A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Why Jonathan believed David, despite lack of proof that David was in imminent danger

[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.]

Valerie’s post yesterday stimulated me to have a deeper look at why Jonathan was such a strong supporter of David when David was in danger from Saul. I’m publishing what I found today (and breaking our norm of ‘No posts on Tuesday’) because it flows directly from yesterday’s post which highlighted how Jonathan fully believed David’s claim that his life was in danger, immediate danger, from Saul, despite the lack of objective empirical evidence to support David’s claim that he was at high risk and that his life was imperiled.

Valerie’s post focused on Jonathan’s amazing, open-ended, unrestricted offer of help to David: “Whatever you say, I will do for you.” Let’s just remember the passage (1 Samuel 20:1-4  ESV) —

Then David fled from Naioth in Ramah and came and said before Jonathan, “What have I done? What is my guilt? And what is my sin before your father, that he seeks my life?” And he said to him, “Far from it! You shall not die. Behold, my father does nothing either great or small without disclosing it to me. And why should my father hide this from me? It is not so.” But David vowed again, saying, “Your father knows well that I have found favor in your eyes, and he thinks, ‘Do not let Jonathan know this, lest he be grieved.’ But truly, as the LORD lives and as your soul lives, there is but a step between me and death.” Then Jonathan said to David, “Whatever you say, I will do for you.” [Emphasis added.]

Not long before this episode, Jonathan had successfully persuaded Saul to lay aside his wicked designs on David’s life, and all had seemed to be rosy again in the palace (1 Samuel 19:1-7  ESV) —

And Saul spoke to Jonathan his son and to all his servants, that they should kill David. [Saul had intent and plan to murder David.] But Jonathan, Saul’s son, delighted much in David. And Jonathan told David, “Saul my father seeks to kill you. Therefore be on your guard in the morning. Stay in a secret place and hide yourself. And I will go out and stand beside my father in the field where you are, and I will speak to my father about you. And if I learn anything I will tell you.”

And Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father and said to him, “Let not the king sin against his servant David, because he has not sinned against you, and because his deeds have brought good to you. For he took his life in his hand and he struck down the Philistine, and the LORD worked a great salvation for all Israel. You saw it, and rejoiced. Why then will you sin against innocent blood by killing David without cause?” And Saul listened to the voice of Jonathan. Saul swore, “As the LORD lives, he shall not be put to death.”

And Jonathan called David, and Jonathan reported to him all these things. And Jonathan brought David to Saul, and he was in his presence as before.

It was discussed in yesterday’s post how amazing it was that Jonathan believed David’s claim that he was in current and imminent danger, even though David could give him no proof.

I started to wonder: Why was Jonathan unlike so many of the people that we have been unlucky enough to encounter? Why was Jonathan willing to believe David’s claim that he was in serious danger from the abuser Saul, even though David couldn’t produce current evidence that Saul had murderous intent towards him?

Partly, of course, it was because Jonathan knew very well, having heard it with his own ears, that Saul had once spoken to Jonathan his son and to all his servants, that they should kill David. But I don’t think that is the only reason; after all, Jonathan had successfully been the diplomat and conciliator in persuading Saul to back down from that plan. And Jonathan had not witnessed Saul throwing the spear at David after that reconciliation, so he didn’t have proof that Saul had reverted to his wickedness of heart. All Jonathan had evidence of was that David had left the palace and was now hiding out in Naioth.

It could have been all to easy for Jonathan to hear David’s claim that his life was in immediate danger, and to think to himself, “David is exaggerating, or making this up, or too sensitive, or paranoid — and why did he leave the palace anyway! He’s probably just a drama addict, an attention seeker; maybe he even stole something from the palace or did something immoral to a woman in the palace and is hiding out because he is afraid of getting caught and facing punishment. Or maybe he is triangulating me and my father for his own strange ends. Or maybe….”

