6-2-4 The Love Of David For Jonathan
The record powerfully presents the picture of David and Jonathan as two
men living in totally different worlds, and yet being bound together,
despite the tangles of their lives, by the hope of the Kingdom, and the
pure intensity of their spiritual bond with each other in the Lord. The
love of David for Jonathan is surpassing. The juxtaposition of their lifestyles
is shown by passages like 23:18: " David abode in the wood
, and Jonathan went to his house " . " Jonathan
Saul's son (note the emphasis again!) arose, and went to David into
the wood" (23:16). We are invited to imagine Jonathan walking into
the wood, stumbling through it, until he found David, concealed in some
deep thicket; and then, after brief but intense fellowship, stumbling
back through the undergrowth, brushing himself down, and returning to
his stately home. The same impression is given by 20:42: " We have
sworn both of us...and David arose and departed (to his den): and Jonathan
went into the city" . There seems more than an echo here of Abraham
and Lot parting company in Gen.13:8-12. How many of us, coming out of
a memorial meeting and returning to the world, have gone through the same
emotions. The clandestine nature of the David:Jonathan friendship is surely
replicated between us and Christ. The love of David for Jonathan is Christ's
love for us. Their souls were " knit" , a Hebrew word also translated
" conspire" , hinting at the secretiveness (18:1). What
company we are in! Yet as Jonathan became too involved in his surrounding
world (so it seems), so we run a similar gauntlet. The question arises:
Should Jonathan have run away from his situation, and gone to join David
in the wilderness, like others did? Should we? To close down a career,
move down the property ladder, change our eating, travelling, holiday
habits.... or stay where we are in Saul's court, to some degree living
out a lie, hoping Gilboa won't come for us?
The intensity of fellowship
By now we have presented enough evidence to show that we are intended
to read Jonathan as typical of ourselves. Hidden away in the records,
there is so much information concerning the human side of his relationship
with David. So now we want to revel for a moment in piecing it all together,
to marvel at the human pain of it all, and to see in it
both challenge and comfort; challenge in that we really should be experiencing
something like this with Christ, and in those parts of life in which we
do, to take comfort from the fact that other men have trodden this path
In all close friendships there are some aspects which just could not
have been contrived by human arrangement, and which add to the closeness
and sense of specialness which those relationships have. There were such
aspects with David and Jonathan, intensifying the love of David for Jonathan.
For example, it was a beautiful coincidence that they both happened to
have a brother called Abinadab (16:8 cp. 1 Chron.8:33). The same spirit
is shown in the incident where they agree that if Jonathan shoots arrows
well beyond David, then David should flee. Obviously they did not intend
to meet if this were the case; otherwise there would have been no point
in the arrangement about the arrows. David did need to flee, so Jonathan
shot the arrows beyond him. Yet somehow Jonathan and David took
a chance and crept towards each other. David went towards Jonathan, somehow
hoping that he would meet him. And Jonathan went to find David, hoping
against hope that he wouldn't flee immediately, as they
had arranged. This explains the intensity of their meeting together: "
they kissed one another, and wept one with another, until David exceeded"
(20:41). " Until David exceeded" defies complete translation
and interpretation. It clearly does not mean that David cried until he
stopped crying. David " exceeded" in that he went somewhere
beyond; Strong defines the Hebrew word as meaning 'to be made larger in
the mind'. In a sense David broke down emotionally, and yet on another
level he went beyond, into a level of relationship which was beyond normal
emotional experience. In like manner he commented that his love for Jonathan
was beyond the love of women; the love of David for Jonathan pointed forward
to that special emotional and spiritual bond in Christ which passes the
human experience of love (Eph. 3:19).
It was doubtless overruled that they grew up only 10 miles away from
each (Jonathan in Gibeah of Saul, David in Bethlehem). In the early Israel
of those days, it is almost certain that they knew each other from their
youth. It is possible to speculate that David was in fact " the young
man that bare (Jonathan's) armour" in the heroic conquest of the
Philistine garrison in 1 Sam.14. Note how Saul also calls him " young
man" in 17:58. There was evidently an intense spiritual
and physical rapport between Jonathan and his armour bearer which was
similar to that described between Jonathan and David. " I am with
thee according to thy heart" (14:7) has firm connection with David
and Jonathan being described as having their souls knit together in 18:1.
