See also Jonathan
The eldest son of Saul, the first king of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin.
1. Three Periods:
The life of Jonathan, as far as we are told about him, falls naturally into 3 periods.
(1) First Period.
(2) Second Period.
The 2nd period of the life of Jonathan is that of his friendship for David. The narrative is too well known to need recapitulating, and the simple tale would only be spoiled by telling it in other words. Jonathan’s devotion to David was such that he not only took his part against his father, Saul (
(3) Third Period.
The 3rd phase of Jonathan’s life is that of the exile of David, when Saul was directing his energies to combat what he no doubt considered the rebellion of the son of Jesse. During this civil war, if that can be called war in which one of the two sides refuses to take the offensive against the other, Jonathan remained entirely passive. He could not take part in proceedings which were directed against his friend whom he believed to be destined to occupy the place which he himself should in the ordinary course of events have filled. We therefore hear no more of Jonathan until the encroachments of the Philistines once more compelled Saul to leave the pursuit of the lesser enemy in order to defend himself against the greater. Saul’s last campaign against the Philistines was short and decisive: it ended in the defeat of Gilboa and the death of himself and his sons. The men of Jabesh-gilead, out of gratitude for Saul’s rescue of their town at the beginning of his reign, crossed over to Beth-shan, on the walls of which town the Philistines had hung in chains the bodies of Saul and Jonathan, and took them down under cover of darkness and carried them to Jabesh. There they burned the bodies after the manner of the primitive inhabitants of the land, and buried the bones.
2. His Character:
If we may judge from the little which has been handed down to us concerning him, Jonathan must have been one of the finest spirits that ever lived. His character is, as far as our knowledge goes, nearly perfect. He was athletic and brave (
3. Military Qualities:
He could keep his plans secret when secrecy was necessary in order to carry them to a successful issue (
4. Filial Piety:
Jonathan’s independence and capacity for acting on his own responsibility were combined with devotion to his father. While holding his own opinion and taking his own course, he conformed as far as possible to his father’s views and wishes. While convinced of the high deserts of David, he sought by all means to mitigate Saul’s hatred toward him, and up to a certain point he succeeded (
5. Friendship for David:
But it is as the befriender of David that Jonathan will always be remembered. He is the type of the very perfect friend, as well as of the chivalrous knight, for all time. His devotion to David was altogether human; had it been dictated by a superstitious belief in David’s destiny as the future ruler of his people (
6. Inspired Affection:
We may be sure that Jonathan won the affection of the people. His squire was ready to follow him anywhere (
7. His Descendants:
Jonathan’s sons were, in common with his brother’s, killed in the wars. One alone--Meribbaal (Mephibosheth)--survived. Jonathan’s posterity through him lasted several generations. A table of them is given in