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The Cloud of Witnesses

Former title Lessons From the People of the Bible



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Lesson 5: Jonathan – Loyal To David Until The End


1 Samuel 20:18-42.

Loyal To David Until The End

Nowhere in Scripture do we read that Jonathan condoned or took part in Saul’s treachery to seek and destroy David.

In fact, as we have already seen, Jonathan stood up for David soon after his marriage to Michal, and persuaded Saul to welcome David back into the royal household.

When David fled from Naioth to Ramah to meet with Jonathan, Jonathan said he knew nothing of Saul’s determination to hunt him down and protested that Saul would have told him if that were so. Evidently, Saul had kept that piece of information close to his chest; only his top military commanders knew about it.

What an emotional meeting that must have been. David on the run in despair of his life and met by his greatest friend. Both were able to spend just a few moments of joy amidst the terror of being discovered, captured and put to death.

Jonathan reaffirmed his total enduring loyalty to David his friend. He was determined to get to the bottom of the rumours and speculation. He just couldn’t bring himself to believe that his father would want to destroy his very best friend, the future king of Israel. Jonathan nevertheless promised to return to the ‘lion’s den’ and discover the truth.

They discussed how the result could be conveyed to David – if in fact it turned out to be bad news. They then went their separate ways; David into the fields and Jonathan to the royal court.

Jonathan found out the hard way how vehemently jealous Saul was over David. Not only did Saul curse Jonathan and his mother (incidentally Saul’s only wife), but he actually hurled his spear at Jonathan with the intent of killing him – because Jonathan dared to speak up on David’s behalf, and for reason and righteousness.

When Jonathan saw first hand the extent of Saul’s suppressed rage towards David, he made arrangements to let David know without exposing him – Jonathan went to where David was hiding in the field and made the appropriate sign with the arrows.

Once the coast was clear, David emerged to a very emotional meeting with Jonathan. Jonathan expressed sheer horror at Saul’s disposition and his disappointment and frustration that nothing he could have said would have been able to appease his father or dissuade him from his murderous intent. They clung to each other and wept bitterly. (The Bible says that David wept the most, but was that because it was he who re-told the story?)

The tragedy is that we don’t read of David and Jonathan meeting each other again after that fateful day. Their ways and lives diverged for a few years. David went at first to Ahimelech and then joined the Philistines in Gath (of all places). We read he encountered Saul on various subsequent occasions and spared Saul’s life each time.

How would Jonathan have felt? He had lost his most wonderful friend and trusted ally. He had to walk away and leave David to the Lord.

Have you been in the same place? Have you ever had to choose between friends or between a friend and a family member?

How would you respond? In anger, frustration or fear? Would you try and hide, and hope the situation will go away or resolve itself? Or would you be a peacemaker by trying reason and establishing righteousness. It was the way of Jonathan.

Jonathan would say to us today...

Loyalty means putting the other person’s good before your own. We all want others to be loyal to us but it begins when we show loyalty to others.


Father, in a world that is so self-centred it is easy to get sucked into that way of life. Please help me to stand out from the rest and remain loyal to my friends, neighbours, colleagues and family. Amen.

Additional readings

John 15:1-17; 1 John 4:7-21; Colossians 4:7-18.


What does it mean to be loyal to someone?

Why does loyalty carry such a high value?

How does loyalty extract such a high price?

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