In this new series of hardcover biblical novellas from beloved author Francine Rivers, each novella tells the story of one of five biblical men who stood behind the great heroes of the faith: Aaron the priest, Caleb the warrior, Jonathan the prince, Amos the prophet, and Silas the scribe. In the vein of the Lineage of Grace series, these books will entertain, challenge, and inspire, directing readers back to the Bible as the ultimate source of truth and hope.
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The PRINCEa novella
By FRANCINE RIVERS
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2005 Francine Rivers
All right reserved.
Chapter One"WE have no weapons!"
"We'll have to find a way to make them."
"How? There isn't a blacksmith in the whole land of Israel to make them. The Philistines made sure of that. Those they didn't murder, they took captive."
Jonathan sat with his father, Saul, beneath the shade of an olive tree. His uncles, frustrated and angry, bewailed the latest Philistine raid.
"Even if we could make swords, what good would they be? Whatever the Philistines' swords and spear tips are made of, they're far superior to ours. Bronze isn't strong enough. It shatters against their blades."
"I choke on my pride every time I have to go down to Aijalon and pay hard-earned shekels to a stinking Philistine so he'll sharpen my plowshare and sickles!"
"If I need an ax sharpened, I have to answer question after question."
Another laughed bitterly. "I need my pitchfork repaired this year, and new points for the ox goad. I wonder how much that will cost me."
Saul stared off toward the fields. "There's nothing we can do about it."
The Philistine outpost at Geba was only a short distance away, and it was the duty of Saul's tribe, the Benjaminites, to keep close watch over it.
"Kish says what we need is a king!"
Saul shook his head. "You know what the prophet Samuel says about having a king."
"The Philistines have kings. That's why they're organized."
"If only Samuel were like Samson. Instead, all he does is blame us for what's happening."
Jonathan looked at his father. "Grandfather Ahimaaz said the Lord our God is more powerful than all the gods of Philistia."
The uncles exchanged sallow looks.
Jonathan leaned forward. "Grandfather Ahimaaz said when the Philistines killed the high priests' sons and took the Ark of the Covenant, God went to war against them. Their god Dagon fell facedown before the Ark, his head and the hands breaking off. And then the Lord cursed the Philistines with tumors and a plague of rats. They were so afraid they sent the Ark back on a cart pulled by two milch cows and loaded with gold!"
Saul shook his head. "That was years ago."
One of Jonathan's uncles flung a pebble. "God leaves us alone now to defend ourselves."
Jonathan felt confused. "But if the Lord-"
Saul looked at him. "Your mother tells you too many stories about what her father said."
"But they're true, aren't they?"
Another uncle snorted in despair. "It was years ago! When was the last time the Lord did anything for us?"
Saul put his arm around Jonathan. "There are things you don't yet understand, my son. When you are a man-"
At the sound of Kish's angry shout, Saul removed his arm from around Jonathan's shoulders and stood. "What now?" he grumbled. "I'm here!"
Jonathan's grandfather strode across the partially plowed field, his fine robes billowing around him, the red tinge in his cheeks betraying his temper. His younger sons scattered like chaff before a strong wind, leaving Saul alone to face their father.
Saul came out from the shade. "What's the matter?"
His question fanned the flames. "What's the matter? You have to ask me?"
Saul's face darkened. "If I knew, I wouldn't ask."
"You're out here sitting in the shade, and my donkeys are missing!"
"Missing?" Saul frowned and looked off toward the hills.
"Yes! Missing! Have you no ears that you can hear?"
"I told Mesha to watch over the donkeys."
Jonathan gulped. Mesha was an old man, easily distracted. No wonder the donkeys had gone missing.
"Mesha?" Kish spat in disgust. "Mesha!"
Saul spread his hands. "Well, I can't be in two places at the same time. I've been plowing the field."
"Plowing? Is that what you call sitting under an olive tree, talking with your brothers?" Kish shouted for the rest to hear. "Will we have enough food with all of you sitting around talking?"
"We were making plans."
"Plans for what?"
Kish barked a harsh laugh. "We would need a king to lead us into war, and we have no king. Where are my donkeys?" He made a fist.
Saul stepped back out of range of a blow. "It's not my fault Mesha didn't do as he was told!"
"You'll lose the oxen next! How long do you think you'll manage without animals to pull the plow? I'll have to put you to harness!"
Saul's face reddened. He stalked back into the shade.
Kish followed. "I put you in charge! I didn't want a servant watching over my donkeys! I wanted my son watching them!"
"You have more than one son!"
"You're the eldest!" He cursed. "Mesha is an old man and a hireling. What does it matter to him if my property is lost? You're the one to inherit. If you had to put someone over those animals, why didn't you send Jonathan? He would have kept close watch over my property."
