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6. David

6.2 David And Jonathan

6-2-1 David And Jonathan

It is evident from our previous study of 1 Sam.17 that we are intended to see David's victory over Goliath as deeply representative of Christ's conquest of sin on Golgotha. Immediately afterwards, we read  (and the record stresses this repetitiously) that Jonathan's soul " was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul...then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he (Jonathan) loved him as his own soul" (1 Sam.18:1,3). A good example of how the souls of David and Jonathan were spiritually knit together is shown by the identical style of prayer they had (20:12 cp.23:10; the question arises: Who influenced who?). After Christ's victory on the cross, he entered into a covenant with us his church. The intricately related friendship between David and Jonathan thus becomes typical  of that between the Lord Jesus and ourselves.  The idea of souls being knit together occurs in Col.2:2,19, concerning how our hearts and souls are knit together with Christ. This alone encourages us to see Jonathan as typical of ourselves. The inspired Paul may also have had Jonathan in mind as typical of the church when he spoke of our eyes being enlightened (Eph.1:18), using the very words of 14:27 concerning Jonathan. Likewise Paul speaks of the church as workers together with God (2 Cor.6:1), probably alluding to Jonathan having " wrought with God" (14:45). The covenant between Jonathan and David was an eternal one (20:15; 23:17), and was reconfirmed during their brief meetings together, during which they earnestly looked ahead to the Kingdom (23:17). And as we are all too painfully aware, our friendship with the Lord Jesus reflects the frustration of the Jonathan / David relationship, the accumulated tension of being unable to express their spiritual communication with each other, the pain of physical distance, Jonathan not knowing David's geographical location, having to live up to appearances and expectations in the David-hating court of his bitter father, struggling for the courage to stand up for his best friend.  The sheer human pain of it all is so thoroughly revealed to the sensitive reader of the records. There is a purpose in this: it is to take us further in appreciating the true nature of our relationship with Christ. 

Response to the cross

From the moment David stood triumphant over the slain Goliath, there is the continued emphasis on Jonathan taking the initiative in his relationship with David. It was he who first entered the covenant, his  soul was knit to David's, etc. This 'initiative' was in response to David's ultimate initiative in conquering Goliath. Likewise it is in the cross that we see the unsurpassed spiritual initiative of the love of Christ; and now we initiate the response (Rom.5:8). We love, because he first loved us (1 Jn.4:19). 

Jonathan was doubtless teetering on the edge of whether to take up Goliath's challenge. As the King's senior son and the young, dynamic army general (13:2), surely he was the obvious Hebrew champion to match Goliath. And moreover, Jonathan had risen to a similar challenge in 1 Sam.14, when he and his armourbearer took on the might of the Philistine army singlehanded, in a supreme act of faith. The question arises: Why didn't Jonathan do the same again when faced with the Goliath crisis? Presumably his faith was capable of one-off flashes of brilliance in certain situations, but in cold blood, as an act of the will, Jonathan's faith just didn't stay at the peak he achieved in 1 Sam.14. Truly and fully can we empathize with that man. His sense of failure in not rising up to Goliath's challenge made him appreciate David's victory much more deeply. Again, exact ditto for us in our response to the cross. As Jonathan wrought great salvation in Israel in 1 Sam.14:45, so did David (the same phrase occurs in 19:5). As Saul tried to kill an innocent Jonathan out of jealousy of his victory, so he did David- thus Jonathan shared the sufferings of David, as we do of Christ. Another example of this will be found in 20:33, where Saul tries to kill Jonathan with a javelin, as he did to David. Yet wonderfully, David seems to have counted Jonathan as if   he actually had been the champion against Goliath; he describes him as " the mighty" (2 Sam.1:27), using the same Hebrew word translated " champion" in 17:51 concerning Goliath. Likewise Christ shares his victory with us to the extent that he counts us as if  we were the victors on Calvary. 

Further confirmation of Jonathan seeing David as his personal hero,  succeeding where he failed, can be found in the following consideration. Jonathan seems to have seen Gideon as his hero (1). Yet in 19:5 he says that " David put his life in his hand" , exactly as Gideon did (Jud.9:17). In other words, Jonathan saw David as the perfect fulfilment of all he spiritually wished to be, he felt that David  lived up to the example of his hero Gideon, whereas he did not. Is this how dynamically and intensely we relate to our Lord Jesus?  For this is what the David and Jonathan relationship points ahead to.

