1 Samuel 20 Commentary: David and Jonathan’s Alliance

1 Samuel 20 Commentary

1 Samuel 20 delves into the intricate and emotionally charged relationship between David and Jonathan amidst the turbulent backdrop of King Saul’s court.

It portrays the deep bond between Jonathan, King Saul’s son, and David, the future king of Israel, as they navigate the dangerous undercurrents of Saul’s growing hostility.

The narrative is rich with strategic planning, covert conversations, and a heartfelt covenant, all of which underscore the profound commitment and mutual respect between these two key figures.

The chapter serves as a compelling exploration of integrity, faith, and divine destiny within the broader tapestry of Israel’s history.

What is the main point of 1 Samuel 20?

What is the main point of 1 Samuel 20? The main point of 1 Samuel 20 is to showcase the deep and loyal friendship between David and Jonathan amidst the growing hostility of King Saul. It highlights their commitment to each other through strategic planning and a personal covenant of mutual support and protection.

What was the friendship lesson of David and Jonathan?

What was the friendship lesson of David and Jonathan? The friendship lesson of David and Jonathan emphasizes the value of loyalty and selflessness, even in the face of personal risk and familial conflict. Their bond demonstrates how true friendship transcends social and political barriers.

1 Samuel 20:1-10, David and Jonathan’s Discussion about Saul’s Intentions

David’s fears and doubts about King Saul’s intentions towards him are the focus of this segment. He expresses his concerns to Jonathan, Saul’s son and his close friend. Despite Jonathan’s initial disbelief about his father’s malicious intentions, David persuades him to see the truth.

Then David fled from Naioth in Ramah and came and said before Jonathan, “What have I done? What is my guilt? And what is my sin before your father, that he seeks my life?” And he said to him, “Far from it! You shall not die. Behold, my father does nothing either great or small without disclosing it to me. And why should my father hide this from me? It is not so.” But David vowed again, saying, “Your father knows well that I have found favor in your eyes, and he thinks, ‘Do not let Jonathan know this, lest he be grieved.’ But truly, as the Lord lives and as your soul lives, there is but a step between me and death.”

1 Samuel 20:1-3, ESV

Their conversation reveals the depth of their friendship and mutual trust. Jonathan, although the king’s son, shows loyalty to David, understanding the gravity of the situation and acknowledging his father’s unpredictable behavior.

The plan they devise to uncover Saul’s intentions is a testament to their strategic thinking and the direness of David’s situation. It also highlights the complexities of their respective positions – David as the anointed future king and Jonathan as the current king’s son.

Then Jonathan said to David, “Whatever you say, I will do for you.” David said to Jonathan, “Behold, tomorrow is the new moon, and I should not fail to sit at table with the king. But let me go, that I may hide myself in the field till the third day at evening. If 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 clan.’ If he says, ‘Good!’ it will be well with your servant, but if he is angry, then know that harm is determined by him. Therefore deal kindly with your servant, for you have brought your servant into a covenant of the Lord with you. But if there is guilt in me, kill me yourself, for why should you bring me to your father?” And Jonathan said, “Far be it from you! If I knew that it was determined by my father that harm should come to you, would I not tell you?” Then David said to Jonathan, “Who will tell me if your father answers you roughly?”

1 Samuel 20:4-10, ESV

1 Samuel 20:11-17, Jonathan’s Covenant with David

In this segment, the bond between Jonathan and David is further emphasized through the renewal of their covenant. This covenant signifies more than a mere agreement; it represents a deep, brotherly bond, surpassing mere political or social alliances.

And Jonathan said to David, “The Lord, the God of Israel, be witness! When I have sounded out my father, about this time tomorrow, or the third day, behold, if he is well disposed toward David, shall I not then send and disclose it to you? But should it please my father 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, that you may go in safety. May the Lord be with you, as he has been with my father.

1 Samuel 20:12-13, ESV

Jonathan’s commitment to David, despite his father Saul’s hostility, speaks volumes about his character and his understanding of God’s plans. He acknowledges David’s future as king and willingly submits to that reality, showcasing a humility rare in someone of his royal standing.

Their covenant includes not only themselves but also their descendants, indicating a long-term perspective and a desire for lasting peace between their families.

If I am still alive, show me the steadfast love of the Lord, that I may not die; and do not cut off your steadfast love from my house forever, when the Lord cuts off every one of the enemies of David from the face of the earth.” And Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, “May the Lord take vengeance on David’s enemies.” And Jonathan made David swear again by his love for him, for he loved him as he loved his own soul.

1 Samuel 20:14-17, ESV

1 Samuel 20:18-23, Plan for Discerning Saul’s Intentions

David and Jonathan’s plan to gauge King Saul’s reaction to David’s absence from the New Moon festival is clever and tactful. They use a common event as a litmus test for Saul’s feelings towards David.

