Song of Sorrow

KEY VERSE: “Saul and Jonathan were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided: they were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions.” —II Samuel 1:23


THIS WAS A song written by David after King Saul and his son, Jonathan, were slain in battle. Their lives had been intertwined with that of David in a rather tragic way. David—who had been anointed by the Prophet Samuel to succeed Saul as king—and Jonathan became close friends; while Saul became jealous of David and sought to kill him.

This placed Jonathan in the very difficult, but natural, position of wanting to be loyal to his father, and at the same time desirous of protecting David, to whom his heart was ‘knit’, against his father’s fierce hatred. That he used a great deal of wisdom and tact is evidenced by the fact that he maintained the goodwill of his father, yet was instrumental in saving David’s life. He was indeed a true friend to David—one who was constant in his devotion, even though at the risk of his own position of favor with his father.

The friendship of Jonathan and David began shortly after the shepherd boy had slain Goliath, the Philistine giant. This act of bravery resulted in an outstanding victory over Israel’s enemies, and David was brought before King Saul, that the king might honor him. Saul was apparently pleased with the young man, and commanded that he remain in his palace as a member of his household. This was what brought about the close friendship of Jonathan and David. The record indicates that they were inseparable, even to the eating of meals together at the king’s table.

As time went on, however, David became a popular hero with the people due to various successes in overcoming Israel’s enemies. Bravery and success are often recognized and acclaimed by the populace, and so it was in the case of David. The women sang that while Saul had killed his thousands, David had destroyed tens of thousands of enemies! This confirmed and increased the jealousy of the king.

Jonathan, under ordinary circumstances, would have been the next in line to occupy the throne of Israel when his father died. However, David must have informed him that he, David, would become the next king. He told him, no doubt, that Samuel, following the instructions of God, had anointed him when he was just a shepherd boy.

We find that Jonathan was quite reconciled to this fact, and was willing to become subject to David when God, in his own due time, placed him upon the throne of Israel. However, Jonathan was killed in battle before David was made king. During this conflict, Saul was put to flight, and in deep chagrin he fell upon his sword, taking his own life.

We have, in the relationship between Jonathan and David, a noble example of friendship. Many in Jonathan’s position would have chosen between the father and David, but he did not. He remained loyal to both. And probably one reason for this was the fact that despite Saul’s hatred of David and his efforts to destroy him, David also remained loyal to Saul, in the sense that he refused to do anything to injure the nearly insane king. This was a quality of character which should call forth the respect of every right-thinking person.

Jonathan had often risked his life in his devotion to David, to his righteous principles, and his faithfulness to the Lord and David lamented sorely at the death of his friend, Jonathan.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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