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Commentary on "Jonathan: Born for Greatness"



Day 5: Wednesday, October 20, 2010 - Taking Second Place


The first two paragraphs of today’s lesson is some psychological stuff about blaming one’s parents, etc. Has Sabbath School become a psychological clinic or a place to learn the word of God? Let’s focus on what the Bible is teaching, not on what it is not teaching.

Today’s lesson is about “Taking Second Place.” 1 Samuel 23:17 is given to answer the first question in today’s lesson. The verse reads,

And he said to him, "Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you. Saul my father also knows this." (ESV)

The question as it reads in the Sabbath School Quarterly (p. 48 of the Teacher’s Quarterly) is:

Describe Jonathan’s reaction to the fact that David will be king in his stead. What does this tell us about Jonathan? 1 Sam. 23:17.

Being very familiar with the book of 1st Samuel I find it appalling that a single verse of the Bible can be used in this way. There is nothing in this verse that describes Jonathan’s “reaction” to David’s future. If the lesson author is suggesting that no reaction is exactly the kind of reaction we should have whenever we are not selected for something for which we are qualified, then the lesson author neither understands God’s word nor human psychology.

Again, we cannot understand the relationship between Jonathan and David by reading the few verses that are suggested in this lesson. The entire book of 1 Samuel must be taken into consideration for one to come to a truly Biblical understanding of Jonathan, his way of dealing with difficult situations and how his great love for David truly undermines anyone’s attempt at trying to show how Jonathan is in any way “second place” in this story.

The other Bible verses suggested for our reading that attempts to show a contrasting attitude are also used out of place. Contrasting Jonathan with Satan (in Isaiah) or the sons of Zebedee (in Mark) do not relate to the situation with which Jonathan is dealing. Using Satan as an example for contrasting attitudes of righteous believers, although common, is not Biblical. Satan is our enemy. Would we expect anything of him other than to be a contrast? The one verse from 1 Kings, out of context, does seem to show an attitude different from that of Jonathan; however without a contextual understanding it cannot be commented on here.

Before the question at the bottom of the page, we find this comment about Jonathan, “He is willing to take second place. … He truly stands as an example of a servant leader prepared to take second or even third place. There is nothing in the entire story of Jonathan to suggest that he is taking second place to anyone. From the understanding of a person without a good relationship to God, one may think that not being chosen king is a horrible thing if one is heir to the throne. But Jonathan neither thinks nor acts like a person without a good relationship to God.

In many ways, Jonathan is a great example of a servant-leader. So is David. Jonathan does not “take” second or third place to David. As we read the story they are equals and viewed each other as such. Jonathan also viewed David as his (earthly) lord. What we can learn is so much more than what so far has been presented in this week’s lesson.

The question at the bottom of the page also uses this verse (1 Sam. 23:17), and 1 Sam. 19:4:

Use Jonathan as an example to determine what you can do when you don’t get the job, position, or respect you feel that you are entitled to. How can you control feelings of rejection, envy, and hate?

There are so many teachings in the New Testament on the subjects of friendship, one’s place in the body of Christ, and one’s relationship with worldly rulers, bosses, and associates that one not need to resort to the life of Jonathan and attempt to read into his life psychological or relational factors that are not presented.



  1. Sabbath School should be a time to learn the word of God, the Bible. It shouldn’t be a psychological clinic.
  2. Jonathan is not “reacting” to the fact that David will be king.
  3. Nothing in Jonathan’s life suggests that he ever thought he was in “second” or “third” place to David. Jonathan was in 1st place in God’s eyes.
  4. The sons of Zebedee (in Mark) or Satan are not good contrasts to Jonathan. Particularly Satan is a horrible example with which to compare believers.
  5. How is your reading going of 1st Samuel? You’re almost done!




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