In reading through my annual Bible reading plan, I have been reintroduced to the friendship between David and Jonathan in the book of 1 Samuel. I must confess that I had not paid much attention to the nature of this relationship before in my reading of 1 Samuel, as there are so many other things going on in this historical account that seemed to capture my attention. (To be quite honest, the instantaneous intensity of it had always seemed a bit strange to me anyway). I mean, I had always heard of the fond affection that David and Jonathan had for one another, but I had never considered the nature of it or the progression of it. However, over the past month or so, God has been bringing this relationship to mind as I have been reading through the text and meditating on the topic of true fellowship.
In the biblical account, the reader is first introduced to Jonathan, king Saul’s son, in the 13th chapter of 1 Samuel. The reader is informed of his military successes against Israel’s neighboring enemies, the Philistines. However, it is not until the 14th chapter, when Jonathan is faced with more opposition from the Philistines, that the reader is given a glimpse into the secret of his success:
“Jonathan said to the young man who carried his armor, “Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised. It may be that the LORD will work for us, for nothing can hinder the LORD from saving by many or by few… Behold, we will cross over to the men, and we will show ourselves to them. If they say to us, ‘Wait until we come to you,’ then we will stand still in our place, and we will not go up to them. But if they say, ‘Come up to us,’ then we will go up, for the LORD has given them into our hand. And this shall be the sign to us.” … And the men of the garrison hailed 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 given them into the hand of Israel.” -1 Samuel 14.6, 8b-10, 12
Jonathan did not place the success of his military strategy in his own hands, but in the hands of the almighty LORD. He rested his confidence in the LORD’s ability to win the battle “by many or by few.”
A few chapters later, we are introduced to David in 1 Samuel 16, when he is anointed by God through the ministry of Samuel to replace Saul (Jonathan’s father) as king over Israel. Following his anointing, we read about David’s first military experience in 1 Samuel 17, when he faced the infamous Philistine giant, Goliath of Gath. Similarly, the reader is given a glimpse of David’s heart in the matter when he makes the following statements just moments before his confrontation with Goliath:
“‘For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God? … Let no man’s heart fail because of him. Your servant will go and fight with this Philistine … Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.‘ And David said, ‘The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.’ … Then David said to the Philistine, ‘You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, … that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the LORD saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the LORD’s and he will give you into our hand.’” – 1 Samuel 17.26b, 32b, 36-37, 45-47
In so many ways, David’s discourse resembles Jonathan’s (although, it is perhaps a bit more lengthy and detailed). Like Jonathan, David also placed his unwavering confidence to win the battle, NOT in his own ability, strength, or power, but in the hands of the almighty LORD. He continually points to Him as the One working behind the scenes to bring about the deliverance of His people.
It is immediately following David’s victory over Goliath that we read:
“As soon as [David] had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul … Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt.” – 1 Samuel 18.1, 3-4
At first, the instantaneous affection that Jonathan feels toward David in the reading of the text seemed to me slightly awkward, a bit out of place, as the text provides no clear explanation for this sudden onset of emotion. However, after time of careful study and meditation, the inception of this deep friendship between David and Jonathan actually seemed entirely fitting.
First of all, Jonathan likely heard all that David had said just prior to his defeat of the Philistine. Not only would he have been in relatively close proximity to his father, King Saul, in the battle line; but as indicated by the text, Jonathan was present when David was speaking to his father. Therefore, Jonathan would have gotten the sense of David’s overwhelming trust and confidence in the LORD from his discourse.
Secondly, during Jonathan’s confrontation with the Philistines, the reader is informed that “all the men of Israel … had hidden themselves in the hill country of Ephraim” because they were afraid of the Philistine army (1 Samuel 14.22a). Of the entire nation of Israel, Jonathan was the only Israelite with a bold enough trust in the LORD to even attempt to face the enemy. Even his own father and king was hiding in a cave along with 600 other men. He must have felt incredibly isolated and alone in his faith, as all others around him seemed to lack it. Oh, how sweet the words of young David must have been to his soul! What an encouragement that must have been to Jonathan to finally find a man who held to the same conviction as he did of unwavering confidence and trust in the almighty LORD! (It is no wonder that he was willing to freely give his sword to David, one of only two swords in all of Israel – 1 Samuel 13.22.)
Lastly, reading some of the chapters following this account has also helped to shed light on my understanding of the nature of this deep friendship. It all seems to be based, wrapped, and girded by a confident trust in the LORD. In most of their conversations, they call upon the LORD to bear witness, or to be present with them (1 Samuel 18.3; 20.3, 12, 13, 16; 20.42; 23.18). The LORD was the foundation of their relationship. He was the glue that bound them together. His was the Spirit that knit their souls.