Jonathan cringed. Why did his grandfather have to pitch him into the fray? His father's pride was easily pricked.
Saul glared. "You always blame me when anything goes wrong!"
"Father, I'll go look-"
"No, you won't!" both men shouted.
"I'll send one of the servants." Saul turned as if to leave.
Kish yelled, "No, you won't! You'll go yourself. And don't give me excuses! You're not going to sit out here on your backside and wait for someone else to find what you allowed to wander off. Take a servant with you, and go look for the donkeys!" Kish strode back toward Gibeah, still shouting. "And don't even think about riding a donkey. There's only one donkey left, and that one stays here. You can search on foot! And take someone other than Mesha with you!"
Saul kicked the dust and muttered. Eyes blazing, he stormed across the field toward home. Jonathan followed.
His mother, Ahinoam, stood in the doorway, waiting for them. The whole town had probably heard Kish shouting out in the field. "I've filled two water bags and stuffed two packs with bread."
His father scowled. "You're so eager to have me go?"
She put her hand against his heart. "The sooner you go, the sooner you will be back."
"I'll go with you, Father."
Ahinoam followed Saul inside the house. "Jehiel knows more about donkeys than any man in Gibeah, Saul. Take him with you. Jonathan can continue the plowing."
She gave Jonathan a quelling look. "With both of you gone, nothing would get done."
"Father, the Philistines may have stolen the donkeys and taken them to Geba." The garrison was not far away. "We should go there first."
His mother faced him. "You're not going. Your father has enough to do without having to watch out for you."
Jonathan's face went hot. "I can use a bow better than any man in Gibeah."
"Your father is going out to find donkeys, not start a war."
"Enough!" Saul snarled. "Pack me enough bread and dried fruit to last me a few days. There's no telling how far the donkeys have wandered."
His wife moved quickly to do his bidding.
Saul muttered and stormed around the room, kicking things out of his way. When he saw Jonathan still standing there, he jerked his chin. "Go and find Jehiel. Tell him to hurry up!"
"I'll go." Jonathan backed toward the door. "But what if the donkeys are in Geba?"
Saul flung his hand into the air. "Then they're gone, aren't they? And Mesha will wish he had done what he was told!"
"They've wandered off." Ahinoam spoke in soothing tones. "That's all that's happened. You'll find them before the sun sets, my love." She shoved more bread into a sack. "The Philistines have more donkeys than they need. Besides, they covet horses."
Saul shouted after Jonathan. "Tell Jehiel I'm ready and waiting on him!"
Jonathan found Jehiel hard at work repairing the wall of an empty sheepfold. "Kish is sending my father out to find some stray donkeys. My father wants you to go with him. He's packed and ready to go."
Jehiel straightened and brushed his hands off. "I will gather what I need and come."
Jonathan followed him. "You could tell my father that the sheep might escape if you don't complete your work. You could say I can serve him as well as you." He had explored the hills and valleys all around Gibeah and even dared go close enough to the walls of Geba to hear the guards talking.
"The sheep are out to pasture, Jonathan, and there are two shepherds to watch over them."
"What if you run into Philistines while you're searching for the donkeys?"
"You needn't worry about your father. We will avoid the Philistines. Even if by mischance we crossed paths with them, I doubt they would bother with two men on foot with little more than some bread and water to steal."
Before the two men left, Saul gripped Jonathan's shoulder. "Finish plowing the west field. Keep watch over your brothers. You know how they tend to wander."
"I wish I were going with you."
Saul looked past him to Ahinoam. "Soon."
* * *
Jonathan went out to work in the west field. Not long after his father and Jehiel had left, his mother came out to him. It was not her habit to do so, and he stopped the oxen to wait. "Is something wrong?"
"No. Nothing. Sit with me in the shade and rest a while."
"Father wanted me to plow-"
"I will not keep you from your work for long, my son."
He secured the reins and followed her. She led him to the same tree where he had sat earlier with his father and uncles, listening to talk of kings and war.
Kneeling, she laid out fresh bread, a skin of wine, dried dates and raisins.
Jonathan's brows rose slightly. Perhaps she meant to sweeten words that would sour his mood. His defenses rose.
She looked up at him. "You are still upset that you weren't allowed to go with your father."
"These are troubled times, Mother, and he is too important a man to be guarded by only one servant. What if they meet some Philistines?"
"Your father is looking for donkeys, not a fight."
Women would never understand! "You don't have to look for a fight to find yourself in the middle of one."
