Summary of the Life of Jonathan in the Bible

1 Samuel 13 - 31


The Home Life of Jonathan (1Samuel 13)

Jonathan was the first born son of King Saul (1Samuel 13:2; 14:49, 50). He had two brothers named Ishui and Melchishua, and two sisters named Merab and Michal. Jonathan had grown up most of his life in a kings house, and been well taken cared of as the heir to the throne of Israel. By the time he appears in Scripture, Jonathan was already in his twenties, and an able leader, and fighter in his father’s army – he was Captain of 1,000 soldiers, which is no easy task!

At first, Saul was Jonathan’s biggest influence in life. It was most natural for Jonathan to look to his father for an example of how to be a man, a leader, and a worshipper of God. But Saul rarely influenced his son for good. Saul never gave credit to his men under him; he was always impatient with God, was impulsive in worship, only worried about appearances, and was very stubborn when rebuked. All of these characteristics could have ruined young Jonathan if it weren’t for the preaching and influence of the prophet Samuel, and if David had not come along and showed Jonathan how to overcome all that “baggage”!

Jonathan Proves Himself a Great Leader (1Samuel 13)

The first battle mentioned in the Bible under King Saul’s reign was fought and won completely by Jonathan, when he attacked and defeated a garrison of about 20 Philistine soldiers. As a nation, Israel was very ill prepared to fight any war (13:5-7) – almost no one had a sword or spear except king Saul and his son Jonathan because the Philistines had disarmed the entire nation so that they could control them. But Jonathan’s successful actions were a great motivation for everyone to fight the Philistines anyway!

Up until this point, King Saul had been indecisive about how and when to attack and fight the Philistines, but Jonathan acted anyway! Jonathan’s small victory encouraged the rest of Saul’s army to fight and win against the entire army of the Philistines, even with only poles and pitchforks! At the end of the war, Saul attracted all the glory for the miraculous battle that was fought and won that day, while Jonathan was ignored. But that didn’t bother Jonathan, because he, as a great leader, was constantly only focused on the fight, not on the glory.

Jonathan Fights By Faith (1Samuel 14)

By Chapter 14 of First Samuel, Jonathan is again faced with indecision by his father of when and how to attack and fight the enemies of Israel. King Saul always had to have everything perfectly under his control for him to feel confident enough to lead people. Jonathan was the opposite. When he saw what had to be done, he usually acted. So, instead of just waiting on Saul’s command, Jonathan takes the initiative, and along with his faithful armourbearer, risked their lives and takes on another whole garrison of twenty Philistine soldiers. This time he tests the waters to see if God wanted him to attack, or just continue to wait. And he even makes the test hard, by deciding to attack if the Philistines command that Jonathan come to them, which would have meant that Jonathan and his armourbearer would have lost their advantage being in the protective rocks and hillside. Jonathan had a great friend in his armourbearer who was willing to do whatever Jonathan felt should be done – he was with him to the death! It was this same attitude that Jonathan had towards his father, and ultimately towards his best friend of all, David! Great men risk their lives for greater men!

Not only did Jonathan and his armourbearer defeat the small garrison easily, but God caused and earthquake to startle the entire Philistine army and get them overwhelmed with fear! The Philistines turned against each other, and when seen from the hill where Saul was, the Philistine army, once so ridged and strong, looked as if they were “melting away!”

Jonathan had started something great by his act of determined submission to God’s will! Jonathan acted when God wanted him to act, and so God used him to win the battles. God always waits for someone to start something by faith! But King Saul was never able to act because he was always controlled by fear.

As the Philistines fought themselves, Saul did not get encouraged to join in the battle and defeat them, but instead became envious and angry for not being in charge of this great victory! This would be his downfall, because the Lord God is the only reason for any victory, and Saul needed to stop trying to get the glory for any accomplishment done in his life or his reign! So, when the Philistine army melted away before Saul’s eyes, he was only worried about “who” had been acting without his permission and had started the fight!

