Be Trustworthy

| 1 Samuel 18:1-4; 19:4-7; 20:10-13,16-17

Biblical Truth: Strong relationships are built on trust, and we prove to be trustworthy through commitment, loyalty, honesty, and consistency.

Commitment: 1 Sam. 18:1-4.

[1]  Now it came about when he had finished speaking to Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as himself. [2]  Saul took him that day and did not let him return to his father’s house. [3]  Then Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. [4]  Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, including his sword and his bow and his belt.     [NASU]

David’s life now changes dramatically. His many hours spent caring for or communing with his beloved sheep are over. Now he has a full-time role at court and his presence and his services are appreciated by all. He is befriended by Saul’s son Jonathan who found in David a soul mate: the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David. This was understandable because David and Jonathan had much in common; they were both courageous and capable young warriors who possessed profound faith in the Lord. Both had initiated faith-motivated attacks against militarily superior Philistines that had resulted in great victories for Israel. Jonathan’s love for David inspired him to make a covenant with David, one that was expressed with extravagant gifts. Jonathan’s generous-hearted acceptance of David fits well with what we know of him elsewhere. There is never any question of jealousy or pettiness. Jonathan apparently recognized that the Spirit of God was with David and rejoiced in that fact. Whether Jonathan knew that Saul had been told that his dynasty would not endure, or of Saul’s rejection by God is never made clear. But that Jonathan would have handed over his potential inheritance as generously as he handed over other gifts is not in question. Jonathan is consistently presented as a great man, the equal of David in faith and in courage. David’s success with Goliath is shown to have been much more than a fluke. He became a warrior to be reckoned with and his rapid promotion within the army was welcomed warmly by all. Discord between Saul and David is about to be introduced but it is made very clear that at this stage there was complete harmony between Saul’s family, David and the people.

Loyalty: 1 Sam. 19:4-7.

[4]  Then Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father and said to him, “Do not let the king sin against his servant David, since he has not sinned against you, and since his deeds have been very beneficial to you. [5]  For he took his life in his hand and struck the Philistine, and the Lord brought about a great deliverance for all Israel; you saw it and rejoiced. Why then will you sin against innocent blood by putting David to death without a cause?” [6]  Saul listened to the voice of Jonathan, and Saul vowed, “As the Lord lives, he shall not be put to death.” [7]  Then Jonathan called David, and Jonathan told him all these words. And Jonathan brought David to Saul, and he was in his presence as formerly.      [NASU]

[4-5]  Although he initially loved David [16:21], Saul came to fear him [18:12] and then to seek his death. Saul’s attempts began with a murderous thought [18:11], then progressed to awkward homicidal acts hidden from public view [18:11]. Saul then crafted a wider and more artful plan that involved public lies [18:22] and a small circle of people, including servants and a daughter, the circle of involvement widened when this effort failed. Dropping all ruses, Saul now explicitly ordered Jonathan and all his servants to kill David [19:1]. When Jonathan heard his father’s words, an internal collision occurred between the young man’s love for David and his desire to please his father. Jonathan’s response to Saul’s suggestion again brings out his practical wisdom and general good-naturedness. Jonathan chose to act on behalf of David. First, he warned David by revealing Saul’s intentions and timetable for murder. Next, he formulated a plan of escape for David. Finally, he proposed a plan to gather further information from the king and pass it along to David. Jonathan urged the king to reconsider his plans for David and provided Saul with several reasons for doing so. The first reason was David’s innocence; that is, he had committed no crime against the crown that would require his death. Second, on the positive side David had been of great help to Saul by killing a dreaded enemy. Third, Saul should spare David’s life to avoid committing a serious sin, that of shedding innocent blood.

[6-7]  Jonathan’s impeccable reasoning achieved, for the time being, the desired result. Saul listened to his son and took a solemn oath to underscore his decision that David shall not be put to death. Having negotiated the reconciliation, Jonathan went at once to David to inform him of his success and accompany David back to the royal household. As a result, David was with Saul as before. For the time being, at least, David was spared by the efforts of Jonathan, the man who had perhaps the most to gain from David’s death. Part of Jonathan’s concern was for David, but it is likely that he was also doing his best for his father, trying to prevent him from damaging himself further as a result of his obsessive fear. His ability to diffuse the situation without taking sides provides a wonderful example of pastoral diplomacy and deserves to be studied by all who are faced with conflict between those that they care for.

