JONATHAN (jŏn'a-thăn, Heb. yehônāthān, yônāthān, Jehovah has given). A proper name common from the time of the judges onward.

1. A Levite, a son or more distant descendant of Gershom, son of Moses (Judg.18.30). For a time he lived in Bethlehem-Judah, but left to become the priest of Micah in Ephraim. Some Danites, after stealing idolatrous images from the house of Micah, induced him to go with them and be their priest. At Laish he founded a priesthood that officiated at the shrine of the stolen idols “until the time of the captivity of the land” (Judg.18.30).

2. Son of King Saul (see separate article below).

3. Son of the high priest Abiathar. He helped David during Absalom’s rebellion and brought to Adonijah the news that Solomon had been crowned king (2Sam.15.27, 2Sam.15.36; 2Sam.17.17, 2Sam.17.20; 1Kgs.1.42-1Kgs.1.43).

4. A son of Shimeah, a nephew of David (2Sam.21.21).

5. One of David’s mighty men (2Sam.23.32).

6. A Jerahmeelite (1Chr.2.32-1Chr.2.33).

7. A son of Uzziah, one of David’s treasurers (1Chr.27.25; Jehonathan, lit., kjv).

8. David’s “uncle,” a wise man and a scribe (1Chr.27.32). He may be the same as no. 4 above.

9. The father of Ebed, a returned exile (Ezra.8.6).

10. A son of Asahel who opposed Ezra in the matter of foreign marriages (Ezra.10.15).

11. A priest, a son of Joiada, descended from Jeshua (Neh.12.11).

12. A priest in the days of the high priest Joiakim (Neh.12.14).

13. A Levite of the lineage of Asaph (Neh.12.35).

14. A scribe in whose house Jeremiah was imprisoned (Jer.37.15, Jer.37.20).

15. A son of Kareah, probably the same as no. 14 above (Jer.40.8).

JONATHAN. The oldest son of Saul, the first king of Israel (1Sam.14.49). He comes on the scene soon after his father was crowned king. He gained an important victory over the Ammonites, who had been harassing the Israelites. Saul’s army numbered three thousand men (1Sam.13.2), a third of whom he placed under the command of Jonathan at Gibeah, while the rest he retained at his headquarters at Micmash. In the valley midway between the two camps, at a place called Geba, the Philistines established an outpost and forced Saul to evacuate and fall back on Gibeah and Gilgal with a greatly reduced army, now numbering only six hundred men (1Sam.13.15), the rest having fled in fear to hide in caves or having been pressed into the enemy’s service. In spite of this, Jonathan, assisted only by his armor-bearer, surprised the Philistine outpost at Geba and killed twenty men (1Sam.14.1-1Sam.14.14). The resulting panic spread to the main camp, and when Saul came to attack, he found the Philistines confusedly attacking one another, and soon the whole Philistine army was in headlong flight. In this rout, the only weapons the Israelites had were farming implements (1Sam.13.22), Saul and Jonathan alone being armed with swords and spears. The victory would have been even more complete had not Saul superstitiously ordered the people to refrain from eating until the day was over (1Sam.14.24). Unaware of this prohibition, Jonathan, in his hot pursuit of the enemy, refreshed himself by eating wild honey. Saul would have had him put to death, but the people intervened. They recognized that, with the help of God, his energetic action had brought them a mighty victory.

JONATHAN jon’ ə thən (יְהוֹנָתָ֜ן, Yahweh has given; ̓Ιωνάθης, ̓Ιωνάθαν). A common name among the Israelites in all periods.

1. Son of Saul, the first king of Israel. He was the first-born son and heir apparent to the throne of Israel (for an alternate view, cf. J. Morgenstern, “David and Jonathan,” JBL, LXXVIII [1959], 322-325).

Military success at Michmash.

Friendship with David.

