In 1st Samuel 18, after David killed Goliath and then spoke with Saul about receiving his reward, Jonathan, it says, “loved him as his own soul.”
Today, people can’t accept strong, deep friendships between men as just that. We think it’s weird, or somehow inappropriate, or we cheapen those strong masculine friendships with terms like “bromance” and jokes about getting a room. And it does certainly make it worse now that various perversions are so prevalent. But what’s going on here in 1st Samuel 18 is not in any way romantic. In fact, though there certainly seems to be a genuine brotherly affection between David and Jonathan that develops, I don’t think this is even primarily an emotional or affectionate love being spoken of.
In certain contexts, the term love has definite political overtones. To us, the word love almost always has a passionate meaning to it, but the Hebrew term primarily refers to choosing to be devoted to someone. In a political context, then, this devotion is what we might call loyalty, or allegiance. That’s what seems to be going on here. Jonathan (who is quite a bit older than David, remember) evidently does become a close friend of David’s, but what’s significant to note is Jonathan’s response of allegiance and loyalty to David in contrast to Saul’s jealousy and fear of David.
The content of the covenant between David and Jonathan is not explained, but a covenant is simply a solemn compact taken with oaths of loyalty; the covenant made here probably has something to do with Jonathan’s personal allegiance to David as the man who would one day lead Israel. It’s not clear how much Jonathan knows, but his transferring of his robe and armor to David implies a recognition of a transference of Jonathan’s own status as heir to David.
At the cost of his own inheritance and potential rise to the throne (at least in the eyes of his father and the typical expected custom), Jonathan swears fealty to David, because he recognizes that God’s will must be honored and pursued above all else.
In contrast to Saul’s reaction to David of jealousy and fear, Jonathan models the proper response to the Lord’s anointed: loyalty. Now, we see this in concrete historical terms in the life of Jonathan and David. But, without reading into the text, we can still extrapolate the principle out that leads to our response to Christ. The actual, primary meaning of the event is not directly to point to Christ. But the leap is not as far as we might at first think. David, as the anointed king who would become the ancestor of the ultimate anointed king (the Messiah who would redeem and reign over the whole earth), actually becomes a paradigm and a type (a foreshadowing) of that messianic king. So, as we see Jonathan’s response to the arrival of the anointed king, we do see a model of our own proper response to the anointed king Jesus: loyalty.
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