The King's hall was filled with raucous laughter. Vessels of ale flowed from large to small and then would disappear altogether as soldiers toasted the health and welfare of anyone who came by.
Saul, King of Israel, studied the group. He was in a foul mood because he detected treachery in the ranks and he knew who he felt was to blame, but where was he?
He had sought the warrior the day before but there was some nonsense about being ceremonially unclean. This was a new day and the warrior in question should have made an appearance.
“Jonathan,” the king called to his son, “where is the son of Jesse?”
“He begged leave to go to Bethlehem and observe a family sacrifice, apparently this was something ordered by one of his brothers,” Jonathan replied easily.
“Ordered by his brother?” the king bellowed as he pounded the serving board with his fist, causing clay vessels as well as more precious metal cups to spill their contents as they crashed to the floor. The hall grew silent. “I am the king and I am the one who will give orders. You are the worst kind of son, Jonathan. You have sided with an enemy of the throne. As long as he is alive your own kingdom will never come to be. Don’t you understand? He must die!”
The tension now completely consumed the hall as soldiers tried to determine if they should raise arms against an unknown threat or if they should simply leave the king and his son alone.
“He has done nothing to deserve death, Father,” Jonathan began. “He has been nothing if not loyal to you. Name his crime, Father.”
Saul face turned scarlet, he rose from his seat and grabbed his spear. In one deft pitch, the spear was airborne and glanced against a wall just inches from his son.
A conflict raged on the face of the king as he vacillated between profound sorrow for what he had done and a raging madness that threatened to take him away.
“You would kill your own son?” Jonathan charged toward his father. “For the sake of passing your own sense of justice on a man that has done you no harm you would slay me?” Blood rose in Jonathan’s face as he drew near his father completely overcome by anger he had never experienced before in his life.
“This man claimed victory over the Philistine army by defeating their colossal champion, Goliath.”
“Son, I…” Saul felt the wrath of his son and began to calm.
“Do you know of any other kingdom where their champion is treated as shamefully? Can you even understand this blind rage that devours your very heart? Can you stand before your men and say, ‘This is how the king delights to honor his very best’?”
Saul rage was extinguished by the passionate flames of his son’s.
“Please, sit – eat, we will talk more about this later,” Saul soothed.
“I can not eat with a man who commands rashly with one hand and condemns innocence with the other,” Jonathan said as he exited the hall, robes flowing in his wake.
Saul also left the hall while Jonathan grabbed a bow and some arrows and made his way to a practice field with a servant boy. He shot an arrow and watched as it arched and landed in the ground. “Run boy, bring back my arrow.” The lad rushed toward the arrow as Jonathan shot another arrow well beyond him, “Further, lad, the arrow is beyond you.”
Once the arrow was retrieved, Jonathan sent the boy back with the bow. When the boy was good and truly gone he called for his friend, David. Jonathan poured out his heart to David and the men wept together at the rip in circumstances that had allowed them to remain so close. No more could they freely visit and share a meal. They could no longer talk about the goodness of God. David could not share his songs with Jonathan anymore and his poetry would no longer reach the ears of his best friend.
The rage of a lunatic king and the righteous fury of a son he did not deserve - one was 'beyond corrupt' and the other stood firm in righteousness.
Perhaps David’s son Solomon remembered this tale when he wrote, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1 - NIV).
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