Jonathan stripped himself of his " robe...and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle" (18:4). The triple phrase " and / even to..." indicates the totality of this stripping. " Bow" and " sword" often occur together as almost an idiom for human strength (Gen.48:22; Josh.24:12; 2 Kings 6:22; 1 Chron.5:18; Hos.1:7) (2). Not only did he give David the weapons of his human strength (cp.13:22), but he appears to have stripped himself almost physically bare (cp. Mic.2:8).Stripping like this is almost always associated with shame. The same word occurs in relating how the Philistines stripped Jonathan of his clothes and weapons, as he lay slain on Gilboa (31:8,9). This all seems to suggest that Jonathan was saying to David: " I deserve to have been killed by Goliath (cp. the devil), so in a sense I will 'die' now by entering into a covenant with you, knitting my life / soul with yours. Rather than the Philistines (cp. our sins) killing, shaming and stripping me, I'll do it to myself'. Isn't  this exactly our response to the cross in the ongoing 'baptism' we commit ourselves to? And of course we shouldn't miss the connection with Israel stripping themselves, deeply conscious of their sins, and then entering into covenant with God (Ex.33:6). Yet does the cross of Christ really fill us with that sense of shame, that desire to throw away all our human strength and knit our souls with that of Christ...?  

Jonathan saw David as God manifest; thus " Jonathan said unto David  ,  O Lord God of Israel...." (20:12). Our reflection on Christ's great victory should also makes us appreciate the more finely the degree to which " God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself" . Yet despite Jonathan's deep respect for David, evidently seeing David as his spiritual superior, David speaks of himself as being so inferior  to Jonathan! Three times in two verses he calls himself " thy servant" (20:7,8). And David felt that he had " found grace" in Jonathan's eyes (20:3). What a relationship was this! David truly feeling Jonathan's servant, whilst Jonathan gasped at David's spiritual stature. And with what precision do we see the Spirit artlessly capturing our position before Christ, the " servant of all" the church. There was something incredibly mutual about their relationship; Jonathan was a real inspiration to David. He strengthened him, as the disciples did Christ. It is difficult to accurately appreciate the sense in which we have a mutuality of friendship with Christ; the sense in which we actually give him something. Shortly before he went out to face the cross, Christ thanked the disciples for sticking with him in all his temptations (Lk.22:28). His words must have met with blank looks. In like manner it is hard for us, in this  life at least, to enter into the idea of our giving some kind of help and encouragement, indeed anything  , to our Lord. Yet at least we must accept, on a conceptual level anyway, that somehow, in some sense, we do  give him something.  

Jonathan in weakness

20:14,15,42 seem to hint at some kind of nervousness, even fear, in Jonathan, despite his closeness to David. He seems to have almost feared that David would take revenge punish him in some way, on account of his close relationship with his sinful father. It must have seemed impossible to Jonathan, living at a  time of kinship-based revenge, to believe that ultimately David would not react strongly against Saul's hatred of him. And we too, ever conscious of our sinful nature, the problems of our natural ancestry, struggle to reassure ourselves of the  love of Christ that passes knowledge, just as Jonathan must have looked deeper and deeper into the malice-less love of his friend David. 


(1) There are clear connections between Jonathan and Gideon; compare 1 Sam.14:10-20 with Jud.7:3,10,11,14,22. Jonathan's son was called Merib-baal (1 Chron.9:40), meaning 'rebellion against Baal', an epithet for 'Gideon'.

(2) Jonathan and Saul's " bow...and sword" were used by them in the fateful battle on Gilboa (2 Sam.1:22). Does this mean that Jonathan was trusting in his human strength again? Psalm 44, which sounds very much like David's meditation on Israel's defeat on Gilboa, includes the comment: " I (David) will not trust in my bow, neither shall my sword  save me" (Ps.44:6). Or does it mean that although Jonathan gave David / Jesus his human strength, David gave it back to him, for him to use on his own initiative?