the Second Week of Lent
Click here to learn more!
Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature
Jonathan (God-given), a Levite descended from Gershom, the son of Moses, not Manasseh, as in our common copies, an interpolation made () in order to save the character of the great lawgiver from the stain of having an idolater among his immediate descendants. The history of this Jonathan is involved in the narrative which occupies Judges 17-18; and the events themselves appear to have occurred soon after the death of Joshua, and of the elders who outlived him, when the government was in a most unsettled state.
Jonathan, who was resident at Bethlehem, lived at a time when the dues of the sanctuary did not afford a livelihood to the numerous Levites who had a claim upon them; and belonged to a tribe destitute of the landed possessions which gave to all others a sufficient maintenance. He, therefore, went forth to seek his fortune. In Mount Ephraim he came to 'a house of gods,' which had been established by one Micah, who wanted nothing but a priest to make his establishment complete [MICAH]. This person made Jonathan what was manifestly considered the handsome offer of engaging him as his priest for his victuals, a yearly suit of clothes, and ten shekels (twenty-five shillings) a year in money. Here he lived for some time, till the Danite spies, who were sent by their tribe to explore the north, passed this way and formed his acquaintance. When, not long after, the body of armed Danites passed the same way when going to settle near the sources of the Jordan, the spies mentioned Micah's establishment to them; on which they went and took away not only 'the ephod, the teraphim, and the graven image,' but the priest also, that they might set up the same worship in the place of which they were going to take possession. Micah vainly protested against this robbery; but Jonathan himself was glad at the improvement in his prospects, and from that time, even down to the captivity, he and his descendants continued to be priests of the Danites in the town of Laish, the name of which they changed to Dan.
There is not any reason to suppose that this establishment, whether in the hands of Micah or of the Danites, involved an apostasy from Jehovah. It appears rather to have been an attempt to localize or domesticate His presence, under those symbols and forms of service which were common among the neighboring nations, but were forbidden to the Hebrews. The offence here was twofold—the establishment of a sacred ritual different from the only one which the law recognized, and the worship by symbols, naturally leading to idolatry, with the ministration of one who could not legally be a priest, but only a Levite, and under circumstances in which no Aaronic priest could legally have officiated. It is more than likely that this establishment was eventually merged in that of the golden calf, which Jeroboam set up in this place, his choice of which may very possibly have been determined by its being already in possession of 'a house of gods.'
Jonathan, eldest son of Saul, king of Israel, and consequently heir apparent of the throne which David was destined to occupy (;; ). The war with the Philistines, which occupied the early part of his father's reign, afforded Jonathan more than one opportunity of displaying the chivalrous valor and the princely qualities with which he was endowed. His exploit in surprising the Philistine garrison at Michmash, attended only by his armor-bearer, is one of the most daring which history or even romance records (). His father came to follow up this victory, and in the ensuing pursuit of the confounded Philistines, Jonathan, spent with fatigue and hunger, refreshed himself with some wild honey which he found in a wood through which he passed. He knew not that his father had rashly vowed to put to death anyone who touched a morsel of food before night. When the fact transpired, Saul felt himself bound to execute his vow even upon his gallant son; but the people, with whom the young prince was a great favorite, interposed and prevented the execution of his design ().
Jealousy and every mean or low feeling were strangers to the generous heart of Jonathan. Valiant and accomplished himself, none knew better how to acknowledge valor and accomplishment in others. The act of David in meeting the challenge of Goliath, and in overcoming that huge barbarian, entirely won his heart; and from that day forward the son of Jesse found no one who loved him so tenderly, who admired his high gifts with so much enthusiasm, or who risked so much to preserve him from harm, as the very prince whom he was destined to exclude from a throne. Jonathan knew well what was to happen, and he submitted cheerfully to the appointment which gave the throne of his father to the young shepherd of Bethlehem. In the intensity of his love and confidence he shrank not to think of David as his destined king and master; and his dreams of the future pictured nothing brighter than the day in which David should reign over Israel, and he be one with him in friendship, and next to him in place and council.
When Saul began to hate David as his intended successor, he was highly displeased at the friendship which had arisen between him and his son. This exposed Jonathan to much contumely, and even to danger of life; for, once at least, the king's passion against him on this account rose so high that he cast a javelin at him 'to smite him to the wall.'
This unequivocal act taught Jonathan that the court of Saul was no safe place for David. He told him so, and they parted with many tears. David then set forth upon those wanderings among strangers and in solitary places, which boasted all the time of Saul. The friends met only once more. Saul was in pursuit of David when he was in the wilderness of Ziph; and Jonathan would not forbear coming to him secretly in the wood to give him comfort and encouragement (). Nothing more is related Jonathan till both he and his father lost their lives in the fatal battle of Gilboa, combating against the enemies of their country.
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Jonathan'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature". https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​kbe/​j/jonathan.html.