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Archaeology and the Bible
The Old Testament is one of the two parts of the Bible that is based on Tanakh. The 39 books of the Old Testament comprise different themes and periods. Some modern scholars hold the view that most of these books were written by anonymous authors. The idea of God was dominant in the Old Testament. It was a unifying principle due to which every Jew knew the meaning of good and evil. God was the central idea for the theology and ethics of the Old Testament. The ethics of the Old Testament was not only deduced from the nature and will of God but also was built on it. The Old Testament has a significant meaning for Christianity, as it contains the history of the creation of the world; delivers the story of the Jews, their laws and orders given by God; and describes the genealogy of Jesus Christ. The books of the Old Testament contain a description of many characters and prophets that had a crucial impact on the history of Israelites. The most prominent of such Biblical characters were David, Saul, Jonathan, Absalom, and Prophet Samuel. There was a connection between all these people; thus, through their lives and relationships, one can observe the peculiarities of God's will regarding the chosen people. David and Saul were the two kings of the Kingdom of Israel; Absalom and Jonathan were the sons of these kings respectively. Samuel as the last judge of Israelites played an important role in the establishment of the Kingdom of Israel. He anointed Saul and later David as the kings of the Kingdom of Israel. Therefore, David, Saul, Jonathan, Absalom, and Samuel are the Biblical characters whose relationships were developing dynamically throughout their lives and who played a determinative role in the fate of the Kingdom of Israel.
Personality of Samuel
The last judge of Israel was the prophet, Samuel. Analyzing the life and deeds of Samuel, one could assume that he was a wise and sophisticated ruler of Israelites. Moreover, Samuel was a highly religious prophet and a prominent leader of people in difficult times. Samuel was also a harsh and strict ruler who governed the nation for forty years. When Samuel became older, he devolved power to his two sons. However, the prophet was angry and desperate by their rule because they took bribes and judged people unjustly (2 Kings 2:5). The relationship between old Samuel and his sons vividly reminds the life and fate of Eli and his two sons, who also were involved in corruption. Besides, Samuel became anxious, as the chosen people refused to treat God as the ruler. It is obvious that the prophet was persistent in his attempts to change the attitude of Jews; however, God ordered him to anoint Saul as the king of Jews. At the end of his life, Samuel was highly unhappy and disappointed because Jews wanted to have a king.
Personality of Saul
The First Book of Kings states that at the beginning of his reign, Saul was a noble, honest, and highly religious king who obeyed God's orders. Due to the victories over the enemies, he earned the love and respect of Jews (1 Kings 11:4). Sauls's extraordinary faithfulness and loyalty to God became evident after the battle of Gilgal. He was ready to sacrifice his own son Jonathan to please God (1 Samuel 14:38). However, after Saul violated the order of Samuel, the king became angry, gloomy, suspicious, and acted like an insane person. After this event, Saul ruled for several more years; however, feeling the curse of Samuel, he believed that God had left him. Since that time, Sauls's spirit was broken, and he became a slave of jealousy, wickedness, and malice.
Personality of David
David was the youngest of the eight sons of Jesse. The author of the First Book of Kings describes him as a handsome, eloquent, and strong young man. As a shepherd, David was a reliable and courageous person who defeated the lion and the bear (1 Kings 16: 12, 18; 17: 34-36). In addition, one could treat David as the favorite of God because he was anointed as the king while Saul was still a ruler. With the anointing, the Spirit of God descended and rested on David, and he became the blessed king of Israelites (1 Kings 16: 1-13). However, at the peak of his power, David behaved as a weak, vain, and arrogant king. Seeing the beautiful bathing woman Bathsheba, who was the wife of Uriah, David sinned adultery with her. The unlawful connection with Bathsheba entailed a series of misfortunes that clouded the last years of Davids's reign.
Personality of Jonathan
There is not much information about the personality of Jonathan in the Bible. He is mentioned during the war with the Philistines as the fearless leader of Jews (1 Samuel 13: 2). Jonathan was a handsome tall man who was famous for his military skills and archery (2 Samuel 1:22). In my opinion, the main traits of Jonathan's personality were devotion and sincerity. His friendship with David defined Jonathan as a thoughtful and loyal person who can sacrifice his life in the name of love. In addition, Jonathan was a pious servant of God and genuinely loved his father. He was a generous friend, who gave David his clothes and armor (1 Samuel 31: 2).
Relationship Between Saul and David
Obviously, with the advent of David in the royal court and his victory over Goliath, Saul began to realize that the people favored David over him (1 Samuel 18:16). David became a royal son-in-law by marrying Sauls's daughter Michal. However, in my opinion, Davids's relationship with Saul was doomed because the king treated him as a rival. The case with a spear that Saul suddenly threw at David in the middle of a peaceful evening and the threat of imprisonment forced David to flee to the prophet Samuel in Ramu. At the last meeting, Jonathan, the king's son, informed David, who became his closest friend, that reconciliation with Saul is impossible. Saul ordered to kill all the priests from Nova who helped David to escape. However, despite the actions of Saul, David remained a decent man and demonstrated his goodwill and unwillingness to raise his hand against his father-in-law. For example, once finding Saul in a cave, he imperceptibly cut off the edge of his cloak. Later, he showed it to Saul with the words that he could have killed him.
Relationship Between Saul and Jonathan
The relationship between Saul and Jonathan could be described as a strong bond between a father and a son, which crucially changed with the appearance of David. Before befriending David, Jonathan was one of the generals in Sauls's army. To prove that Saul loved his son, one could refer to the story of Abraham and Isaac. Similar to Abraham, Saul wanted to sacrifice the most precious what he had to please God. However, with the appearance of David and his strong friendship with Jonathan, the king started to hate his son, suspecting that he helped David to overthrow the rule of Saul. He began to blame Jonathan and even tried to kill him. As for Jonathan, he loved his father and tried to restore the bond. However, his friendship with David was the main factor that negatively affected the father-son relationship. Therefore, such a love-hate dilemma was the essence of the relationship between Saul and Jonathan.