There are any number of reasons that Jonathan could have thought up to explain the circumstances. And even though he knew that Saul had once, yes, clearly given a command that David be killed, well, that was in the past! And Jonathan had been so successful at persuading his father to be nice towards David again! (— Mediator’s halo glistening just a wee  bit.)

And Jonathan was confident that Saul would be open with him about any intent he might have to kill David: he had been totally open about his murderous plan the first time, so open that not only did he tell Jonathan his son, he instructed all his servants to carry it out. Why wouldn’t he be similarly open again, if his heart had re-set on such a plan? Didn’t Jonathan know his dad pretty well? Sure he did.

And that’s the point. Jonathan knew his dad really well. He not only knew that his dad had once given an open order to kill David. He also knew that his dad had recklessly and foolishly put his own life, Jonathan’s life, in danger. Saul been willing to have his own son killed. Jonathan’s life had hung by a thread once because of Saul’s crazy, prideful, foolish self-centeredness.

Jonathan knew; he remembered all too well how his father could be quicksilver, sudden lightning in clear sky, stupid lashing out. It was not just knowledge from report, or observation at a distance. It was visceral knowledge, the kind of knowledge that is buried in the cell memory, the kind of knowledge that springs to life vividly, floodingly, when we get triggered by memories of having been abused.

Let’s remember where that memory came from. What happened.

In 1 Samuel 14, Jonathan initiates a faith inspired and very brave and risky enterprise: he and his armour bearer went over, on their own, to the the Philistine garrison and slaughtered a whole lot of Philistines. This led to Saul rousing all his soldiers to battle and having a big victory over the Philistines. But during the battle, Saul foolishly laid an oath on his people:

And the men of Israel had been hard pressed that day, so Saul had laid an oath on the people, saying, “Cursed be the man who eats food until it is evening and I am avenged on my enemies.” So none of the people had tasted food.  (1 Samuel 14:24  ESV)

Jonathan, not being aware of the oath, had a mouthful of honey during the battle. The soldiers nearby warned him that he had broken the oath and he replied:

….“My father has troubled the land. See how my eyes have become bright because I tasted a little of this honey. How much better if the people had eaten freely today of the spoil of their enemies that they found. For now the defeat among the Philistines has not been great.”  (vv 29-30)

So even then in those early days, way before David came on the scene in the Goliath narrative, Jonathan had seen that his father Saul was a dangerously headstrong reckless man, an impetuous foolhardy man. And Jonathan had not been afraid to say so publicly when the situation called for it. “My father has troubled the land.”

Not long afterwards, the consequences for the breach of oath started to poke their wiggly heads above the ground. The people were so famished from having not eaten anything all day that when the battle was ending they slaughtered animals and ate them with the blood. Consequence number one. Saul had to put a big stone up and make them slaughter the beasts on the stone and drain the blood before they consumed them. But then Saul, in a typically manic switch, got the grandiose idea they should further plunder and decimate the Philistines right though the night. His soldiers went along with the idea; they probably knew it was useless to object to Saul’s tempestuous decisions. The priest, however, bravely tried to put the brakes on:

Then Saul said, “Let us go down after the Philistines by night and plunder them until the morning light; let us not leave a man of them.” And they said, “Do whatever seems good to you.”

But the priest said, “Let us draw near to God here.” And Saul inquired of God, “Shall I go down after the Philistines? Will you give them into the hand of Israel?” But he did not answer him that day. And Saul said, “Come here, all you leaders of the people, and know and see how this sin has arisen today. For as the LORD lives who saves Israel, though it be in Jonathan my son, he shall surely die.”

But there was not a man among all the people who answered him.

Then he said to all Israel, “You shall be on one side, and I and Jonathan my son will be on the other side.” And the people said to Saul, “Do what seems good to you.” Therefore Saul said, “O LORD God of Israel, why have you not answered your servant this day? If this guilt is in me or in Jonathan my son, O LORD, God of Israel, give Urim. But if this guilt is in your people Israel, give Thummim.” And Jonathan and Saul were taken, but the people escaped. Then Saul said, “Cast the lot between me and my son Jonathan.” And Jonathan was taken.