Honesty: 1 Sam. 20:10-13.

[10]  Then David said to Jonathan, “Who will tell me if your father answers you harshly?” [11]  Jonathan said to David, “Come, and let us go out into the field.” So both of them went out to the field. [12]  Then Jonathan said to David, “The Lord, the God of Israel, be witness! When I have sounded out my father about this time tomorrow, or the third day, behold, if there is good feeling toward David, shall I not then send to you and make it known to you? [13]  If it please my father to do you harm, may the Lord do so to Jonathan and more also, if I do not make it known to you and send you away, that you may go in safety. And may the Lord be with you as He has been with my father.”     [NASU]

Jonathan, like David, had much to lose if the accusations against Saul proved true; he would forgo the companionship of his best friend and experience alienation from his father. In an effort to put the matter to rest, he agreed to cooperate with David in the investigation. Whatever plan David might put forth, Jonathan would follow it. David came up with a plan to force Saul to reveal his true intentions toward David. The plan was simple yet effective. It proactively safeguarded David by sequestering him, and it avoided any use of force. For his part David would merely absent himself from the royal court for two days. In so doing he would fail to be present at the sacrificial meals associated with an ordinary new moon festival. Jonathan’s role would be more complicated. Most of the time during the next two days he was to be merely a passive observer of his father. However, when Saul commented on David’s absence, Jonathan was to convey a respectable excuse to account for David’s empty chair at the meals. After that he was to note Saul’s reaction: a positive response to Jonathan’s words would mean that David is safe; a hostile response would mean that Saul was determined to harm David.

A remarkable transformation occurs in the narrative beginning at verse 11 and extending through verse 23. David, the most dynamic character in 1 and 2 Samuel, becomes a silent and passive presence on the story line. A total of 162 Hebrew words occur in four different quotations in this section, but all of them are spoken by Jonathan. This section may be viewed as the thematic centerpiece of the story of Jonathan. First, it shows that Jonathan, the individual next in the dynastic succession to be king after Saul, was also the one who took responsibility for David’s escape from Saul. Second, this section depicts the establishment of a covenant between the house of David and the house of Jonathan that would later lead David to defy conventional wisdom regarding the elimination of potential rivals to the throne. Under the terms of the agreement, when David became king he was to show the son of Saul the lovingkindness of the Lord [14]. David later honored the terms of this agreement; instead of killing off all members of the Saul’s family, David gave Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth great wealth and a place at the royal table. Third, this section contains the first indication that the Lord would someday grant David success on an international scale. Jonathan’s requests assume that the Lord would cut off every one of the enemies of David from the face of the earth [15].

Consistency: 1 Sam. 20:16-17.

[16]  So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, “May the Lord require it at the hands of David’s enemies? [17]  Jonathan made David vow again because of his love for him, because he loved him as he loved his own life.     [NASU]

Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David. The treaty sought the mutual welfare of both parties and was motivated by the noble kind of love enjoined in the Torah for Jonathan loved David as he loved his own life. Jonathan prays that the Lord will call David’s enemies to account. Given the context, it seems impossible to understand this as other than Jonathan recognizing and accepting that if Saul remains David’s enemy, then he will surely stand under God’s judgment. Finally, after outlining the arrangements for giving news, Jonathan reconfirms his commitment to David’s cause by calling on the Lord as witness. Only a very remarkable person could exhibit this kind of gracious unselfishness. Jonathan’s physical valor is strongly affirmed in earlier chapters and here it is recognized that it is not only as a warrior that Jonathan stands as a hero.

Questions for Discussion:

1.          What do we learn about the character of Jonathan in 18:1-4? What kind of friend was Jonathan?

2.          Jonathan must have been torn between his loyalty to his father, the king, and to David, his friend. What more do we learn about the character of Jonathan as he acts the mediator between his father and David? Why was it right for Jonathan to disobey his father in 19:1-2? What evidence of God’s wisdom do we find in Jonathan in 19:4-7?

3.          Read 1 Samuel 20:11-23. What more do we learn about Jonathan in this passage? What does Jonathan teach us about being a devoted friend?


The Message of 1 & 2 Samuel, Mary Evans, Inter-Varsity.

1 & 2 Samuel, Robert Bergen, NAC, Broadman.