Although Saul was engaged in constant warfare with Moab, Ammon, Edom, the kings of Zobah, and the Philistines, nothing more is said concerning the military exploits of Jonathan until he met death with his father and brothers, Abinadad and Malchishua, on Mount Gilboa. His sterling character is manifest, however, in another warfare—the warfare for prestige and popularity between his father and David. Jonathan met David soon after David’s successful encounter with Goliath and he loved him immediately (18:1). No other friendship has surpassed that of his for David. He had nothing to gain by his unceasing devotion, but everything to lose. At least three covenants between Jonathan and David are recorded. (a) At the first meeting, “because he loved him as his own soul,” Jonathan made a covenant with David and sealed the covenant by presenting his clothing and armor to David (18:3, 4). Later, when open hostility broke out between Saul and David because of David’s continued military success and his growing popularity, Jonathan intervened and brought about a temporary reconciliation (19:1-6). (b) Eventually, however, Saul again decided to rid himself of his rival by direct means. Jonathan, apparently unaware of Saul’s intentions, was approached by David in an attempt to ascertain the reasoning behind Saul’s action. Jonathan’s guilelessness and naivete are clearly evident when he confidently asserts, “ father does nothing either great or small without disclosing it to me” (20:2). By means of a plan devised by David, Jonathan learned the real intent of his father and relayed this information to David. A second covenant arose out of this meeting which stressed David’s attitude toward Jonathan and his descendants. Jonathan acknowledged that David would be the next king, and he wished David to swear that he would have mercy on his house (20:14-17). David kept this covenant and proved himself true to his friend. (c) The third covenant is mentioned only briefly (23:18). David was an exile hiding in the wilderness of Ziph at Horesh. Despite his father’s known enmity toward David, Jonathan visited him at Horesh. He stated clearly that David would be the next king and claimed that his father Saul also realized this fact. The covenant was renewed and the friendship sealed again.


Though in a very difficult position, Jonathan remained true to David until that fateful day when he also proved his undying devotion to his father on Mount Gilboa. David summarized it well when he wrote, “In life and in death they were not divided” (2 Sam 1:23). The men of Jabesh-gilead rescued the bodies of Saul and his sons from the walls of Beth-shan and gave them a burial worthy of heroes (1 Sam 31:11-13). Later, David removed the bones of Saul and Jonathan from Jabesh-gilead and buried them in the tomb of Kish in Zela of Benjamin (2 Sam 21:12-14).


He was survived by only one son, Mephibosheth (4:4) or, originally, Meribbaal (1 Chron 8:34); two sisters, Merab and Michal (1 Sam 14:49); and a brother, Ishbosheth (2 Sam 2:8) or, originally, Ishvi (1 Sam 14:49) or Eshbaal (1 Chron 8:33).


G. B. Caird, I and II Samuel, IB, II (1953); H. W. Hertzberg, I and II Samuel (1964).

2. Son of Gershom and grandson of Moses (Judg 18:30). A Levite from Bethlehem of Judah (17:7), he traveled to the hill country of Ephraim and was installed by Micah as his household priest (17:9). He was discovered by five spies from the tribe of Dan who recognized him and made use of his divinatory ability (18:2-6). Later, when some of the Danites migrated to the N, they stopped again at the house of Micah, stole the cultic equipment accumulated by Micah (including a graven and molten image—whether one or two images is meant is uncertain—an ephod, and teraphim) and talked the willing Jonathan into becoming priest for the entire tribe of Dan (18:14-20). A sanctuary was established at Dan—a site formerly called Laish—where Jonathan and his descendants served as priests until the fall of Israel to the Assyrians in the 8th cent. b.c. (18:29-31). The MT inserts an n into the name of Moses and prefers to read Manasseh, but the evidence is conclusive that Moses should be read. Perhaps the intention of the author is to indicate how far removed this worship was from the established religion of the ancestor Moses.


