The scriptures contain wonderful accounts of personal friendships. They reveal not only the special bond of such relationships but also the added strength given to them when gospel principles are at the heart of the association.
David and Jonathan
Aristotle said once that friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies. No definition of friendship could better describe the relationship of David and Jonathan in the Old Testament. Jonathan, the son of King Saul, was a valiant soldier in his own right and a worthy young prince in Israel. But when David came onto the scene fresh from his mighty victory over Goliath, having already been anointed by the prophet Samuel, it was he, not Jonathan, who would be successor to the increasingly disobedient Saul.
To a lesser man--or a lesser friend--than Jonathan, David would have been a terrible threat, a natural rival. But he wasn't. We don't know that Jonathan expected to succeed his father as king, but he certainly could have foreseen that possibility. What we do know is that "the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul" (1 Sam. 18:1). So great was their devotion to one another that they "made a covenant" of loyalty. As a symbolic token of his devotion to the newly anointed king, Jonathan stripped himself of the princely robe he wore "and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle" (1 Sam. 18:4).
When Saul's transgressions brought hostility between him and young David ("and Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with him, and was departed from Saul" the scripture says), Saul privately commanded his officers to kill David (1 Sam. 18:12). But the ever-faithful Jonathan warned his friend, helped him hide out of Saul's view, and continually spoke to his father of David's virtues. He was so successful in praising David that Saul repented and made a vow that David's life would be preserved. "And Jonathan brought David to Saul, and he was in his presence, as in times past" (1 Sam. 19:7).
But Saul was so overcome by evil at this stage of his life that he could not keep his word and once again tried to kill David. In a daring escape David fled to Jonathan, who again pledged his love and his protection, saying to David, "Whatsoever thy soul desireth, I will even do it for thee" (1 Sam. 20:4).
Jonathan's protection of David, of course, raised Saul's anger against his own son. In a rage Saul threw a javelin at Jonathan--just as he had done to David earlier. Jonathan escaped, telling David he must flee for his life. Their sorrow over this circumstance was so deep and their love for one another so great that they "wept one with another, ... And Jonathan said to David, Go in peace, forasmuch as we have sworn both of us in the name of the Lord, saying, The Lord be between me and thee, and between my seed and thy seed for ever" (1 Sam. 20:41-42).
Although Saul continued to seek David's life, Jonathan secretly assisted David and gave him encouragement, promising that "the hand of Saul my father shall not find thee" (1 Sam. 23:17). And always they renewed their covenant of friendship and loyalty (see 1 Sam. 23:18).
Unfortunately Jonathan was killed when the Philistines attacked Saul's forces on Mount Gilboa, but David, who was now king, never forgot the friendship and protection of his beloved friend Jonathan. His lamentation over Jonathan's death is one of the loveliest psalms in the Old Testament (see 2 Sam. 1:26-27).