1 Samuel 20

Jonathan Supports David over Saul

1 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 is] {trying to kill me}?
2 And he said to him, "Far from it! You will not die! Look, my father does not do {anything large or small unless he reveals it to me}. Why should my father hide this thing or anything from me?"
3 Then David {took an oath} again and said, "Your father knows very well that I have found favor in your eyes, and he thought, 'Do not let Jonathan know this, lest he worry.' But {as Yahweh lives} and {as your soul lives}, surely [there is] merely a step between me and death!"
4 Then Jonathan said to David, "{Whatever you wish}, I will do for you."
5 David said to Jonathan, "Look, tomorrow [is] the new moon, and I should certainly sit with the king to eat. You must send me away so that I can hide myself in the field until the third evening.
6 If your father misses me at all, then you must say, 'David earnestly asked from me to run to Bethlehem his city, for {the yearly sacrifice} [is] there for all the clan.'
7 If he says 'Good,' [it will mean] peace for your servant; but if he [is] very angry, know that {he has decided to do me harm}.
8 So you must show loyal love to your servant, for you have brought your servant into a covenant of Yahweh with you. But if there [is] guilt in me, [then] kill me yourself! But why should you bring me to your father?"
9 Then Jonathan said, "Far be it from you! For if I know for certain that {my father decided evil should come upon you}, would I not have told it to you?"
10 Then David said to Jonathan, "Who will tell me if what your father answers you [is] harsh?"
11 And Jonathan said to David, "Come, let us go out to the field." So the two of them went out to the field.
12 Then Jonathan said to David, "Yahweh the God of Israel [is my witness] that I will question my father {by this time the day after tomorrow}. And look, {if he is well disposed toward you}, will I not send [word] to you and {disclose it to you}?
13 {So may Yahweh punish Jonathan and more} if {my father decides to do you harm} and if {I fail to disclose it to you} and send word to you that you can go safely. And may Yahweh be with you, as he has been with my father.
14 And not while I am still alive, will you not show the loyal love of Yahweh with me, that I may not die?
15 And do not cut off your loyal love from {my family} forever, not [even] when Yahweh {exterminates} each of the enemies of David from the face of the earth."
16 So Jonathan {made a covenant} with the house of David, [saying,] "May Yahweh {call the enemies of David to account}."
17 And Jonathan again made David swear an oath, because he loved him; for with the love of his soul he loved him.
18 Then Jonathan said to him, "Tomorrow [is] the new moon, and you will be missed, for your seat will stay empty.
19 On the third day you must go down quickly and go to the place where you hid yourself {on the day all this started} and remain beside the stone Ezel.
20 I will shoot three arrows [to the] side as [if] I were shooting at a target.
21 {Then} I will send [word to] my servant, 'Go, find the arrows!' If I clearly say to the boy, 'Look, the arrows [are] {on this side of you}; {bring} it,' then come, for [it means] peace for you. And there is no problem, {as Yahweh lives}.
22 But if I say this to the young man, 'Look, the arrows [are] {beyond you},' go, for Yahweh has sent you away.
23 And [as for] the matter about which you and I spoke, look, Yahweh [is] between you and me forever."
24 So David hid himself in the field. {When the new moon came}, {the king was seated at the feast}.
25 The king sat at his seat {as before}, the seat by the wall, and Jonathan got up, and Abner sat beside Saul, but David's place was empty.
26 But Saul said nothing on that day, for he thought, "{Something happened to him}. He [is] not [ceremonially] clean; surely he [is] not clean."
27 {And then} on the next day, the second day of the new moon, that David's place was empty. So Saul asked Jonathan his son, "Why did the son of Jesse not come either yesterday or today to the feast?"
28 Jonathan answered Saul, "David earnestly asked permission from me [to go] up to Bethlehem.
29 He said, 'Send me away, please, for our clan sacrifice [is] in the city, and my brother commanded me [to be present]. So then, if I have found favor in your eyes, please let me slip away and see my brothers.' Therefore he has not come to the table of the king."
30 Then {Saul became angry} at Jonathan and said to him, "[You] son of a perverse, rebellious woman! Do I not know that you have chosen the son of Jesse to your shame and to the shame of your mother's nakedness?
31 For {as long as} the son of Jesse [is] alive on the earth, you and your kingdom will not be established! So then, send and bring him to me, for {he will surely die}!"
32 But Jonathan answered his father Saul and said to him, "Why should he be put to death? What has he done?"
33 Then Saul hurled his spear at him to kill him. So Jonathan knew {that his father had decided} to kill David.
34 Jonathan got up from the table {enraged}, and did not eat on the second day of the new moon because he was upset about David, because his father had disgraced him.
35 {And then} in the morning Jonathan went out to the field for the appointment with David, and a young boy [was] with him.
36 He said to his servant, "Run, please find the arrows that I am shooting!" The boy ran, and he shot the arrow to pass [over] him.
37 When the boy came up to the place of the arrow that Jonathan had shot, Jonathan called out after the boy and said, "[Is] not the arrow {beyond you}?"
38 Then Jonathan called out after the boy, "Quick, hurry, do not linger!" And Jonathan's servant collected the arrows and came to his master.
39 But the boy did not know anything [about this]; only Jonathan and David knew the matter.
40 Jonathan gave his weapons to his servant and said to him, "Go, bring [them] to the city."
41 The boy left, and then David got up from the south side, and he fell on his face to the ground and bowed three times. And they kissed {each other} and wept {together}, but David [wept] the most.
42 Jonathan said to David, "Go in peace, because we have sworn, the two of us, [an oath] in the name of Yahweh, saying, "Yahweh will be between me and you, and between my offspring and your offspring forever." Then he got up and 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.