J. M. Myers, “Judges,” IB, II (1953), 801-808; Y. Kaufmann, The Religion of Israel (1960), 196 (fn. 12); R. de Vaux, Ancient Israel (1961), 307f.

3. Son of Abiathar the priest (2 Sam 15:27). With Ahimaaz the son of Zadok, he acted as a courier for David during the revolt by Absalom. The young men waited at En-rogel (17:17) for word brought by a maidservant concerning events in Jerusalem, and this word they carried to David at the fords of the Jordan. Later, when Adonijah proclaimed himself successor to his father David, Jonathan carried word to the celebrants at En-rogel that King David had ordered Solomon anointed king at Gihon (1 Kings 1:42-45).

4. Son of Shimei (2 Sam 21:21) or Shimea (1 Chron 20:7), David’s brother. He killed a giant from Gath who had six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot. He should not be confused with the son of Shammah (No. 5, below), since this latter was not a Bethlehemite, but perhaps he may be equated with the “uncle” of David (No. 8).

5. Son of “Shammah the Hararite” (2 Sam 23:33). He is listed as a member of the “Thirty,” an elite group of David’s warriors. He is called the son of Shagee the Hararite in 1 Chronicles 11:34.

6. Son of Jada, brother of Jether, nephew of Shammai, and father of Peleth and Zaza, a descendant of the line of Jerahmeel who allied themselves with the tribe of Judah (2:32f.).

7. Son of Uzziah and overseer of the provincial storehouses (treasuries) in the country, cities, villages, and the towers during the reign of David (27:25).

dōd) of David>8. Uncle (dōd) of David (27:32). A wise and understanding counselor of David, and also a scribe. He and Jehiel the son of Hachmoni were with the sons of the king. Some have preferred to read dōd as “brother’s son” or “kinsman” (2 Sam 21:21; 1 Chron 20:7), and thus equate him with the son of Shimei, David’s brother.

9. Father of Ebed, who was head of the family of Adin, who returned to Jerusalem from the Exile with fifty of his kinsmen and Ezra the scribe (Ezra 8:6; 1 Esd 8:32).

10. Son of Asahel, who, with Jahzeiah the son of Tikvah, either supported (KJV) or opposed (RSV) the formation of an investigative committee to look into the matter of interracial marriages among the Jews in Judah (Ezra 10:15; 1 Esd 9:14).


R. A. Bowman, “Ezra,” IB, III (1954), 654-657; J. M. Myers, “Ezra,” Anchor Bible (1965), 81, 87f.

11. One of the line of high priests who returned from Babylon with Zerubbabel and Jeshua (Neh 12:11). His father was Joiada; his son Jaddua. He was possibly a contemporary of Ezra, for Jehohanan the son (descendant) of Eliashib is mentioned as having a chamber which Ezra used for meditation and mourning over the conditions in Judah (Ezra 10:6). Probably the same as Johanan (10) (Neh 12:22f.).


R. A. Bowman, op. cit., 786-789; J. M. Myers, op. cit., 196-199.

12. One of the priests of the family of Malluchi who served during the high priesthood of Joiakim (Neh 12:14).

13. Son of Shemaiah and father of Zechariah who was one of the priests with a trumpet who accompanied Ezra in the ceremony to mark the completion of the rebuilding of the wall (Neh 12:35).

14. A secretary during the reign of King Zedekiah of Judah whose house was used as a prison in which Jeremiah was confined (Jer 37:15, 20; 38:26).

15. One of the sons of Kareah (Jer 40:8 in MT and KJV). The name is omitted in the RSV as a dittography of Johanan (1), since it does not appear in the LXX or in the parallel passage of 2 Kings 25:23.

16. Son of Mattathias, surnamed Apphus (1 Macc 2:5). A leader during the Maccabean revolt and successor to Judah. Though not as great a military leader as the latter, he showed a greater diplomatic ability. Arrested by Trypho through treachery, he was subsequently murdered after Simon had paid a ransom for his release (12:48ff.).

