The friendship of David and Jonathan is well known. Brothers by adoption, their relationship has been a model and inspiration for many. Yet, there is more to it than just a good example.
Within the narrative of 1 Samuel, as Israel transitions from a clan-based to a political society, Saul’s family is disintegrating. The episodes of this family’s feud echo the events of Genesis 4, where we witness the primordial and paradigmatic breakdown of familial ties between the brothers Cain and Abel.
Within this context, the relationship between David and Jonathan, forged in covenantal love, emerges as a bond deeper than bloodlines, foreshadowing familial relationships that Christ would effect within His Church.
I have chosen to unpack these parallels by citing the relevant Biblical passages (drawn from Genesis 4 and several chapters of 1 Samuel) using the structure of a five-act play, while including verses from a hymn that these stories brought to mind: “Blest Be the Tie That Binds” by John Fawcett.
Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.” And again, she bore his brother Abel.
And Saul said to him, “Whose son are you, young man?” And David answered, “I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.” As soon as he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. And Saul took him that day and would not let him return to his father’s house.
Blessed be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like that to that above.
Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”
Now, behold, Saul was coming from the field behind the oxen.
And Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the command of the Lord your God, with which he commanded you. For then the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.”
And Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen these.” Then Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep.”
Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt.
Before our Father’s throne
We pour our ardent prayers;
Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one
Our comforts and our cares.
Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him.
And Jonathan said to David, “Come, let us go out into the field.” So they both went out into the field… And Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, “May the Lord take vengeance on David’s enemies.” And Jonathan made David swear again by his love for him, for he loved him as he loved his own soul… And Jonathan gave his weapons to his boy and said to him, “Go and carry them to the city.”
Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.”
And as soon as the boy had gone, David rose from the beside the stone heap and fell on his face to the ground and bowed three times. And they kissed one another and wept with one another, David weeping the most.
We share each other’s woes,
Our mutual burdens bear;
And often for each other flows
The sympathising tear.
When we asunder part,
It gives us inward pain;
But we shall still be joined in heart,
And hope to meet again.
Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”
Then Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, because we have sworn both of us in the name of the Lord, saying, “The Lord shall be between me and you, and between my offspring and your offspring, forever.”
This glorious hope revives
Our courage by the way;
While each in expectation lives,
And longs to see the day.
From sorrow, toil and pain,
And sin, we shall be free,
And perfect love and friendship reign
Through all eternity.
Richa Samuel (lead vocals); Rhea Samuel (lead vocals + harmony); Stanley Stephen (keyboard); Robinson Shalu (mixing)
A weekly brief of new resources and Scripture-based insights from our editorial team.