Friend or foe?

Chatswood Baptist Church

1 Samuel 18-20


Friend or foe?

How do you deal with the success of others? How do you cope when someone around you at work seems to be doing much better than you? It is them getting notice. It is them getting rewarded.  Do you rejoice when others around you are outshining you? What happens when they get all the praise and you seem to be getting overlooked? Do you find it hard when all the accolades are going to someone else? How do you feel when it is obvious that you’re no longer taking centre stage and it’s someone else standing in the spot light? Do you find yourself getting jealous or resentful or do you just become more determined and put your head down and work harder and longer? Do you start seeing your workmates no longer as colleagues but as the competition? Do they become your rivals (your foes) rather than friends?

This could have possibly been one of the responses that Jonathan might have had towards David after David had defeated Goliath, the giant who had been the Philistine champion. Up until David had come on the scene people had been singing Jonathan’s praise even stepping in between Jonathan and his father to protect him (see 14:45). But from here on, it will be David who will be the people’s favourite. We are told in chapter 18 that whatever David did he was successful at it. It was so successful that in time “all Israel and Judah loved David, because he led them in their campaigns (18:16).

Now this had been something that Jonathan had been doing recently as the crown prince and he had proved to be a man of courage and faith. But now the spotlight was being shone on another. The Lord’s anointed had come on to the stage and from the start the spot light moved on to him. It would have been easy for Jonathan to have become jealous of David and thought of David as his rival rather than friend. This would have been as significant temptation for him especially as it became clear that the Lord had not just made David successful, but he had made David Saul’s successor. It would be David who would be the next king, and not Jonathan who would have normally expected to have been. He was the crown prince! But in contrast to Saul, who saw David as a rival, Jonathan recognised David as the king that God had chosen for his people and he made David his friend.


The friendship of David and Jonathan was an extremely close one and there is much we could learn from it. But I think a comment by Tim Chester needs to be borne in mind as we look at their friendship. Tim writes that although the relationship of Jonathan and David is often viewed as model of friendship, it is more “a model of discipleship”[1]. Jonathan does more than just make David his friend he also recognised him as his king and this made clear from the outset of chapter 18.

1 Samuel 18:1-4

After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself. From that day Saul kept David with him and did not let him return to his father’s house. And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt.

One in Spirit

From the start Jonathan became one in spirit with David. The words “one in spirit” could be more literally translated as the ESV has translated the Hebrew, “the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” When you knit something together you join something together. We are talking about a deep bond or unity that formed between Jonathan and David. Jonathan was united with David. He bound himself to David like a man who pledge allegiance to his king. “He joined his life to David’s rather than setting himself against him.”[2] He threw his lot completely in with David from that point.

A covenant of friendship

We read in verse 3 of chapter 18 that Jonathon made a covenant with David because he loved David as himself. Now Jonathan was not the only one who loved David. As I mentioned earlier we are told in verse 16 of 18 that all Israel and Judah loved David because he led them in their campaigns. But Jonathan’s love for David was the sort that saw him commit himself to David in a covenant of friendship. He would never be David rival. He would always be on David’s side.

Later, in chapter 20, after it had become clear to Saul and Jonathan that David was the Lord’s anointed, we will see that Saul did everything he could to get rid of David. He didn’t want David to become the next king. He wanted to rule and after him he wanted Jonathan to rule. However, Jonathan did everything that he could do to serve and protect David and ultimately, when it became too dangerous for David to keep on hanging around, he sent David away saying that they had sworn friendship with each other in the name of the Lord.

1 Samuel 20:42

42 Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants forever.’ ” Then David left, and Jonathan went back to the town.

Jonathan made a covenant that ultimately would see him abdicating any claim to the throne. I personally wonder whether the action of handing over to David his robe, his tunic and even his bow, sword and belt is recorded at the start of chapter 18 because it was symbolic that he would hold nothing back from the one who he had joined himself to as his friend and brother and ultimately his king. It perhaps as close as one could get to symbolically handing over a crown to another. He recognised that David was the one that the Lord had appointed to rule his people. Jonathan would not try to hang on to the throne but would willingly surrender it to the Lord’s anointed – the king that God had chosen for his people. He bound himself to David making him his king.


But not everyone would make the Lord’s anointed their friend and king. In stark contrast in chapter 18 to 20 we see that Saul became David’s foe by making David the opposition. Where Jonathan loved David, Saul hated him. Saul’s hostility towards David grew as David’s success grew and he became more popular and loved by everyone. Saul became increasingly jealous and fearful of David because he knew that the Lord was taking away his throne and that the Lord was with David.