His mother sighed. "You love your father, Jonathan. In that, I know your heart is ever in the right place. But you must learn to use your head, my son. I saw you stand and watch your father and Jehiel depart. Did they head for the garrison? Did they go armed to accuse and ready to fight?" She folded her hands in her lap. "You would have urged your father to look in Geba first. Would that be in keeping with protecting your father, or urging him to danger?"
"But that's probably where the donkeys are."
"Just because a lamb is missing doesn't mean it's in a lion's mouth. Jehiel will try to track the donkeys. We can hope the Philistines had nothing to do with them. If they did, then they're gone and that's the end of it."
Jonathan rubbed his face in frustration. "The Philistines take everything they can get their hands on."
"I did not come out here to talk about Philistines or donkeys. God knows where the donkeys are. And if it is God's will, He will let your father find them. I care more about my son than a few beasts of burden." She stood and squeezed his hand. "I came out to tell you I am very proud of you, Jonathan. You have courage. I just want you to live long enough to have good sense."
She leaned down and covered the bread with a cloth. "If all Israel has its way, we will soon have a king like every other nation around us. And what else does a king do but draft sons into the army or make them run before his chariot? Your sisters may one day end up cooks or bakers or perfumers in some palace in Judah's territory, since Judah thinks it must be one of their own rather than a Benjaminite to rule. A king will take the best of our crops and herds and give them to his assistants. He will want a portion of everything we have. These are the things the prophet Samuel told your grandfather and the others who went to Ramah to ask for a king. Samuel speaks the truth. All you have to do is look around you to see-"
"We are at the Philistines' mercy, Mother. Would you have us sit and do nothing?"
"My father, Ahimaaz, was a great man. He said we must trust in the Lord. God is our king."
"God has abandoned us."
"Men who say such things have no faith, and without faith, we have no hope." His mother raised her hands in frustration. "I know, I am but a woman. What could I know?" She raised her chin, dark eyes sparkling. "But I do know that you are my son. You are the grandson of Ahimaaz. Listen to his words, not mine. If a man is going to follow God, he must align himself with men of God. Samuel is God's anointed prophet. He speaks God's Word. Listen carefully to what he says."
"I wasn't in Ramah." How did she know so much of what was said there?
"I wish you had been. You'd have heard for yourself the words of the prophet rather than hearing your mother repeat what she overheard." She sighed. "I came to say that many things could change and it could happen quickly. While you work in the fields, pray. Ask the Lord what He requires of you."
And what did the Lord want of him but to fight, to drive the idol worshipers from the land?
His mother studied him. Her eyes darkened and grew moist. She shook her head slowly, rose, and walked away.
* * *
A day passed, then another, and Jonathan's father and Jehiel did not return. His mother said nothing.
The men gathered at Kish's table and complained about the Philistines; then complained about Samuel's corrupt sons, who were now assigned to rule over Israel. Jonathan sat with his younger brothers-Malkishua, Abinadab, and Ishbosheth-and ate in silence, worrying about his father.
Saul's cousin Abner cut off a portion of roasted goat. "Samuel was not pleased when we met with him at Ramah. He took our request for a king as a personal affront."
Kish dipped bread into the bowl of lentil stew. "He is not long for this world, and we need a man to rule before he goes the way of all flesh. There are none like Samuel in the land."
"All too true! But his sons are despicable."
"They hold court in Beersheba and collect tribute like pagan kings!"
One of Jonathan's uncles reached for a cluster of grapes. "They have been helpful in the past."
Kish gave a harsh laugh. "Only because we paid them larger bribes than those who complained against us! Joel and Abijah cannot be trusted. They are greedy and will turn their rulings to whomever gives them what they want."
"And what they want changes from one day to the next."
"How does a man like Samuel come to have sons like those two?"
"Kish, you convinced Samuel, didn't you, my brother? He said we would have a king."
Kish poured wine. "The question is when? And who will it be? A Judean? So it will be, according to Jacob's prophecy."
Excerpted from The PRINCE by FRANCINE RIVERS Copyright © 2005 by Francine Rivers. Excerpted by permission.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
In this book Francine Rivers captures the strength of loyalty and friendship. In today's world it seems that we have lost much of the traits that highlight godly character. Johnathan and David expressed love and loyalty toward one another even during difficult times. The covenant they made was a lasting bond between brothers. She really brought out the godly character of Jonathan. The rightful heir to the throne of Israel chooses to accept the will of God that another be king instead of himself when his father was rejected by God. She shows us how Jonathan recognized the hand of God in David's life and how he submitted to God's will. She shines the spotlight on his heart and walks us through the life of a man who loved and trusted in God above his own desire and ambition. A total contrast to his father who breached his own heart to attain his ambition to hold on to power. I enjoyed how she pulls you into the minds and hearts of each character. The history and humanity is so smoothly woven together in classic Francine Rivers style.She takes you to the height of happiness in each characters life as well as to their personal depths of despair. Her story causes you to take notice in your own life of your commitment to God, family and friends.The love of family, the loyalty of friendship, the faithfulness of God are all displayed in this well written novella . Once again Francine Rivers delivers what we've come to expect from her, a book well worth our time.
