When I think about an abstract concept like ‘friendship,’ I think in pictures – often, those pictures come from personalities in the Scriptures – people who have been revealed, either in brief or in great detail. These pictures, (or maybe biographical portraits is a better description,) serve to provide a vivid, bigger-than-me, concrete-ness to the abstraction.
Probably the first picture that comes to mind when I think of friendship is a guy named Jonadab. He’s not really well-known, & only shows up in 1 chapter of the Old Testament, 2Samuel 13. The reason that he’s mentioned is for his friendship & interactions with his cousins, most notably Amnon, the son of King David. Jonadab is the son of David’s brother, Shimeah.
2Samuel 13 tells of Amnon’s lust for his half-sister, Tamar, & how he was so consumed with ‘not being able to do anything to her,’ that he made himself sick. That’s where Jonadab comes in – 1st off, he’s introduced with the friendship & family ties made clear. Then, he’s identified as a ‘very subtle man.’ I had to look up the Hebrew to see what words had been taken & put into the English as subtle, as the content of the story reveals a lot more than what I’d describe as subtle. The Hebrew might better be stated in English: “Now Jonadab was a completely, totally, exceedingly cunning, crafty, scheming, manipulative, man…”
Jonadab comes up with a plan for Amnon, so he can get Tamar alone & do whatever he wants to, whatever he’s entitled to as the son of the King…. Amnon takes Jonadab’s advice, gets Tamar alone, & rapes her. His lust turns to hate, & he sends her away, thus shaming himself, her, her brothers, & the entire family. Specifically, Tamar’s brother Absalom hatches a plot to avenge his sister’s shame, a plan that is 2 years in the making.
He shows up again at the end of 2Samuel 13, shortly after Absalom has exacted his revenge upon Amnon by killing him at a ‘special feast’ that he’d thrown for all of the king’s sons. King David had erroneously been told that all of his sons had been killed by Absalom, & went into a panic… Jonadab is there, for some reason, to let David know:
• Not all of the king’s sons are dead – only Amnon
• This has been Absalom’s plan for over 2 years, in revenge for Amnon’s raping & disgracing of Tamar, et al.
• David shouldn’t worry because only Amnon is dead.
Here’s the picture I get: Jonadab is an opportunist; selfish, manipulative, & a user of people to attempt to weasel himself into a better spot of influence or importance. He’s cunning, a schemer, & always looking out for #1. As a way of ingratiating himself to Amnon (the heir to the throne of David,) he comes up with a ‘plan’ so Amnon can rape his ½ sister. Then, 2 years later, when Absalom is looking more & more like the ‘favorite of the people’ & new potential heir, he holds his tongue while his ‘friend’ Amnon goes to a bloody, murderous death – only to show up in the King’s court to reveal that he’d known about the plan all along, but didn’t tell anyone.
Jonadab is a portrait of the person that I try to avoid any sort of relationship with – which is a lot harder than it sounds, because the Jonadab’s are ‘exceedingly, totally, cunning, crafty, & manipulative,’ meaning that the true, self-serving motives aren’t the 1st thing that get revealed. But then I think, they really do.
The character & true colors of the Jonadab’s show up in how they treat others – not the person they’re ‘buddy-ing’ up to, the one(s) of course, but those that are of no use to their desire for personal gain, & therefore, of no consequence. They speak negatively about them, gossip, spread stories, reveal confidences they’ve gained as a way of brown-nosing into the good graces of the one(s) that can most advance the ever-growing agenda of the Jonadab’s. Until the time comes when the one(s) are no longer useful, & someone more ‘advantageous’ comes along – & the pattern repeats, with the one(s) now being the victim of the complete lack of loyalty, faithfulness, & true friendship; the havoc & chaos left in the wake of the Jonadab’s life.
To me, the portrait of Jonadab gives the hint of a warning – & how it plays out is that if a person will sabotage, attack, insult, degrade, bad-mouth, gossip about, slander another person to get on my good side, they’ll do it to me…
ADDENDUM TO THE ORIGINAL POST:
I don’t look at all people as “potential Jonadabs.” In my own life, those that have behaved in a manner reminiscent of Jonadab often display a radically different behavior to others than they did to me. Many times, I’ve had friends that talked to me, after the fact, about their own experiences with that person, & the very obvious junk that surfaced because they weren’t on their ‘best manipulative behavior’ with everyone, as not everyone is seen as a potential source of personal gain.
I do believe that trust is built over time, & that a relationship with another person needs that time to be built on a firm & well-established foundation. And I’m reminded that the still, small voice, the feeling in my gut, & the nudge of the Holy Spirit are all things to be paid attention to, not glossed over or explained away, regardless of another person’s ‘self-presentation.’ I believe that each time I’ve had a Jonadab experience, I had warnings of the above-mentioned sort, that were ignored by me…
On a side note: I’ve often wondered if Amnon et al… kept Jonadab, the crafty one, around because he was not only great at telling you what you want (like) to hear, but also because he was in the circle of trust – family, a group that we often make special exceptions for.