Saul became initially jealous of David’s success because it meant that the spotlight no longer shone on him. We see this in chapter 18 verses 5 to 9.

1 Samuel 18:5-9

Whatever Saul sent him to do, David did it so successfully that Saul gave him a high rank in the army. This pleased all the people, and Saul’s officers as well.

When the men were returning home after David had killed the Philistine, the women came out from all the towns of Israel to meet King Saul with singing and dancing, with joyful songs and with tambourines and lutes. As they danced, they sang: “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.”

Saul was very angry; this refrain galled him. “They have credited David with tens of thousands,” he thought, “but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?” And from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David.


Unlike his son, Saul quickly became jealous of David’s success. He quickly came to see David as a rival opponent for the throne. Even though he was the one who sent David to fight the Philistines he didn’t like that fact that David’s success made him very popular not only among the troops but eventually among the people of Israel.

What turned Saul into the green-eyed monster was the songs of the women. The women from the towns came out to meet Saul with singing and dancing but they weren’t singing Saul’s song anymore. You’ve got to remember that this is the man who after the last great battle he had fought that had really been won by his son, decided the first thing that he really needed to do was to erect a monument to himself for his own honour (1 Samuel 15:12). Now after David came along instead of singing his praises and honouring him the women were singing the praises of David saying that Saul had slain his thousands but David his tens of thousands. This greatly angered Saul and it turned him into the green-eyed monster. He became insanely jealous of David and at times this jealous would break out into fits of rage that would see him hurl his spear at David as he played his harp. But, these occasional flare ups would become much worse and he would make David his sworn enemy because he began to fear him.


Saul wasn’t just jealous of David he became increasingly afraid of David. It soon became obvious to Saul that David’s success was not just because this boy was extraordinarily talented but because the Lord was with David in everything that he did and he wasn’t with him (Saul) anymore. Saul seems to become more and more convinced that David could be the one that the Lord had chosen to replace him, and he feared him.  He didn’t want to lose control of the kingdom. He wanted to be the one in control and the one standing in the spotlight and if he couldn’t stand in it, he wanted his son to stand in it as a living monument that he would leave behind to himself.


So, Saul plotted to kill David. He wanted to get rid of him and in chapter 18 to 20 we see him make several covert as well as overt attempts on David’s life. I’ll just briefly mention.

  • He sent David into battle at the head of the army

In chapter 18, Saul gave David command over a thousand soldiers to lead them into battle. It might have looked like a promotion, but Saul actually was just hoping that David would fall by the hand of the Philistines. If you send a guy out to war enough then just maybe he won’t come back. But it didn’t work out the way that Saul had hoped it would. David was just more successful and became more popular with the people – now all Israel and Judah loved David (18:16).


  • He offered David his daughters as incentive to fight (18: 17-30)

Saul covert plan was always for David to die by the hand of the Philistines. We are told this in verse 17, 21, and 25 of chapter 18. To ensure that David would fight the battles of the Lord and put himself in the face of danger, Saul even offered David two of his daughters in marriage as incentive. Although, David didn’t take up the option on the older daughter, he eventually agreed to the terms that Saul offered on his younger daughter who loved David – the death of hundred Philistines in battle. But again, Saul’s plan was frustrated by the Lord. David ended up married to Saul’s daughter and he was even more successful. Saul just became more and more afraid.

1 Samuel 18:28-29

28 When Saul realised that the Lord was with David and that his daughter Michal loved David, 29 Saul became still more afraid of him, and he remained his enemy for the rest of his days.

Saul’s jealousy turned into fear and it hardened into an enmity with David for the rest of Saul’s life.

  • He sent men to kill David (19:1-24)

In chapters 19 we see that Saul was no longer content to just secretly plot David’s death hoping that the Philistines might do the job for him. He came into the open and ordered the death of David on several occasions sending men to kill him. But everyone who, at one time, had been close to Saul turned out to be on David’s side. Saul sent Jonathan to kill David but instead he warned David and interceded for David and for short time gained reprieve. On the second attempt, Michal, Saul’s daughter, now David’s wife warned him and helped him make his escape. On the third attempt it was the Lord himself directly intervening protecting David. It becomes more and more obvious to everyone that it was the Lord who was with David protecting him and that David would be the next king.

Friend or foe?

Chapter 20 becomes a turning point in the story. David in chapter 20 goes back to his friend and asked him what was going on. Why was Saul trying to take his life? At this stage Jonathan didn’t know what was going on because his father had keeping things from him because he knew that the members of his own family had sided with David. But Jonathan promised to find out and to see whether Saul would welcome David back as a friend or whether Saul would remain David’s foe and keep on trying to kill him.

