Relationships –David and Jonathan

After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself. From that day Saul kept David with him and did not let him return home to his family. And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt.

  • 1 Samuel 18:1-4

Saul told his son Jonathan and all the attendants to kill David. But Jonathan had taken a great liking to David and warned him, “My father Saul is looking for a chance to kill you. Be on your guard tomorrow morning; go into hiding and stay there. I will go out and stand with my father in the field where you are. I’ll speak to him about you and will tell you what I find out.”
Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father and said to him, “Let not the king do wrong to his servant David; he has not wronged you, and what he has done has benefited you greatly. He took his life in his hands when he killed the Philistine. The Lord won a great victory for all Israel, and you saw it and were glad. Why then would you do wrong to an innocent man like David by killing him for no reason?”
Saul listened to Jonathan and took this oath: “As surely as the Lord lives, David will not be put to death.”
So Jonathan called David and told him the whole conversation. He brought him to Saul, and David was with Saul as before.
Once more war broke out, and David went out and fought the Philistines. He struck them with such force that they fled before him.

  • 1 Samuel 19:1-8

Then David fled from Naioth at Ramah and went to Jonathan and asked, “What have I done? What is my crime? How have I wronged your father, that he is trying to kill me?”
“Never!” Jonathan replied. “You are not going to die! Look, my father doesn’t do anything, great or small, without letting me know. Why would he hide this from me? It isn’t so!”
But David took an oath and said, “Your father knows very well that I have found favor in your eyes, and he has said to himself, ‘Jonathan must not know this or he will be grieved.’ Yet as surely as the Lord lives and as you live, there is only a step between me and death.”
Jonathan said to David, “Whatever you want me to do, I’ll do for you.”
So David said, “Look, tomorrow is the New Moon feast, and I am supposed to dine with the king; but let me go and hide in the field until the evening of the day after tomorrow. If your father misses me at all, tell him, ‘David earnestly asked my permission to hurry to Bethlehem, his hometown, because an annual sacrifice is being made there for his whole clan.’ If he says, ‘Very well,’ then your servant is safe. But if he loses his temper, you can be sure that he is determined to harm me. As for you, show kindness to your servant, for you have brought him into a covenant with you before the Lord. If I am guilty, then kill me yourself! Why hand me over to your father?”
“Never!” Jonathan said. “If I had the least inkling that my father was determined to harm you, wouldn’t I tell you?”
David asked, “Who will tell me if your father answers you harshly?”
“Come,” Jonathan said, “let’s go out into the field.” So they went there together.
Then Jonathan said to David, “I swear by the Lord, the God of Israel, that I will surely sound out my father by this time the day after tomorrow! If he is favorably disposed toward you, will I not send you word and let you know? But if my father intends to harm you, may the Lord deal with Jonathan, be it ever so severely, if I do not let you know and send you away in peace. May the Lord be with you as he has been with my father. But show me unfailing kindness like the Lord’s kindness as long as I live, so that I may not be killed, and do not ever cut off your kindness from my family—not even when the Lord has cut off every one of David’s enemies from the face of the earth.”
So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, “May the Lord call David’s enemies to account.” And Jonathan had David reaffirm his oath out of love for him, because he loved him as he loved himself.
Then Jonathan said to David, “Tomorrow is the New Moon feast. You will be missed, because your seat will be empty. The day after tomorrow, toward evening, go to the place where you hid when this trouble began, and wait by the stone Ezel. I will shoot three arrows to the side of it, as though I were shooting at a target. Then I will send a boy and say, ‘Go, find the arrows.’ If I say to him, ‘Look, the arrows are on this side of you; bring them here,’ then come, because, as surely as the Lord lives, you are safe; there is no danger. But if I say to the boy, ‘Look, the arrows are beyond you,’ then you must go, because the Lord has sent you away. And about the matter you and I discussed—remember, the Lord is witness between you and me forever.”
So David hid in the field, and when the New Moon feast came, the king sat down to eat. He sat in his customary place by the wall, opposite Jonathan, and Abner sat next to Saul, but David’s place was empty. Saul said nothing that day, for he thought, “Something must have happened to David to make him ceremonially unclean—surely he is unclean.” But the next day, the second day of the month, David’s place was empty again. Then Saul said to his son Jonathan, “Why hasn’t the son of Jesse come to the meal, either yesterday or today?”
Jonathan answered, “David earnestly asked me for permission to go to Bethlehem. He said, ‘Let me go, because our family is observing a sacrifice in the town and my brother has ordered me to be there. If I have found favor in your eyes, let me get away to see my brothers.’ That is why he has not come to the king’s table.”
Saul’s anger flared up at Jonathan and he said to him, “You son of a perverse and rebellious woman! Don’t I know that you have sided with the son of Jesse to your own shame and to the shame of the mother who bore you? As long as the son of Jesse lives on this earth, neither you nor your kingdom will be established. Now send someone to bring him to me, for he must die!”
“Why should he be put to death? What has he done?” Jonathan asked his father. But Saul hurled his spear at him to kill him. Then Jonathan knew that his father intended to kill David.
Jonathan got up from the table in fierce anger; on that second day of the feast he did not eat, because he was grieved at his father’s shameful treatment of David.
In the morning Jonathan went out to the field for his meeting with David. He had a small boy with him, and he said to the boy, “Run and find the arrows I shoot.” As the boy ran, he shot an arrow beyond him. When the boy came to the place where Jonathan’s arrow had fallen, Jonathan called out after him, “Isn’t the arrow beyond you?” Then he shouted, “Hurry! Go quickly! Don’t stop!” The boy picked up the arrow and returned to his master. (The boy knew nothing about all this; only Jonathan and David knew.) Then Jonathan gave his weapons to the boy and said, “Go, carry them back to town.”
After the boy had gone, David got up from the south side of the stone and bowed down before Jonathan three times, with his face to the ground. Then they kissed each other and wept together—but David wept the most.
Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants forever.’” Then David left, and Jonathan went back to the town.

