In honor of today’s International Friendship Day, Jewish Treats presents the friendship of David and Jonathan. The sages state: “What is an example of the love which did not depend upon some ulterior interest? That of David and Jonathan” (Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Fathers 5:19).
It would seem natural that David and Jonathan would be friends. When David joined the entourage of King Saul, they were peers, soldiers in the court of the king. More than just peers, David and Jonathan were brothers-in-law, since David married Jonathan’s sister Michal.
On the other hand, Jonathan would have naturally perceived himself as the heir to the throne, whereas David was a simple shepherd who became a (seemingly) accidental warrior-hero by striking down Goliath and then continued to find constant favor with the people of Israel. To make matters all the more difficult for their friendship, King Saul, who had once favored David, saw him as a threat to the monarchy and frequently sought his demise.
Jonathan, however, was honest with himself. He recognized that God’s favor was upon David, and he accepted it without hesitation. The sages group Jonathan as one of three supremely humble men, citing how Jonathan said to David, “You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you” (I Samuel 23:17).
When David received the news that both King Saul and Jonathan had been slain during the war with the Philistines, he was devastated. He verbally lamented the tragic loss to the nation of Israel, but added his own personal lament over Jonathan: “I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; very pleasant have you been to me; wonderful was your love to me, passing the love of women” (II Samuel 1:26). While David’s relationships with his many wives were fraught with personality issues, his friendship with Jonathan was honest and pure, without any political overtones to complicate it.
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