1 Samuel 20

1 Then David ran away from Naioth in Ramah. He went to Jonathan and asked, "What have I done? What is my crime? How did I sin against your father? Why is he trying to kill me?"
2 Jonathan answered, "No! You won't die! See, my father doesn't do anything great or small without first telling me. Why would he keep this from me? It's not true!"
3 But David took an oath, saying, "Your father knows very well that you like me. He says to himself, 'Jonathan must not know about it, or he will tell David.' As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I am only a step away from death!"
4 Jonathan said to David, "I'll do anything you want me to do."
5 So David said, "Look, tomorrow is the New Moon festival. I am supposed to eat with the king, but let me hide in the field until the third evening.
6 If your father notices I am gone, tell him, 'David begged me to let him go to his hometown of Bethlehem. Every year at this time his family group offers a sacrifice.'
7 If your father says, 'Fine,' I am safe. But if he becomes angry, you will know that he wants to hurt me.
8 Jonathan, be loyal to me, your servant. You have made an agreement with me before the Lord. If I am guilty, you may kill me yourself! Why hand me over to your father?"
9 Jonathan answered, "No, never! If I learn that my father plans to hurt you, I will warn you!"
10 David asked, "Who will let me know if your father answers you unkindly?"
11 Then Jonathan said, "Come, let's go out into the field." So the two of them went out into the field.
12 Jonathan said to David, "I promise this before the Lord, the God of Israel: At this same time the day after tomorrow, I will find out how my father feels. If he feels good toward you, I will send word to you and let you know.
13 But if my father plans to hurt you, I will let you know and send you away safely. May the Lord punish me terribly if I don't do this. And may the Lord be with you as he has been with my father.
14 But show me the kindness of the Lord as long as I live so that I may not die.
15 You must never stop showing your kindness to my family, even when the Lord has destroyed all your enemies from the earth."
16 So Jonathan made an agreement with David. He said, "May the Lord hold David's enemies responsible."
17 And Jonathan asked David to repeat his promise of love for him, because he loved David as much as he loved himself.
18 Jonathan said to David, "Tomorrow is the New Moon festival. Your seat will be empty, so my father will miss you.
19 On the third day go to the place where you hid when this trouble began. Wait by the rock Ezel.
20 On the third day I will shoot three arrows to the side of the rock as if I am shooting at a target.
21 Then I will send a boy to find the arrows. If I say to him, 'The arrows are near you; bring them here,' you may come out of hiding. You are safe. As the Lord lives, there is no danger.
22 But if I say to the boy, 'Look, the arrows are beyond you,' you must go, because the Lord is sending you away.
23 Remember what we talked about. The Lord is a witness between you and me forever."
24 So David hid in the field. When the New Moon festival came, the king sat down to eat.
25 He sat where he always sat, near the wall. Jonathan sat across from him, and Abner sat next to Saul, but David's place was empty.
26 That day Saul said nothing. He thought, "Maybe something has happened to David so that he is unclean."
27 But the next day was the second day of the month, and David's place was still empty. So Saul said to Jonathan, "Why hasn't the son of Jesse come to the feast yesterday or today?"
28 Jonathan answered, "David begged me to let him go to Bethlehem.
29 He said, 'Let me go, because our family has a sacrifice in the town, and my brother has ordered me to be there. Now if I am your friend, please let me go to see my brothers.' That is why he has not come to the king's table."
30 Then Saul became very angry with Jonathan. He said, "You son of a wicked, worthless woman! I know you are on the side of David son of Jesse! You bring shame on yourself and on your mother who gave birth to you.
31 As long as Jesse's son lives, you will never be king or have a kingdom. Now send for David and bring him to me. He must die!"
32 Jonathan asked his father, "Why should David be killed? What wrong has he done?"
33 Then Saul threw his spear at Jonathan, trying to kill him. So Jonathan knew that his father really wanted to kill David.
34 Jonathan was very angry and left the table. That second day of the month he refused to eat. He was ashamed of his father and upset over David.
35 The next morning Jonathan went out to the field to meet David as they had agreed. He had a young boy with him.
36 Jonathan said to the boy, "Run and find the arrows I shoot." When he ran, Jonathan shot an arrow beyond him.
37 The boy ran to the place where Jonathan's arrow fell, but Jonathan called, "The arrow is beyond you!"
38 Then he shouted, "Hurry! Go quickly! Don't stop!" The boy picked up the arrow and brought it back to his master.
39 (The boy knew nothing about what this meant; only Jonathan and David knew.)
40 Then Jonathan gave his weapons to the boy and told him, "Go back to town."
41 When the boy left, David came out from the south side of the rock. He bowed facedown on the ground before Jonathan three times. Then David and Jonathan kissed each other and cried together, but David cried the most.
42 Jonathan said to David, "Go in peace. We have promised by the Lord that we will be friends. We said, 'The Lord will be a witness between you and me, and between our descendants always.'" Then David left, and Jonathan went back to town.

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

Scripture taken from the New Century Version. Copyright © 1987, 1988, 1991 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.