Let’s begin by reading 1st Samuel 31:1-2, “Now the Philistines fought against Israel; and the men of Israel fled from before the Philistines, and FELL SLAIN ON MOUNT GILBOA. Then the Philistines followed hard after Saul and his sons. And THE PHILISTINES KILLED JONATHAN, Abinadab, and Malchishua, Saul’s sons” (NKJV). We also learn in verses 8-12 that the Philistines then took their bodies and “fastened them…to the wall of Beth Shan.” We see in 1st Samuel 28:19 that Samuel had prophesied of Israel’s defeat and the deaths of Saul and his sons, “Moreover the LORD will also deliver Israel with you into the hand of the Philistines. And tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. The LORD will also deliver the army of Israel into the hands of the Philistines.” What a sad and humiliating end for Jonathan who was a godly man who loved the Lord! You are right in asking, “Why did God allow Jonathan to die?”

The answer to this question is actually quite simple, for the truth is Jonathan MADE A FATAL CHOICE that resulted in his death on Mount Gilboa. Before we see what the choice was, let’s be clear that Jonathan was, as stated above, a very godly man who loved the Lord. His love for the Lord was especially manifested by “his love for David.” This “love for David” is first seen after David slew Goliath, the Philistine giant. “Now when he (David) had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and JONATHAN LOVED HIM AS HIS OWN SOUL” (1st Samuel 18:1). From this moment on Jonathan proved his love for David in countless ways. Let’s look at two clear examples.

1) “Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan took off the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, even to his sword and his bow and his belt” (verses 3-4). In this act Jonathan, who was the next in line to his father’s throne, was showing David that he was willing to give up his rightful place to reign so David could succeed his father on the throne. Did Jonathan know, at this point in time, that David had been anointed by Samuel to be the next king (see 1st Samuel 16:1-13)? Perhaps not, but his admiration for David, who had just delivered Israel from the Philistines by killing their giant, led him to believe that David could indeed to the next ruler over Israel. In time, Jonathan was convinced that David would be their next king. “And he said to him, ‘Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. YOU SHALL BE KING OVER ISRAEL and I shall be next to you. Even my father Saul knows that” (1st Samuel 23:17).

2) “Now Saul spoke to Jonathan his son and to all his servants, that they should kill David; but Jonathan, Saul’s son, DELIGHTED GREATLY IN DAVID. So Jonathan told David saying, ‘My father Saul seeks to kill you. Therefore please be on your guard until morning, and stay in a secret place and hide. And I will go out and stand beside my father in the field where you are, and I will speak with my father about you. Then what I observe, I will tell you” (1st Samuel 19:1-3). If you read all of Chapter 18 you will see that Saul came to envy David and he tried to kill him more than once (see verses 5-11). Yet Jonathan took the side of David and warned him of his father’s plans on every occasion. Such was his love for David (and for the Lord!) that he would defy his father to protect the one that he loved!

We are now prepared to see Jonathan’s FATAL CHOICE. I would encourage you to read Chapter 20 which gives us a detailed account of Jonathan saving David (once again) from his father Saul who was bent on killing him. His love for and loyalty to David was unquestionable. Yet in the last two verses (41-42) we read these words, “As soon as the lad had gone, David arose from a place toward the south, fell on his face to the ground, and bowed down three times. And they kissed one another; and they wept together, but David the more. Then Jonathan said to David, ‘Go in peace, since we have sworn in the name of the LORD, saying, May the LORD be between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants, forever.’ So HE AROSE AND DEPARTED AND JONATHAN WENT INTO THE CITY.” Now let’s read a similar account in 1st Samuel 23:15-18, “So David saw that Saul had come to seek his life…then Jonathan…arose and went to David in the woods and…said to him, ‘Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you…So the two of them made a covenant before the LORD. And DAVID STAYED IN THE WOODS, AND JONATHAN WENT TO HIS OWN HOUSE.” In short, Jonathan CHOSE TO LEAVE DAVID AND RETURN TO HIS FATHER’S HOUSE! This is the last mention of Jonathan until that fateful day where he was killed on Mount Gilboa. Had he chosen to stay with David in the place of rejection he no doubt would have lived to see David on the throne and he would have been right next to him. But for whatever reason he chose to “stay next to his father” and this led to him “dying next to his father.”

This is a rather long meditation, but I feel compelled to add one more thought to my fellow-believers in Christ. David pictures our blessed Lord Who will one day reign over this earth but who is now in a place of rejection. Are we willing to take our place with our blessed Lord Jesus in a world that has rejected Him? Jesus bids us, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” The Lord warned us that we would be hated by the world if we do, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you…If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:18 & 20). Oh, dear fellow-believer, let us show our love for our Savior by obeying His call! Let us be willing to refuse the world and choose to suffer with Christ! “Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach” (Hebrews 13:13).  (384.5)  (DO)