Then Saul said to Jonathan, “Tell me what you have done.” And Jonathan told him, “I tasted a little honey with the tip of the staff that was in my hand. Here I am; I will die.” And Saul said, “God do so to me and more also; you shall surely die, Jonathan.” [Consequence number two.]

Then the people said to Saul, “Shall Jonathan die, who has worked this great salvation in Israel? Far from it! As the LORD lives, there shall not one hair of his head fall to the ground, for he has worked with God this day.” So the people ransomed Jonathan, so that he did not die.  (1 Samuel 14:36-45  ESV)

Jonathan knew what it was like to be suddenly, unreasonably threatened with death by Saul. No wonder he believed David! He empathized. He had been a victim himself.

[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.]


  1. His Banner Over Me Is Love

    No wonder he believed David! He empathized. He had been a victim himself.

    Thank you Barbara, that was POWERFUL.

  2. Still Reforming

    Jonathan also may well have believed David if Jonathan knew that David was the LORD’s Anointed. Trusting and believing someone you know belongs to the LORD is the right thing to do. That is where I am presently – hoping those I know in my local flock will believe me based on who they (should) know me to be. Sadly, this is not the case with everyone among my local brothers and sisters, but I’m learning that it’s not my cross to bear – their lack of understanding. Those who truly are my friends and brethren do “get it,” and that’s a great blessing.

  3. Valerie

    What a great reminder to the rest of the story Barbara! It has always left me a bit curious that in my mind Jonathan didn’t do wrong because he wasn’t aware of the oath, yet the lot fell on him. Was casting the lot always to be seen as God’s judgment? Am I wrong on that? If so then it is curious as to why the lot fell on Jonathan and not on Saul when Saul made the reckless oath.

    I’ve always found it telling when Saul tells Jonathan in anger that he is the son of a rebellious woman. I have come to recognize this kind of abuser speak- to point the finger away from himself and also with such judgment regarding something so obvious (did Saul think that people might forget that Jonathan also had a father??).

    The bible is so complex and so many mysteries and treasures waiting to be found!

  4. healingInHim

    Thank you for posting this. Yesterday’s article and today’s compliment each other. These are excellent Bible Studies.

  5. joepote01

    Barbara, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed your post today, as well as Valerie’s post, yesterday,on this topic. Good insights into biblical examples of abuse as well as of supportive friends of abuse targets.

    I think it is also worth noting what David requested in response to Jonathan’s offer of assistance. All he asked for was for Jonathan to investigate and learn the truth for himself. He didn’t ask for financial assistance, assistance escaping, or physical defense. He just wanted his friend, Jonathan, to know the truth for himself…to have independent verification that what David told him was true.

    And I love the plan they devised! They both knew Saul could not be counted on to tell the truth to a direct question from his own son. And they both knew Saul could be counted to react volatiley in a situation where things were out of his control. So they set the stage for Saul to expose himself…to which Saul responded by trying to kill his own son…totally verifying his murderous intent toward David.

    • Still Reforming

      joepote01, Excellent observations! This is such a great thread! So many apt correlations to today!

  6. Soldiergirl

    This story is so telling in that it shows how when a person has had first hand experience with abuse, they can understand what another victim is going through. They don’t fantasy think it away and go into their nice cozy house and say you’ll get over it, or try to accept it.
    They know this is a monster that is not going away anytime soon and serious measures/ need to be taken to get the victim to safety ..
    They can see it because they know the same atrocity has happened to them. Jonathan knew his fathers unpredictable erratic behavior patterns, and he did not allow his ego or pride to blind him from accepting the truth about his father.
    A fine representative for righteousness judgement, to stand in the gap for David, when no one else was there.
    In a way I think David also fulfilled something lacking in Johnathan’s life.
    To see a man display courageous unwavering Godly character as David did during his life time.
    Some thing his Father was sadly lacking in.

