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6. David

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 Israel:

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 Saul

" 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 Saul

" 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" (1:9)

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 AVmg.).

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 cold.