This book is really good. Not only is it faithful to the Scriptures, but it is interesting, entertaining, and hard to put down. I give it only a 4 star review because I felt as if the chapters were a bit long. I think they could have been at least several pages shorter. But anyway, this book is exciting and keeps you at the edge of your seat. I love this book, and it made me think a lot about Jesus, who is my favorite Prince.
Plot Summary: What happens, When & Where, Central Characters, Major ConflictsRetells the story of Jonathon from the bible, from when he is a teenager in Saul's household, witnessing how his father becomes king, to when his best friend David is on the run from his father and Jonathon must choose between them. Jonathon develops a desire to serve the God of Israel, studies with the prophet Samuel, and struggles to honor his father while trying to do what is right and best with the country. He fights battles against their enemies and finds a kindred soul in David.Style Characterisics: Pacing, clarity, structure, narrative devices, etc.Rivers stays faithful to the Biblical story, but adds detail and characterization. Readers' will be able to relate to Jonathon's struggles, as he strives to do what he believes is right but has to go against his father to do so. Jonathon comes across as a believable and likeable hero, even his deat at the end becomes a heroic sacrifice. David also is a strong character, even Saul's decisions are given plausible motives that hold up. The setting of ancient Israel comes across well. Details like them not being able to make swords that might be glossed over in a Bible reading become important parts of the story.How Good is it?Really makes the familiar story compelling and interesting.
I've read nearly every book F. Rivers ever wrote, and by & far, "The Prince" is my favorite. It chronicles the life of Jonathan, the eldest son of King Saul & the devoted friend of King David. It begins with Jonathan as a child, watching the Philistines devastating Israel, & his father Saul, being chosen by God to become king. The people clamor that having God for a King isn't good enough for them anymore, they want a human king "so they can be like everyone else." Not the greatest reasoning, but God gives them what they want, warning them that having a king isn't what they think it will be, but naturally, they don't listen. The aged priest of Israel, Samuel, anoints Saul & from there it's not long before we see Prince Jonathan in battle as a brave and faithful warrior, serving both God and his people. Jonathan keeps his heart true to God by becoming a disciple of Samuel, learning the Torah and writing it out in his own hand. He keeps it close to his heart while in battle & we see how God gives him courage & wisdom to stay alive and win the day. But shortly after, a new threat comes to Israel: Goliath of Gath and his brothers. Jonathan is urged by his family to face the giant, but he hears no word from God that it's his destiny. So, he waits on the Lord, & God brings his soon to be friend and confidant: David, the son of Jesse, the shephard & musician. David defeats Goliath & together he & Jonathan lead the armies against the Philistines and defeat them. Jonathan sees that David is as close to God as himself & takes David as his adopted brother "knitting his soul to his." He helps David, who is still a boy, to grow strong & wise into manhood, helping him train to be a warrior, even giving him his own armor and weapons. From there we see Jonathan's steadfast devotion to God even against the wishes of his family. Saul grows suspicious of David's popularity with the people, & Jonathan must often protect David from his father's wrath & also the scorn of his mother. David, after proving himself, is allowed to marry Jonathan's sister, but we see what a tumultuous marriage it becomes. Jonathan strives in the story to be loyal to his family, his friend and his God, creating unity in the tribes, calming the tensions at home & guiding David & supporting him, even after Saul drives David into hiding. Jonathan's love and loyalty cannot waver, and it's really inspring how he sacrifices so much of himself for the good of those he loves. The scene where he marries Rachel and then soon after when she dies in childbirth, is deeply touching. Jonathan regretted not being a better father and husband, so often pulled away by royal duties, but ensured that his family was taken care of. Yet, even when he so endlessly is giving and giving, it's clear that he sorrows over not being able to do even more. At the end, Saul seals the fate of both himself and his sons, Jonathan included. Saul seeks a witch, and God uses the moment to bring forth the spirit of Samuel, who pronounces the doom of Saul's family. They will die in the coming battle, because Saul has been so faithless his whole life. Jonathan secures escape for his son, and lovingly devoted to God right to the end, fights bravely & dies a legendary hero. But, we see his spirit whisked to Heaven, greeted by Christ Himself, and so for the loving and devoted, there is no deat