Saul, Jonathan and David

October 7 2007

See the short post on David.

In the thirteenth century BC, Moses led the Hebrew people out of Egypt, across the Sinai. He and his successor Joshua conquered the land of Canaan, the Promised Land, destroying the Canaanite cities of Ali, Jericho and Hazor.

The tribes of Israel during the period which followed were Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Manasseh, Ephraim and Benjamin. In parts of the Bible, Ephraim and Manasseh are treated as together constituting the House of Joseph. The Levi had a special religious role and only scattered cities as territory. Either Ephraim and Manasseh were counted as one tribe or Levi was not counted, so that together there were Twelve Tribes.

The Philistines, a non-Semitic “Sea People”, came to Palestine, or the southern coast of Canaan (Palestine derives from Philistine), from the Aegean in the twelfth century BC, soon after the arrival of the Hebrews. They occupied the five cities of Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Ekron and Gath. They disappear from history after the Babylonian conquests of the sixth century BC.

The Hebrews were often subject to the Philistines and were ruled by Judges until c 1000 B.C. The prophet Samuel, florebat from c 1050 BC, was the last judge of Israel and the first of the prophets after Moses. His judgeship was dominated by war with the Philistines, who captured Moses’ Ark of the Covenant. In his old age he agreed, at divine request, to the establishment of a king; he thus anointed Saul and remained chief prophet during Saul’s reign. In this role he also anointed David, a shepherd, who was from the tribe of Judah.

Saul was succeeded by David and then by David’s son Solomon. After the expansionist reign of Solomon (c 970-928 BC), the kingdom broke up into two states: Israel, with its capital at Samaria (another city was Shechem), and Judah, under the house of David, with its capital at Jerusalem.

The two kingdoms were later conquered by expanding Mesopotamian states, Israel by Assyria (c 720 BC) and Judah by Babylonia (586 BC). The Babylonians destroyed the Temple at Jerusalem and held the Jews captive in Babylon.

In 539 BC the Persians conquered the Babylonians and in 538 allowed the Jews to return. The Temple was rebuilt (516 BC). Under Persian rule Palestine enjoyed considerable autonomy.

Alexander conquered Palestine in 333 BC. His successors contested for it. The attempt of the Seleucid Antiochus IV (Antiochus Epiphanes) to impose Hellenism brought a Jewish revolt under the Maccabees, who set up a new Jewish state in 142 BC.

Pompey conquered Palestine in 63 BC, but the state survived until 37 BC with a loss of autonomy. From 37 BC to AD 92 the Roman province of Judaea was ruled by puppet kings of the Romans, the Herodian Dynasty, a Jewish dynasty from Idumea.

When the Jews revolted in AD 66, the Romans destroyed the Temple (AD 70). Another revolt between AD 132 and 135 (led by Bar Kokhba) was also suppressed. Jericho and Bethlehem were destroyed, and the Jews were barred from most of Palestine.


Here is Wikipedia’s summary of the story of David and Jonathan. It quotes from the King James Version, except at the end, where it gives the “surpassing” of the New King James Version. I’ve restored “passing” for the sake of consistency and corrected some of the punctuation.

“David, a handsome, ruddy-cheeked youth and the youngest son of Jesse, is brought before Saul, the king of Israel, having slain the giant Philistine warrior Goliath with only a stone and sling (1 Sam. 17:57).

“Jonathan, the eldest son of Saul, is struck with love for David on their first meeting. ‘And it came to pass, when he [David] [brackets in original] had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.’ (1 Sam. 18:1). That same day, ‘Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul.’ (1 Sam. 18:3). Jonathan removes and offers David the rich garments he is wearing, and shares with him his worldly possessions. ‘And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle.’ (1 Sam. 18:4).