Relationship Between David and Jonathan
It could be stated that the relationship between David and Jonathan was an example of an ideal friendship in the Bible. The words from the First Book of Samuel confirm the statement that Jonathan loved David unconditionally: Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as his own soul (1 Samuel 18: 3). As for David, after the tragic death of Jonathan, he was in deep despair and stated that their love for Jonathan was bigger and stronger than love to a woman (2 Kings 1:26). Some scholars could use these passages to claim that the relationship between David and Jonathan had a homosexual character. However, if one refers directly to the Bible, it becomes evident that their relationship was a genuine and strong friendship without any hidden sense. Talking about love to Jonathan as something stronger than love to women, David wanted to emphasize the childless marriage with the daughter of Saul. Moreover, in Genesis, one could find that God prohibits any homosexual relationship; therefore, the author of the First Book of Kings could not praise and describe the relationship between David and Jonathan as a homosexual one.
Considering the dynamics of their relationship, I believe that the friendship between David and Jonathan could be characterized by the words of Jesus Christ: Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends (John 15:13). Since the first meeting, Jonathan understood that David was his soul mate. Jonathan realized that his life aimed to be with David and if the need arose, to sacrifice the life for his sake. The friendship of David and Jonathan withstood all trials, temptations, and sorrows. It showed that the bonds blessed by God could not be destroyed. An important factor in the dynamics of the particular relationship is the agreement made by David and Jonathan. They promised to protect one another, and Jonathan gave David his clothes, which means that he recognized David as the future king of Israel. Therefore, in my opinion, the dynamics of the relationships between David and Jonathan started with friendship and developed into unconditional love.
Sauls Opinion on the Relationship Between David and Jonathan
Without any doubts, Saul treated the friendship of David and Jonathan as a threat to his rule. Saul believed that Jonathan had turned against him by befriending David. From the beginning of the relationship between David and Jonathan, Saul understood that David had to die. Otherwise, he could take away Sauls's kingdom and glory. Moreover, due to the prophecy of Samuel, Saul knew that David should become a king after him. These frightful suspicions were confirmed when Jonathan and David became friends. Saul realized that these relationships were the beginning of his decay. Thus, Saul became so obsessed that he was ready to kill his son to cease his friendship with David. In my opinion, Saul bothered about these relationships because he knew that he invited David to the royal court and made him his son-in-law. Perhaps, Saul realized his own guilt about the establishment of the relationship between David and Jonathan. However, it was too late to change something because Jonathan made a friendly agreement with David, which filled Saul with terrible rage. He started to accuse Jonathan of bringing dishonor to the royal court by befriending David (1 Kings 20:30). However, I am convinced that despite such accusations, Saul blamed himself.
Considering the actions and statements of Saul regarding the relationship between Jonathan and David, I did not notice any differences between the thoughts and words of Saul. He publicly acknowledged the desire to kill David and threw a spear at him. Perhaps, the blind hatred that at times was obscuring his mind made Saul treat David as the greatest enemy. Thus, he did not hide all his thoughts and intentions. He wanted to show his family and associates that David was a threat to the Kingdom of Israel.
Relationship Between David and Absalom
Absalom was the most handsome and beloved son of King David. After three years of exile, he returned to Jerusalem, and two years later, earned the confidence of David (2 Samuel 14). However, he began to organize a conspiracy to seize the throne. As a result, Absalom rebelled against David and proclaimed himself king. It could be stated that Absalom's riot was Davids's punishment for his sin regarding Uriah. Observing the deeds of Absalom, David left Jerusalem. However, despite Absalom's rebellion, David never ceased to love his son. During the war between the troops of Absalom and David, the king pleaded with his generals to save the life of his son (2 Samuel 18:5). For the father who truly loved his son, Absalom was not a rebel, but a child who took a wrong way. When the king discovered that his son had died, he mourned for a long time, saying that he would rather die himself than lose his beloved child.
My Conversation with David
If I had an opportunity to have a conversation with one of the analyzed characters, I would choose David. I think he is the most prominent character in the Old Testament. His braveness, generosity, cleverness, and devotion to his people impress me the most. Being a simple musician, he became the anointed king of Jews; however, unlike Saul, he did not strive to achieve glory and fame. I consider him as a wise and religious leader who aimed at the welfare of Israelites. I would like to ask him about his friendship with Jonathan. It is a highly interesting issue for me since, in the contemporary world, there is much debate about the sexual shade of their relationship. Moreover, David is an extraordinary character because he is an ancestor of Christ. Thus, I believe such conversation could be a unique opportunity to understand how the chosen people perceived the will of God.
To conclude, David, Saul, Jonathan, Absalom, Samuel and their relationship with one another had a crucial impact on the history and society of Israelites. Samuel was the last judge and religious ruler of the chosen people. God ordered him to anoint Saul as the first king of Israelites. Saul, at the beginning of his rule, was an honest and dedicated ruler; however, after the quarrel with Samuel, he became sinful and obsessed with the idea that David wanted to kill him. David was the successor of the throne and a wise and thoughtful ruler. Before he became a king, Saul had made several attempts to kill him. The relationship between David and Jonathan, the son of Saul, could be considered as an example of an ideal friendship and unconditional love. However, this bond became the reason for Sauls's hatred towards his son. Absalom, the third son of David raised a rebellion against his father and tried to kill him. Nevertheless, David never stopped loving Absalom.