The record of David's battle with the Philistines in 2 Sam.5:17-24 has
certain similarities with the exploits of 14:8-11; as if, years later,
David replicated his early adventure of faith. David already had a reputation
in Israel for being " a mighty valiant man, and a man of war...and
the Lord is with him" (16:18), even before the Goliath incident.
This would be understandable if he had gone with Jonathan in chapter 14.
His becoming Saul's armourbearer (16:21) would then be
seen as a logical promotion from being Jonathan's armourbearer.
The last mention of the David : Jonathan relationship is in 2 Sam.21:12-14,
where we read that David personally (" he" cp. "
they" ) took and carried the bones of Saul and Jonathan to
their final resting place. The love of David for Jonathan is apparent.
We are invited to imagine David carrying the bones of his best friend,
perhaps just the ashes of them (31:12,13), cradling them (or the
container) in his arms, weeping as he walked. How about this for
pathos. What is man, that God is mindful of us? The
words of David's lament in 2 Sam.1 would have surely come to his
mind. It is almost certain that David memorized them, seeing it
was taught as a song of remembrance (2 Sam.1:18). There would have
been the restimulation of so much. So that is how the Spirit concludes
the story, David walking off into the sunset with the bones of Jonathan.
It should be remembered that this occurred after David's disgrace
with Bathsheba (1).
The thought must surely have gone through his mind: It's a good
thing dear Jonathan isn't hear to see it. The very name of the prophet
Nathan, the exposer of David's sin, would have restimulated David.
For 'Jonathan' means 'Yahweh-Nathan'. It is quite likely that in
practice David would not have pronounced the 'Yah' prefix; he would
have called Jonathan 'Nathan' (how many 'Jonathan's do you know
whose name isn't abbreviated by their friends?). The reason
why there is so much pathos in the story, so powerfully expressed,
is to set us a standard of love and feeling towards Christ; for
Jonathan represents us, and the love of David for him really is
a reflection, even an inadequate one (selah) , of
the love of Christ for us. Truly do we sing that " Thou art
far above / dearest of human love" .
" The love of Christ, that passeth knowledge" (Eph.3:19) is
clearly prefigured in David's feelings for Jonathan and the love of David
for Jonathan. Despite many passionate relationships with women, experiencing
the depth of human closeness more than many, David could sob: " Thy
love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women" (2 Sam.1:26).
The Hebrew for " wonderful" has a root meaning 'separate'. This
love of Jonathan was separate from all other love David had known.
In this we see perhaps the first Old Testament foretaste of agape
love, love beyond the phileo and eros .
Emotionally and spiritually, Jonathan and David went way ahead of their
time. David speaks of Jonathan's love in terms of male:female love. He
describes him as " the beauty of Israel" , " very pleasant
hast thou been unto me" ; and grammatically, " thy love to me..."
(2 Sam.1:26) implies that the lover was female. It is even possible to
work this out from Strong's Lexicon. In ecclesial life, it has often been
observed that there is a certain spiritual relationship between male and
female in Christ which is somehow deeper than that between believers of
the same sex. Yet these two brethren had a spiritual love for each other
which totally transcended the gender division. They entered deeply into
the spirit of Christ, where there is neither male nor female, but all
are knit together in one. In like manner, our Lord said that male believers
could be his sister and mother. We are dealing with high things here.
Yet the heights of the David:Jonathan relationship are set down here to
challenge us to at least try to touch the sky, however briefly. And when
David later wrote of how good and “pleasant” it is for brethren to dwell
together in unity (Ps. 133), he surely had the pleasantness of his relationship
with Jonathan in mind, and wished it to be shared by all his brethren.
(1) It is quite likely that Ps.19:8,10
were written with Jonathan's experience of 1 Sam14 in mind:
" The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes...sweeter
also than honey and the honeycomb" . Psalm 19 may well have
been written in the Bathsheba period: " Cleanse (s.w. Ps.51:2)
thou me from secret faults" . So the memory of Jonathan stayed
with David all his life long.