I’ve been reading in the book of 1 Samuel, and I’ve been at the point of Saul’s reign as the first king of Israel. I’ve been reading a different translation than usual, which has been making me take a new look at passages I’ve known my whole life. For example Jonathan, Saul’s son. I’ve always known he was a good man, but now I’ve been taking a closer look at things. The details have just never come alive this way before, and I find that both odd and amazing.
I get the idea that Jonathan and Saul didn’t see eye to eye even before Jonathan became best friends with David. One of the first things you read about Jonathan doing is making a strike against an enemy, and suddenly Saul hears about it and figures he’d better gather an army now (1 Samuel 13:3-4). The next thing you read about is Jonathan and his armor-bearer heading off alone to an enemy garrison without telling Saul, and Jonathan expressing that God can do great things with few people. Given the whole exchange, I get the idea Jonathan probably had a closer relationship to God than his father did, and that his armor-bearer shared in his beliefs and was probably a good friend (1 Samuel 14:1-23). Jonathan and his armor-bearer end up killing a lot of enemy soldiers, and chaos breaks loose among enemy ranks. Not long afterwards, when Jonathan hears of his father telling everyone that they can’t eat even though they probably should, he seems to think it’s stupid (1 Samuel 14:24-30).
So when David came into the mix and Saul and Jonathan heard that God had chosen David as the next king, that caused even more tension. Jonathan had absolutely no problem with David becoming the next king, even though that meant he himself would not. He and David became best friends (1 Samuel 18:1-4), so close to each other that Saul stopped telling Jonathan things so Jonathan wouldn’t be upset or warn David that his father was trying to kill him (1 Samuel 20:1-3). When Jonathan found out about his father’s plans to kill David and when Saul reacted by trying to throw a javelin at his own son, Jonathan was extremely angry and grieved (1 Samuel 20:27-34).
Though in that argument Saul reminded Jonathan that he would never be king so long as David lived, that didn’t seem to bother Jonathan in the slightest. Through a prearranged plan, he let David know what was going on so David could escape (1 Samuel 20:4-13, 35-42). Both of them cried at the parting, though later on Jonathan would visit David in one of his hiding places to give him some godly encouragement (1 Samuel 23:16-18).
Over time, even though he and Saul didn’t often agree with each other, Jonathan still dutifully stuck with his father, eventually dying in the same battle as his father did (1 Samuel 31:1-6). Throughout all this we see just how good of a man Jonathan was. No wonder he and David became such good friends. That’s the kind of person you want to have in your life, someone who believes in and is close to God, someone who will encourage you in the same, and someone who sticks with you and their duty even when it’s hard.