1 Samuel 20

1 David fled from Naioth in Ramah. He came before Jonathan and said, "What have I done? What is my guilt? And what is my sin against your father that he is trying to take my life?"
2 He said to him, "Far from it! You shall not die. My father does nothing either great or small without disclosing it to me; and why should my father hide this from me? Never!"
3 But David also swore, "Your father knows well that you like me; and he thinks, "Do not let Jonathan know this, or he will be grieved.' But truly, as the Lord lives and as you yourself live, there is but a step between me and death."
4 Then Jonathan said to David, "Whatever you say, I will do for you."
5 David said to Jonathan, "Tomorrow is the new moon, and I should not fail to sit with the king at the meal; but let me go, so that I may hide in the field until the third evening.
6 If your father misses me at all, then say, "David earnestly asked leave of me to run to Bethlehem his city; for there is a yearly sacrifice there for all the family.'
7 If he says, "Good!' it will be well with your servant; but if he is angry, then know that evil has been determined by him.
8 Therefore deal kindly with your servant, for you have brought your servant into a sacred covenant with you. But if there is guilt in me, kill me yourself; why should you bring me to your father?"
9 Jonathan said, "Far be it from you! If I knew that it was decided by my father that evil should come upon you, would I not tell you?"
10 Then David said to Jonathan, "Who will tell me if your father answers you harshly?"
11 Jonathan replied to David, "Come, let us go out into the field." So they both went out into the field.
12 Jonathan said to David, "By the Lord, the God of Israel! When I have sounded out my father, about this time tomorrow, or on the third day, if he is well disposed toward David, shall I not then send and disclose it to you?
13 But if my father intends to do you harm, the Lord do so to Jonathan, and more also, if I do not disclose it to you, and send you away, so that you may go in safety. May the Lord be with you, as he has been with my father.
14 If I am still alive, show me the faithful love of the Lord; but if I die,
15 never cut off your faithful love from my house, even if the Lord were to cut off every one of the enemies of David from the face of the earth."
16 Thus Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, "May the Lord seek out the enemies of David."
17 Jonathan made David swear again by his love for him; for he loved him as he loved his own life.
18 Jonathan said to him, "Tomorrow is the new moon; you will be missed, because your place will be empty.
19 On the day after tomorrow, you shall go a long way down; go to the place where you hid yourself earlier, and remain beside the stone there.
20 I will shoot three arrows to the side of it, as though I shot at a mark.
21 Then I will send the boy, saying, "Go, find the arrows.' If I say to the boy, "Look, the arrows are on this side of you, collect them,' then you are to come, for, as the Lord lives, it is safe for you and there is no danger.
22 But if I say to the young man, "Look, the arrows are beyond you,' then go; for the Lord has sent you away.
23 As for the matter about which you and I have spoken, the Lord is witness between you and me forever."
24 So David hid himself in the field. When the new moon came, the king sat at the feast to eat.
25 The king sat upon his seat, as at other times, upon the seat by the wall. Jonathan stood, while Abner sat by Saul's side; but David's place was empty.
26 Saul did not say anything that day; for he thought, "Something has befallen him; he is not clean, surely he is not clean."
27 But on the second day, the day after the new moon, David's place was empty. And Saul said to his son Jonathan, "Why has the son of Jesse not come to the feast, either yesterday or today?"
28 Jonathan answered Saul, "David earnestly asked leave of me to go to Bethlehem;
29 he said, "Let me go; for our family is holding a sacrifice in the city, and my brother has commanded me to be there. So now, if I have found favor in your sight, let me get away, and see my brothers.' For this reason he has not come to the king's table."
30 Then Saul's anger was kindled against Jonathan. He said to him, "You son of a perverse, rebellious woman! Do I not know that you have chosen the son of Jesse to your own shame, and to the shame of your mother's nakedness?
31 For as long as the son of Jesse lives upon the earth, neither you nor your kingdom shall be established. Now send and bring him to me, for he shall surely die."
32 Then Jonathan answered his father Saul, "Why should he be put to death? What has he done?"
33 But Saul threw his spear at him to strike him; so Jonathan knew that it was the decision of his father to put David to death.
34 Jonathan rose from the table in fierce anger and ate no food on the second day of the month, for he was grieved for David, and because his father had disgraced him.
35 In the morning Jonathan went out into the field to the appointment with David, and with him was a little boy.
36 He said to the boy, "Run and find the arrows that I shoot." As the boy ran, he shot an arrow beyond him.
37 When the boy came to the place where Jonathan's arrow had fallen, Jonathan called after the boy and said, "Is the arrow not beyond you?"
38 Jonathan called after the boy, "Hurry, be quick, do not linger." So Jonathan's boy gathered up the arrows and came to his master.
39 But the boy knew nothing; only Jonathan and David knew the arrangement.
40 Jonathan gave his weapons to the boy and said to him, "Go and carry them to the city."
41 As soon as the boy had gone, David rose from beside the stone heap and prostrated himself with his face to the ground. He bowed three times, and they kissed each other, and wept with each other; David wept the more.
42 Then Jonathan said to David, "Go in peace, since both of us have sworn in the name of the Lord, saying, "The Lord shall be between me and you, and between my descendants and your descendants, forever.' " 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 7

  • [a]. Heb [a covenant of the Lord]
  • [b]. Meaning of Heb uncertain
  • [c]. Meaning of Heb uncertain
  • [d]. Gk: Heb lacks [witness]
  • [e]. Gk: Heb [from beside the south]
  • [f]. Vg: Meaning of Heb uncertain
  • [g]. This sentence is 21.1 in Heb

Chapter Summary

INTRODUCTION TO FIRST SAMUEL 20

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