The Friendship of Men
By Debbonnaire Kovacs, submitted June 17, 2015.
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. Saul took him that day and did not let him return to his father’s house. Then Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, including his sword and his bow and his belt. So David went out wherever Saul sent him, and prospered; and Saul set him over the men of war. And it was pleasing in the sight of all the people and also in the sight of Saul’s servants. 1 Sam. 18:1-5, NASB
What would it have been like to be King Saul’s son? Some modern writers have postulated Saul’s illness to be anything from epileptic seizures to PTSD to bipolar disorder. Many agree that he seemed to suffer from fits of depression. The Bible simply describes it as “an evil spirit,” but adds troublingly, “sent by God.”
I, for one, don’t believe God sends evil spirits. Or diseases, for that matter. Or that he abandoned Saul in the sense that he stopped loving him or caring what became of him. It’s possible Saul reached the point where he could no longer respond (at least outwardly) to God, but I also reject the notion that humans can judge such a troubled soul, then or now.
Jonathan was the crown prince, and by all accounts might have been one of the best kings Israel had. Yet this “new kid,” David, fresh from the hill country and the privations of life with sheep, even fresher from a sensational victory over an apparently invincible “giant,” seems to have no more than entered on the scene when Jonathan “loved him as himself.”
We don’t know how soon Jonathan knew that David was slated by God to be the next king rather than himself. We don’t know what inner feelings this may have caused (good, bad, or indifferent! Who would want to be king over this troublesome people?)
What we do know is that the two of them give a picture of close friendship that is rarely, if ever, surpassed in the biblical stories. Their souls were “knit together,” and they stayed that way for life. When Jonathan died tragically in battle, David grieved as only the psalmist of Israel could, by writing a song that is still noted for its beauty today, found in 2 Sam. 1:19-27. Later, in a specific attempt to find members of Jonathan’s family to whom he could show honor, David took Mephibosheth into his household and cared for him for life.
Who is your dearest friend? What have you done lately to show your love?