  • 1 Samuel 20:1-42

While David was at Horesh in the Desert of Ziph, he learned that Saul had come out to take his life. And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this.” The two of them made a covenant before the Lord. Then Jonathan went home, but David remained at Horesh.

  • 1 Samuel 23:15-18

David took up this lament concerning Saul and his son Jonathan, and he ordered that the people of Judah be taught this lament of the bow (it is written in the Book of Jashar):
“A gazelle lies slain on your heights, Israel.
    How the mighty have fallen! …

  • 2 Samuel 1:17-19

A Quote

[1 Samuel 20:10] ”It was not an unlikely thing that his father would answer Jonathan roughly; Saul had taken great offense against David, while Jonathan, his eldest son, on the contrary, loved David as his own soul. Jonathan could hardly think that his father really meant harm to so good a man as David, and he expressed to David that opinion. And then David, to be prepared for the worst, asked him this question, ‘What if your father answers you roughly?’ It did so happen; Saul answered his son with bitter words, and in the desperation of his anger, he even hurled a javelin at him. Yet Jonathan did not forsake David; he clung to him with all the faithfulness of love; and until his death, which was much mourned by David, he remained his fast and faithful friend. Now this question of David to Jonathan is one which we should put to all believers in Christ, especially to the younger ones who have lately entered into covenant with the great son of David, and who, in the ardor of their hearts, feel that they could live and die for him. They will meet with opposition from their dearest friends-perhaps their father, brother, husband, or uncle will answer them roughly; or perhaps their mother, wife, or sister will become a persecutor to them. What then? What will they do under such circumstances? Will they follow the Lord through evil report? ‘What if your father answers you roughly?’ Remember that this supposition is a likely one. There are a few Christians so blessed that all their friends accompany them in the pilgrimage to heaven; what advances they ought to make in the sacred journey! What excellent Christians they ought to be! They are like plants in a conservatory; they ought to grow and bring forth the loveliest flowers of divine grace. But few are in that situation; the large proportion of Christians find themselves opposed by those of their own family, or by those with whom they work or live. ls it not likely to be so? Was it not so from the beginning? ls there not hostility between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman? Did Cain not slay his brother Abel because he was accepted by the Lord? In the family of Abraham was there not an Ishmael, born after the flesh, who persecuted Isaac who was born after the Spirit? Was not Joseph hated by his brothers? Was not David persecuted by Saul, Daniel by the Persian princes, and Jeremiah by the kings of Israel? Has it not always been so? Did the Lord Jesus Christ himself meet with slander, cruelty, and death; and did he not tell us that we must not look for favor where he found rejection? He said plainly, ‘I came not to send peace on the earth but a sword.’ And he declared that the immediate result of preaching the gospel would be to set the son against the father, and the father against the son, so that a man’s foes should be of his own household.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes

What Do We Know about their Relationship?

