1 Samuel 20 Study Notes

20:1 David came to Jonathan, probably at a secret meeting place because Saul’s men would have been watching for David around Gibeah.

20:2 Jonathan reassured David that as eldest son and army commander he knew everything, great or small, that his father planned. He did not believe Saul would hide this matter or any other matter from him.

20:3 David, however, had keener insight into the situation. Saul knew about Jonathan’s and David’s covenant and friendship. David suspected the king did not want Jonathan to be grieved by the struggle between him and David, though in the end Jonathan would be (v. 34). Yet, David knew he was potentially close to death if Saul could capture him.

20:4-5 The New Moon refers to a monthly festival (Nm 28:11-15) commemorated by the blowing of trumpets (Nm 10:10). David knew Saul would expect his presence at the meal, but he did not want to risk his life by entering the palace until he knew Saul’s intentions.

20:6 Jonathan would tell his father why David was not there if Saul asked about David’s absence. The annual sacrifice to which Jonathan referred could have been some kind of offering the whole clan had determined to offer.

20:7 David trusted that God could reveal Saul’s heart through the king’s response to Jonathan’s words.

20:8 David reminded Jonathan of the covenant they had made before the Lord. David’s passionate request If I have done anything wrong, then kill me yourself revealed the depth of his desire for integrity.

20:9-10 The text emphasizes Jonathan’s loyalty to his friend David despite the fact that with David dead, Jonathan would most likely succeed Saul as king.

20:11 The two men probably went out to the countryside so no one would overhear their plan.

20:12-13 Jonathan swore an oath and invited God’s punishment on himself if he did not report to David everything Saul intended to do. Jonathan’s words of blessing, May the Lord be with you, affirm what the text has revealed—that God was with David (16:13,18; 18:12,28). Jonathan’s words as he was with my father suggest he knew the Lord’s Spirit had departed from Saul (16:14).

20:14-15 Jonathan asked David never to withdraw his kindness from his house. Many new kings ordered the death of the former king’s family to eliminate contenders for the throne. The Lord might judge every one of David’s enemies, but David had nothing to fear from Jonathan. After Jonathan’s death, David honored Jonathan’s request (2Sm 9).

20:16 Jonathan now established a covenant with the house of David, not with David alone. God himself would hold David’s enemies accountable for their actions against his chosen servant.

20:17 On he loved him as he loved himself, see note at 18:1.

20:18-19 The Hebrew word translated rock also means “stone,” but Ezel, though unknown outside this verse, was large enough to be known and to have its own name.

20:20-22 Jonathan proposed code language to alert David about Saul’s intentions. Calling the servant back toward Jonathan to retrieve the three arrows meant that all was safe. Telling him to seek the arrows beyond him meant David should flee at once.

20:23 Jonathan invoked the Lord’s oversight on his and David’s agreement and their relationship.

20:24-25 Saul’s seat by the wall offered greater security since no one could approach him from behind.

20:26 Saul’s assumption that David was ceremonially unclean rested on his knowledge of David’s faith, which would have prohibited him from partaking of the meal (Lv 7:20-21).

20:27 Saul became suspicious on the second day, when uncleanness would not have required David’s absence.

20:28-29 Jonathan explained David’s absence along the basic lines the two of them had agreed on (v. 6).

20:30 Saul’s words, son of a perverse and rebellious woman, were an insult to Jonathan by defaming the character of his mother Ahinoam (14:50).

20:31 Saul’s reference to your kingship reveals that he intended for Jonathan to succeed him, despite Samuel’s pronouncement against his house (13:13-14). Send for him and bring him to me indicated Saul’s belief that Jonathan knew David’s whereabouts.

20:32 Jonathan cared about justice, not about the personal gain his father suggested might be in store for him. He would show loyalty to David, no matter what.

20:33 Saul threw his spear at Jonathan because he had sided with the king’s enemy.

20:34 Jonathan was angry and sad over what had happened. It was his father’s shameful behavior toward David that pained Jonathan more than having to dodge his father’s spear.

20:35-39 Jonathan’s words, The arrow is beyond you, signaled trouble for David (v. 22). He knew that David needed to flee as quickly as possible.

20:40 Though the coded signal had been sent and Jonathan could have departed, perhaps he could not bear to leave without talking with David first, so he sent the servant away. The yearning for a personal farewell led them to abandon the caution afforded them by their system of signals.

20:41 David’s position shows the stone Ezel probably lay south of Gibeah, so that when Jonathan came out with his servant, they would not immediately see him. David payed homage (bowed) three times as a sign of his respect and admiration for Jonathan, and they kissed each other—a common sign of greeting and farewell among close friends in that culture. They wept because both sensed they might not see each other again.

20:42 Go in the assurance is literally “Go in peace.” Jonathan could say this to David because of what they pledged in the name of the Lord—on his authority and with him as a witness. The two of them would always remain friends, and they would do all they could to ensure their friendship extended to their offspring. David then left, heading southward (21:1), while Jonathan went into the city, where soon he would have to face his father again.

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