Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Donal Mahoney writes

High School in the Fifties

In my all-boys school
sixty years ago there were 
two boys who were different.
All four years they walked  
to classes together, books 
clasped to their chests 
the way girls walked home 
carrying theirs.

I never saw another
classmate talk to them, 
perhaps because like me 
they didn’t know what to say
or they had nothing to say.
But I never heard anyone
talk about them either.
It was as if they weren’t there.

Now 60 years later 
the school sends out 
alumni updates and lists
the two of them as missing 
and asks if anyone might 
know where they are. 
I doubt that anyone does.
We didn’t know where 
they were back then.

David and Jonathan at the Stone Ezel -- Edward Hicks


  1. Immediately after the young shepherd Dawid (David), the future king of Israel, had killed the Philistine champion Golyat (Goliath), he was taken, still holding the giant’s severed head, to the first king, Saul. As soon as the royal audience was finished, the king’s eldest son Yehonatan (Jonathan) experienced a strong emotional reaction toward the new hero, and “the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. And Saul took him that day and would not let him return to his father's house. Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt.” [1 Samuel 18: 1-5; English Standard Version] From that point on, David began to rise in authority, and Saul became increasingly jealous of him. “And Saul spoke to Jonathan his son and to all his servants, that they should kill David. But Jonathan, Saul's son, delighted much in David.” [19: 1] When Jonathan confronted his father, Saul swore, ‘As the Lord lives, he shall not be put to death.’ [20: 6]

  2. But, despite the promise, Saul continued to seek his death. At first, Jonathan refused to believe it, saying to David, “‘Behold, my father does nothing either great or small without disclosing it to me. And why should my father hide this from me? It is not so.’ But David vowed again, saying, ‘Your father knows well that I have found favor in your eyes, and he thinks, “Do not let Jonathan know this, lest he be grieved.” But truly, as the Lord lives and as your soul lives, there is but a step between me and death.’ Then Jonathan said to David, “Whatever you say, I will do for you.’” [20: 1-4] So the two young men arranged a means to determine the king’s intentions. David, however, not entirely certain of Jonathan’s loyalties, begged, “’Therefore deal kindly with your servant, for you have brought your servant into a covenant of the Lord with you. But if there is guilt in me, kill me yourself, for why should you bring me to your father?’ And Jonathan said, ‘…If I knew that it was determined by my father that harm should come to you, would I not tell you?’… And Jonathan said to David, “The Lord, the God of Israel, be witness! When I have sounded out my father, about this time tomorrow, or the third day, behold, if he is well disposed toward David, shall I not then send and disclose it to you? But should it please my father to do you harm, the Lord do so to Jonathan and more also if I do not disclose it to you and send you away, that you may go in safety. May the Lord be with you, as he has been with my father. If I am still alive, show me the steadfast love of the Lord, that I may not die; and do not cut off your steadfast love from my house forever, when the Lord cuts off every one of the enemies of David from the face of the earth.’ And Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, ‘May the Lord take vengeance on David's enemies.’ And Jonathan made David swear again by his love for him, for he loved him as he loved his own soul. Then Jonathan said to him, ‘Tomorrow is the new moon, and you will be missed, because your seat will be empty. On the third day go down quickly to the place where you hid yourself when the matter was in hand, and remain beside the stone heap [the “stone ezel”]. And I will shoot three arrows to the side of it, as though I shot at a mark. And behold, I will send the boy, saying, “Go, find the arrows.” If I say to the boy, “Look, the arrows are on this side of you, take them,” then you are to come, for, as the Lord lives, it is safe for you and there is no danger. But if I say to the youth, “Look, the arrows are beyond you,” then go, for the Lord has sent you away. And as for the matter of which you and I have spoken, behold, the Lord is between you and me forever.’” [20: 8-23]

  3. As planned, David absented himself from dining with the king for two days. “…And Saul said to Jonathan his son, ‘Why has not the son of Jesse come to the meal, either yesterday or today?’ Jonathan answered Saul, ‘David earnestly asked leave of me to go to Bethlehem. He said, “Let me go, for our clan holds a sacrifice in the city, and my brother has commanded me to be there. So now, if I have found favor in your eyes, let me get away and see my brothers.” For this reason he has not come to the king's table.’ Then Saul's anger was kindled against Jonathan, and he said to him, ‘You son of a perverse, rebellious woman, do I not know that you have chosen the son of Jesse to your own shame, and to the shame of your mother's nakedness? For as long as the son of Jesse lives on the earth, neither you nor your kingdom shall be established. Therefore send and bring him to me, for he shall surely die.’ Then Jonathan answered Saul his father, ‘Why should he be put to death? What has he done?’ But Saul hurled his spear at him to strike him. So Jonathan knew that his father was determined to put David to death. And Jonathan rose from the table in fierce anger and ate no food the second day of the month, for he was grieved for David, because his father had disgraced him.” [20: 27-34] The next day, Jonathan gave the agreed upon signal. After the boy left, “…David rose from beside the stone heap and fell on his face to the ground and bowed three times. And they kissed one another and wept with one another, David weeping the most. Then Jonathan said to David, ‘Go in peace, because we have sworn both of us in the name of the Lord, saying, “The Lord shall be between me and you, and between my offspring and your offspring, forever.”’ And he rose and departed, and Jonathan went into the city.” [20: 41-42] David became a rebel and a hunted fugitive “in the wilderness of Ziph at Horesh. And Jonathan, Saul's son, rose and went to David at Horesh, and strengthened his hand in God. 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.’ And the two of them made a covenant before the Lord. David remained at Horesh, and Jonathan went home.” [23: 15-18] That was their last meeting. Jonathan and his father were subsequently slain fighting the Philistines at Mt. Gilead. When David learned their fate, he composed a lament for them “and he said it should be taught to the people of Judah.” [2 Samuel:17: 1] He ended with special words for his fallen comrade:
    “How the mighty have fallen
    in the midst of the battle!
    Jonathan lies slain on your high places.
    I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan;
    very pleasant have you been to me;
    your love to me was extraordinary,
    surpassing the love of women.
    How the mighty have fallen,
    and the weapons of war perished!”
    [17: 25-27]


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