Jonathan was the son of Saul, Israel’s just anointed king. A king, yes, but not necessarily a leader. There were people loyal to him, but mostly out of fear, or desirous of favors. Saul was hasty, harsh and selfish. Now Saul and his army were facing the dreaded philistines, outnumbered, and reluctant to begin the battle. But not Jonathan.
Jonathan said to the young man who carried his armor, “Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised. It may be that the LORD will work for us, for nothing can hinder the LORD from saving by many or by few.” And his armor-bearer said to him, “Do all that is in your heart. Do as you wish. Behold, I am with you heart and soul.“ – 1 Samuel 14:6-7. So Jonathan attacked the garrison with just his armor bearer, and his iron faith in God. Note the words of his armor bearer in bold. That’s true loyalty, for Jonathan was a true leader.
Then Jonathan climbed up on his hands and feet, and his armor-bearer after him. And they fell before Jonathan, and his armor-bearer killed them after him. And that first strike, which Jonathan and his armor-bearer made, killed about twenty men within as it were half a furrow’s length in an acre of land. And there was a panic in the camp, in the field, and among all the people. The garrison and even the raiders trembled, the earth quaked, and it became a very great panic. – 1 Samuel 14:13-15. Obviously, the Lord was my bringing the victory. But Saul almost managed to screw it up with his ego. “His enemies?” No, they were enemies of Israel, and therefore of God.
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. Now when all the people came to the forest, behold, there was honey on the ground. And when the people entered the forest, behold, the honey was dropping, but no one put his hand to his mouth, for the people feared the oath. But Jonathan had not heard his father charge the people with the oath, so he put out the tip of the staff that was in his hand and dipped it in the honeycomb and put his hand to his mouth, and his eyes became bright. Then one of the people said, “Your father strictly charged the people with an oath, saying, ‘Cursed be the man who eats food this day.'” And the people were faint. Then Jonathan said, “My father has troubled the land. See how my eyes have become bright because I tasted a little of this honey. 1 Samuel 14:24-29. To make matters yet worse, Saul valued his oath more than the victory or his own son.
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.” 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 14:43-45. The people had to ransom Jonathan from his father’s rash curse; they loved Jonathan more than Saul, even though Saul was the king. When David eventually replaces Saul as king, the people loved him like they loved Jonathan. When David and Jonathan met, the Bible says “their souls were knit together.” When Jonathan died in battle, David lamented his death bitterly, saying “your love was greater than women.” And David had plenty of love for women, but rarely does a natural leader find the friendship of another natural leader. David and Jonathan were rare leaders, and forged a bond that was broken only by death.