Jonathan Sees His Father’s Flaws (1Samuel 14-16)

Up until this point, Jonathan had surely seen flaws in his father’s character, but always overlooked them. Yet for the next ten years, he is going to see only Saul go from bad to worse, because of pride.

In the middle of all the Philistine’s fighting against themselves, King Saul discovers that Jonathan is not where he should have been, and calls for the ark of God instead of for war! Instead of taking advantage of the battle opportunity, Saul decides to becomes “religious” and show off in front of his men, and distract them away from his failure to lead! But in the middle of his religious acts, King Saul cannot even think because of the noise of the fighting of the Philistines going on around him (remember, none of the Israelites are fighting because they have been forced to wait on king Saul’s order, so the only ones fighting were the Philistines AGAINST THEMSELVES!). So, Saul finally calls for the war to start! And all of a sudden the fearful Jews were changing sides back to Israel, and were now easily chasing after the Philistines! In the end, God gets the glory for this victory, and not Saul (14:23).

Saul had made another hurtful decision against his troops by forcing them to fast before the battle, which was wrong to do. They needed to eat to be ready to fight, but Saul always wanted to look spiritual, and do spiritual things like fasting so that people were impressed with HIM instead of just doing things God’s way!

Now Jonathan did not know about the fasting oath that Saul had made everyone else swear by, and when he saw some honey, he ate it! When Jonathan was rebuked for eating against the king’s commandment, he expresses great disappointment that such a command was issued, but he never called for rebellion. He just exposed the king’s failure to take care of his people. He expressed that they could have had an even greater victory if Saul had just wanted to fight – which he never did! As a soldier, Jonathan seemed to always be very disappointed at his father’s leadership.

When the people were desperately hungry from fighting, and reached a breaking point, they ignored not only the king’s command not to eat, but they neglected GOD’S command about not eating things with the blood still in the carcasses. They ended up catching animals and only cooking them ever so briefly so that the meat was extra rare because they were just so, so hungry!

Saul hears about it and stops everyone from sinning by eating with the blood, and forces all meat to be cooked in front of him.

At this point, Saul is back in control, and tries praying about what to do next, and God doesn’t answer him. Instead of blaming himself, he looks for another person to blame. Saul becomes rash with his words, and is willing to kill and condemn his own son for the sake of his own “image” in front of the people! Saul had to go through with his threat now and immediately divided the army away from himself and Jonathan. He prays for God to give a “perfect lot”, which means asking God to vindicate Saul’s method of determining guilt. Jonathan was taken and identified as the law breaker. Saul acts as holier than thou, and demands of Jonathan in front of everyone, “What have YOU done?” Jonathan sarcastically explains himself and questions Saul’s reasoning for such an order. Saul then condemns his own first born son to death as a show of his authority! The army were shocked at Saul’s use of his authority! It was at that point that ALL the army rose up and stopped Saul for forcing his way! Yet Saul has now determined his and his son’s death! It will be some eight more years until the final fall of Saul and Jonathan, but Saul has sealed both their ruin, simply out of stubborn pride!

All this arguing and infighting ends with no further fighting of the Philistines! One big thing to notice is that throughout all the battles so far, Saul has never lifted his sword once.

Another thing to notice is through all this, Jonathan has been fiercely loyal to his father, but will ultimately change loyalties towards David.

In Chapters 15 and 16 of 1st Samuel, Jonathan watches as Saul emotionally self destructs. He sees his father in CONSTANT disobedience to God – always rejecting the word of the Lord (15:26). But Saul’s only worry was about his image before the people. It was in chapter 15 that Saul disobeys God for the last time and loses the whole kingdom to a better man, an actual neighbour of his – David.

From now on Saul will only ACT spiritual, but will grow darker and angrier against everything and even against his own son! From now on Saul will see everything as a threat to him!

At this time, Jonathan is not aware that the kingdom has passed from his family, to another man.

It is then that Samuel secretly anoints young David to be the next king! Samuel had to do the anointing secretly because Saul’s anger scared even Samuel.

