by Wayne Blank
Jonathan was an intelligent and courageous defender of Israel. He led 1,000 men in defeating the Philistines at Gibeah (1 Samuel 13:2-3), along with his armor bearer killed 20 enemy troops in a single ambush (1 Samuel 14:13-14), and was a marksman in archery and slinging. If Saul hadn't had himself disqualified as king, Jonathan would have been king of Israel instead of David.
Although Jonathan was fiercely loyal to his father, they gradually grew apart because of Saul's increasingly foolish and erratic behavior. Saul's command to have Jonathan killed for eating honey after he won a major battle, which would have been carried out if the troops hadn't refused the order (1 Samuel 14:27-46), and Saul's repeated attempts to kill David, who Jonathan knew would become Israel's next king (1 Samuel 23:16-18), caused much alienation between them. In the end, Jonathan became a supporter and ally of David (1 Samuel 20:1-42), while steadfastly remaining at his father's side (1 Samuel 20:42).
The end came for Saul and Jonathan in battle against the Philistines:
"Now the Philistines fought against Israel; and the men of Israel fled before the Philistines, and fell slain on Mount Gilboa. And the Philistines overtook Saul and his sons; and the Philistines slew Jonathan and Abinadab and Malchishua, the sons of Saul. The battle pressed hard upon Saul, and the archers found him; and he was badly wounded by the archers. Then Saul said to his armor-bearer, "Draw your sword, and thrust me through with it, lest these uncircumcised come and thrust me through, and make sport of me." But his armor-bearer would not; for he feared greatly. Therefore Saul took his own sword, and fell upon it. And when his armor-bearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell upon his sword, and died with him. Thus Saul died, and his three sons, and his armor-bearer, and all his men, on the same day together." (1 Samuel 31:1-6 RSV)
Jonathan and Saul were first buried at Jabesh-Gilead after the Philistines abused the bodies (1 Samuel 31:8-13), but their remains were later removed and buried in Zelah, in Benjamin (2 Samuel 21:12-14).
Upon hearing of the death of Jonathan and Saul, David composed his famous "How The Mighty Have Fallen" lament -
"Thy glory, O Israel, is slain upon thy high places! How are the mighty fallen!"
Fact Finder: What was the name of Jonathan's son?