1 Samuel 20

Jonathan Helps David Get Away

1 David was in Naioth at Ramah. He ran away from there to where Jonathan was. He asked him, "What have I done? What crime have I committed? I haven't done anything to harm your father. So why is he trying to kill me?"
2 "That will never happen!" Jonathan replied. "You aren't going to die! My father doesn't do anything at all without telling me. So why would he hide that from me? He isn't going to kill you!"
3 But David took an oath. Then he said, "Your father knows very well that you are pleased with me. He has said to himself, 'I don't want Jonathan to know I'm planning to kill David. If he finds out, he'll be very sad.' But I'm very close to being killed. And that's just as sure as the LORD and you are alive."
4 Jonathan said to David, "I'll do anything you want me to do for you."
5 So David said, "Tomorrow is the time for the New Moon Feast. I'm supposed to eat with the king. But let me go and hide in the field. I'll stay there until the evening of the day after tomorrow.
6 Your father might miss me. If he does, then tell him, 'David begged me to let him hurry home to Bethlehem. A yearly sacrifice is being offered there for his whole family group.'
7 Your father might say, 'That's all right.' If he does, it will mean I'm safe. But he might become very angry. If he does, you can be sure he's made up his mind to harm me.
8 "Please be kind to me. You have made a covenant with me in the sight of the Lord. If I'm guilty, kill me yourself! Don't hand me over to your father!"
9 "I would never do that!" Jonathan said. "Suppose I had even the smallest clue that my father had made up his mind to harm you. Then I would tell you."
10 David asked, "Who will tell me if your father answers you in a mean way?"
11 "Come on," Jonathan said. "Let's go out to the field." So they went there together.
12 Then Jonathan spoke to David. He said, "I promise you that I'll find out what my father is planning to do. I'll find out by this time the day after tomorrow. The Lord, the God of Israel, is my witness. Suppose my father feels kind toward you. Then I'll send you a message and let you know.
13 But suppose he wants to harm you. And I don't let you know about it. I don't help you get away safely. Then may the LORD punish me greatly. May he be with you, just as he has been with my father.
14 "But always be kind to me, just as the LORD is. Be kind to me as long as I live. Then I won't be killed.
15 And never stop being kind to my family. Don't stop even when the LORD has cut off every one of your enemies from the face of the earth."
16 So Jonathan made a covenant with David and his family. He said, "May the LORD make David's enemies accountable for what they've done."
17 Jonathan had David take an oath again because he loved him. In fact, Jonathan loved David just as he loved himself.
18 Then Jonathan said to David, "Tomorrow is the time for the New Moon Feast. You will be missed, because your seat at the table will be empty.
19 Go to the place where you hid when all of this trouble began. Go there the day after tomorrow, when evening is approaching. There's a stone out there called Ezel.
20 Wait by it. "I'll shoot three arrows to one side of the stone. I'll pretend I'm practicing my shooting.
21 Then I'll send a boy out there. I'll tell him, 'Go and find the arrows.' Suppose I say to him, 'The arrows are on this side of you. Bring them here.' Then come. That will mean you are safe. You won't be in any danger. And that's just as sure as the LORD is alive.
22 But suppose I tell the boy, 'The arrows are far beyond you.' Then go. That will mean the LORD is sending you away.
23 "And remember what we talked about. Remember that the LORD is a witness between you and me forever."
24 So David hid in the field. When the time for the New Moon Feast came, the king sat down to eat.
25 He sat in his usual place by the wall. Jonathan sat across from him. Abner sat next to Saul. But David's place was empty.
26 Saul didn't say anything that day. He said to himself, "Something must have happened to David to make him 'unclean.' That must be why he isn't here."
27 But the next day, David's place was empty again. It was the second day of the month. Finally, Saul spoke to his son Jonathan. He said, "Why hasn't the son of Jesse come to the meal? He hasn't been here yesterday or today."
28 Jonathan replied, "David begged me to let him go to Bethlehem.
29 He said, 'Let me go. Our family is offering a sacrifice in the town. My brother has ordered me to be there. Are you pleased with me? If you are, let me go and see my brothers.' That's why he hasn't come to eat at your table."
30 Saul burned with anger against Jonathan. He said to him, "You are an evil son. You have refused to obey me. I know that you are on the side of Jesse's son. You should be ashamed of that. And your mother should be ashamed of having a son like you.
31 You will never be king as long as Jesse's son lives on this earth. And you will never have a kingdom either. So send for the son of Jesse. Bring him to me. He must die!"
32 "Why do you want to put him to death?" Jonathan asked his father. "What has he done?"
33 But Saul threw his spear at Jonathan to kill him. Then Jonathan knew that his father wanted to kill David.
34 So Jonathan got up from the table. He was burning with anger. On that second day of the month, he refused to eat. He was very sad that his father was treating David so badly.
35 The next morning Jonathan went out to the field to meet David. He took a young boy with him.
36 He said to the boy, "Run and find the arrows I shoot." As the boy ran, Jonathan shot an arrow far beyond him.
37 The boy came to the place where Jonathan's arrow had fallen. Then Jonathan shouted to him, "The arrow went far beyond you, didn't it?"
38 He continued, "Hurry up! Run fast! Don't stop!" The boy picked up the arrow and returned to his master.
39 The boy didn't know what was going on. Only Jonathan and David knew.
40 Jonathan gave his weapons to the boy. He told him, "Go back to town. Take the weapons with you."
41 After the boy had gone, David got up from the south side of the stone. He bowed down in front of Jonathan with his face to the ground. He did it three times. Then they kissed each other and cried. But David cried more than Jonathan did.
42 Jonathan said to David, "Go in peace. In the name of the LORD we have taken an oath. We've promised to be friends. We've said, 'The LORD is a witness between you and me. He's a witness between your children and my children forever.' " Then David left, and Jonathan went back to the 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

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