1 Samuel 20

1 David fled from the pastures at Ramah, came to Jonathan, and asked, "What have I done? What crime am I guilty of? What sin have I committed against your father that he's trying to kill me?"
2 Jonathan answered, "That's unthinkable! You're not going to die! My father does nothing without telling me, whether it's important or not. Why should my father hide this from me? It's just not that way."
3 But David took an oath, saying, "Your father certainly knows that you support me, so he said [to himself], 'Jonathan must not know about this. It will bring him distress.' But I solemnly swear, as the LORD and you live, I'm only one step away from death."
4 Jonathan said to David, "I'll do whatever you say."
5 David replied, "Tomorrow is the New Moon Festival, when I should sit and eat at the king's [table]. But let me go and hide in the countryside for two more nights.
6 If your father really misses me, tell him, 'David repeatedly begged me to let him run to Bethlehem, his hometown, because his relatives are offering the annual sacrifice there.'
7 If he says, 'Good!' then I will be safe. But if he gets really angry, then you'll know for sure that he has decided to harm me.
8 Now, be kind to me. After all, you forced me into an agreement with the LORD. If I have committed any crime, kill me yourself. Why bother taking me to your father?"
9 Jonathan answered, "That's unthinkable! If I knew for sure that my father had decided to harm you, I would have told you about it."
10 Then David asked, "Who will tell me whether or not your father gives you a harsh answer?"
11 Jonathan said, "Let's go out into the country." So they went out into the country.
12 "As the LORD God of Israel [is my witness]," Jonathan continued, "I'll find out in the next two or three days how my father feels about you. If he does feel kindly toward you, then I will send someone to tell you.
13 If my father plans to harm you and I fail to tell you and send you away safely, may the LORD harm me even more. May the LORD be with you as he used to be with my father.
14 But as long as I live, [promise me that you will] show me kindness because of the LORD. And even when I die,
15 never stop being kind to my family. The Lord will wipe each of David's enemies off the face of the earth.
16 At that time, if Jonathan's name is cut off from David's family, then may the LORD punish David's house."
17 Once again Jonathan swore an oath to David because of his love for David. He loved David as much as [he loved] himself.
18 "Tomorrow is the New Moon Festival," Jonathan told him, "and you will be missed when your seat is empty.
19 The day after tomorrow you will be missed even more. So go to the place where you hid on that other occasion, and stay by the rock.
20 I will shoot three arrows from beside it toward a target.
21 Then I will send out a boy and say, 'Go, find the arrows.' Now, if I tell the boy, 'Look, the arrows are next to you; get them,' then come [back with me]. You will be safe, and there will be no trouble. I swear it, as the LORD lives.
22 But if I tell the boy, 'The arrows are next to you,' then go, because the LORD has sent you away.
23 We have made a promise to each other, and the LORD is [a witness] between you and me forever."
24 So David hid in the countryside. When the New Moon Festival came, King Saul sat down to eat the festival meal.
25 He sat in his usual seat by the wall, while Jonathan stood. Abner sat beside Saul, but David's place was empty.
26 Saul didn't say anything that day, thinking, "Something has happened to him so that he's unclean. He must be unclean."
27 But on the second day of the month, David's place was still empty. Saul asked his son Jonathan, "Why hasn't Jesse's son come to the meal either yesterday or today?"
28 Jonathan answered Saul, "David repeatedly begged me [to let him go] to Bethlehem.
29 David said to me 'Please let me go. Our relatives will offer a sacrifice in the city, and my brother ordered me to be there. If you will permit it, please let me go to see my brothers.' This is why he hasn't come to your banquet."
30 Then Saul got angry with Jonathan. "Son of a crooked and rebellious woman!" he called Jonathan. "I know you've sided with Jesse's son. You have no shame. [You act] as if you are your mother's son but not mine.
31 As long as Jesse's son lives on earth, neither you nor your right to be king is secure. Now, send some men to bring him to me. He's a dead man!"
32 Jonathan asked his father, "Why should he be killed? What has he done?"
33 Saul raised his spear to strike him. Then Jonathan knew his father was determined to kill David.
34 Jonathan got up from the table very angry and ate nothing that second day of the month. He was worried sick about David because Jonathan had been humiliated by his own father.
35 In the morning Jonathan went out to the country to the place he and David had agreed on. Jonathan had a young boy with him.
36 "Run," he told the boy, "please find the arrows I shoot." The boy ran, and Jonathan shot the arrow over him.
37 When the boy reached the place where Jonathan's arrow [had landed], Jonathan called after him, "The arrows are next to you!"
38 Jonathan added, "Quick! Hurry up! Don't stand there!" Jonathan's young servant gathered the arrows and came to his master.
39 The boy had no idea what was going on, but Jonathan and David understood.
40 Then Jonathan gave his weapons to the boy. He told the boy, "Take them back into town."
41 When the boy had left, David came out from the south side [of the rock] and quickly bowed down three times with his face touching the ground. Then they kissed each other and cried together, but David cried the loudest.
42 "Go in peace!" Jonathan told David. "We have both taken an oath in the LORD's name, saying, 'The LORD will be [a witness] between me and you and between my descendants and your descendants forever.'" So David left, and Jonathan went into the city.

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.

Chapter Summary


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

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