David Hears of Saul’s Death, 1-16

2 Sam 1:1 After the death of Saul, David returned from defeating the Amalekites and stayed in Ziklag two days. 2 On the third day a man arrived from Saul’s camp, with his clothes torn and with dust on his head. When he came to David, he fell to the ground to pay him honor.
2 Sam 1:3 “Where have you come from?” David asked him.
He answered, “I have escaped from the Israelite camp.”
2 Sam 1:4 “What happened?” David asked. “Tell me.”
He said, “The men fled from the battle. Many of them fell and died. And Saul and his son Jonathan are dead.”
2 Sam 1:5 Then David said to the young man who brought him the report, “How do you know that Saul and his son Jonathan are dead?”
2 Sam 1:6 “I happened to be on Mount Gilboa,” the young man said, “and there was Saul, leaning on his spear, with the chariots and riders almost upon him. 7 When he turned around and saw me, he called out to me, and I said, ‘What can I do?’
2 Sam 1:8 “He asked me, ‘Who are you?’
“ ‘An Amalekite,’ I answered.
2 Sam 1:9 “Then he said to me, ‘Stand over me and kill me! I am in the throes of death, but I’m still alive.’
2 Sam 1:10 “So I stood over him and killed him, because I knew that after he had fallen he could not survive. And I took the crown that was on his head and the band on his arm and have brought them here to my lord.”
2 Sam 1:11 Then David and all the men with him took hold of their clothes and tore them. 12 They mourned and wept and fasted till evening for Saul and his son Jonathan, and for the army of the LORD and the house of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword.
2 Sam 1:13 David said to the young man who brought him the report, “Where are you from?”
“I am the son of an alien, an Amalekite,” he answered.
2 Sam 1:14 David asked him, “Why were you not afraid to lift your hand to destroy the LORD’s anointed?”
2 Sam 1:15 Then David called one of his men and said, “Go, strike him down!” So he struck him down, and he died. 16 For David had said to him, “Your blood be on your own head. Your own mouth testified against you when you said, ‘I killed the LORD’s anointed.’ ”

David’s Lament for Saul and Jonathan, 17-27

2 Sam 1:17 David took up this lament concerning Saul and his son Jonathan, 18 and ordered that the men of Judah be taught this lament of the bow (it is written in the Book of Jashar):

2 Sam 1:19 “Your glory, O Israel, lies slain on your heights.
How the mighty have fallen!

2 Sam 1:20 “Tell it not in Gath,
proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon,
lest the daughters of the Philistines be glad,
lest the daughters of the uncircumcised rejoice.

2 Sam 1:21 “O mountains of Gilboa,
may you have neither dew nor rain,
nor fields that yield offerings of grain.
For there the shield of the mighty was defiled,
the shield of Saul—no longer rubbed with oil.
2 Sam 1:22 From the blood of the slain,
from the flesh of the mighty,
the bow of Jonathan did not turn back,
the sword of Saul did not return unsatisfied.

2 Sam 1:23 “Saul and Jonathan—
in life they were loved and gracious,
and in death they were not parted.
They were swifter than eagles,
they were stronger than lions.

2 Sam 1:24 “O daughters of Israel,
weep for Saul,
who clothed you in scarlet and finery,
who adorned your garments with ornaments of gold.

2 Sam 1:25 “How the mighty have fallen in battle!
Jonathan lies slain on your heights.
2 Sam 1:26 I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother;
you were very dear to me.
Your love for me was wonderful,
more wonderful than that of women.

For some, this is a clear indication that the relationship between David and Jonathan went beyond that of deep friendship, and entailed romantic love.   But ‘David’s very personal expression of emotion here should not be taken as evidence of a homosexual liaison with Jonathan; rather, it is a manifestation of the parameters of social relations that existed in ancient Israelite society. Marriages in ancient Israel took place primarily for the benefit of the tribe—to increase the size and strength of the social group through procreation (cf. Gen 1:28) and to increase its prosperity through the establishment of advantageous formal ties with other families (cf. Gen 34:21–23). A man’s wife was his partner in procreation and parenting, but not necessarily his best friend, confidant, or social peer. For David, Jonathan was the peer, friend, and confidant that no wife could ever have been in that society; and his untimely death left a gaping hole in David’s soul.’ (Bergen, NAC)

The argument that the relationship between David and Jonathan was of a homosexual nature is further undermined by the fact that both men married, and in David’s case he was capable of uncontrollable lust towards other men’s wives (2 Samuel 11:2-26).  It would then have to be said that David was ‘bisexual’.  But this conclusion shows every sign of making the evidence fit the theory, rather than the other way round.

As Ed Shaw remarks: ‘what about the more plausible theory that Jonathan’s simple”] friendship was more precious to David than his complicated relationships with women (1 Samuel 25:42–44 lists three wives at this stage of David’s life)? Why is it not possible that he enjoyed the non-sexual intimacy of his friendship with Jonathan (also a married man) more than the sexual intimacy of his relationships with Abigail, Ahinoam and Michal? Why not conclude that he’s not saying Jonathan was better in bed than his wives – but that Jonathan’s friendship was better than anything David did in bed with his wives?’ (The Plausibility Problem)

The trouble is, in our own over-sexualised age, we find it difficult to conceive that a close friendship might be anything other than sexual.  Yet C.S. Lewis remarked that male friendships could be even more intimate (in a non-sexual way) than male-female relationships. Lewis said, ‘Those who cannot conceive Friendship as a substantive love but only as a disguise or elaboration of Eros betray the fact that they have never had a Friend.’

2 Sam 1:27 “How the mighty have fallen!
The weapons of war have perished!”

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