views updated Jun 08 2018


JONATHAN (Heb. יוֹנָתָן ,יְהוֹנָתָן), eldest son of *Saul, the first king of Israel (i Sam. 14:1). At the beginning of Saul's reign, during the revolt against the Philistines, Jonathan already was the commander of a part of the army (i Sam. chs. 13–14). He was a constant friend and companion of *David and assisted him when David was forced to escape Saul's wrath (i Sam., chs. 18, 19, 20, 23). Jonathan died together with his father and two of his brothers in the battle with the Philistines at Mount Gilboa (ch. 31). Their corpses were despoiled by the Philistines and exposed on the wall of Beth-Shean (i Sam. 31:12). David lamented their death in a moving elegy (ii Sam. 1:17–27).

In the stories of the Book of Samuel the character of Jonathan is idealized, with no contrasting bad qualities. He is portrayed as the intrepid and heroic son of the king, a loyal comrade to the end. In the biblical account he stands in sharp contrast to Saul, whom God had rejected as king, and who was obsessed by an evil spirit. In the portrayal of Jonathan pure literary motifs are employed: the heroic son of the king leads an assault on the enemy with only his armor-bearer; he unwittingly transgresses the king's adjuration and faces all the danger resulting from such an action (ch. 14), and he becomes a faithful friend of the very man who is destined to deprive his father's house of its royal inheritance. In the story as a whole, there is a marked tendency to show Jonathan on the one hand as the war hero who played a decisive role in the struggle for freedom from the Philistine yoke, and on the other hand as David's faithful friend who recognized fully that even though he was himself heir to the throne, David would succeed Saul as king. (Jonathan's recognition of David's ultimate rule is displayed with some subtlety. Jonathan takes off his robe and gives it to David, along with his armor, sword, bow, and belt (i Sam. 18:3). Jonathan expresses the hope, "May yhwh be with David as he was with my father" (i Sam. 20:13)). Apparently these two elements became intertwined from the very outset in the book of Samuel, and in David's lament over Saul and Jonathan the two themes are combined (ii Sam. 1:17–27). Both themes are based on reality, and there is no reason to doubt the tradition of the pact of friendship between David and Jonathan, even though these events occur in the context of stories designed to justify David's right to the kingdom. Indeed, Morgenstern raised the possibility that in early Israel the son-in-law of the king might have had a greater presumptive right to the throne than his son, and so a pact between Jonathan and David would have been appropriate. Even after Jonathan's death, David was careful to honor this pact and dealt very kindly with Jonathan's son *Mephibosheth (ii Sam. 9:1ff.). In the list of Saul's descendants, which is included in the genealogical lists of families of the tribe of Benjamin in i Chronicles 8:33ff., ten generations are mentioned after Jonathan through Merib-Baal (that is Mephibosheth). It would seem that the object of this list is to illustrate the maintenance of the pact between the house of David and the house of Jonathan.

[Jacob Liver /

S. David Sperling (2nd ed.)]

In the Aggadah

The Midrash applies the verse "For love is strong as death" to the love that Jonathan bore for David (Song R. 8:6, 4). Because of that great love, he risked his life for him (Ar. 16b), when he said to his father, "Wherefore should he (David) be put to death? What hath he done?" (i Sam. 20:32). His humility is revealed in his statement to David "Thou shalt be king over Israel and I shall be next to thee" (i Sam. 23:17). But the opinion is also expressed that he said this only because he saw that the people were flocking to David (bm 85a), and that "even the women behind the beams of the olive press knew that David was destined to be king" (tj, Pes. 6:1, 33a). Jonathan, however, committed an inadvertent transgression which was regarded as reprehensible as though it had been deliberate, in that he failed to provide David with food when he advised him to flee (i Sam. 20:42), "for had Jonathan given David two loaves of bread for his travels, the priests of Nob would not have been massacred, nor would Saul and his three sons have been killed" (Sanh. 103b–104a). The love of David and Jonathan did not depend upon any material cause, and it is taken as the prototype of disinterested love which never passes away (Avot 5:16). This distinction between two types of love is also made by Greek scholars (Aristotle, Magna Moralia, 1209b; Nichomachean Ethics, 1156a).

[Elimelech Epstein Halevy]


De Vaux, Anc Isr, index; Kallai, in: J. Liver (ed.), Historyah Ẓeva'it… (1965), 134, 136–7, 144; Noth, Personennamen, index; em, 3 (1965), 533–5. in the aggadah: Ginzberg, Legends, index. add. bibliography: J. Morgenstern, in: jbl, 78 (1959), 322–25; J. Thompson, in: vt, 24 (1974), 334–38; D. Edelman, in: abd, 3:944–46; S. Bar-Efrat, i Samuel (1996), 235–36.


views updated May 08 2018


JONATHAN (Heb. יוֹנָתָן ,יְהוֹנָתָן; "yhwh has given"), name of several biblical characters.

(1) Son of Gershom, son of Moses (Judg. 18:30; mt, "Manasseh" written with suspended nun, apparently a scribal insertion in deference to Moses). He is apparently to be identified with the levite from Beth-Lehem in Judah who was taken into the service of Micah the Ephraimite as "father and priest" (Judg. 17:10) in the sanctuary which Micah had founded. Not long after he had taken up residence there, 600 Danites, on their way northward to find a more suitable homestead, induced Jonathan to leave Micah and to assume the more honorable position of priest to the tribe of Dan (Judg. 17–18). The family of Jonathan served as priests to the tribe of Dan until the captivity (Judg. 18:30).