“The people of Israel openly accept David and sing his praises, so much so that it draws the jealousy of Saul (1 Sam. 18:5-9). Saul tries repeatedly to kill David, but is each time unsuccessful, and David’s reputation only grows with each attempt (1 Sam. 18:24-25). To get rid of David, Saul decides to offer him a daughter in marriage, requesting a hundred enemy foreskins in lieu of a dowry – hoping David will be killed trying. David however returns with a trophy of two hundred foreskins and Saul has to fulfill his end of the bargain.

“Learning of one of Saul’s murder attempts, Jonathan warns David to hide because he ‘delighted much in David’ (1 Sam. 19:1-2). David is forced to flee more of Saul’s attempts to kill him (1 Sam. 19:1-20:1). In a moment when they find themselves alone together, David says to Jonathan, ‘Thy father certainly knoweth that I have found grace in thine eyes […]’ (1 Sam. 20:3).

“‘Then said Jonathan unto David, Whatsoever thy soul desireth, I will even do it for thee. … [and] Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, Let the LORD even require it at the hand of David’s enemies. And Jonathan caused David to swear again, because he loved him: for he loved him as he loved his own soul.’ (1 Sam. 20:4, Sam. 20:16-17).

“David agrees to hide, until Jonathan can confront his father and ascertain whether it is safe for David to stay (1 Sam. 20:18-22). Jonathan approaches his father to plead David’s cause: ‘Then Saul’s anger was kindled against Jonathan, and he said unto him, Thou son of the perverse rebellious woman, do not I know that thou hast chosen the son of Jesse to thine own confusion, and unto the confusion of thy mother’s nakedness?’ (1 Sam. 20:30).

“Jonathan is so grieved that he does not eat for days (1 Sam. 20:34). He goes to David at his hiding place to tell him that it is unsafe for him and he must leave. ‘David arose out of a place toward the south, and fell on his face to the ground, and bowed himself three times: and they kissed one another, and wept one with another, until David exceeded. 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. And he arose and departed: and Jonathan went into the city.’ (1 Sam. 20:41-42).

“Saul continues to pursue David (1 Sam. 21-23:14); David and Jonathan renew their covenant together (1 Sam. 23:15-18); and eventually Saul and David are reconciled (1 Sam. 24:16-22). When Jonathan is slain on Mt. Gilboa by the Philistines (1 Sam. 31:2), David laments his death saying, ‘I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant hast thou been unto me: thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.’ (2 Sam. 1:26).”

Saul also dies at Mount Gilboa. The summary does not quote the phrase “How are the mighty fallen!” in relation to his and Jonathan’s deaths.

In the Goliath story, the Philistines, having amassed an army on a hillside opposite the Israelite forces, suggest that it would be better, to save effort and lives on both sides, to have a proxy combat between their champion from Gath, named Goliath, and someone of Saul’s choosing. David, a shepherd, is delivering food to his three older brothers, who are in the Israelite army, at the time the challenge is made. Talking to soldiers, he mocks the Philistines, and is told off by his brothers for doing so. His speech is reported to Saul, who does not know David, but summons him, and appoints him his champion in the duel.

David was a musician, and by tradition the author of the Psalms. Another story tells us that while David was playing the harp in front of the troubled Saul, Saul threw a spear at him, but missed.

During David’s period in the wilderness, and before his reconciliation with Saul, he made an alliance with the Philistines (Achish of Gath), which emboldened them to attack Israel. When Saul is told by Samuel’s ghost that he will be killed in the battle of Mount Gilboa, he either kills himself or is killed at his request by an Amalekite after his own armour bearer refuses. The Amalekites were aboriginal people of Canaan and the Sinai peninsula. They waged constant warfare against the Hebrews until dispersed by Saul.

In Islam David is called Dawood. The Psalms are the Zabur. Muslims reject the portrayal of David (in his association with Uriah) as adulterer and murderer.

What are the dynamics of the Saul-Jonathan-David triangle? What was Samuel’s role? Was Saul a Claggart to David’s Billy Budd? What does “until David exceeded” mean? Was David implicated in Saul’s death?