17. Son of Absalom whom Simon sent with an army to Joppa. He occupied the city (13:11).

18. A priest who led in prayer at the dedication service for the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem (2 Macc 1:23).


W. P. Paterson, “Jonathan,” HDB, II (1934), 753-755; D. F. Roberts, “Jonathan,” ISBE, III (1952), 1730; J Knox, “Jonathan,” IDB, II (1962), 967f.; J. Arman, “Jonathan,” EBi, III (1965), 532f.

Additional Material

Source 1

(yehonathan, yonathan, "Yahweh has given"; Ionathan; compare JEHONATHAN):

(1) (Hebrew yehonathan): The young "Levite" of Judges 17; 18 referred to by name in 18:30, where he is called "the son of Gershom, the son of Moses," and where the King James Version has "Manasseh" for Moses, following the Massoretic Text in which the letter nun of Manasseh is "suspended."

Rashi states the reason thus: "Because of the honor of Moses was the nun written so as to alter the name." The original word was Moses, but it was thought undesirable that a descendant of his should have anything to do with images; and so Jonathan was made to have affinity (metaphorically) with Manasseh. See GB, Intro, 335-38.

Jonathan was a Levitical Judahite of Beth-lehem-judah, who came to the house of Micah, in the hill country of Ephraim, and hired himself as a priest in Micah’s sanctuary (Jud 17:1-13). The Danites sent 5 men north to spy for new territory, and on their way the spies came to the house of Micah, where they found Jonathan and consulted the oracle through him (Jud 18:1-5). Having received a favorable answer, they set out and came to Laish, and on their return south they advised that an expedition be sent thither (Jud 18:6-10). Their clansmen accordingly sent out a band of warriors who on their way passed by Micah’s house. The spies informed their comrades of the ephod and teraphim and images there, and they seized them, inducing Jonathan at the same time to accompany them as their priest (Jud 18:11-20). At Laish he founded a priesthood which was thus descended from Moses (Jud 18:30).

It has been held that there are two sources in the narrative in Judges 17; 18 (see Moore, Judges, 365-72). The section is important because of the light it throws on life and religion in early Israel. The "Levites" were not all of one tribe (see Moore, op. cit., 383-84); there were priests who claimed descent from Moses as well as Aaronite priests; and images were common in early Hebrew worship (compare Ge 31:30 ff; Jud 8:27; 1Sa 19:13).

(2) Son of King Saul. See separate article.

(3) (Hebrew yehonathan, yonathan, 2Sa 15:27,36; 17:17,20; 1Ki 1:42,43): Son of Abiathar the priest. He acted with Ahimaaz as courier to inform David of events at Jerusalem during Absalom’s revolt. It was he who also brought to Adonijah the news of Solomon’s accession.

(4) (Hebrew yehonathan, 2Sa 21:21 parallel 1Ch 20:7): Son of Shimei or Shimea, David’s brother; he is said to be the slayer of Goliath.

See Jehonadab (1).

(5) (2Sa 23:32, Hebrew yehonathan = 1Ch 11:34, Hebrew yonathan): One of David’s mighty men.

See Jashen.

(6) (Hebrew yonathan, 1Ch 2:32,33): A Jerahmeelite.

(7) (Hebrew yehonathan, and so 1Ch 27:25 the King James Version): Son of Uzziah, and one of David’s treasurers.

(8) (Hebrew yehonathan, 1Ch 27:32): A dodh of David, the Revised Version (British and American) "uncle," the Revised Version margin "brother’s son"; if he was David’s nephew, he will be the same as (4) above. He "was a counselor" to David, and "a man of understanding, and a scribe."

(9) (Hebrew yonathan, Ezr 8:6; 1 Esdras 8:32): Father of Ebed, a returned exile.

(10) (Hebrew yonathan, Ezr 10:15; 1 Esdras 9:14): One who either supported (Revised Version (British and American)) or opposed (Revised Version margin, the King James Version) Ezra in the matter of foreign marriages; see Jahzeiah.

