Something occurs to me while I am reading the beginning of this chapter. I'm a little surprised Jonathan did not go out against Goliath. Jonathan had slain hundreds of soldiers at once. He seemed to be a brave man. What would have prevented him from taking on the giant? I have a theory, but I can't be certain this is how it happened. A few chapters back, we recall that Jonathan had unwittingly disobeyed his father's order to fast before battling the Philistines. Defying this order was punishable by death, yet the other soldiers defended Jonathan and would not allow Saul to take his life. Saul was merciful, although I don't know how happy he was about it. We do not read about Jonathan again until this chapter. Perhaps Saul, instead of killing Jonathan, discharged him from his regiment. This may have not only been a substitute for the death penalty Jonathan would have received, it may have been that Saul saw just how dear Jonathan had become to the people. Saul was easily jealous. He may have seen how the army came to Jonathan's rescue, and was fearful for his throne, that perhaps the people might eventually want to install Jonathan on it. To avoid this, perhaps Saul thought it better to take him off the lines, and allow him to do more diplomatic work.
I think it would have been very hard for Jonathan to stand by and watch Goliath challenge their army and their God day after day. He would have longed to be out on the battlefield, but because of his father's orders, he was forced to do indoor work. Jonathan would not have been jealous of this young man who challenged Goliath. He would have been thrilled. He would have seen a little of himself in this youth. He would have cheered from the royal tent as David bravely attempted what no other soldier would attempt. Jonathan's absence from the front lines, as the officer of the Israelite army, would also explain their intimidation of this Philistine. Jonathan had instilled confidence in his soldiers. He would have claimed the victory for the Lord, just as David had.
When David appears before Saul, Goliath's head in hand, Jonathan identifies with this young man. When he tells Saul who his family is, a humble family from Bethlehem but a servant of the king, "the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul." David and Jonathan shared a common thread of bravery under unlikely circumstances. They both believed in a God who could defy the odds, who would protect those who defended His Name. Is it no wonder these two would be friends for life? When Jonathan gifts David with the very wardrobe he is wearing, he is identifying David as part of the royal family. He is signaling to everyone that David is as princely as Jonathan himself. Not only did David's behavior endear him to everyone within and without the castle, but Jonathan's treatment of him also did. Jonathan was highly respected, so if David had won his favor, he would also win the favor of the people. I can see how Saul's jealousy escalates. Now he had two young popular men living in his palace, delighting the people everywhere they went. Saul did not receive such treatment. He was feared, he was obeyed because he was feared, but the people's eyes did not light up when Saul came into the room. Instead, they averted their eyes because it is what the king would have demanded. They probably would have anyway to avoid his seeing their disappointment in who their king had become.
|Jonathan gives David his robe, armor and weapons--Taken from Standard Bible Story Readers, Book Three|
By Lillie A. Faris, Illustrated by O.A. Stemler and Bess Bruce Cleaveland
The Standard Publishing Company, 1926
"...and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother." Proverbs 18:24b