David Learns of the Deaths of Saul and Jonathan, 1-16

1:1 After the death of Saul, when David had returned from defeating the Amalekites, he stayed at Ziklag for two days. 1:2 On the third day a man arrived from the camp of Saul with his clothes torn and dirt on his head. When he approached David, the man threw himself to the ground.
1:3 David asked him, “Where are you coming from?” He replied, “I have escaped from the camp of Israel.” 1:4 David inquired, “How were things going? Tell me!” He replied, “The people fled from the battle and many of them fell dead. Even Saul and his son Jonathan are dead!” 1:5 David said to the young man who was telling him this, “How do you know that Saul and his son Jonathan are dead?” 1:6 The young man who was telling him this said, “I just happened to be on Mount Gilboa and came across Saul leaning on his spear for support. The chariots and leaders of the horsemen were in hot pursuit of him. 1:7 When he turned around and saw me, he called out to me. I answered, ‘Here I am!’ 1:8 He asked me, ‘Who are you?’ I told him, ‘I’m an Amalekite.’ 1:9 He said to me, ‘Stand over me and finish me off! I’m very dizzy, even though I’m still alive.’ 1:10 So I stood over him and put him to death, since I knew that he couldn’t live in such a condition. Then I took the crown which was on his head and the bracelet which was on his arm. I have brought them here to my lord.”

“I stood over him and put him to death” – This account of Saul’s death is at variance with 1 Sam 34:1-14, which records that Saul asked his armor-bearer to kill him, but the armor-bearer refused, and so Saul fell on his own sword and committed suicide.  One possible explanation is that the young man referred to in the present account only claimed to have killed Saul, thinking to find favour with David for saying so.  Another explanation is that Saul did indeed fall on his sword, but that he did not die instantaneously.  The young man ‘finished him off’ – as this passage says.

1:11 David then grabbed his own clothes and tore them, as did all the men who were with him. 1:12 They lamented and wept and fasted until evening because Saul, his son Jonathan, the LORD’s people, and the house of Israel had fallen by the sword.
1:13 David said to the young man who told this to him, “Where are you from?” He replied, “I am an Amalekite, the son of a resident foreigner.” 1:14 David replied to him, “How is it that you were not afraid to reach out your hand to destroy the LORD’s anointed?” 1:15 Then David called one of the soldiers and said, “Come here and strike him down!” So he struck him down, and he died. 1:16 David said to him, “Your blood be on your own head! Your own mouth has testified against you, saying ‘I have put the LORD’s anointed to death.’ ”

David’s Tribute to Saul and Jonathan, 17-27

1:17 Then David chanted this lament over Saul and his son Jonathan. 1:18 (He gave instructions that the people of Judah should be taught “The Bow.” Indeed, it is written down in the Book of Yashar.)
1:19 The beauty of Israel lies slain on your high places!
How the mighty have fallen!
1:20 Don’t report it in Gath,
don’t spread the news in the streets of Ashkelon,
or the daughters of the Philistines will rejoice,
the daughters of the uncircumcised will celebrate!
1:21 O mountains of Gilboa,
may there be no dew or rain on you, nor fields of grain offerings!
For it was there that the shield of warriors was defiled;
the shield of Saul lies neglected without oil.
1:22 From the blood of the slain, from the fat of warriors,
the bow of Jonathan was not turned away.
The sword of Saul never returned empty.
1:23 Saul and Jonathan were greatly loved during their lives,
and not even in their deaths were they separated.
They were swifter than eagles, stronger than lions.
1:24 O daughters of Israel, weep over Saul,
who clothed you in scarlet as well as jewelry,
who put gold jewelry on your clothes.
1:25 How the warriors have fallen
in the midst of battle!
Jonathan lies slain on your high places!
1:26 I grieve over you, my brother Jonathan!
You were very dear to me.
Your love was more special to me than the love of women.
1:27 How the warriors have fallen!
The weapons of war are destroyed!

Your love was more special to me than the love 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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