6-2-2 David's Lament Over Jonathan
If we are to read Jonathan as typical of ourselves, we can expect
to see a number of hints at his spiritual weak points. Already we
have observed that he failed to maintain the spiritual peaks that
he occasionally reached; and we have suggested that Jonathan's death
on Gilboa may hint that he too shared the apostasy of Israel
at that time. The Spirit's condemnation of Israel in Am.2:14,15
is loaded with allusions to the fate of Saul and Jonathan on Gilboa,
as recorded in David's lament over Jonathan and Saul: " The
flight (cp. Saul and sons fleeing before the Philistines) shall
perish from the swift (= Saul and Jonathan "
swifter than eagles" ), and the strong shall
not strengthen his force (= " stronger than lions" ),
neither shall the mighty (" How are the mighty
fallen" ) deliver himself: neither shall he stand that handleth
the bow (=" the bow of Jonathan..." )"
. Another set of allusions to Saul and Jonathan's death occur in
Micah 1 and 2, where again they are connected with spiritually collapsed
Micah 1 and 2
Saul and Jonathan
High places (1:3)
Slain at the site of their
high places (2 Sam.1:19,25). These high places are
consistently associated with idolatry and at best semi-spirituality.
" A wailing like the dragons,
and mourning as the owls" (1:8) for apostate Israel
David's lament over Jonathan and
" They covet fields, and take
them away...they oppress a man" (2:2)
Saul was guilty of this.
" Lament with a lamentation
of lamentations" for the pathos of it all (2:4 AVmg.)
David's lament over Jonathan and
" Thy shame naked" (1:11)
Stripped naked by the Philistines,
with Saul's body paraded naked on the wall of Bethshan.
" It is come unto Judah; he
is come unto the gate of my people, even to Jerusalem"
The Philistines took the Israelite
cities at this time (31:7), presumably including Jerusalem,
which David had to recapture.
" Declare ye it not at Gath"
(1:10) - regarding Israel's judgment for sin
This is a direct quote from 2 Sam.1:20.
“The glory of Israel hides in the
cave of Adullam” (1:15 NEB)
" She is grievously sick of
her wounds" (1:9 AVmg.)
How Saul and Jonathan died (31:1,2
The point of all these allusions to David's lament over Jonathan
and Saul is to show that at best Jonathan died the death of a sinner,
as does the church whom he typified. Yet it is also possible that
there is here the possible hint that Jonathan's personal spirituality
was not what it might have been at this time. There is another reason
for these allusions. The Spirit could have described the depth of
David's grief using adjectives alone. But instead it choses to also
make the point by way of allusion. The grief of Micah for Israel
was that of David for Jonathan: " I will wail and howl, I will
go stripped and naked: I will make a wailing like the dragons, and
mourning as the owls" (Mic.1:8). The extent of David's grief
is another indication of his love for Jonathan; and this is a prophecy
of Christ's love for us.
It is really stressed that Saul and Jonathan " fell"
on Gilboa (31:1,8; 2 Sam.1:10,12,19,25,27), using a Hebrew word
which is often used about spiritual falling. The fact that "
the Philistines followed hard upon Saul and upon his sons"
(31:2) gives the impression of them fleeing from the Philistine
soldiers. This sends the mind back to the Law's warning that an
apostate Israel would flee before their enemies (Dt.28:25 ). It
is possible to Biblically reconstruct the battle of Gilboa, and
thus to enter into the pathos of the whole scene yet more fully.
Saul and Jonathan did not retreat (2 Sam.1:22) when the rest of
Israel did (31:1). Saul and his sons held their ground, slaying
many Philistines. But then Jonathan was wounded by an arrow (the
Hebrew word translated " slain" in 2 Sam.1:19,22,25 means
to pierce to death; crucifixion language), as was Saul. Yet they
kept on fighting, until they were surrounded on all sides; they
died " in the midst of the battle" (2 Sam.1:25);
they " perished" (2 Sam.1:27), a Hebrew word also translated
'to have no way to flee'. They tried to flee, eventually throwing
down their shields so that they could run faster (2 Sam.1:21). Eventually
Jonathan and his brothers, the cream of Israel, lay slain on Gilboa,
and Saul then fell on his sword.
David's lament over Saul and Jonathan is extremely positive, after
the spirit of the way in which Christ looks upon his dead saints
(cp. God's positive comments on many of the kings after their death).
Yet we know that Saul's death was in recompense for his dire apostasy.
In that punishment, David observed, he and Jonathan " were
not divided" (2 Sam.1:23). This may suggest that in some sense
Jonathan was too closely linked with his father, and was therefore
implicated in his punishment. It can be shown that not all Saul's
sons died on Gilboa; therefore there was special point to the fact
that Jonathan died with his father in that way. David's command
that there should be no dew or rain upon the mountains (2 Sam.1:21)
was to be picked up years later by Elijah, when he made the same
imprecation against an apostate Israel (1 Kings 17:1).
Earlier on, Jonathan certainly seems to have seen Saul in a somewhat
too positive light. His statement that God would be with David as
He had been with Saul in the past and was still with him (so the
Hebrew seems to imply) surely bespeaks a lack of appreciation of
the seriousness of Saul's apostasy (20:13). Despite Saul commanding
Jonathan by clear pronouncement to kill David (19:1 Hebrew), Jonathan
assures David that Saul is not really intending to kill him; the
implication is that he felt David's fear of Saul was somewhat exaggerated
(20:1,2). David gently pointed out, in the spirit of Christ, that
Jonathan did not realize how deceptive Saul was (20:3). Saul gave
the impression that he 'delighted' in David (18:22), using the very
same word as in 19:2: " Jonathan...delighted
much in David" . In other words, Saul and our surrounding world
can appear to have the same attitude to David / Jesus as ourselves.
Those who see the apostasy as good 'fellow-Christians' have fallen
headlong into this trap. The massive difference between the world's
attitude to Christ and our own should become more and more apparent
to us, despite the external similarities between us and them. Jonathan's
familiarity with his father led him to overlook the manic danger
which he posed for David, although at other times Jonathan seems
to have faced up to it squarely. Again, the similarities with ourselves
should be clear; our familiarity with sin, our hereditary closeness
to it, leads us to question the real danger it has for the Christ-man.
Our sense of the seriousness of sin likewise tends to blow hot and