The formal post-Solomonic split into Israel and Judah came out of an existing division. David’s relationship with Jonathan is seen by some as a representation of two nations, Saul representing Israel, David Judah. Jonathan may represent the Hebrews, whom the Book of Samuel appears to treat as distinct from Israel and Judah. Jonathan’s association with David would then reflect an alliance between the Hebrews and Judah, which became more important than the alliance between the Hebrews and Israel.The Hebrews are also identified with David’s band of pro-Philistine outlaws after his rift with Saul. The narrative of David’s flight and subsequent reconciliation with Saul becomes one of a rebellion by Judah with Philistine support, which became an uneasy truce.

Some Biblical “minimalists” have claimed that the “United Kingdom” was merely an invention intended to back up the subsequent claims of Judah to Israel.

The capital of David’s Judah had been Hebron. Saul’s United Kingdom had had capitals at Gibeah and Shiloh. Saul’s successor Ish-boseth had a capital at Mahanaim.

After the deaths of Saul and Jonathan, David, thirty years old, goes up to Hebron, where he is anointed King of Judah. In the north, Saul’s son Ish-boseth succeeds him in Israel, but David eventually triumphs. He conquers a fortress, Jerusalem, which had belonged to a Canaanite tribe called the Jebusites, and makes it his capital. He overcomes weaker states such as Philisia, Moab, Edom and Ammon. The Aramean city-states of Aram-Zobah and Aram-Damascus become vassals.

The Phoenician king of Tyre, to the north, Hiram, pays him homage and sends carpenters and masons, bringing cedar wood, to build David a house. David brings the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, intending to build a temple. God, speaking to the prophet Nathan, forbids it, saying that the temple must wait for a future generation. But God makes a covenant with David, promising that he will establish the house of David eternally.

David lies with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite, and Bathsheba becomes pregnant. David causes Uriah to die on the battlefield in order to cover up his adultery. Nathan condemns him. Bathsheba’s child dies, but David’s second son by Bathsheba was his son Solomon.

David (who had eight wives) deals with a rebellion by his son Absalom. David reigned “seven years in Hebron and thirty-three years in Jerusalem”. He died in his bed at the age of seventy.

When the “eternal” Davidic dynasty failed after four centuries, it formed the basis for the Jewish belief in the Messiah.

Generations of scholars have tried to understand the traditions embodied in often self-contradictory Biblical passages, the layers of propaganda in the original texts and the implications of different translations. Archaeology often upsets even their most tentative conclusions.

6 Responses to “Saul, Jonathan and David”

  1. […] and armour bearers to adult warriors. Examples of this practice can be found in the Bible (such as David’s service to King Saul), in Hittite and Egyptian art, and in Greek mythology (such as the story of Hercules and Hylas), […]

  2. yehudadraiman Says:

    The Land of Israel and its uncontested Capital Jerusalem

    The Qur’an 17:104 – states the land belongs to the Jewish people.

    If the historic documents, comments written by eyewitnesses and declarations by the most authoritative Arab scholars are still not enough, let us quote the most important source for Muslim Arabs:

    “And thereafter we [Allah] said to the Children of Israel: ‘Dwell securely in the Promised Land. And when the last warning will come to pass, we will gather you together in a mingled crowd’.” 17:104

    YUSUFALI: And We said thereafter to the Children of Israel, “Dwell securely in the land (of promise)”: but when the second of the warnings came to pass, We gathered you together in a mingled crowd.
    PICKTHAL: And We said unto the Children of Israel after him: Dwell in the land; but when the promise of the Hereafter cometh to pass We shall bring you as a crowd gathered out of various nations.
    SHAKIR: And We said to the Israelites after him: Dwell in the land: and when the promise of the next life shall come to pass, we will bring you both together in judgment.
    – Qur’an 17:104 –

    Any sincere Muslim must recognize the Land they call “Palestine” as the Jewish Homeland, according to the book considered by Muslims to be the most sacred word and Allah’s ultimate revelation.

