A Picture of Protecting Abuse Victims: The Example of Jonathan and David
[July 20, 2022: There have been some changes made to this post. For more information, read the Editors’ notes at the bottom of the post. Editors.]
This post is written by Valerie, one of our blog readers. Thank you very much for this, Valerie!
(1 Samuel 18:1 NASB1995) Now it came about when he had finished speaking to Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as himself.
David has just defended the name of God by killing the Philistine. This is the one referred to as the uncircumcised Philistine who taunts the people with his threats and intimidation, the one who people are in fear of. (Yes, the symbolism isn’t lost on me either!) Jonathan witnesses the exchange between David and Saul after the victory over Goliath. Jonathan became “knit” to the soul of David and loved him as he loved himself. The text adds to the depth of Jonathan’s commitment to David through Jonathan’s decision to make a covenant with David. Jonathan extends his devotion and loyalty one step further by giving him his royal inheritance by giving David his robe and other symbolic pieces.
Do we grasp the significance of the sacrifice Jonathan was willing to make for David? Stop to consider exactly what Jonathan not only gave up, but risked for David’s sake. Jonathan’s father was the king and Jonathan was considered to be the next king. Saul was the first king anointed by God, yet Jonathan was willing to extend himself by devoting himself to David; protecting him, helping him, and even risking death by lying for him (for the purpose of protection as did Rahab).
The story of David and Jonathan is a relatively familiar one; however, in light of my abusive marriage and the rippling effect through lost friendships and church, I take note of another aspect to this bond, which I think has been overlooked in this beautiful account of devotion. It is found in 1 Samuel 20:4 —
Then Jonathan said to David, “Whatever you say, I will do for you.”
The significance of this is only best realized by going back a few verses. David has just told Jonathan that Saul wanted to murder David, but Jonathan didn’t see it. Jonathan adamantly explained that his father would do nothing without consulting him first — this simply could not be. David responded by again assuring Jonathan this was so, yet David had no concrete proof to offer Jonathan. It was just an intuition (I would suggest divinely inspired). Despite a lack of evidence, Jonathan vows to David then and there that he will do whatever David asks to help him be safe.
Jonathan had already decided in his heart the degree of his loyalty to David. This is what fueled his response to him, not a stack of evidence. David could not offer Jonathan the evidence of a bent knife, sabotaged armor or a stone tablet listing last month’s suspicious occurrences. Sure, there is Saul’s prior outburst of telling Jonathan and his servants David must die; yet in 1 Samuel 19:6 Saul later recants to Jonathan —
….”As the Lord lives, he shall not be put to death.”
Jonathan’s loyalty and concern said “safety first”. He essentially surmised the most important thing was David’s protection and supporting him — not forcing him to offer concrete examples (or even plausible ones). David simply said, “It is so.” and Jonathan’s response could be summed up as, “Okay, I believe you. What’s next?” Jonathan was willing to see his father, the king, in an unflattering light (to say it lightly) in order to support David. Jonathan took big risks in aiding David when considering if David’s claims were true: what was Saul willing to do to Jonathan whom he would deem as a traitor?
I can’t help but think what it would do for abuse survivors if more of our “friends” were willing to risk far less to accomplish this level of safety and support as Jonathan did for David. What degree of healing could take place from a Jonathan-inspired validation when we begin to open up about the abuse we suspect in our relationships? “I don’t see it, but I believe you. You are my friend and I want to support you. What’s next?” Jonathan could have easily quoted Scripture to validate why it would be unbiblical for him to support David and go against the king — beginning with the commandment, “honor you father and mother”.
Jonathan entered into a covenant with David and our Lord has entered into a covenant with us when we agree to let Him be our King and release having our own way. While my human covenants have been broken or made with fingers crossed behind their backs, I take comfort in knowing my Lord and Savior has made a covenant with me. He risked much, endured much and is forever loyal even when we are faithless. Our loving Father gently whispers His affirmation that He sees us and that His bond to us, with us, and for us will not be broken.
[July 20, 2022: Editors’ notes:
—For some comments made prior to July 20, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to July 20, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to July 20, 2022 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (July 20, 2022), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]
- Posted in: Supporting victims
- Tagged: church response to abuse, dangerous views on abuse, guest post, protecting victims, Samuel
Thank you, Valerie.
I’ve often wondered if many friends also fear becoming victims if they become involved?
Valerie, you’ve laid out the truths from this beautiful friendship between Jonathan and David so well. Thank you! As you said, Jonathan mistakenly thought his father, Saul, would confer with him first before taking action against David. Confused, David even asked Jonathan what he had done to be the recipient of such abuse from Saul (1 Sam 20:1)? Jonathan acknowledged that God was witness to what was going on (1 Sam 20:12) and took it upon himself to explore the matter further, but did this confidentially (1 Sam 20:39) believing that his friend David could be in great danger.
Jonathan valued David’s life and honored his father, just not in the way most people think. As said on previous posts, God’s law NEVER trumps His character and must be interpreted according to His character. Thou shalt not murder means in part to be a good steward of one’s own life and the life of another….and sometimes this means honorably “disobeying” father. As a friend recently shared, in actuality, God’s law does adjust to situations….
As the story goes, Jonathan discovered that what David spoke re Saul’s threats were true and instead of pleading with David to “reconcile” with Saul since he had made “confessions,” Jonathan aided David in his flight to safety from Saul and —
And this pleased God.
Awesome point, BSD! Imagine if the text were instead Jonathan pleading with David to reconcile with Saul. “Surely there is a misunderstanding. Surely if you tell Saul you are afraid of him and ask him to forgive you (for what?) then this will be the bridge back to reconciliation.” Jonathan also doesn’t ask David to examine his part in why Saul might be so upset with him and rebuke him for all the enemies he’s killed which led Saul to jealousy (a.k.a. narcissistic injury).
Amen and amen again, Valerie! Thanks for taking the post one step further to show how injurious those types of “solutions” are to the victim, who are also many times God’s elect. Not kings, but so often daughters of the King. Thank you! Well done!
Yes, great points, BSD. And thanks, Valerie, for extending them.
Wow! Talk about turning legalism on its head! YAY-yuh! This is a really good post. Would that more Christians take to supporting those who open up about abuse and believe us, the grieving spouses caught between a rock and a hard place, hoping for more Jonathans to surround us with such support and belief. Thank you for this encouraging post, Valerie. It’s refreshing!
As you said, Valerie, had David returned (reconciled) to Saul, it would have been the end of him. Also, it never occurred to me that Jonathan did not ask David, “What did you do or say to stir my father up?” Why is it that Bible stories like this one which so clearly address the subject of abuse and a right way to respond to it, are the ones ignored and rarely preached on?