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The Friendship of David and Jonathan
David fled from Naioth in Ramah. He came before Jonathan and said, “What have I done? What is my guilt? And what is my sin against your father that he is trying to take my life?” 2He said to him, “Far from it! You shall not die. My father does nothing either great or small without disclosing it to me; and why should my father hide this from me? Never!” 3But David also swore, “Your father knows well that you like me; and he thinks, ‘Do not let Jonathan know this, or he will be grieved.’ But truly, as the Lord lives and as you yourself live, there is but a step between me and death.” 4Then Jonathan said to David, “Whatever you say, I will do for you.” 5David said to Jonathan, “Tomorrow is the new moon, and I should not fail to sit with the king at the meal; but let me go, so that I may hide in the field until the third evening. 6If your father misses me at all, then say, ‘David earnestly asked leave of me to run to Bethlehem his city; for there is a yearly sacrifice there for all the family.’ 7If he says, ‘Good!’ it will be well with your servant; but if he is angry, then know that evil has been determined by him. 8Therefore deal kindly with your servant, for you have brought your servant into a sacred covenant with you. But if there is guilt in me, kill me yourself; why should you bring me to your father?” 9Jonathan said, “Far be it from you! If I knew that it was decided by my father that evil should come upon you, would I not tell you?” 10Then David said to Jonathan, “Who will tell me if your father answers you harshly?” 11Jonathan replied to David, “Come, let us go out into the field.” So they both went out into the field.
12 Jonathan said to David, “By the Lord, the God of Israel! When I have sounded out my father, about this time tomorrow, or on the third day, if he is well disposed toward David, shall I not then send and disclose it to you? 13But if my father intends to do you harm, the Lord do so to Jonathan, and more also, if I do not disclose it to you, and send you away, so that you may go in safety. May the Lord be with you, as he has been with my father. 14If I am still alive, show me the faithful love of the Lord; but if I die, 15never cut off your faithful love from my house, even if the Lord were to cut off every one of the enemies of David from the face of the earth.” 16Thus Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, “May the Lord seek out the enemies of David.” 17Jonathan made David swear again by his love for him; for he loved him as he loved his own life.
18 Jonathan said to him, “Tomorrow is the new moon; you will be missed, because your place will be empty. 19On the day after tomorrow, you shall go a long way down; go to the place where you hid yourself earlier, and remain beside the stone there. 20I will shoot three arrows to the side of it, as though I shot at a mark. 21Then I will send the boy, saying, ‘Go, find the arrows.’ If I say to the boy, ‘Look, the arrows are on this side of you, collect them,’ then you are to come, for, as the Lord lives, it is safe for you and there is no danger. 22But if I say to the young man, ‘Look, the arrows are beyond you,’ then go; for the Lord has sent you away. 23As for the matter about which you and I have spoken, the Lord is witness between you and me forever.”
24 So David hid himself in the field. When the new moon came, the king sat at the feast to eat. 25The king sat upon his seat, as at other times, upon the seat by the wall. Jonathan stood, while Abner sat by Saul’s side; but David’s place was empty.
26 Saul did not say anything that day; for he thought, “Something has befallen him; he is not clean, surely he is not clean.” 27But on the second day, the day after the new moon, David’s place was empty. And Saul said to his son Jonathan, “Why has the son of Jesse not come to the feast, either yesterday or today?” 28Jonathan answered Saul, “David earnestly asked leave of me to go to Bethlehem; 29he said, ‘Let me go; for our family is holding a sacrifice in the city, and my brother has commanded me to be there. So now, if I have found favor in your sight, let me get away, and see my brothers.’ For this reason he has not come to the king’s table.”
30 Then Saul’s anger was kindled against Jonathan. He said to him, “You son of a perverse, rebellious woman! Do I not know that you have chosen the son of Jesse to your own shame, and to the shame of your mother’s nakedness? 31For as long as the son of Jesse lives upon the earth, neither you nor your kingdom shall be established. Now send and bring him to me, for he shall surely die.” 32Then Jonathan answered his father Saul, “Why should he be put to death? What has he done?” 33But Saul threw his spear at him to strike him; so Jonathan knew that it was the decision of his father to put David to death. 34Jonathan rose from the table in fierce anger and ate no food on the second day of the month, for he was grieved for David, and because his father had disgraced him.
35 In the morning Jonathan went out into the field to the appointment with David, and with him was a little boy. 36He said to the boy, “Run and find the arrows that I shoot.” As the boy ran, he shot an arrow beyond him. 37When the boy came to the place where Jonathan’s arrow had fallen, Jonathan called after the boy and said, “Is the arrow not beyond you?” 38Jonathan called after the boy, “Hurry, be quick, do not linger.” So Jonathan’s boy gathered up the arrows and came to his master. 39But the boy knew nothing; only Jonathan and David knew the arrangement. 40Jonathan gave his weapons to the boy and said to him, “Go and carry them to the city.” 41As soon as the boy had gone, David rose from beside the stone heap and prostrated himself with his face to the ground. He bowed three times, and they kissed each other, and wept with each other; David wept the more. 42Then Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, since both of us have sworn in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord shall be between me and you, and between my descendants and your descendants, forever.’ ” He got up and left; and Jonathan went into the city.
1Sa 20:1-10. David Consults with Jonathan for His Safety.