    “The birthplace of the Jewish people is the Land of Israel (Eretz Yisrael). There, a significant part of the nation’s long history was enacted, of which the first thousand years are recorded in the Bible; there, its cultural, religious and national identity was formed; and there, its physical presence has been maintained through the centuries, even after the majority was forced into exile. During the many years of dispersion, the Jewish people never severed nor forgot its bond with the Land. With the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, Jewish independence, lost two thousand years earlier, was renewed.”

    If people of any nation were exiled to other country’s and than years later were able to reclaim their country, the world population as a whole would support such action and would not consider giving a piece of the country to the foreigners who are residing there, and under no circumstances would they consider parceling portions of the county to be set up as a separate State for the foreigners.

    Why should anyone in the world consider doing this very same action with the land of Israel which is a Jewish land for thousands of years?

    The Arabs living in the land of Israel have come from the surrounding Arab countries; they have no right whatsoever to any part of the land of Israel.

    In the past hundred years many Jews were ejected from Arab countries surrounding the land of Israel, their property taken and their homes and lands taken over.

    Let those Arabs who want to Claim the land of Israel as theirs go to those Arab countries and the homes and lands that the Jews were occupying.

    Any part of the land of Israel is not occupied territory; it is legally a Jewish land and has been for thousands of years, no Arab has any right to claim any rights to the land of Israel. The surrounding Arab countries compose of over 100 million people and millions of square miles, why do they have to bother little Israel with its territory about the size of the State of New Jersey.

    Maybe the world should consider giving European countries or parts to the Italians, since the Romans occupied it for many years.

    If I forget thee, O Jerusalem,
    may my right hand forget its cunning.
    May my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth,
    if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy.
    (Psalms 137:5-6)

    Jerusalem, the uncontested and undivided capital of Israel, is located in the heart of the country, nestled among the Judean Hills. The city’s ancient stones, imbued with millennia of history, and its numerous historical sites, shrines and places of worship attest to its meaning for Jews.

    Jerusalem the “eternal and undivided capital” of the Jewish people,

    Jerusalem is — and must remain — the uncontested, undivided capital of Israel.

    Jerusalem is the only city that can prove the validity of Israeli-Jewish existence. No one should question Jewish historic claim and affinity to Jerusalem which dates back the Canaanite period (3000-1200 BCE). The re-capture of the old city in 1967 was widely seen by the Israelis as nothing less than the renewal of God’s covenant with the Jews. Jerusalem represents their past and present, a source of religious and cultural continuity without which Israel’s very existence could unravel. The hope of returning to Jerusalem has sustained the Jews throughout their dispersion, and centuries of exile have been unable to extinguish it.

    Abraham, Isaac and Jacobs resided in the land of Israel and Jerusalem from the year 1948 from Creation (circa 1800 BCE).

    King David made Jerusalem the capital of his kingdom, as well as the religious center of the Jewish people, in 1003 BCE. Some forty years later, his son Solomon built the Temple (the religious and national center of the people of Israel) and transformed the city into the prosperous capital of an empire extending from the Euphrates to Egypt.

    The Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem in 586 BCE, destroyed the Temple, and exiled the people. Fifty years later, when Babylon was conquered by the Persians, King Cyrus allowed the Jews to return to their homeland and granted them autonomy. They built a Second Temple on the site of the First, and rebuilt the city and its walls.

    Alexander the Great conquered Jerusalem in 332 BCE. After his death the city was ruled by the Ptolemies of Egypt and then by the Seleucids of Syria. The Hellenization of the city reached its peak under the Seleucid ruler Antiochus IV; the desecration of the Temple and attempts to suppress Jewish religious identity resulted in a revolt.

    Led by Judah Maccabee, the Jews defeated the Seleucids, rededicated the Temple (164 BCE), and re-established Jewish independence under the Hasmonean dynasty, which lasted for more than a hundred years, until Pompey imposed Roman rule on Jerusalem. King Herod the Idumean, who was installed as ruler of Judah by the Romans (37 – 4 BCE), established cultural institutions in Jerusalem, erected magnificent public buildings and refashioned the Temple into an edifice of splendor.

