For the week of May 27, 2006 / 29 Iyar 5766
Torah: Bemidbar / Numbers 1:1 - 4:20
Haftarah: 2 Samuel 20:18-42
Then they [Jonathan and David] kissed each other and wept together - but David wept the most. (1 Samuel 20:41).
The Bible teaches in a variety of ways. It contains stories - both non-fiction and fiction, personal and general letters, rules, prophecy, poetry, and proverbs. Because it is written in the way it is, we are forced to ponder over what it says. It is through careful thought that we discover its great riches of wisdom. But because of the way many of its stories are written, they are vulnerable to misinterpretation and abuse. However, it is this same vulnerability that makes it so wonderfully effective in how it touches our areas of need.
One story that has been sadly abused is that of Jonathan and David. Jonathan was the eldest son of Israel's first king, Saul. Jonathan would have been the heir to the throne had it not been for his father's disobedience to God. As a result, but known only to a few, David was chosen by God to be Saul's successor instead of Jonathan. Still, Jonathan and David were best friends.
The intensity of their love and affection for one another has led some people to surmise that there was a romantic component involved. A reference used to support this view is found in David's lament over Jonathan's death in battle:
I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women. (1 Samuel 1:26)
To draw such a conclusion regarding the friendship of these two men, reveals what I believe is one of the greatest tragedies of our day. To conclude that the intensity of love between Jonathan and David necessitates a romantic component, shows that we have lost any understanding of the validity and reality of true brotherly love.
Jonathan and David should be a model of the kind of love that is possible between two men. I want to focus on male relationships for two reasons. First, intense love between men is very different from a similar love shared between two women. Second, this kind of relationship between two males is very rare today.
The relationship between Jonathan and David demonstrates the reality of the kind of heart connection that can exist between two men. We were made for relationship - close relationship. Our individualistic society chokes life out of us. We actually need one another far more than most of us would admit.
Because, in our day, love is equated with romance, we don't know how to deal with feelings of love and affection for one another. Since many men are taught to suppress and not trust these kinds of feelings, when we have them - which most of us do at some point - we may not know how to express them appropriately.
No matter what we think about these things and no matter how we deal with our emotions, men are made for intimate, non-romantic, relationships with other men. Our hearts cry out for brothers in whom we can confide, with whom we can work alongside, for brothers who can encourage one another.
I wonder how many relationships between men have never come to fruition due to fear and our inability to understand the dynamics of male to male love.
In our day we have an additional obstacle. Should we discover in ourselves a heart of love for another person similar to that of Jonathan and David, we might resist the desire to walk out that relationship, because we don't want it to be misconstrued as romantic.
But are we going to allow the warped perspective of a lost culture to determine how we are going to live, or will we align ourselves with God's perspective as revealed in the Scriptures? May God help us to rediscover the reality of brotherly love.
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