    • In a way I think David also fulfilled something lacking in Johnathan’s life.
      To see a man display courageous unwavering Godly character as David did during his life time.
      Some thing his Father was sadly lacking in.

      Oh yes! Thanks for that, soldiergirl!

      • survivorthrivor2

        Valerie, thanks for this post! Although I did have to read it over a few times, it all came together and I must say very timely.

        I was alone without anyone who knew what I was going through for a very long time, I’m sure we can all relate to that. However, just in the past year I feel as though God is working, at least in the area of avenging me, awakening others and letting me know I had an ally a long time ago that I didn’t even know about until last November. I was having a conversation with a man who married into my husband’s extended family of my husband, and it very organically led into him telling me that my husband’s entire family have all been talking behind my back and lying about me for as long as he has been in the family. That’s 18 years! What a blow!

        When this man came into the family he heard all these horrible things about me, he couldn’t believe his ears and he disliked me, as did all the other family members. But, he kept looking at me and just couldn’t see it, he began to doubt what everyone was saying, and he decided to get to know me and figure it out for himself. (I thank God for him!) He did and decided that I was not what the others had been saying and he said he really liked me and not only did he refuse to believe it, he wouldn’t even let them talk bad about me in his presence! Can I get a hallelujah!

        He would say to them, as he told me, “I love ___, that’s not who she is and stop saying those horrible things & lies in front of me, I won’t allow it, especially in his house.” He told me once that he actually threw two of my husband’s siblings out of his house for coming in there to bad-mouth me to his wife! He is my hero! He listened and let God lead him into righteousness, although I’m sure he went through a lot sticking up for me and having my back. But, he stood his ground and didn’t let them talk bad about me from that point on, and I never even knew. He and I always got along at family functions, but I didn’t know that any of it was going on at all.

        The reason I didn’t know was because to my face they were all nicey-nice and phony as can be, but after I found out I could not get why they would do this because I had never had words, arguments, or anything with any of them. It was puzzling until I figured it out, with the realization of who my husband really was (a few months ago). He had to have been the one telling his siblings and parents and even later on all the other spouses who had married into the family ugly, untrue things about me all these years! Throwing me completely under the bus! How completely and utterly evil! But, how on earth could I believe this impossible thing? He was my husband! It was and is quite sobering as you can imagine. I was always gracious, accepting, helpful, caring of all of them always, why would I be anything but? They were my husband’s family?

        I still have no idea that people who call themselves Christians could be so cruel and for unfounded reasons, it’s sheer madness and I can’t even imagine how it hurts the heart of God. I still don’t know what to think and am still working through all of this, but suffice it to say I have not been around his family very much since I found all this out, and when I am I just keep to myself.

        [Note from Eds: family details and dates disidentified a bit.]

      • Wow, survivorthrivor! What a vindication!

      • Valerie

        Survivor2, wow….it takes my breath away. Ezekiel and Isaiah reference needing someone to stand in the gap. That is most certainly was this man did for you. I can’t imagine how you feel knowing all those years your HUSBAND was slandering and accusing you to his family. What a sweet, gentle way in which God sent someone to stand in the gap for you. What an awesome testimony of God’s provision in the midst of evil! From Psalm 91:

        “Because he loves me, says the Lord, I will rescue him. I will protect him because he acknowledges my name. He will call on Me and I will answer him. I will be with him in trouble. I will deliver him and honor him.” [Psalm 91:14-15]

        (emphasis mine)

        BTW – Barbara gets the credit for today’s post! 🙂

  7. survivorthrivor2

    I’m sorry, Barbara…..I knew that lol! Great post, as always, you have been a true God-send. And everyone in the group has great observations on a myriad of subjects and levels. I am always picking up something I can use in my own situation to move me as far away as I can get from it and start living a “normal” life. I do have a question to anyone & everyone who might want to help. I am ramping up my study of the Bible and was wondering who might have some suggestions about where to go to find great online comprehensive instruction?

    Thank you all, God bless!

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