(Jonʹa·than) [Jehovah has given].
An English rendering of two Hebrew names, Yoh·na·thanʹ and the longer form Yehoh·na·thanʹ.—See JEHONATHAN.
1. A Levite who served as priest in connection with false worship at the house of Micah in Ephraim and later with the Danites. The account in Judges chapters 17 and 18 repeatedly refers to a young Levite who, at Judges 18:30, is called “Jonathan the son of Gershom, Moses’ son.” That he was earlier described as “of the family of Judah” may refer simply to the fact that he resided in Bethlehem in the territory of Judah.
Wandering Jonathan eventually came to the home of Micah in the mountains of Ephraim. Micah had set up a carved image in his home. Jonathan agreed to serve as priest for the household even though he was not of the family of Aaron and an image was being used in worship. Later five Danites seeking a place for a section of the tribe to settle met Jonathan. They asked him to inquire of God as to whether they would be successful, and he gave them a favorable response in the name of Jehovah.
When the main body of six hundred Danite men, as well as their families and livestock, passed by Micah’s house on their way N, they took the objects of worship including the carved image. They also induced selfish Jonathan to throw in his lot with them, to become their priest and not just priest for a family. (Judg. 17:7–18:21) Jonathan “and his sons became priests to the tribe of the Danites until the day of the land’s being taken into exile.” (Judg. 18:30) Some commentators have applied this to a conquest of the district, such as by Tiglath-pileser III, or all of the northern tribes by Shalmaneser V. (2 Ki. 15:29; 17:6) However, since Samuel evidently wrote Judges, an earlier application must be intended. Judges 18:31 mentions that the Danites kept the carved image “set up for themselves all the days that the house of the true God continued in Shiloh.” This suggests a time period for the application of the preceding verse, and it strengthens the view that Jonathan’s family served as priests until the Ark was captured by the Philistines. It has been contended that verse thirty should read, ‘until the day of the ark’s being taken into exile.’ (1 Sam. 4:11, 22) But this conclusion about the duration of the priesthood of Jonathan’s family may be correct even without altering the reading, for verse thirty may be taking the view that the land, in a sense, was carried into exile when the Ark was captured.
2. Eldest and favorite son of Benjamite King Saul, evidently by Ahinoam the daughter of Ahimaaz. (1 Sam. 14:49, 50) Jonathan is chiefly noted for his unselfish friendship for and support of David as Jehovah’s king-designate.
Jonathan is first mentioned in the early years of Saul’s reign as a valiant commander of a thousand warriors. (1 Sam. 13:2) He thus would probably be at least twenty then and hence at least approaching sixty when he died in 1077 B.C.E. (Num. 1:3) David was thirty at the time of Jonathan’s death. (1 Sam. 31:2; 2 Sam. 5:4) Hence, during their friendship Jonathan was evidently some thirty years David’s senior. Jonathan’s being a grown young man when Saul became king might help to explain his temperament and outlook. During his formative years he well may have been influenced by his father who, up to the time of being chosen as king, displayed modesty, obedience and a respect for Jehovah and his arrangements.—1 Sam. 9:7, 21, 26; 10:21, 22.
In the opening notice of Jonathan, he courageously and successfully led a thousand poorly armed men against the Philistine garrison at Geba. In response the enemy collected at Michmash. Secretly Jonathan and his armor-bearer left Saul and his men and approached the enemy outpost. By this act alone Jonathan displayed his valor, ability to inspire confidence in others and yet his recognition of Jehovah’s leading, for his actions depended on a sign from God. The two bold fighters single-handedly struck down about twenty Philistines, which led to a full-scale battle and victory for Israel. (1 Sam. 13:3–14:23) As the fighting was proceeding Saul rashly swore a curse on anyone eating before the battle ended. Jonathan was unaware of this and he ate some wild honey. Later, when confronted by Saul, Jonathan did not shrink back from dying for having partaken of the honey. Yet he was redeemed by the people, who recognized that God was with him that day.—1 Sam. 14:24-45.
These exploits clearly prove that Jonathan was a courageous, capable and manly warrior. He and Saul well deserved being described as “swifter than the eagles” and “mightier than the lions.” (2 Sam. 1:23) He was skilled as an archer. (2 Sam. 1:22; 1 Sam. 20:20) His manly qualities may have especially endeared him to Saul. It is apparent that they were very close. (1 Sam. 20:2) This did not, though, overshadow Jonathan’s zeal for God and loyalty to his friend David.
David had been introduced into the king’s court to play music for Saul, since Jehovah’s spirit had departed from the king and been replaced by a bad spirit, something Jonathan may have noted. Though young, David was “a valiant, mighty man and a man of war,” and Saul “got to loving him very much, and he came to be his armor-bearer.”—1 Sam. 16:14-23.
Jonathan’s particular friendship with David dates from soon after he killed Goliath. That fearless act in defense of Jehovah’s people must have particularly moved Jonathan. Hearing David’s account of it, “Jonathan’s very soul became bound up with the soul of David, and Jonathan began to love him as his own soul.” (1 Sam. 18:1) The two courageous warriors and devoted servants of God “proceeded to conclude a covenant” of friendship. Jonathan could see that David had God’s spirit. (1 Sam. 18:3) He did not jealously view him as a rival, as did Saul. Instead, his respect for God’s way of handling matters was a fine example for his younger friend. He did not act on Saul’s desire to kill David, but, rather, warned him and tried to intercede. When David was forced to flee, Jonathan met him and made a covenant to the effect that David would protect him and his household.—1 Sam. 19:1–20:17.
