Thank God that the saying Like father, like son is not always true. King Saul bore a son named Jonathan who was as much better than himself in character as heaven is greater than earth. Yet in spite of his father’s faults, Jonathan followed Saul loyally throughout his downward spiral until both father and son fell bravely on a battlefield.
Despite his father’s hatred for David, Jonathan is best known for his self-sacrificing friendship with David. From the moment Jonathan met the shepherd warrior, the Bible says their souls were knit together in an unbreakable bond. Both were married men, yet they were secure enough in their manhood to love each other as deeply as humans can.
Jonathan and David were both very popular among the citizens of Israel. The crowds sang, “Saul has killed his thousands; David has killed his ten thousands.” And once when Saul was ready to actually order Jonathan executed in order to save face, the people loyally intervened in Jonathan’s behalf.
Jonathan knew he was the rightful heir to the throne of Israel. He also knew that because of his father’s sin, David would be the next king of Israel. One magnificent mark of Jonathan’s character is reflected in his statement to David, “You shall be king over Israel and I shall be second to you.” No bitter rivalry there, no envious undercurrent—only a desire for his friend to have the best.
Realizing his father ultimately intended to murder David, Jonathan warned David away from the court. The last glimpse we have of Jonathan occurs shortly before his death. He tracked down his best friend, who was now a fugitive in the wilderness. When Jonathan found David, he encouraged him in his faith in God. Jonathan must have suspected how disillusioning it was for David to be constantly on the run from King Saul. He wanted to make sure his friend didn’t give in to despair or even abandon his faith in God.
When David heard of Jonathan’s death on an enemy battlefield, tears flowed freely.
He wrote the Song of the Bow, a portion of which honors his most trusted friend:
Jonathan lies slain upon the high places.
I weep for you, my brother Jonathan;
Greatly beloved were you to me;
Your love to me was wonderful,
Passing the love of women.
What can we learn from Jonathan?
In Western society deep, trusting friendships between men are rare. Men want to be macho and independent. An intimate male friendship can seem threatening to one’s masculinity. The deeply caring, loyal relationship between David and Jonathan stands as a pattern for Christian men today. Life can be much the richer through close friendships between men and between women.
Bible Verses about Jonathan
1 Sam. 14:1, 7-14, 27, 43, 49; 18:1-4; 19:2; 20:4; 31:2; 2 Sam. 1:17
What questions does this help to answer?
- Who was Jonathan in the Bible?
- How did Jonathan in the Bible die?
- What was the relationship between David and Jonathan?
- Did Jonathan help David?
- Did Jonathan turn against his father, King Saul?
Steve Fortosis served for six years as youth minister in several parishes. Meanwhile he was also working toward his masters, then his doctorate in religious education. Through the years he has enjoyed teaching on the college and seminary levels and writing professionally. He has published a number of books including story and prayer compilations, missionary biography, Biblical character biography, devotional lit, children’s lit, and even stories of Bible translation. Presently he resides in Florida with his wife, Debra, where he teaches part-time and writes on a free-lance basis. Steve Fortosis