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Fausset's Bible Dictionary

Jonathan

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("Jehovah's gift".)

1. Son of Gershom. (See GERSHOM.) Sprung from Moses (changed to "Manasseh" in the keri or margin Hebrew): Judges 18:30. It marks how prone to idolatry were the Israelites, that the priest to Micah's images and afterward to the Danites was a Levite, whose special duty it was to maintain pure Jehovah's worship, and he a descendant of Moses himself! Idolatry begins with the people, it being natural to our sensuous cravings; then it seeks the sanction of the church. Micah began with robbery of his own mother; her curses extorted restitution; she as a meritorious act consecrated the money for a "graven image" (pecel ) and the "molten pedestal" (massecah ) on which it stood like Aaron's calf (Exodus 32:4), to be a representation of Jehovah; it was the forerunner of Jeroboam's calves long after and idol. (See CALVES; IDOL.)

Micah had a domestic sanctuary in which he consecrated his son as priest; here the image was set. The ephod was an imitation of the high priest's shoulder dress. The teraphim or household gods were also worshipped as givers of prosperity and as oracles. The time was very shortly after Joshua's death, an age when there was no king, and the law and the judges were not as yet well established (Judges 17:1-6). Micah afterwards found a Levite for the service, who had sojourned in Bethlehem Judah and left it to seek maintenance where he could, in Mount Ephraim. It was Jonathan. With the self deceiving folly of idolaters Micah then said, "now I know that Jehovah will do me good seeing I have a Levite to my priest," as if a Levite's presence could bless where both priest and patron were apostates from the God of all blessing.

Five Danite spies, on their way to search for a settlement in the far N. for their tribe, recognized Jonathan. At their request he consulted God for them and promised them success. Six hundred Danites of Zorah and Eshtaol, led by the spies' report, marched to Dan or Laish. (See DAN.) On their way the live carried off the graven image, ephod, teraphim, and molten (cast) pedestal (Keil). Jonathan at their invitation was. "glad" to accompany them; ambition readily prompted the desire to be priest to a tribe and clan rather than to one individual. Micah with self convicting folly expostulated in vain, "ye have taken away my gods which I made (!) and the priest, ... and what have I more?" His loss was his gain, and their gain a fatal loss, if only he and they knew it. The priesthood remained hereditary in the family of Jonathan "until the captivity of the ark" (the taking of the ark by the Philistines), and Micah's images of his own making remained set up "all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh." Their idolatry was in the land of spiritual light and privileges (Luke 12:47-48).

2. Saul's oldest son. About 30 when first introduced, commanding a thousand at Gibeah (1 Samuel 13:2; compare 2 Samuel 2:8; 2 Samuel 2:10, which shows that Ishbosheth his younger brother was 40 at Saul's death). Meribbaal, or Mephibosheth, was born to him five years before his death (2 Samuel 4:4; 1 Chronicles 8:34). Famed for swiftness and strength as a warrior (2 Samuel 1:23); and especially for skill with the bow (2 Samuel 1:22; 1 Chronicles 12:2). His "bow turned not back," his invariable accoutrement (1 Samuel 18:4; 1 Samuel 20:35). Dutifully devoted to his father, whose constant companion he was (1 Samuel 20:2; 1 Samuel 20:25), yet true to his bosom friend David, whose modest:, youthful beauty, and heroic bravery won his whole heart at their first meeting after Goliath's fall, against whom nevertheless Saul cherished such deadly spite. He knew David's loyalty amidst all his father's suspicions.

Knowing also God's revealed will to exalt David to Saul's forfeited throne, Jonathan bowed to it with pious submission. Instead of jealousy, unselfish love made him rejoice in his friend's prospective exaltation at his own cost, and only covet to be next in rank to David: as he said when he went to David "and strengthened his hand in God," his last interview with him in the wood of Ziph (1 Samuel 23:16-17). Loving David "as his own soul" (1 Samuel 20:17; 1 Samuel 20:42), he withstood his father's reproaches and attempts to alienate his affections by representing "as long as the son of Jesse liveth ... thou shalt not be established, nor thy kingdom." He privately intimated to David his father's resolve to kill him (1 Samuel 19:2); but at the intercession of Jonathan (1 Samuel 19:4-6) Saul for the present gave up his design, saying "as the Lord liveth, he shall not be slain."

Soon he renewed his attempt, and David fled to Naioth. Jonathan then covenanted with David that he should show kindness to him and his house forever, when David's kingdom would be established (1 Samuel 20), a promise faithfully fulfilled by David to Mephibosheth. In vain he remonstrated with Saul in David's behalf; his father actually hurled a javelin at himself. Jonathan then only "rose from (his place beside his father at) table in fierce anger (the only time of his losing self command toward his father) and (did eat no meat," etc. Yet he clung to his father through life, and "in death they were not divided" (2 Samuel 1:23). The second last parting scene was especially touching; David and Jonathan "kissed one another and wept with one another until David exceeded" (1 Samuel 20:41). Jonathan by smiting the Philistine garrison (1 Samuel 13:2-3; or else an officer, Netzib, as William Tell rose against Gesler) at Geba gave the signal for a general revolt of Israel against its oppressors. (See GIBEAH.)