Jonathan again spoke to Saul about David, which nearly cost him his life, for in a fit of rage Saul hurled a spear at his own son. According to arrangement Jonathan and David met in a field where ostensibly the king’s son had gone to practice archery. (1 Sam. 20:24-40) The two friends renewed their bond of affection and “began kissing each other and weeping for each other,” as other men are noted to have done and even as is done in some lands today. (1 Sam. 20:41; Gen. 29:13; 45:15; Acts 20:37) Later Jonathan was able to contact David for the last time at Horesh and he strengthened “his hand in regard to God”; they renewed their covenant.—1 Sam. 23:16-18.
There is no Biblical indication that Jonathan shared with his father in his expeditions against David. But in the battle against God’s enemies, the Philistines, Jonathan fought to the death, dying on the same day as two of his brothers and his father. The Philistines hung the corpses on the walls at Beth-shan. However, valiant men of Jabesh-gilead removed them and buried them at Jabesh. Later David moved the bones of Saul and Jonathan to Zela. (1 Sam. 31:1-13; 2 Sam. 21:12-14; 1 Chron. 10:1-12) David deeply lamented the death of his close friend Jonathan, even chanting over Saul and Jonathan the dirge entitled “The Bow.” (2 Sam. 1:17-27) King David showed special kindness to Jonathan’s lame son Mephibosheth, who was five years old at his father’s death. He eventually had a permanent place at the king’s table. (2 Sam. 4:4; 9:10-13) Jonathan’s line continued for generations.—1 Chron. 8:33-40.
3. A son of High Priest Abiathar and one who served as a courier when David fled Jerusalem during Absalom’s revolt but who apparently later sided with rebellious Adonijah. Jonathan’s father traveled with David when the future king was outlawed by Saul, and later Abiathar was made high priest. At the time of Absalom’s usurpation David sent Abiathar and Zadok back to the capital so they could supply information. Abiathar’s priestly son Jonathan is here first brought into the Biblical account. He and Ahimaaz the son of Zadok were to carry vital messages from their fathers and from Hushai to David. (2 Sam. 15:27-29, 36) The two couriers could not enter the city without being recognized, so they waited at a spring or well named En-rogel near the city. When Absalom seemed to accept Hushai’s counsel, word was sent to the two waiting messengers. They sped to convey word to the king. Spotted and pursued, they were almost apprehended. With the help of a woman they hid in a well until the danger was past and then went to David and advised him to cross over the Jordan.—2 Sam. 17:15-22.
In David’s closing days his son Adonijah conspired to become king instead of Solomon, and Abiathar linked up with him. Perhaps being influenced by his father’s lead, Jonathan evidently defected to the side of Adonijah. It was Jonathan who brought to the banqueting usurper the disquieting news that David had foiled the plot by making Solomon the king. The Bible does not say anything further about Jonathan. He may have shared his father’s banishment, but, whatever occurred, the office of high priest did not continue in his family.—1 Ki. 1:41-43; 2:26, 27.
4. Nephew of King David who struck down a giant who taunted Israel at Gath. (2 Sam. 21:20, 21; 1 Chron. 20:6, 7) This Jonathan is listed as the son of King David’s brother Shimea or Shimei. Since there is a Jehonadab mentioned at 2 Samuel 13:3 as the son of David’s brother Shimeah, some commentators feel that the same individual is intended.—See JEHONADAB No. 1.
6. A son of Uzziah, in charge of King David’s treasures “in the field, in the cities and in the villages and in the towers,” as distinct from the king’s treasures in Jerusalem. (1 Chron. 27:25) Jonathan is mentioned after royal treasurer Azmaveth and before those responsible to care for specific assignments such as the vineyards or the olive groves.—1 Chron. 27:25-28.
7. A man of understanding, a secretary and a counselor for King David. (1 Chron. 27:32) In the Masoretic text Jonathan’s relationship to David is indicated by the Hebrew word dohdh, which generally means “uncle.” But in view of two references in the Scriptures to a nephew of David named Jonathan, it is likely that the word is here used in the wider sense of “relative,” here being “brother’s son” or “nephew.” (Ro; AS, ftn.; NW) He would thus be the same as No. 4 above.
8. One of the military chiefs in the field when Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem in 607 B.C.E.; a son of Kareah and brother of Johanan. After Gedaliah had been put in charge of the people left in the land, Jonathan and the other military leaders from the field went to him and were reassured of safety. (Jer. 40:7-10) Evidently Jonathan was also among those who delivered to Gedaliah the warning that he chose to ignore about the danger of assassination.—Jer. 40:13-16.
11. A son of Asahel who, along with others, opposed Ezra’s proposal that the returned Jews put away their foreign wives.—Ezra 10:15.
12. Son of Joiada and grandson of High Priest Eliashib. (Neh. 12:10, 11) It is thought that actually verse eleven should read “Johanan” instead of “Jonathan” since Nehemiah 12:22, 23 refers to Johanan as “son of Eliashib,” and “son” can signify “grandson.”—See JOHANAN No. 7.