We know that David and Jonathan loved each other as trusted best friends would love one another.  It is said that Jonathan loved David as himself, the same wording that God commands: “… love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19:18)

King Saul and his bloodline were cursed.  David was anointed to take his place, but we only know that Jonathan knew of this.  Jonathan naively felt he could be David’s righthand man.  Jonathan protected David.

What Can We Infer about their Relationship?

What we cannot infer is that David and Jonathan had a homosexual relationship.  Many use that idea as justification for their lifestyle, but they were living God’s Law of loving one another.  No more than that.

When they kissed before David fled from Saul, this is again not a sign of homosexual behavior.  The following quote is from a devotional.

“Europeans give three alternating kisses on the cheeks of close friends and family and only one kiss to acquaintances. Since we mainly work with immigrants, we deal with many cultures and had to learn several different greetings. Our Russian friends give ‘bear hugs’ and two kisses, the Africans give three kisses starting on the left and our Middle Eastern friends only give kisses to same gender, but three times starting on the right!”

  • Jody, in Western Europe, “Oops, wrong kiss!” – Beth Moore, Voices of the Faithful

This Christian missionary working with refugees, not that many years ago, got confused and gave someone the wrong greeting, but they laughed at the mix-up.  But she speaks of the first Century church greeting each other with a kiss (1 Peter 5:14).  The kiss between David and Jonathan was between two friends that thought that they might never see each other again.  And note that David, who probably had a greater understanding of what needed to happen to carry out God’s plan, wept harder than did Jonathan (probably still holding out the hope of being at David’s side when David became king.

We can infer that David and Jonathan were in contact with one another.  They had their rendezvous at Horesh.

In What Ways Can We Fill in the Gaps about their Relationship?

As a friendship, there are not that many gaps.  David and Jonathan had plenty of time to become friends while Jonathan’s father, King Saul, had David as a means of soothing his spirit.  Then David killing Goliath made David a hero, although Jonathan was an accomplished warrior.  David paid the price in Philistine foreskins to obtain Michal as a wife and that made David and Jonathan in-laws.  Thus, loving one another as brothers works in an in-law fashion.

What Can We Learn from this Relationship?

If you have a friend that is a best friend, you are quite fortunate.  The drawback is that one friend will eventually die and it might just hurt more than the loss of family.  The late Spring and Summer when my brother died, my father died, and then my mother died, my platoon sergeant from my Army days died, a few weeks after my father’s death.  His death rocked me to the core, while I have yet to shed a tear for any of the other three.  For my Dad, almost, but he was the one who taught me to be strong at such times.  It almost felt like my dad’s death was a test to see if I would falter.  When they gave the casket flag to my mother, that is when I nearly lost it.  The photo above shows the casket flag, still folded in the triangle by the funeral parlor’s staff. If I took it out of the case, none of the red is showing. They must have a lot of practice.

But we all need that kind of friend, the kind that we could say anything to them and not be judged.

We have that kind of friend in Jesus, but do we stay at arm’s length, or do we go in for the bear hug?  That choice is ours to make.

What Have We Learned thus far?

We have learned to:

  • Own our own mistakes and not blame others.
  • Be faithful to God, and worship properly, in the proper spirit.
  • Go to God in prayer, especially before any major decisions.
  • Do not show favoritism among family members, but always go to God.
  • Forgiveness is extremely important for none of us are perfect except for God.
  • Beyond physical love, there are other expressions of love, and respect is very important.
  • A relationship requires maintenance, nurturing, and an acceptance of the roles.
  • Be humble and listen to wise advice, and even wait when necessary.
  • At times, we must be bold and trust God, and we must obey.
  • And to love, love, and love.
  • Be trustworthy.  Trust is required.
  • And don’t worry.  God has this situation, and He has us in the palm of His hand.
  • And remember to forgive others and confess our sins.
  • And never go against what God instructs us to do.

A Closing Prayer

We look to You for guidance.  We cannot rely on our fellow human travelers like we can rely on You, but Lord, we need “family” among our strong believing friends.  Please guide us to those in whom we can trust.  And help us always to trust in You, growing that trust as we become more like Jesus.
In Thy Name we pray,

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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