(11) (Hebrew yonathan, Ne 12:11): A priest, descendant of Jeshua (Joshua) = "Johanan" (Ne 12:22,23); see Jehohanan, (3).

(12) (Hebrew yonathan, Ne 12:14): A priest.

(13) (Hebrew yonathan, Ne 12:35): A priest, father of Zechariah.

(14) (Hebrew yehonathan, Jer 37:15,20; 38:26): A scribe in whose house Jeremiah was imprisoned.

(15) (Hebrew yonathan, Jer 40:8): Son of Kareah; a Judahite captain who joined Gedaliah after the fall of Jerusalem.

(16) (Ionathes, 1 Macc 2:5; 9-13; and Inathan 2 Macc 8:22; Swete reads Ionathes): The Maccabee surnamed Apphus in 1 Macc 2:5, son of Mattathias.

(17) Son of Absalom (1 Macc 13:11). He was sent by Simon the Maccabee to capture Joppa (compare 1 Macc 11:70, where there is mentioned a Mattathias, son of Absalom).

(18) A priest who led in prayer at the first sacrifice after the return from exile (2 Macc 1:23).

Source 2

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 (1Sa 18; 19), but was willing to surrender to him his undoubted claim to become Saul’s successor (1Sa 20). Their last meeting took place in the "desert" of Ziph, to the South of Hebron, some time after David had been driven into outlawry (1Sa 23:16-18).

(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 (1Sa 14:13; 2Sa 1:22,23).

3. Military Qualities:

He could keep his plans secret when secrecy was necessary in order to carry them to a successful issue (1Sa 14:1), and could decide on what course of action to follow and act upon it on the instant. His attack upon the Philistine garrison at Geba (or Gibeah, if we adopt the reading of the Septuagint and Targum of 1Sa 13:3; compare 10:5) was delivered at the right moment, and was as wise as it was daring. If he had a fault, from a military point of view, it may have been an inability to follow up an advantage. The pursuit of the Philistines on the occasion referred to ended with nightfall. In this respect, however, he perhaps cannot be censured with justice, as he never had an entirely free hand.

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 (1Sa 19:6). Filial duty could not have been more severely tested than was that of Jonathan, but his conduct toward both his father and his friend is above criticism. Only on one occasion did his anger get the better of him (1Sa 20:34) under gross provocation, Saul having impugned the honor of Jonathan’s mother (1Sa 20:30, Septuagint) Ahinoam (1Sa 14:50), and attempted his life. The estrangement was momentary; Saul and Jonathan were undivided in life and in death (2Sa 1:23 to be so read).

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 (1Sa 23:17), that belief would have been shared by Saul, which was not the case (1Sa 20:31). In disinterestedness and willingness to efface his own claims and give up his own titles the conduct of Jonathan is unsurpassed, and presents a pleasing contrast to some of the characters with whom we meet in the Bible. In this respect he resembles `Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad, who was the bravest of the brave, save when fighting in his own cause, and who had no ambition to fill the highest posts. So Jonathan preferred to serve rather than to command (1Sa 23:17). Jonathan and David stand for the highest ideal of Hebrew friendship, as do Damon and Pythias in Greek literature.

6. Inspired Affection:

We may be sure that Jonathan won the affection of the people. His squire was ready to follow him anywhere (1Sa 14:7). David’s devotion to him seems to have been sincere, although it unfortunately coincided with his own self-interest. Jonathan appears to have inspired as great an affection as he himself felt (1Sa 20:41; 2Sa 1:26). His quarrel with his father was largely due to the solicitude of the latter for his son’s interests (1Sa 18:29; 20:31).

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 1Ch 8:33 ff parallel 9:40 ff (compare 2Sa 9:12). They were famous soldiers and were, like their ancestors, distinguished in the use of the bow (1Ch 8:40).