King Saul becomes more and more demon possessed, and only spiritual music calms him down. So a young talented shepherd boy named David is called to play spiritual music to calm King Saul’s troubled mind, but this was no accident. It was at this time that God actually moved David into Jonathan’s home, so they both could begun influencing each other for good!

One note about spiritual music - calming music cannot save a man, only calm him. Saul has too much pride to allow God to change him.

Jonathan Learns Where Greater Courage Comes From (1Samuel 17)!

In Chapter 17 the Philistines take Israel’s land and threatens the nation of Israel once again, so Saul calls everyone together to fight against their enemy! Two massive armies gathered facing each other, but no one moved to fight! The Philistines decide to send out a giant named Goliath to challenge anyone to a fight to the death. But still no one moved – not even Jonathan – and especially not Saul (17:11). Young David accidentally arrives just at this time. 40 days have passed with Goliath mocking God and the army of Israel every day, and no one shows any bravery to fight! This upsets David! When David knows what is going on and how long it has gone on, he is flabbergasted. He yells, “There is a good reason to do SOMETHING for God right here and now!” And then David volunteers himself! That impresses Jonathan!

King Saul tries to embarrass David, and stop David from having so much faith and confidence, but David just trusts God. David in one swift move is bold and aggressive and full of faith as he ran towards Goliath (17:48). He is unafraid of Goliath, and finishes what Saul had started! Saul was only ever a starter! That giant step of manly faith and action impresses Jonathan so much that it helps Jonathan to get back into the fight himself! As much as Jonathan had encouraged and motivated Israel to win, this young man named David had done it 1,000 times better! And it was THEN that the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David (18:1)!

Jonathan’s and David’s Souls Were Knit Together (1Samuel 18)

Jonathan found the best of all friends in David! So much so, that he made a covenant, a solemn promise, to protect and honour David! From that moment on, Jonathan was ready to lay down his own life for David, just as Peter had wanted to do for his own Lord in Luke 22:33, and like WE Christians should be ready and willing to do for each other! It was then that Jonathan stripped himself of the royal robe that he wore as the son of the king, and gave it to David, as well as his trusted sword, and even his bow. Jonathan not only looked up to David, he actually loved him more than life itself. This is how Jesus loves us, and how we should love Him!

The connection that Jonathan and David had was not physical, but a masculine emotion of love for one another that is not experienced much today. The world today has so twisted and ruined love to the point where love is thought of as only a physical thing. But the Bible says that Jonathan loved David as the best of friends! We are commanded to love good men. Titus 1:8 says, “But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men.” 1John 3:14 says, “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.” Colossians 2:2 says, “That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love.” And Romans 12:10 commands us to, “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another.” Other Scriptures include Heb 13:1; John 13:35; 15:12. Truly, we Christians today need desperately to learn what it means to love someone as we do our own soul! Especially men!

Even King Saul could not ignore the impact that David’s faith and courage had had on the men of Israel, and so he rewarded David with the position of head general over all the army! But Jonathan rewarded David with the promise of his life! He yielded his own position and future into the hands of this young shepherd boy, and honoured David as if DAVID was the next in line to be king after his father! Jonathan never saw David as a threat, only as the better man! Saul never could humble himself to accept that fact.

But David’s honour was short lived! From the moment that David returned to Jerusalem, his life was in danger from the worst of sources – from King Saul’s own hand! Saul sets out to kill David with a spear, twice, before David decides that he has to run for his own life!

Jonathan Cannot Believe That Saul Hates David (1Samuel 19)

Jonathan has a hard time believing that his own father would so hate and fear David! To Jonathan, David was the best thing that ever happened to Israel, but Saul’s wrath could not be reasoned with. Jonathan warns David about Saul’s orders to kill David, and tells him to hide until he can be absolutely sure about his father’s anger. The next day, Jonathan attempted to reason with his father about all that David had done for the nation, and even for king Saul, and for a while, Saul calmed down and swore that David would not die now! And for a brief few days, Jonathan had reconciled David to his father, but only briefly, because at the next battle with the Philistines, Saul attempts to kill David once again, causing him to flee just as before! And as Saul chases after David, Jonathan sees his father go to extremes from rage, to threatenings, to embarrassing nakedness and even prophesying, all because of his neglect of God, and jealousy of David! Saul has lost his mind.