    Jewish revolt against Rome broke out in 66 CE, as Roman rule after Herod’s death became increasingly oppressive. For a few years Jerusalem was free of foreign rule, until, in 70 CE, Roman legions under Titus conquered the city and destroyed the Temple. Jewish independence was briefly restored during the Bar Kochba revolt (132-135), but again the Romans prevailed. Jews were forbidden to enter the city, which was renamed Aelia Capitolina and rebuilt along the lines of a Roman city.

    For the next century and a half, Jerusalem was a small provincial town. This changed radically when the Byzantine Emperor Constantine transformed Jerusalem into a Christian center. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher (335) was the first of numerous grandiose structures built in the City.

    Muslim armies invaded the country in 634, and four years later Caliph Omar captured Jerusalem. Only during the reign of Abdul Malik, who built the Dome of the Rock (691), did Jerusalem briefly become the seat of a caliph. The century-long rule of the Umayvad Dynasty from Damascus was succeeded in 750 by the Abbasids from Baghdad, and with them Jerusalem began to decline.

    The Crusaders conquered Jerusalem in 1099, massacred its Jewish and Muslim inhabitants, and established the city as the capital of the Crusader Kingdom. Under the Crusaders, synagogues were destroyed, old churches were rebuilt and many mosques were turned into Christian shrines. Crusader rule over Jerusalem ended in 1187, when the city fell to Saladin the Kurd.

    The Mamluks, a military feudal aristocracy from Egypt, ruled Jerusalem from 1250. They constructed numerous graceful buildings, but treated the city solely as a Muslim theological center and ruined its economy through neglect and crippling taxes.

    The Ottoman Turks, whose rule lasted for four centuries, conquered Jerusalem in 1517. Suleiman the Magnificent rebuilt the city walls (1537), constructed the Sultan’s Pool, and placed public fountains throughout the city. After his death. The central authorities in Constantinople took little interest in Jerusalem. During the 17th and 18th centuries Jerusalem sunk to one of its lowest ebbs.

    Jerusalem began to thrive once more in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Growing numbers of Jews returning to their land, waning Ottoman power and revitalized European interest in the Holy Land led to renewed development of Jerusalem.

    The British army led by General Allenby conquered Jerusalem in 1917. From 1922 to 1948 Jerusalem was the administrative seat of the British authorities in the Land of Israel (Palestine), which had been entrusted to Great Britain by the League of Nations following the dismantling of the Ottoman Empire after World War I. The city developed rapidly, growing westward into what became known as the “New City.”

    Upon termination of the British Mandate on May 14, 1948, and in accordance with the UN resolution of November 29, 1947, Israel proclaimed its independence, with Jerusalem as its capital. Opposing its establishment, the Arab countries launched an all-out assault on the new re-established state, resulting in the 1948-49 War of Independence. The armistice lines drawn at the end of the war divided Jerusalem into two, with Jordan occupying the Old City and areas to the north and south, and Israel retaining the western and southern parts of the city.

    Jerusalem was reunited in June 1967, as a result of a war in which the Jordanians attempted to seize the western section of the city. The Jewish Quarter of the Old City, destroyed under Jordanian rule, has been restored, and Israeli citizens are again able to visit their holy places, which had been denied them during the years 1948-1967.

    Conclusion, the land of Israel and Jerusalem as its undivided capital for the Jewish people is a historical fact for thousands of years and shall remain that way for eternity.

    Yehuda Draiman

  3. […] was the sole form surviving. The Babylonians destroyed First Temple, which had been built by Solomon, in 586 BC, and the Jews were exiled to Babylon. The Romans destroyed the Second Temple, which had […]

  4. […] Saul, David and Jonathan (old post). […]

  5. […] Moses and Joshua conquered Canaan, the Promised Land. The Hebrews were often subject to the coastal Philistines and were ruled by Judges until c 1000 B.C. […]

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