(2) Son of *Saul.

(3) Uncle of David, a counselor, wise man, and scribe (i Chron. 27:32).

(4) Son of Shimea (or Shimei), David's brother. He slew a Philistine giant who taunted Israel at Gath (ii Sam. 21:20–21; i Chron. 20:6–7).

(5) One of David's "valiant men" known as the "Thirty" (ii Sam. 23:32–33; I Chron. 11:34).

(6) Son of Uzziah. He was in charge of the royal treasuries of David in the cities, villages, and towers outside the capital (i Chron. 27:25).

(7) Son of Abiathar, descendant of Eli, a priest in the time of David. During his flight from Absalom, David was joined by Jonathan who was, however, sent with *Zadok, *Abiathar, and *Ahimaaz, to spy on Absalom. Jonathan and Ahimaaz were appointed runners for the purpose of transmitting information from Jerusalem to the fleeing David (ii Sam. 15:36). The two men hid at En Rogel, where a lad eventually discovered and betrayed them. Fleeing from Absalom's forces, both runners arrived at Baḥurim, where they were saved by a woman who hid them in a well. Before morning, however, the runners reached David, bringing the information which permitted the king and his people to cross the Jordan in time to avoid a premature clash with Absalom's army (ii Sam. 17:15–22). During Solomon's struggle for the throne (i Kings 1) Jonathan had, like his father Abiathar the priest, supported Adonijah as king. It was Jonathan who came to Adonijah at the stone of Zoheleth to inform him that Solomon had been anointed king (i Kings 1:9, 42–48). After Solomon's accession to the throne, nothing more is said about Jonathan who, together with his father, probably fell into disgrace and was sent to Anathoth (i Kings 2:26–27).

(8) A levite during the reign of Jehoshaphat (ii Chron. 17:8).

(9) The scribe whose house was converted into a prison in which Jeremiah was confined on an alleged charge of desertion during the siege of Jerusalem (Jer. 37:15, 20; 38:26).

(10) Son of Kareah, an officer who joined Gedaliah at Mizpah, and the brother of Johanan (Jer. 40:8). The name Jonathan is omitted in some Hebrew manuscripts, in the Greek, and in the parallel passage in ii Kings 25:23, and may have resulted from a dittography of Johanan.

(11) A son of Jerahmeel (i Chron. 2:32–33).

(12) A priest from the family of Shemaiah in the days of Joiakim the high priest (Neh. 12:18).

(13) Father of Ebed, who was head of the family of Adin. He joined Ezra in his journey to Jerusalem (Ezra 8:6).

(14) Son of Asahel, who, it seems, opposed Ezra in the matter of the foreign marriages (Ezra 10:15).

(15) Father of the priest Zechariah, who took part in the dedication of the walls of Jerusalem during the days of Nehemiah (Neh. 12:35).

(16) Son of Joiada, one of the high priests of the post-Exilic period (Neh. 12:11). However, Jonathan here appears to be a corruption of Johanan, by which name he is known in Ezra 10:6 and Nehemiah 12:22–23.

[Shlomo Balter]


views updated May 23 2018


JONATHAN , second-century tanna. Although his patronymic is never given when he is mentioned, as he most frequently is, with his colleague *Josiah, he is identical with the Jonathan b. Joseph and Nathan b. Joseph mentioned elsewhere in rabbinical literature. Like his colleague, he was a disciple of R. Ishmael b. Elisha and followed his system of hermeneutics, the main feature of which is the interpretation of scriptural verses according to the rules laid down by him in order to establish the halakhah, in oppositon to the system of R. Akiva (see *Midreshei Halakhah), and his exegesis is largely confined to this. His statements therefore appear mostly in the halakhic Midrashim which emanate from the school of R. Ishmael, the Mekhilta of R. Ishmael and the Sifre to Numbers (but see also tb Yoma 57–58 and tb Sotah 74–75). Apart from one Mishnah in his name in Avot 4:9, "Whosoever observes the Torah in poverty shall be vouchsafed to observe it in affluence, and he who neglects its observance in affluence will live to neglect it because of poverty" (Chap. 4), like his colleague, he is not mentioned in the Mishnah, and it has been assumed that this was due to the fact that Rabbi Judah ha-Nasi, the compiler of the Mishnah, based himself on the Mishnah of R. Meir.

After the death of his master he seems to have adopted part of the system of R. Akiva (see tj Ma'as 51b).

Jonathan is the author of the rule that the saving of human life transcends the Sabbath (tb Yoma 85b). After the Hadrianic persecution, like his colleague, he decided to leave Ereẓ Israel. Whereas, however, Josiah emigrated to Nisibis in Babylonia, Jonathan relented. Together with Mattiah ben Ḥeresh, Ḥananiah, the nephew of R. Joshua, and R. Judah b. Hai, he set out, but when they reached the frontiers of Israel, their love for the Land of Israel prompted them to relinquish their plan and they returned (Sifre, Deut. 80).


Bacher, Tann 2, 351; Frankel, Mishnah, 146; Hyman, Toledot, 697–700.


views updated May 11 2018

Jonathan in the Bible, a son of Saul, noted for his friendship with David and killed with his father at the battle of Mount Gilboa by the Philistines. (See also Brother Jonathan.)


views updated Jun 11 2018

jonathan Calcined, ground oat chaff used as adulterant for maize and other cereals (mid‐nineteenth century).