good: 5 For he did put his life in his hand, and slew the Philistine, and the LORD worked a great salvation for all Israel: you saw it, and did rejoice: why then will you sin against innocent blood, to slay David without a cause? 6 And Saul listened to the voice of Jonathan: and Saul swore, As the LORD lives, he shall not be slain. 7 And Jonathan called David, and Jonathan showed him all those things. And Jonathan brought David to Saul, and he was in his presence, as in times past."

COMMENTS: Saul told Jonathan and all of his servants that they were to kill David, and Jonathan said nothing to his father at that time. But he went out to tell David to hide himself until the next day, and Jonathan would try to convince his father otherwise. Jonathan made a plea that the king should not sin against his servant David, because David had not sinned against the king. David had put his own life at risk as he had great victories against the Philistines for all Israel, and Saul had rejoiced about this. Saul listened when Jonathan ended his entreaty by asking if Saul would shed innocent blood without a cause. Saul then swore in the name of the LORD that David would not be killed. So, David returned to be with Saul as he had been before.


1 Samuel 19 "8 And there was war again: and David went out, and fought with the Philistines, and slew them with a great slaughter; and they fled from him. 9 And the evil spirit from the LORD was on Saul, as he sat in his house with his javelin in his hand: and David played with his hand. 10 And Saul sought to smite David even to the wall with the javelin: but he slipped away out of Saul's presence, and he smote the javelin into the wall: and David fled, and escaped that night. 11 Saul also sent messengers to David's house, to watch him, and to slay him in the morning: and Michal David's wife told him, saying, If you save not your life to night, to morrow you shall be slain. 12 So Michal let David down through a window: and he went, and fled, and escaped."

COMMENTS: Jonathan had been an advocate before his father King Saul for David, but the initial acceptance by Saul did not last very long. David still played his stringed instrument as a calming influence for King Saul during times when they were at rest from successful combat. Saul was often troubled exceedingly by an evil spirit since the LORD had withdrawn His own spirit due to the attitudes and actions of Saul which demonstrated rejection of the LORD. While David was playing, Saul tried to kill him by throwing his javelin, but David was able to evade that and escape from the room. Saul even sent men to David's house, but his wife Michal let David down through a window: and he fled and escaped that night. Since this is a two part study, I will continue Jonathan's story in part 2.


Lord I thank you for the information about Jonathan that may often be overlooked if not viewed in a more summarized manner, as David receives much attention. Jonathan was a valiant warrior to fight against the enemies of the people who had been chosen to represent the name of the LORD. He was quick to see the way another man also looked to the LORD for his strength and ability, and gave credit to the LORD for his victories in battle. Jonathon was drawn to David in this common bond through the LORD, and he was humble to quickly give David the materials for war that he had warn himself as the son of the king. When Jonathan's father King Saul had such a jealous heart against David, Jonathan did not hesitate to come to David's defense. There was nothing that kept Jonathan from helping David, and trusting that they would each honor the bond they had in their hearts. I praise you LORD as I remember that you had told Samuel earlier, that man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart. LORD, I know how easily I can wander from your truth, so I pray that you will strengthen my heart to serve you. Amen.

Published 13 July 2020