1 Samuel 20

David and Jonathan

1 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?”
2 “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!”
3 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.”
4 Jonathan said to David, “Whatever you want me to do, I’ll do for you.”
5 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.
6 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.’
7 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.
8 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?”
9 “Never!” Jonathan said. “If I had the least inkling that my father was determined to harm you, wouldn’t I tell you?”
10 David asked, “Who will tell me if your father answers you harshly?”
11 “Come,” Jonathan said, “let’s go out into the field.” So they went there together.
12 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?
13 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.
14 But show me unfailing kindness like the LORD’s kindness as long as I live, so that I may not be killed,
15 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.”
16 So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, “May the LORD call David’s enemies to account.”
17 And Jonathan had David reaffirm his oath out of love for him, because he loved him as he loved himself.
18 Then Jonathan said to David, “Tomorrow is the New Moon feast. You will be missed, because your seat will be empty.
19 The day after tomorrow, toward evening, go to the place where you hid when this trouble began, and wait by the stone Ezel.
20 I will shoot three arrows to the side of it, as though I were shooting at a target.
21 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.
22 But if I say to the boy, ‘Look, the arrows are beyond you,’ then you must go, because the LORD has sent you away.
23 And about the matter you and I discussed—remember, the LORD is witness between you and me forever.”
24 So David hid in the field, and when the New Moon feast came, the king sat down to eat.
25 He sat in his customary place by the wall, opposite Jonathan,[a] and Abner sat next to Saul, but David’s place was empty.
26 Saul said nothing that day, for he thought, “Something must have happened to David to make him ceremonially unclean—surely he is unclean.”
27 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?”
28 Jonathan answered, “David earnestly asked me for permission to go to Bethlehem.
29 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.”
30 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?
31 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!”
32 “Why should he be put to death? What has he done?” Jonathan asked his father.
33 But Saul hurled his spear at him to kill him. Then Jonathan knew that his father intended to kill David.
34 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.
35 In the morning Jonathan went out to the field for his meeting with David. He had a small boy with him,
36 and he said to the boy, “Run and find the arrows I shoot.” As the boy ran, he shot an arrow beyond him.
37 When the boy came to the place where Jonathan’s arrow had fallen, Jonathan called out after him, “Isn’t the arrow beyond you?”
38 Then he shouted, “Hurry! Go quickly! Don’t stop!” The boy picked up the arrow and returned to his master.
39 (The boy knew nothing about all this; only Jonathan and David knew.)
40 Then Jonathan gave his weapons to the boy and said, “Go, carry them back to town.”
41 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.
42 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.[b]

1 Samuel 20 Commentary

Chapter 20

David consults Jonathan. (1-10) Jonathan's covenant with David. (11-23) Saul, missing David, seeks to kill Jonathan. (24-34) Jonathan takes leave of David. (35-42)

Verses 1-10 The trials David met with, prepared him for future advancement. Thus the Lord deals with those whom he prepares unto glory. He does not put them into immediate possession of the kingdom, but leads them to it through much tribulation, which he makes the means of fitting them for it. Let them not murmur at his gracious appointment, nor distrust his care; but let them look forward with joyful expectation to the crown which is laid up for them. Sometimes it appears to us that there is but a step between us and death; at all times it may be so, and we should prepare for the event. But though dangers appear most threatening, we cannot die till the purpose of God concerning us is accomplished; nor till we have served our generation according to his will, if we are believers. Jonathan generously offers David his services. This is true friendship. Thus Christ testifies his love to us, Ask, and it shall be done for you; and we must testify our love to him, by keeping his commandments.

Verses 11-23 Jonathan faithfully promises that he would let David know how he found his father affected towards him. It will be kindness to ourselves and to ours, to secure an interest in those whom God favours, and to make his friends ours. True friendship rests on a firm basis, and is able to silence ambition, self-love, and undue regard for others. But who can fully understand the love of Jesus, who gave himself as a sacrifice for rebellious, polluted sinners! how great then ought to be the force and effects of our love to him, to his cause, and his people!

