Meet Jonathan in the Bible: Eldest Son of King Saul

The eldest son of King Saul teaches us how to make the hard choices in life

Jonathan in the Bible
King Saul hurls his spear at Jonathan, confirming his intent to kill David (1 Samuel 20:33). SuperStock / Getty Images

Jonathan in the Bible was famous for being the best friend of the Bible hero David. He stands as a shining example of how to make the hard choices in life and consistently honor God.

The Legacy of Jonathan in the Bible

Jonathan was a man of utmost courage, loyalty, wisdom, and honor. Born with the potential to be one of Israel’s greatest kings, he knew God had anointed David to the throne instead. Regrettably, he was torn between love and devotion to his father, the king, and faithfulness to his beloved friend, David. Although seriously tested, he managed to stay loyal to his father while still recognizing that God had chosen David. Jonathan’s integrity has earned him a high place of honor in the hall of biblical heroes

The eldest son of King Saul, Jonathan became friends with David shortly after David killed the giant Goliath. Over the course of his life, Jonathan had to choose between his father the king, and David, his closest friend.

Jonathan, whose name means "Jehovah has given," was one of the greatest heroes in the Bible. A valient warrior, he led the Israelites to a great victory over the Philistines at Geba, then with no one but his armor-bearer to help, routed the enemy again at Michmash, causing panic in the Philistine camp.

Conflict came as King Saul's sanity crumbled. In a culture where family was everything, Jonathan had to choose between blood and friendship. Scripture tells us Jonathan made a covenant with David, giving him his robe, tunic, sword, bow, and belt.

When Saul ordered Jonathan and his servants to kill David, Jonathan defended his friend and convinced Saul to reconcile with David. Later, Saul became so angry at his son for befriending David that he threw a spear at Jonathan.

Jonathan knew the prophet Samuel had anointed David to be the next king of Israel. Even though he may have had a claim to the throne, Jonathan recognized God's favor was with David. When the hard choice came, Jonathan acted on his love for David and respect for the will of God.

In the end, God used the Philistines to make way for David to become king. When confronted with death in battle, Saul fell on his sword near Mount Gilboa. On that same day, the Philistines killed Saul's sons Abinadab, Malki-Shua, and Jonathan.

David was heartbroken. He led Israel in mourning for Saul, and for Jonathan, the best friend he ever had. In a final gesture of love, David took in Mephibosheth, the lame son of Jonathan, gave him a home and provided for him in honor of the oath David had made to his lifelong friend.

Accomplishments of Jonathan in the Bible

Jonathan defeated the Philistines at Gibeah and Micmash. The army loved him so much they rescued him from a foolish oath made by Saul (1 Samuel 14:43-46). Jonathan was a loyal friend to David his entire life. 

Strengths

Jonathan was a hero in many ways with the character strengths of integrity, loyalty, wisdom, courage, and the fear of God.

Life Lessons

When we are faced with a hard choice, as Jonathan was, we can find out what to do by consulting the Bible, the source of God's truth. The will of God always prevails over our human instincts. 

Hometown

Jonathan's family came from the territory of Benjamin, north and east of the Dead Sea, in Israel.

References to Jonathan in the Bible

Jonathan's story is told in the books of 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel.

Occupation

Jonathan served as an officer in Israel's army.

Family Tree

Father: Saul
Mother: Ahinoam
Brothers: Abinadab, Malki-Shua
Sisters: Merab, Michal
Son: Mephibosheth

Key Bible Verses


And Jonathan had David reaffirm his oath out of love for him, because he loved him as he loved himself. (1 Samuel 20:17, NIV)
Now the Philistines fought against Israel; the Israelites fled before them, and many fell slain on Mount Gilboa. The Philistines pressed hard after Saul and his sons, and they killed his sons Jonathan, Abinadab and Malki-shua. (1 Samuel 31:1-2, NIV)
“How the mighty have fallen in battle! Jonathan lies slain on your heights. I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women." (2 Samuel 1:25-26, NIV)

Sources

  • The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, James Orr, general editor.
  • Smith's Bible Dictionary, William Smith.
  • Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Trent C. Butler, general editor.
  • Nave's Topical Bible.