1-3. David fled from Naioth in Ramah, and came and said before Jonathan—He could not remain in Naioth, for he had strong reason to fear that when the religious fit, if we may so call it, was over, Saul would relapse into his usual fell and sanguinary temper. It may be thought that David acted imprudently in directing his flight to Gibeah. But he was evidently prompted to go thither by the most generous feelings—to inform his friend of what had recently occurred, and to obtain that friend's sanction to the course he was compelled to adopt. Jonathan could not be persuaded there was any real danger after the oath his father had taken; at all events, he felt assured his father would do nothing without telling him. Filial attachment naturally blinded the prince to defects in the parental character and made him reluctant to believe his father capable of such atrocity. David repeated his unshaken convictions of Saul's murderous purpose, but in terms delicately chosen (1Sa 20:3), not to wound the filial feelings of his friend; while Jonathan, clinging, it would seem, to a hope that the extraordinary scene enacted at Naioth might have wrought a sanctified improvement on Saul's temper and feelings, undertook to inform David of the result of his observations at home.
5. David said unto Jonathan, Behold, to-morrow the new moon, and I should not fail to sit with the king at meat—The beginning of a new month or moon was always celebrated by special sacrifices, followed by feasting, at which the head of a family expected all its members to be present. David, both as the king's son-in-law and a distinguished courtier, dined on such occasions at the royal table, and from its being generally known that David had returned to Gibeah, his presence in the palace would be naturally expected. This occasion was chosen by the two friends for testing the king's state of feeling. As a suitable pretext for David's absence, it was arranged that he should visit his family at Beth-lehem, and thus create an opportunity of ascertaining how his non-appearance would be viewed. The time and place were fixed for Jonathan reporting to David; but as circumstances might render another interview unsafe, it was deemed expedient to communicate by a concerted signal.
1Sa 20:11-23. Their Covenant Renewed by Oath.
11. Jonathan said to David, Come, let us go into the field—The private dialogue, which is here detailed at full length, presents a most beautiful exhibition of these two amiable and noble-minded friends. Jonathan was led, in the circumstances, to be the chief speaker. The strength of his attachment, his pure disinterestedness, his warm piety, his invocation to God (consisting of a prayer and a solemn oath combined), the calm and full expression he gave of his conviction that his own family were, by the divine will, to be disinherited, and David elevated to the possession of the throne, the covenant entered into with David on behalf of his descendants, and the imprecation (1Sa 20:16) denounced on any of them who should violate his part of the conditions, the reiteration of this covenant on both sides (1Sa 20:17) to make it indissoluble—all this indicates such a power of mutual affection, such magnetic attractiveness in the character of David, such susceptibility and elevation of feeling in the heart of Jonathan, that this interview for dramatic interest and moral beauty stands unrivalled in the records of human friendship.
19. when thou hast stayed three days—either with your family at Beth-lehem, or wherever you find it convenient.
come to the place where thou didst hide thyself when the business was in hand—Hebrew, "in the day," or "time of the business," when the same matter was under inquiry formerly (1Sa 19:22).
remain by the stone Ezel—Hebrew, "the stone of the way"; a sort of milestone which directed travellers. He was to conceal himself in some cave or hiding-place near that spot.
23. as touching the matter which thou and I have spoken of—The plan being concerted, the friends separated for a time, and the amiable character of Jonathan again peers out in his parting allusion to their covenant of friendship.
1Sa 20:24-40. Saul, Missing David, Seeks to Kill Jonahan.
25. the king sat upon his seat, as at other times … by the wall—The left-hand corner at the upper end of a room was and still is in the East, the most honorable place. The person seated there has his left arm confined by the wall, but his right hand is at full liberty. From Abner's position next the king, and David's seat being left empty, it would seem that a state etiquette was observed at the royal table, each of the courtiers and ministers having places assigned them according to their respective gradations of rank.
Jonathan arose—either as a mark of respect on the entrance of the king, or in conformity with the usual Oriental custom for a son to stand in presence of his father.
26. he is not clean—No notice was taken of David's absence, as he might be laboring under some ceremonial defilement.
27. on the morrow, which was the second day of the month—The time of the moon's appearance being uncertain—whether at midday, in the evening, or at midnight, the festival was extended over two days. Custom, not the law, had introduced this.
Saul said unto Jonathan his son, Wherefore cometh not the son of Jesse—The question was asked, as it were, casually, and with as great an air of indifference as he could assume. And Jonathan having replied that David had asked and obtained his permission to attend a family anniversary at Beth-lehem [Ac 20:28, 29], the pent-up passions of the king burst out in a most violent storm of rage and invective against his son.
30. Thou son of the perverse rebellious woman—This is a striking Oriental form of abuse. Saul was not angry with his wife; it was the son alone, upon whom he meant, by this style of address, to discharge his resentment. The principle on which it is founded seems to be, that to a genuine filial instinct it is a more inexpiable offense to hear the name or character of a parent traduced, than any personal reproach. This was, undoubtedly, one cause of "the fierce anger" in which the high-minded prince left the table without tasting a morsel.
33. Saul cast a javelin at him—This is a sad proof of the maniacal frenzy into which the unhappy monarch was transported.
35. Jonathan went out into the field at the time appointed—or, "at the place appointed."
36. he said unto his lad, Run, find out now the arrows which I shoot—The direction given aloud to the attendant was the signal preconcerted with David. It implied danger.
40. Jonathan gave his artillery unto his lad—that is, his missive weapons. The French word artillerie, signifies "archery." The term is still used in England, in the designation of the "artillery company of London," the association of archers, though they have long disused bows and arrows. Jonathan's boy being despatched out of the way, the friends enjoyed the satisfaction of a final meeting.
41, 42. David … fell on his face to the ground, and bowed three times—a token of homage to the prince's rank; but on a close approach, every other consideration was sunk in the full flow of the purest brotherly affection.
42. Jonathan said to David, Go in peace—The interview being a stolen one, and every moment precious, it was kindness in Jonathan to hasten his friend's departure.