Verses 24-34 None were more constant than David in attending holy duties; nor had he been absent, but self-preservation obliged him to withdraw. In great peril present opportunities for Divine ordinances may be waved. But it is bad for us, except in case of necessity, to omit any opportunity of statedly attending on them. Jonathan did wisely and well for himself and family, to secure an interest in David, yet for this he is blamed. It is good to take God's people for our people. It will prove to our advantage at last, however it may now be thought against our interest. Saul was outrageous. What savage beasts, and worse, does anger make men!

Verses 35-42 The separation of two such faithful friends was grievous to both, but David's case was the more deplorable, for David was leaving all his comforts, even those of God's sanctuary. Christians need not sorrow, as men without hope; but being one with Christ, they are one with each other, and will meet in his presence ere long, to part no more; to meet where all tears shall be wiped from their eyes.

Cross References 42

  • 1. 1 Samuel 24:9
  • 2. 1 Samuel 22:23; 1 Samuel 23:15; 1 Samuel 24:11; 1 Samuel 25:29; Psalms 40:14; Psalms 54:3; Psalms 63:9; Psalms 70:2
  • 3. Deuteronomy 6:13
  • 4. S Numbers 10:10; Numbers 28:11
  • 5. S 1 Samuel 19:2
  • 6. ver 28
  • 7. 1 Samuel 17:58
  • 8. Deuteronomy 12:5; S 1 Samuel 1:3
  • 9. 1 Samuel 10:27; 1 Samuel 25:17
  • 10. S 1 Samuel 18:11
  • 11. S 1 Samuel 18:3; 1 Samuel 23:18
  • 12. 2 Samuel 14:32
  • 13. 1 Samuel 19:3
  • 14. S Ruth 1:17; 1 Samuel 3:17
  • 15. S 1 Samuel 16:18; S 1 Samuel 18:12">1 Samuel 18:12; Joshua 1:5; 1 Samuel 17:37; 1 Samuel 18:12">1 Samuel 18:12; 1 Chronicles 22:11,16
  • 16. S Genesis 40:14
  • 17. 1 Samuel 24:21; 2 Samuel 9:7
  • 18. S 1 Samuel 18:1
  • 19. S 1 Samuel 18:3; 1 Samuel 25:22
  • 20. S Joshua 22:23
  • 21. S Joshua 9:18; S 1 Samuel 18:3
  • 22. ver 25; ver 5,25
  • 23. S 1 Samuel 19:2
  • 24. 2 Kings 13:15
  • 25. ver 37
  • 26. ver 14-15; S Genesis 31:50
  • 27. S Numbers 10:10
  • 28. ver 18
  • 29. Leviticus 7:20-21; Leviticus 15:5; 1 Samuel 16:5
  • 30. ver 6
  • 31. S Genesis 8:20
  • 32. 1 Samuel 23:17; 1 Samuel 24:20
  • 33. S 1 Samuel 19:4; Matthew 27:23
  • 34. S Genesis 31:36; Luke 23:22
  • 35. ver 7; S 1 Samuel 18:11,17
  • 36. ver 22
  • 37. S Genesis 33:3; Ruth 2:10; 1 Samuel 24:8; 1 Samuel 25:23; 2 Samuel 1:2
  • 38. ver 22; S 1 Samuel 1:17; S Acts 15:33
  • 39. S Genesis 40:14; 2 Samuel 1:26; Proverbs 18:24
  • 40. Isaiah 48:1
  • 41. S Genesis 31:50; S 1 Samuel 18:3
  • 42. 2 Samuel 9:1

Footnotes 2

  • [a]. Septuagint; Hebrew "wall. Jonathan arose"
  • [b]. In Hebrew texts this sentence (20:42b) is numbered 21:1.

Chapter Summary

INTRODUCTION TO FIRST SAMUEL 20

David fleeing from Naioth came to Jonathan, and acquainted him with his circumstances, and entreated his favour, 1Sa 20:1-8; which Jonathan promised, and renewed the covenant with him, 1Sa 20:9-17; a scheme was formed between them, by which David might know whether Saul was reconciled to him, and he might come to court, 1Sa 20:18-23; which being tried, Jonathan found it was not safe for him to appear, 1Sa 20:24-34; of which he gave notice by the signals agreed on, 1Sa 20:35-40; and they took their leave of one another with strong expressions of affection and attachment to each other, 1Sa 20:41,42.

1 Samuel 20 Commentaries