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Soul Mates

The Soul of a Nation-
Jonathan: The Prince who Chose Friendship over Kingship

One of the most rare and admirable qualities in a national leader is someone who is self-less and humble. Such qualities are essential to ensuring that those in charge are acting on behalf of their fellow countrymen. Prince Jonathan, son of King Saul, was a rare example of someone who was born to take the throne, but who surrendered his right to be king, because he recognized that God had chosen someone else to lead His Nation.

Prince Jonathan is introduced attacking the Philistine outpost at Geba, a town on the northern border of Judah (ref. 1 Samuel 13:3). This location is significant, since despite the fact that the city of Geba is located in the Benjamite territory, which is the tribe King Saul and Prince Jonathan are part of, Geba is a Levitical city, set aside for the Aaronites (ref. Joshua 21:13-17 ; 1 Chronicles 6:57-60). Though Jonathan was stationed at the Benjamite city of Gibeah, he felt a duty to protect the Levitical priests in the city north of him.

The ousting of the Philistines from the Levitical city of Geba with Jonathan’s meager thousand man militia (ref. 1 Samuel 13:2), was such a crushing and embarrassing defeat that the Philistines retaliated and invaded Israel with three thousand chariots, six thousand charioteers, and soldiers as numerous as the sand on the seashore (ref. 1 Samuel 13:5). The overwhelming force terrified the Israelites and they quaked with fear, fled and hid in caves and thickets, among the rocks, and in pits and cisterns (ref. 1 Samuel 13:6-7).

Despite their overwhelming numbers, the Philistines feared the Israelites would be able to overthrow their foreign occupation and began raiding the Benjamite region, before executing a nationwide disarmament program, even going so far as to remove all the blacksmiths in all of Israel so that the people would have to go to the Philistines to sharpen their agricultural tools. After disarming all the citizens, only King Saul and Prince Jonathan had any spears or swords, which may have only been symbols of their royal positions rather than effective fighting tools (ref. 1 Samuel 13:16-22).

One day Prince Jonathan planned a sneak attack with his young armor-bearer on another Philistine outpost located on a cliff. Despite being overwhelmingly outnumbered and the Philistines having the strategically superior high ground, Jonathan was confident that “the Lord will act on our behalf, [because] nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few”. Even then, Jonathan still waited for a “sign that the Lord [will give] them into our hands” and when it appeared, recognized that “the Lord had given [the Philistines] into the hand of Israel” (ref. 1 Samuel 14:1-12).

Jonathan’s skirmish led to an initial twenty Philistine’s deaths, but it was the catalyst that started a wave of panic that struck the whole Philistine army. The panic sent by God overtook those in the camp and field, outposts and raiding parties, and the ground shook, causing the whole Philistine military to melt away in all directions and in their confusion they turned their weapons on each other. King Saul took advantage of the chaos and pushed the Philistine battle lines out of Benjamite territory.

In his desperate attempt to avenge himself and crush the occupiers, King Saul bound his army under an oath to fast till the Philistine army was completely pushed back. The rash and foolish decision had unintended consequences, when Prince Jonathan, who was not aware of the oath, ate honey to refresh himself after his attack that turned the tide of the war. When Saul called for the death of his son Jonathan for breaking his unwise oath, the men rebelled and rescued Jonathan asking “Should Jonathan die-he who has brought about this great deliverance in Israel? Never! As surely as the Lord lives, not a hair of his head will fall to the ground, for he did this today with God’s help” (ref. 1 Samuel 14: 13-46). Because of his bravery and selflessness, Jonathan was loved by the people of Israel, who recognized that God worked through him to defeat the Philistines.

When the Philistines returned to try to retake some of the land they had lost, they sent out their champion Goliath who was crushed by future King David. This victory caused a deep fear to fill current King Saul’s heart, but even though he had been the previous Champion of the People, Prince Jonathan had a different response to David. Jonathan recognized that God had anointed David to be the next king, despite the fact that Jonathan had the birthright to replace his father Saul. But instead Jonathan humbled himself and became one spirit with David and loved him as himself, making a covenant with David. Jonathan’s dedication to the true heir to the thrown extended so intensely that he publicly gave David his robe, tunic, sword, bow and belt. He literally stripped all the symbols of his princely status and gave them to his friend (ref. 1 Samuel 19; 18: 1-4).

As Saul’s jealousy intensified and he sought to kill David, Jonathan remained loyal and made multiple efforts to reason and calm his father’s increasingly intensifying anger, while still hiding David. They were only reconciled briefly before Saul’s murderous plans led to David having to flee the nation. In their final meeting, Jonathan and David wept together, but David wept the most. Their bitter goodbye had them reaffirm their “sworn friendship with each other in the name of the Lord, saying ‘The Lord is witness between you and me and between your descendants and my descendants forever’”.

But there would be no everlasting friendship.

During a campaign against the Philistines on Mount Gilboa, King Saul and all his sons, including Prince Jonathan, were killed in battle. When David was informed of his companion’s death, he tore his clothes to shreds and wept and fasted the rest of the day grieving the loss of a true friend. David’s grief was channeled into a dirge, and the funeral song of lamentation was taught and sung throughout the nation.

Jonathan’s bravery struck huge blows against the Philistine army time and time again, but he did not rely on his own skills in battle, but trusted that God was the source of his victories. This humbleness and reliance on God was tested and proven true when Jonathan gave up his priestly adornments to David, whom Jonathan recognized as the rightful King, anointed by God. Jonathan’s love for his friend David and his country Israel was so great, that he died in the defense of both of them. Nations are blessed when their leaders do not believe they are owed positions or that it is their turn to rule, but step aside when they recognize that God has placed His Favor on another. Israel was blessed with a humble and self-less prince who placed his nation’s interests before his own.

Prepared by, Kent Simpson, Apostolic Prophet & Eric Sepulveda, PMT Administrator

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