“My beloved shall dwell in safety beside you; I shall cover you all the day long, and he shall dwell between your shoulders”. The deep, resonating voice, and the words he recognizes as the blessing Moses pronounced upon the tribe of Benjamin over five generations before, echo in Jonathan’s head as he herds his father’s cattle in from the summer grazing. He has suffered a terrible dream where the voice speaks to him after some unknown evil leads him to stand on the very brink of a precipice. Being the oldest son of Saul, the first king of Israel, and of the war like tribe of Benjamin, Jonathan has been reminded of his eminent future by his domineering father who sees his tender spirit as weakness; taught the laws of his God by an aging grandfather who believes it to be a remarkable attribute; and lovingly nurtured by a beautiful mother whom his father accuses of spoiling him. Coddled by a Moabite slave who not only delivered him, but also believes him to be pre-destined for greatness, he has survived a childhood fraught with the heartbreak, anger, and jealousy resulting from his father’s polygamous marriage. The setting is ancient Israel somewhere between 1150-1050 BC. Jonathan’s home is a gloomy stone fortress, located in the former Canaanite City of Gibeah. Casemated walls and a grand staircase lead to what the servants fearfully call the Lion’s Den, his father’s large, second story audience room. It has been twelve years since the Prophet Samuel anointed his father to be the first king of Israel. Twelve years that his mother has been unhappy and his father has been like a lion pacing a cage. With the advent of a young messenger sent to seek the assistance of King Saul because his city is under attack, his life seems catapulted into his nightmare. His father successfully rallies an army, wins a great victory, and is at last officially coroneted King. As Jonathan moves through the delicate web of choices that shape each of our destinies, he finds courage in his undying faith in the impossible and his hope in the promised rebuilding of Shiloh. Strangely, it is a horse that at last gives him the coveted respect of his father. A “devil” horse that his father secretly hopes will kill or maim him so that his more promising brother might become heir. Will Prince Jonathan’s stubborn obedience to God, and his longing to experience the true love seemingly lost to his parents, enable him to withstand his father’s jealous rages and planned marriage to the daughter of his evil counselor, or will he become the victim of the precipice in his dream?
Though the prophet Samuel has placed a curse on the house of Saul, life continues quite normally. So normally that Prince Jonathan’s waning hope of living a long life with his beloved wife, Sarah, begins to revive. When Saul’s Captain, Abner, hires a lad to play his harp, hoping only that the kid’s music might soothe the king’s worsening temperament, hardly anyone pays any attention. The child’s face is ruddy from too much sun and wind, his hands smooth. His hair may look like a torch in the sunlight, but he is definitely not a warrior. Only God, the prophet, and the kid himself know the truth... until the battle in the valley of Elah.
“Am I my brother’s keeper?” History first records this question in Genesis 4:9 of the Holy Bible when God asks Cain, “where is thy brother Abel?” Since that time, Cain’s reply has been framed many times; “Am I my brother’s keeper?” In I Samuel 20:14-16 we find Prince Jonathan making a covenant with his brother-in-law, David, who has been anointed by Yahweh himself to be the next king of Israel in Jonathan’s place. “And you will not only while I live show me kindness of the LORD that I die not,” Jonathan petitions David, “but also, you will not cut off your kindness from my house forever; not even when the LORD has cut off the enemies of David, everyone, from off the face of the earth.” Will David be able to keep his promise, or will circumstance make it an impossible oath?
Commander! Hero! Though the meaning of David’s name is a subtle warning in Jonathan’s heart, he has no fear of it. It’s no longer a secret that David has been chosen by Yahweh to be their next king, and David hasn’t only become one of his dearest friends; he’s also become his brother-in-law. Surely, Saul wouldn’t deprive his own daughter of happiness. But even as he denies it with his lips, Jonathan knows in his heart that it’s not true. His father does intend to kill David, and even his spoiled and selfish sister will not be able to stop him. Who then shall help him? In spite of imperiling his own life, Jonathan embarks on a journey that eventually leads him to the slopes of Mount Gilboa.
To all who know him in Lodebar, Merib is Mephibosheth, the crippled son of Machir and Deborah. For many years, only Merib and his adopted family know his true identity. When King David calls all of Israel to come to his new capitol city, Jerusalem, for the first Passover feast to be held there, Machir and Deborah caution their adopted son to be discreet when speaking with anyone. While admiring the king’s horses in the arena, Merib is approached by a young man named Absalom. Absalom and Merib become fast friends and Absalom promises Merib that he will come see him the next time he visits his grandfather, Talmai, king of Geshur. Merib dares not believe that such a perfect young man will remember him, but Absalom does remember him and their friendship grows. Absalom, who loves horses, is fascinated by the aging black stallion that Merib owns and begs his friend to allow him to take the horse to Jerusalem and put him with his father’s mares. In return for the service of his horse, Absalom promises to give Merib a colt. Machir and Deborah are hesitant but agree that the choice is Merib’s. Thus begins the dangerous journey into a past Merib has tried to forget.