The Philistines poured in marauding parties, and Israel's cause seemed more hopeless than ever (1 Samuel 13). Saul and he had but 600 men in Gibeah, who were without sword and spear (the Philistines having taken away all their smiths); many Israelites had fled beyond Jordan. As Jonathan had provoked this aggravation of Philistine tyranny in concert with Saul, so Jonathan determined alone to deliver Israel (1 Samuel 14). His armourbearer agreed with all his heart to join in the hazardous enterprise; Jonathan's strong faith in God inspired his companion in arms with the same chivalrous devotion; "there is no restraint to the Lord, to save by many or few." Having fixed on an omen from God of success, they received it in the scoffing invitation of the Philistine guards on the other side of the steep Michmash defile, the key to command the E. in ascending from the Philistine plain: "come up to us and we will show you a thing" (compare 2 Samuel 5:6).

Jonathan and his armourbearer smote 20 of them in rapid succession. A panic ensued, the Philistines thought themselves outnumbered, and an earthquake completed the confusion; and the Israelites, with the Philistines in the camp an those hidden heretofore in Mount Ephraim and now emerging, joined in the pursuit as far W. as Ajalon. Saul, by his rash curse on any who should eat that day until the foe should be overthrown, retarded his own aim through weakening his people, involved them in violating the law by flying ravenously on the spoil at evening and eating flesh with the blood, and bound himself to put to death for tasting honey, and so receiving refreshment, his own beloved son, from which he was rescued only by the people's interposition. "Jonathan's soul was knit with David's," so that the latter testifies, "thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women"; like a Homeric hero, he gave his friend all his own arms, stripping himself (compare the Antitype, Philippians 2:7-8): 1 Samuel 18:1-4; 2 Samuel 1:26.

Jonathan holds the chief place in David's touching elegy, "the bow song" (the song on Jonathan famed for the bow) on his death with Saul and his two brothers in the battle of Gilboa (1 Samuel 31). (See DAVID.) His corpse with the others was fastened to the wall of Bethsham; from whence the men of Jabesh Gilead rescued it. Finally it was removed to Zelah in Benjamin (2 Samuel 21:12-14). Jonathan's pious and filial self devotion appears in his readiness (like Isaac) to die at his father's command because of the rash adjuration of the latter; type of the Son of God, volunteering to die for us because Adam by eating the forbidden fruit had his "eyes opened" (Genesis 3; 1 Samuel 14:27; 1 Samuel 14:43); again in his continuing to the last faithful to Saul, though his father had attempted his life, and though he knew that his father's kingdom was doomed to fall and David to succeed.

3. David's nephew, son of Shimeah, Jonadab's brother. At once "a wise man and learned scribe and counselor" (for the Hebrew dod , "uncle," means a relative and so "nephew": 1 Chronicles 27:32; 2 Samuel 21:21; 1 Chronicles 20:7), and a brave warrior who like David slew a giant Philistine, of Gath, remarkable for six toes and six fingers.

4. The high priest Abiathar's son. In Absalom's rebellion returned with his father from Olivet to act as David's spy with Ahimaaz, conveying the tidings from Abiathar and Hushai in the city (2 Samuel 15:36; 2 Samuel 15:2 Samuel 17). Announced at Adonijah's feast to the guests, including Abiathar, the unwelcome tidings of Solomon's being anointed (1 Kings 1:41-49).

5. Son of Shage the Ararite, i.e. mountaineer (1 Chronicles 11:34). "Shammah" in 2 Samuel 23:33 stands instead of "son of Shage," probably all error of the transcriber from ver. 11; Chronicles has the true reading.

6. Ezra 8:6.

7. Ezra 10:15.

8. Nehemiah 12:14.

9. Jeremiah 40:8.

10. The high priest Joiada's son and successor. The genealogies of the priests and Levites were kept in his high priesthood, and the national chronicles were continued to his time (Nehemiah 12:11-22-23). Notorious for murdering in the temple his own brother Jesus, who had tried to supplant him by the Persian general Bagoas' help. The latter in consequence entered and polluted the temple and imposed a tax of 50 shekels for every lamb sacrificed (Josephus, Ant. 11:7, section 1). Jonathan or John was high priest 32 years.

11. Nehemiah 12:35; of the course of Shemaiah (so Lord A.C. Hervey reads for "son of".)


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Bibliography Information
Fausset, Andrew R. Entry for 'Jonathan'. Fausset's Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/fbd/j/jonathan.html. 1949.

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