Jonathan Learns the Cost of Friendship (1Samuel 20)

Jonathan figures that even though his father is intent on killing David, he will do nothing before he tells him about it, and so Jonathan believes he will always be able to warn David of any danger - but David is not so certain! David knows that Saul has noticed the protective relationship that Jonathan has for David, and will not burden Jonathan with details of what his plans are any more concerning David. So David devises a plan to show him what to do now, and Jonathan is ever ready to do whatever David wanted done.

David decides to stay completely away from king Saul at the official worship ceremonies of the monthly Sabbath, and Jonathan would tell his father than David had something more important to do than be with the king. David knew it would provoke Saul’s anger, and all would be revealed in due course. It was at this point that David was not quite sure of Jonathan’s deepest loyalties because he worried that Jonathan thought maybe he actually was wrong towards his father, and was planning on secretly killing him! But Jonathan was steadfast, and promised to reveal the most awful secrets of his father to David, should they be exposed over the next three days – which they were. It was at this time that Jonathan saw the worst in his father, and had to send David away, and protect him by never seeing him again! This was the highest price to pay for a friend. Jonathan was being forced to decide between his own father (who was a wicked man, and yet was the king), and his own best friend (David). And the outcome was that he chose both, which was very wise, and very costly to himself! He could not walk away from his father, and so to protect his friend, he had to never see David again! For David to stay alive, Jonathan had to say goodbye to David! It may seem unfair, but it was necessary so that David could survive.

Jonathan Strengthens David (1Samuel 23)

Even though Jonathan and David had sworn to go their separate ways, Jonathan knew that David still needed him. As David continued to fight the Philistines, and continued to attract men to follow him and fight with him, David never got encouragement from any other person like he did from Jonathan! Jonathan noticed time and again how that even though David could have killed Saul, he never would! All David could do was run! David even escaped capture by Saul’s best men! And yet Jonathan knew that all the running and hiding would have a bad effect on David, and so, one day, he went to find David, and encouraged him! It was at that moment that Jonathan revealed that he finally knew his father was going to lose the throne, and that David would be Israel’s next king, and Jonathan would be by his side! For David, hiding in some think woods, trying not to be seen, heard or caught by Saul’s army, this was a great encouragement, and helped him for the next few years as he continued to have to run from Saul’s wrath.

Jonathan Dies With His Father (1Samuel 31)

As you read of the life of Jonathan, you would wish that it had a happy ending, but it doesn’t. Bible stories are true stories, and show both the good and the bad. And this ending was going to be very bad.

The constant enemies of Israel were the Philistines, and so king Saul was almost always having to lead the army against them. By this time, forty years have passed since Saul was anointed king, and Jonathan had a wife, and a son. For the past seven years, David has fled from Saul, with no end in sight of him having to stay in hiding.

Ever courageous, and ever ready to fight by his father’s side, Jonathan valiantly fought for God and for Israel. To him, it did not matter that David was not there, or that his father had been so wrong about David – what mattered was defeating the Philistines, and so Jonathan fought on! Only, this time, the battle would not go so well.

The Philistines had gathered in mount Gilboa, and were defeating the Israelites rather badly. Saul and his three sons were on the retreat, with the Philistines following hard after them. While this battle raged, David was nowhere to be found – he was out fighting against the Amalekites at the time.

Jonathan and his brothers were the first to be shot and killed by the Philistine archers. And then an arrow struck Saul, wounding him badly. Still alive, Saul worried that the Philistines would torture him, and so he forced himself to fall on his own sword to make sure he was dead before the Philistines found him.

In that brief span of minutes, Saul, and all his heirs to the throne of Israel were gone – even Jonathan!

It took three days before the news of Saul and Jonathan’s death reached David. And the news greatly affected David, so much so that David grieved as if they were great heroes, and honoured the fact that this father and son were never divided, even in death, and that these two men were mighty men to be remembered and honoured by all. Which we as bible believers still do today!