Then Jonathan said to him, “Tomorrow is the new moon, and you will be missed, because your seat will be empty. On the third day go down quickly to the place where you hid yourself when the matter was in hand, and remain beside the stone heap.

1 Samuel 20:18-19, ESV

Jonathan’s role in this plan is crucial. He acts as the intermediary, observing Saul’s reactions and then communicating them to David. This plan also illustrates their resourcefulness and the lengths they are willing to go to protect David.

The signal they agree upon – using arrow shots as a coded message – is an ingenious method of covert communication, reflecting the danger of the situation and the need for discretion.

And I will shoot three arrows to the side of it, as though I shot at a mark. And behold, 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, take them,’ then you are to come, for, as the Lord lives, it is safe for you and there is no danger. But if I say to the youth, ‘Look, the arrows are beyond you,’ then go, for the Lord has sent you away. And as for the matter of which you and I have spoken, behold, the Lord is between you and me forever.”

1 Samuel 20:20-23, ESV

1 Samuel 20:24-29, David’s Absence at the New Moon Festival

David’s absence at the New Moon festival is the key to revealing Saul’s true intentions. This part of the narrative focuses on the festival and the unfolding of the plan devised by David and Jonathan.

So David hid himself in the field. And when the new moon came, the king sat down to eat food. The king sat on his seat, as at other times, on the seat by the wall. Jonathan sat opposite, and Abner sat by Saul’s side, but David’s place was empty.

1 Samuel 20:24-25, ESV

When Saul notices David’s absence, it’s Jonathan’s explanations and justifications that are put to the test. His ability to convincingly lie to his father about David’s whereabouts shows his commitment to protecting his friend.

Yet Saul did not say anything that day, for he thought, “Something has happened to him. He is not clean; surely he is not clean.” But on the second day, the day after the new moon, David’s place was empty. And Saul said to Jonathan his son, “Why has not the son of Jesse come to the meal, either yesterday or today?” Jonathan answered Saul, “David earnestly asked leave of me to go to Bethlehem. He said, ‘Let me go, for our clan holds a sacrifice in the city, and my brother has commanded me to be there. So now, if I have found favor in your eyes, let me get away and see my brothers.’ For this reason he has not come to the king’s table.”

1 Samuel 20:26-29, ESV

1 Samuel 20:30-34, Saul’s Anger and Jonathan’s Defense of David

Saul’s explosive reaction to David’s absence and Jonathan’s defense of him is a pivotal moment in this chapter. It reveals the depth of Saul’s animosity towards David and his own son’s loyalty to David.

Then Saul’s anger was kindled against Jonathan, and 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? For as long as the son of Jesse lives on the earth, neither you nor your kingdom shall be established. Therefore send and bring him to me, for he shall surely die.”

1 Samuel 20:30-31, ESV

Jonathan’s defense of David, despite the risk to himself, illustrates the strength of his character and his commitment to what is right. His confrontation with his father is both a personal risk and a stand against injustice.

Then Jonathan answered Saul his father, “Why should he be put to death? What has he done?” But Saul hurled his spear at him to strike him. So Jonathan knew that his father was determined to put David to death. And Jonathan rose from the table in fierce anger and ate no food the second day of the month, for he was grieved for David, because his father had disgraced him.

1 Samuel 20:32-34, ESV

1 Samuel 20:35-42, Jonathan’s Warning to David and Parting

The final segment depicts the emotional farewell between Jonathan and David. The implementation of their signal plan – Jonathan shooting arrows to indicate danger – culminates in a heart-wrenching goodbye.

In the morning Jonathan went out into the field to the appointment with David, and with him a little boy. And he said to his boy, “Run and find the arrows that I shoot.” As the boy ran, he shot an arrow beyond him.

1 Samuel 20:35-36, ESV

Their farewell is laden with sorrow and unspoken understanding. The depth of their friendship and the tragic circumstances of their separation are poignantly portrayed.

And Jonathan called after the boy, “Hurry! Be quick! Do not stay!” So Jonathan’s boy gathered up the arrows and came to his master. But the boy knew nothing. Only Jonathan and David knew the matter. And Jonathan gave his weapons to his boy and said to him, “Go and carry them to the city.” And as soon as the boy had gone, David rose from beside the stone heap and fell on his face to the ground and bowed three times. And they kissed one another and wept with one another, David weeping the most. Then Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, because we have sworn both of us in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord shall be between me and you, and between my offspring and your offspring, forever.’” And he rose and departed, and Jonathan went into the city.

1 Samuel 20:38-42, ESV

The chapter closes with a bittersweet note, highlighting the integrity and loyalty in Jonathan and David’s friendship, even in the face of daunting challenges and uncertain futures.