David’s life as it is recorded in the Book of 1st Samuel seems to have been a whirlwind of significant events; which makes him appear larger than life and less human. But in chapter 18 (vv. 1-9) a very human side of David is revealed. David makes a friend. Jonathan, the son of King Saul, becomes David’s friend after he defeaed Goliath. The Bible describes their friendship in this way, “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” (1 Sam. 18:1). The Hebrew word for “knit” is kashar which means “to bind or chain together”. If we were to illustrate this we might use something that is knitted- like a scarf- or something that is entwined- like a chain-link fence, rope or cord. These things are tightly woven. They show us how strong a friendship David and Jonathan had.
It is also interesting to note through their actions how differently Saul and Jonathan viewed David. While Saul brings David into his household on a permanent basis to keep an eye on him in due to David’s rising popularity with the people (1 Sam. 18:2, 9), Jonathan makes a covenant with him (1 Sam. 18:3). Covenants are very important in the Bible and there are two kinds. The first is unconditional. This type of covenant involves two parties, but only one party is responsible to see that the conditions of the covenant are met. Gen. 3:15 is an example of this type. The second type of covenant is conditional. The Mosaic covenant is an example of this. In Ex. 24:3 the people agree to the terms of the covenant and accept responsibility to do the things God has set forth. In return God promises to keep them in the land, make it fruitful and help them become established as a nation.
In many ancient Middle Eastern cultures covenants were often accompanied by the exchanging of personal gifts, an elaborate meal, the signing of a document and a sacrifice. The exchange of a personal gift symbolized that you saw your covenant partner as an extension of yourself. In a way each party was saying, “I see you as me, and you see me as you. I wouldn’t let anything happen to you that I wouldn’t let happen to me; and you won’t let anything happen to me that you wouldn’t let happen to you.” As part of the covenant Jonathan makes with David, Jonathan gives David his robe (and the Hebrew is clear that it is a royal robe), armor, bow and his belt which held the sheath for the sword. All of these items were associated with Jonathan’s position as heir to the throne. The IVP Bible Background Commentary noted that “by transferring these items to David, Jonathan may very well be expressing loyalty and possibly submission to David as God’s heir apparent to throne.” This act alone demonstrates the depth of Jonathan’s view on friendship. He was willing to abdicate his legal claim to the throne as Saul’s son to his understanding of God’s will and set aside his earthly inheritance in order for David to fulfill it.
The Bible is full of passages that illustrate the qualities of a beneficial friendship. David saw unity as an essential element in friendship (Ps. 133). Pr. 12:26 tells us that a friend guides us to a good place. Pr. 17:17 says a friend loves at all times. Friends should stick close to us (Pr. 18:24), be honest (Pr. 22:11), hold us accountable to make us a better person (Pr. 27:17) and be willing to lay down their lives for us (Jn. 15:13). In contrast superficial friends have no time for you unless you can give them something (Pr. 14:20; 19:24), particularly money. Although Paul does not give specific instructions on choosing a good friend in the NT, several of his co-workers in the spreading of the Gospel stand out as excellent examples of a true friend: Epaphroditis (Phil. 2:25-30), Barnabas (Ac. 4:36-37; 9:26-27), Silas (Ac. 16:19-34), Luke (Col. 4:14; Phlm. 23-24), and Timothy (1 Cor. 4:17; Phil. 2:19-24; 1 Tim. 1:1). We must choose our friends wisely. They not only bring balance (or imbalance) to our Christian walk, they also demonstrate Christ to us in the way that they love us (Rom. 12:10; 1 Thes. 4:9; Heb. 13:1; 1 Pet. 1:22). David and Jonathan’s friendship is a great example of the extent to which we should love our friends (Jn. 15:14). How do you and your friends measure up?
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
https://www.annhlefevre.com; Olivetreeann@mail.com; https://www.linkedin.com/in/annhlefevre; https://www.facebook.com/ann.h.lefevre