Footnotes 51

  • [a]. Literally "seeking my life"
  • [b]. The Masoretic Hebrew text (Kethib) reads "he does to/for him"; the translation follows the reading tradition (Qere) which has "does not do"
  • [c]. Literally "a large thing or a small thing and he [does] not reveal [to] my ear"
  • [d]. Literally "swore"
  • [e]. Literally "the life of Yahweh"
  • [f]. Literally "[the] life of your soul"
  • [g]. Literally "What your soul says"
  • [h]. Literally "the sacrifice of the days"
  • [i]. Literally "the evil has been determined from with him"
  • [j]. Literally "the evil [is] determined from with my father to come over you"
  • [k]. The phrase "is my witness" is supplied based on the Syriac version
  • [l]. Literally "as the time tomorrow the third"
  • [m]. Literally "[if he is] good to David"
  • [n]. Literally "I will reveal [it to] your ear"
  • [o]. Literally "So may Yahweh do to Jonathan and so may he add"
  • [p]. Literally "the evil over you [is] regarded as good by my father"
  • [q]. Literally "I will reveal [it] to your ear"
  • [r]. Or perhaps "and [if] I die, may you not ..."
  • [s]. Literally "my house"
  • [t]. Literally "cuts off"
  • [u]. Literally "cut [a covenant]"
  • [v]. Literally "seek from the hand of the enemies of David"
  • [w]. Literally "on the day of the deed"
  • [x]. Literally "And look"
  • [y]. Literally "from you and here"
  • [z]. Literally "take"
  • [aa]. Hebrew "and"
  • [ab]. Literally "the life of Yahweh"
  • [ac]. Literally "from you and beyond"
  • [ad]. Literally "And it was the new moon"
  • [ae]. Literally "the king sat at the food to eat"
  • [af]. Literally "as occurrence at occurrence"
  • [ag]. Literally "It [is] incident"
  • [ah]. Literally "And it happened"
  • [ai]. Or "urged"
  • [aj]. Literally "the nose of Saul became hot"
  • [ak]. Or "bastard of a wayward woman" (HALOT 796)
  • [al]. Literally "all the days which"
  • [am]. Literally "he [is] a son of death"
  • [an]. Hebrew "the"
  • [ao]. Literally "it was complete from with his father"
  • [ap]. Literally "with burning of nose"
  • [aq]. Literally "And it happened"
  • [ar]. Or "young servant"
  • [as]. Or "boy"
  • [at]. Or "servant"
  • [au]. Literally "from you and beyond"
  • [av]. So Masoretic Hebrew text; LXX reads "from the mound" (of stones)
  • [aw]. Literally "each his friend"
  • [ax]. Literally "each with his friend"
  • [ay]. In the Hebrew Bible, 1 Sam 21 begins here. 1 Samuel 20:42b-21:15 in the English Bible is 21:1-16 in the Hebrew Bible

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

Scripture quotations marked (LEB) are from the Lexham English Bible. Copyright 2012 Logos Bible Software. Lexham is a registered trademark of Logos Bible Software.