Experiential Learning: The Construction of Jonathan in the Narrative of Saul and David

Barbara Green


The question driving the article is the construction of Jonathan. The thesis is that Jonathan initially articulates one stance but ends up with quite another, an education which is available to us in careful linguistic detail. In between our meeting him abruptly in 1 Samuel 14 and hearing him eulogised after his death in 1 Samuel 31 and 2 Samuel 1, we have two short moments and one lengthy scene with him. In the first short moment (1 Samuel 19:1–7), Jonathan urges his father to desist from suspecting any threat from and thus opposing David; much later (1 Samuel 23:17), Jonathan has acceded to the reality of David’s ascendancy over Saul. The key chapter for present purposes is 1 Samuel 20: There, Jonathan begins with one point of view about Saul’s intents on his lips (v. 2) but has changed his position substantially by the end of that long chapter (vv. 41–42). Thus Jonathan’s education, managed primarily by David but also by Saul, is accomplished as he makes his way through a long narrative comprising fifteen pairs of utterances, interacting with ‘brother’ or father. Careful attention to language, genre and readerly presuppositions will show us the process. The dialogical theory and utterance genre articulated by Mikhail Bakhtin are utilised.


Bakhtin; 1 Samuel; Jonathan

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Bible and Critical Theory: ISSN 1832-3391