Jonathan Seeks to Protect David
20:1 David fled from Naioth in Ramah. He came to Jonathan and asked, “What have I done? What is my offense? How have I sinned before your father? For he is seeking my life!”
20:2 Jonathan said to him, “By no means are you going to die! My father does nothing large or small without making me aware of it. Why would my father hide this matter from me? It just won’t happen!”
20:3 Taking an oath, David again said, “Your father is very much aware of the fact that I have found favor with you, and he has thought, ‘Don’t let Jonathan know about this, or he will be upset.’ But as surely as the LORD lives and you live, there is about one step between me and death!” 20:4 Jonathan replied to David, “Tell me what I can do for you.”
20:5 David said to Jonathan, “Tomorrow is the new moon, and I am certainly expected to join the king for a meal. You must send me away so I can hide in the field until the third evening from now. 20:6 If your father happens to miss me, you should say, ‘David urgently requested me to let him go to his city Bethlehem, for there is an annual sacrifice there for his entire family.’ 20:7 If he should then say, ‘That’s fine,’ then your servant is safe. But if he becomes very angry, be assured that he has decided to harm me. 20:8 You must be loyal to your servant, for you have made a covenant with your servant in the LORD’s name. If I am guilty, you yourself kill me! Why bother taking me to your father?”
20:9 Jonathan said, “Far be it from you to suggest this! If I were at all aware that my father had decided to harm you, wouldn’t I tell you about it?” 20:10 David said to Jonathan, “Who will tell me if your father answers you harshly?” 20:11 Jonathan said to David, “Come on. Let’s go out to the field.”
When the two of them had gone out into the field, 20:12 Jonathan said to David, “The LORD God of Israel is my witness. I will feel out my father about this time the day after tomorrow. If he is favorably inclined toward David, will I not then send word to you and let you know? 20:13 But if my father intends to do you harm, may the LORD do all this and more to Jonathan, if I don’t let you know and send word to you so you can go safely on your way. May the LORD be with you, as he was with my father. 20:14 While I am still alive, extend to me the loyalty of the LORD, or else I will die! 20:15 Don’t ever cut off your loyalty to my family, not even when the LORD has cut off every one of David’s enemies from the face of the earth 20:16 and called David’s enemies to account.” So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David. 20:17 Jonathan once again took an oath with David, because he loved him. In fact Jonathan loved him as much as he did his own life. 20:18 Jonathan said to him, “Tomorrow is the new moon, and you will be missed, for your seat will be empty. 20:19 On the third day you should go down quickly and come to the place where you hid yourself the day this all started. Stay near the stone Ezel. 20:20 I will shoot three arrows near it, as though I were shooting at a target. 20:21 When I send a boy after them, I will say, “Go and find the arrows.” If I say to the boy, ‘Look, the arrows are on this side of you; get them,’ then come back. For as surely as the LORD lives, you will be safe and there will no problem. 20:22 But if I say to the boy, “Look, the arrows are on the other side of you,’ get away. For in that case the LORD has sent you away. 20:23 With regard to the matter that you and I discussed, the LORD is the witness between us forever!”
20:24 So David hid in the field. When the new moon came, the king sat down to eat his meal. 20:25 The king sat down in his usual place by the wall, with Jonathan opposite him and Abner at his side. But David’s place was vacant. 20:26 However, Saul said nothing about it that day, for he thought, “Something has happened to make him ceremonially unclean. Yes, he must be unclean.” 20:27 But the next morning, the second day of the new moon, David’s place was still vacant. So Saul said to his son Jonathan, “Why has Jesse’s son not come to the meal yesterday or today?”
20:28 Jonathan replied to Saul, “David urgently requested that he be allowed to go to Bethlehem. 20:29 He said, ‘Permit me to go, for we are having a family sacrifice in the city, and my brother urged me to be there. So now, if I have found favor with you, let me go to see my brothers.’ For that reason he has not come to the king’s table.”
20:30 Saul became angry with Jonathan and said to him, “You stupid traitor! Don’t I realize that to your own disgrace and to the disgrace of your mother’s nakedness you have chosen this son of Jesse? 20:31 For as long as this son of Jesse is alive on the earth, you and your kingdom will not be established. Now, send some men and bring him to me. For he is as good as dead!”
v30 – “…to the shame of the mother who bore you” – It has been argued that this should be translated: ‘…to the shame of your mother’s nakedness’ (so NET©, ESV, NASB, RSV, NRSV, AV, etc.). This is fair enough. However, it is then suggested this expression, being a euphemism for incest (see Lev 18:6-18), carries sexual connotations: Jonathan has brought shame on Saul’s family by reason of his (homosexual) relationship with David. However, the argument is specious. This outburst is the rant of a man who has lost the ability to control his temper. The expression under consideration here constitutes an (unreasonable) insult against Jonathan’s mother (she conceived him as a result of incest), rather than against Jonathan himself. The reason why Saul is so angry is that Jonathan has sided with David against Saul, not that he accuses Jonathan and Saul of an illicit sexual relationship.
20:32 Jonathan responded to his father Saul, “Why should he be put to death? What has he done?” 20:33 Then Saul threw his spear at Jonathan in order to strike him down. So Jonathan was convinced that his father had decided to kill David. 20:34 Jonathan got up from the table enraged. He did not eat any food on that second day of the new moon, for he was upset that his father had humiliated David.
20:35 The next morning Jonathan, along with a young servant, went out to the field to meet David. 20:36 He said to his servant, “Run, find the arrows that I am about to shoot.” As the servant ran, Jonathan shot the arrow beyond him. 20:37 When the servant came to the place where Jonathan had shot the arrow, Jonathan called out to the servant, “Isn’t the arrow further beyond you?” 20:38 Jonathan called out to the servant, “Hurry! Go faster! Don’t delay!” Jonathan’s servant retrieved the arrow and came back to his master.
20:39 (Now the servant did not understand any of this. Only Jonathan and David knew what was going on.) 20:40 Then Jonathan gave his equipment to the servant who was with him. He said to him, “Go, take these things back to the city.”
20:41 When the servant had left, David got up from beside the mound, knelt with his face to the ground, and bowed three times. Then they kissed each other and they both wept, especially David. 20:42 Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, for the two of us have sworn together in the name of the LORD saying, ‘The LORD will be between me and you and between my descendants and your descendants forever.’ ”
Fee & Stuart (How To Read The Bible For All Its Worth) say that a ‘prime example’ of the error of false appropriation is to find ‘the “hint” of a homosexual relationship between David and Jonathan in the language, “[Jonathan] loved him as he loved himself” (1 Sam. 20:17), followed by, “they kissed each other” (v. 41)—which of course in that culture was not on the lips! But such a “hint” not only is not in the text, it stands completely outside the narrator’s point of view: Their “love” is covenantal and is likened to God’s love (vv. 14 and 42); moreover the author is narrating the story of Israel’s greatest king, and he presupposes Israel’s law, which forbids such behavior.’
‘The text gives no reason to suppose that the relationship between David and Jonathan had any homosexual connotations. Their mutual commitment is based on their recognition of the trustworthy nature of the Lord and on a common allegiance to God’s future for Israel.’ (Evans, UCBS)