Character Sketches: David and Jonathan
Their battle victories were won in the Lord. The individual courage that burned within each of them fueled the other’s faith. The friendship of David and Jonathan has reached across the ages, but who set it in motion? Who bound them together with the mysterious cords that made them neshama sheli, one soul?
Scripture makes it clear that Yahweh Himself brought these two friends together (1 Samuel 18:1). The God of Israel was guiding both their lives for a long time before their paths intersected. This is why their story matters to us. This is where the impact lies.
I’m going to start this character sketch by briefly outlining what we know of David and Jonathan from Scripture and explaining the dramatic characterizations I’ve added in my novels.
By many or by few
Jonathan was the eldest son of Saul, the man God chose as the first king of Israel. The young crown prince got to see the Spirit of God change his father into a new man, making him a powerful warrior and a charismatic leader (1 Samuel 10:6). The two of them fought multiple successful battles to the glory of God, with Jonathan declaring that the Lord was capable of saving His people “by many or by few” (1 Samuel 14:6).
However, Saul’s continual blatant disobedience led to his rejection as king before God, something that turned him evil over time (1 Samuel 16:14). In my novels, Jonathan grieves over the loss of his father’s love as Saul’s departure from the light renders him incapable of intimacy with those closest to him. Choosing to see everyone as a rival and a threat, Saul turns on Jonathan, carving physical and emotional wounds into his son’s path. Years later, desperate to figure out how to get his father and his country back on track, Jonathan summons a harp player to soothe Saul’s night terrors. This is where David enters his life.
There is a God in Israel
We meet young David in 1 Samuel 16 when he is summoned from his father’s pastures and unexpectedly anointed king by the prophet Samuel, a move that shocked his family and set their feet on a path of danger and uncertainty. My novels follow the scholarly tradition of David being an illegitimate son whom his father was hiding in the pastures. The fact that David was called “the son of Jesse” indicates that Jesse had claimed him, but Jesse’s hesitancy to show him off with the others hints at some shame or neglect concerning his youngest child. The effect of “daddy issues” on David’s character is a subject that unfolds throughout my series.
However, God had not forgotten David, and many Scripture verses throughout the Bible indicate a deep and profound relationship between Yahweh and the man after His own heart (Acts 13:22).
It was this purity of worship that brought David to King Saul’s court as a harp player, commissioned to soothe the nightmares of a king driven mad by God’s absence. Until he fought and killed the giant Goliath, David divided his time between Saul’s court and his father’s sheep, and this is where the young shepherd singer would have met Prince Jonathan, the man who would become his best friend and closest brother.
In the process of studying these two warriors and walking in their shoes for a while, I came across something special, a similarity so striking I couldn’t believe I’d never noticed it before!
Both Jonathan and David fought “impossible” battles, rising to fame over victories that they won with the Lord simply by believing His Word, proclaiming His Power, and making themselves available when others were hiding in fear. For Jonathan, it was the assault on Michmash (1 Samuel 14). For David, it was the valley of Elah where he faced Goliath (1 Samuel 17).
Both men experienced what it was like to be a weapon in the hands of the greatest Warrior who had ever lived—the timeless God of the universe. Both men were honored because they honored God in their victories.
And both men nearly lost their lives because of the jealousy that was stirred awake afterwards.
Caught up in misplaced zeal and fear of man, King Saul nearly killed his son Jonathan for breaking a rash vow that the prince didn’t know his father had made (1 Samuel 14).
And decades later, shortly after David killed Goliath, Saul tried to spear the boy while he was playing his harp (1 Samuel 19).
Both David and Jonathan faced death in the form of jealous attacks from those closest to them. And yet, both men were spared by the hand of God.
David and Jonathan were bound together even before they became friends because both of them knew what it was like to find refuge from their enemies in the shadow of God’s wings, to make the Almighty their refuge, and to place their futures in His hands when everyone else seemed against them.
David was the one who sang about it, but he and Jonathan both experienced it. And by the time they met each other, Jonathan had already decided he wanted to stay in God’s embrace forever. That’s why he embraced David rather than shunning him.
David had been hearing of Jonathan’s exploits for years before he set foot on a battlefield. And when the story of Michmash was recounted, David got to hear how the Lord saved Israel through the prince (1 Samuel 14:23). Don’t you think that fueled his own courage, his own worship, his own determination to serve the God of Israel with his life? I absolutely believe that it did.
What other similarities do you see between Jonathan and David?
What about differences?
Have these books introduced you to any new information about them?
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