1 Samuel 1:12-17

12 Then Jonathan said to David: “By the Lord, the God of Israel, I will surely sound out my father by this time the day after tomorrow! If he is favourably disposed towards you, will I not send you word and let you know? 13 But if my father is inclined to harm you, may the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if I do not let you know and send you away safely. May the Lord be with you as he has been with my father. 14 But show me unfailing kindness like that of the Lord as long as I live, so that I may not be killed, 15 and do not ever cut off your kindness from my family—not even when the Lord has cut off every one of David’s enemies from the face of the earth.”

16 So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, “May the Lord call David’s enemies to account.” 17 And Jonathan made David reaffirm his oath out of love for him, because he loved him as he loved himself.


Here Jonathon reaffirmed his commitment to David and his covenant of friendship and he promised to find out where his father stood. The next day after having a spear being thrown at him for mentioning David’s innocence, Jonathan was left in no doubt of his father’s intentions. Saul would always be David’s foe for Saul didn’t want to give up his throne. He wanted to rule and be in charge. He wanted to be honoured and praised by others. Of course, this is what made him the wrong sort of king in the first place. But Saul would not repent, and his heart hardened, and he found himself fighting against the Lord. This is a fight that you cannot win. Even though the Lord had told him that he had someone better to replace him as king, he desperately tried to hang on to his kingdom, which wasn’t really his to hang on to and he would lose everything in the end. That’s what many people try to do. We try to hang on to what isn’t ours to hang on to.


But Jonathan didn’t, and he is the model of what to do when you realize that God has raised up his King to rescue and reign over his people. Jonathan could have taken after his father and seen David as a rival. But instead he made David his friend and acknowledge him as his king. He throws his lot completely in with David as the true king. He didn’t see David as rival as Saul did but saw him as his rescuer. He didn’t fight to hold on to what he might have thought could have been his. He took off his royal robe and gave it to David. He gave David his sword, his bow and his belt ultimately, he would give David his complete loyalty even though it meant choosing between David and his own father. He would let nothing come between him and David. He loved David as himself.


Jonathan is a model of discipleship. He shows us how we are to receive the Lord’s anointed, the Christ, the king that God has chosen to rescue and reign over his world. As we said a few weeks ago David was only ever warming the seat for another – one who would come to rescue us and perfectly rule our world. God sent his own son into our world, as man to rescues us. For sure he had his opponents like Saul, but the Lord didn’t let his enemies defeat him. In fact, his death on the cross which they thought was his undoing was actual his victory over our greatest enemies – sin and death. It was God who vindicated him as he would David. God raised Jesus o life and has appointed as His King – our king.

Like Jonathan we are not to try and hold on to what we have but we are to love him and throw in our lot with him as our king. We are to be knit together, united with him for we need him to show us his kindness if we are to live. We are to hold nothing back. We are hand over our lives and give him our complete and utter loyalty. We are to love and follow him for he has rescued us from sin and death and his sits on the throne at God’s right hand.

If you have never made friends with this king and handed over your life, then its time you take that step and make that covenant of friendship with the King so that you can be part of his kingdom, an eternal kingdom. Saul wouldn’t and didn’t ever repent. But Jonathan was different. He chose to make David his friend and his king. He did this even though it would eventually divide him from his father. But he made the right choice. The Lord Jesus told the disciples in Matthew’s gospel….

Matthew 10:37-38

37 “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.

We cannot love anyone more than we love Jesus – not even the members of our own family should get in the way of us following Jesus. Jesus said anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of him. Jonathan had to make a choice and we all do when it comes to the Lord’s anointed. There is no sitting for you either hate him or love. You are either are for him or against him. You either accept him or reject him.  He is either your royal or he is your rival. He is either your friend or your foe. Jonathan made David his friend and for him to be truly his friend he had to also accept him as his king. Later in chapter 23 and verse 17, he says…

“My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You shall be king over Israel, and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this.”

Saul knew this and yet he still resisted. We don’t want to be second to anybody. We like being first. But if Jesus is to truly to be your friend then you must acknowledge who he truly is. He in the king that God has chosen to rule us and our world. So, what we must think about is whether we are like Saul or whether we are like Jonathan? Which will it be? Will you hold on to what you have or are you handing over everything to Jesus to have what only he can give you? Today if you haven’t done it before, let me urge you make that choice to make Jesus your friend and king. Don’t put it off. Do it while you still have time.

[1] Tim Chester, 1 Samuel For you, page 144.

[2] John Woodhouse, 1 Samuel, Looking for a leader, Preaching the Word, 49%,