I Samuel 20
JONATHAN ENDEAVOURS TO RECONCILE SAUL TO DAVID
JONATHAN’S COVENANT WITH DAVID RENEWED
1 "And David fled from Naioth in Ramah, and came and said before
Jonathan, What have I done? what is mine iniquity? and what is
my sin before thy father, that he seeketh my life?"
David fled from Naioth. While Saul was under the influence of
the prophetic enthusiasm David escaped; but it is evident that this visit to
Samuel, and the extraordinary occurrences which attended it, were not
without, a good influence for the time upon Saul’s mind. Some sort of
reconciliation must have been patched up, probably by the mediation of
Samuel; for David assumed that at the new moon be would be expected to
dine at the king’s table (v. 5), and that Saul would look for him as a
matter of course (v. 6). We find, moreover, that his place was made
ready, not only on the new moon (v. 25), but also on the following day
(v. 26). But whatever professions Saul may have made to Samuel, it is
evident that no promise had been made personally to David, and taught by
past experience that the intention of slaying him had grown more and more
fixed in the king’s mind, he feels that his position is full of danger, and
takes counsel with Jonathan, with the view of learning whether he might
venture once again to take his place as a member of Saul s family.
2 "And he said unto him, God forbid; thou shalt not die: behold, my
father will do nothing either great or small, but that he will shew it
me: and why should my father hide this thing from me? it is not so."
God forbid. An exclamation of horror; literally, “Far be it” (see
on ch. 9:45). In spite of the many proofs of Saul’s bitter hatred,
Jonathan cannot believe that after all that had taken place at Ramah his
father would still persist in his murderous purpose. He further assures
David that Saul would do nothing without telling him; literally, without
uncovering his ear, without telling it him privately (see on ch. 9:15).
The phrase is used again in v. 12. For will do nothing the written text
reads “has done for himself,” which the Kri properly corrects. The rashness
of Saul’s temper, and his frank talk about killing David recorded in ch.19:1,
confirm Jonathan’s statement about the openness of his father’s ways, and he
therefore assures David that he may take his place in safety.
3 "And David swear moreover, and said, Thy father certainly knoweth
that I have found grace in thine eyes; and he saith, Let not Jonathan
know this, lest he be grieved: but truly as the LORD liveth, and as
thy soul liveth, there is but a step between me and death. 4 Then said
Jonathan unto David, Whatsoever thy soul desireth, I will even do it for
thee." Thy father certainly knoweth, etc. Though Saul did not
know the entireness of Jonathan’s love for David, yet he was aware of the
friendship that existed between them, and consequently might keep his
purpose a secret from Jonathan, especially if he considered that his
frankness in speaking openly to his son and servants on a previous
occasion had led to David’s escape. David, therefore, urges upon his friend
a different course, to which he assents. But how are we to explain the
entirely different views taken of Saul’s conduct by the two. When David
tells his fears Jonathan utters an exclamation of horror, and says, “Thou
shalt not die.” Yet he knew that his father had talked to him and his
officers about putting David to death; that he had tried to kill him with his
own hand, and on his escape had set people to watch his house with orders
to slay him; and on David’s flight to the prophet had thrice sent emissaries
to bring him away by force. The explanation probably lies in Saul s
insanity. When he threw his javelin at David and during the subsequent
proceedings he was out of his mind. The violent fit at Naioth had for the
time cleared his reason, and he had come back sane. Jonathan regarded all
that had taken place as the effect of a mind diseased, and concluded,
therefore, that David might now return to his home and wife, and resume
his duties and take his place at the royal table. Should the old craze come
back about David being his rival and destined successor, Saul would be
sure to talk about it, and then Jonathan would give him timely warning.
But David was convinced that it was no craze, but that Saul, sane or
insane, had determined upon his death.
Only a Step (v. 3)
Our path in life lies along the brink of a river or the edge of a cliff; and we
may by a step — a single step — at any moment meet our fate. The
asseveration of David may be regarded as the expression of a strong
conviction (“As Jehovah liveth,” etc.) of:
familiar scenes and beloved friends, to “be missed” from our accustomed
place is a saddening thought. But what gives solemnity to death as well as
life is its moral aspect, its spiritual and Divine relations.
Ø It terminates our earthly probation — severs our immediate connection
with the privileges, means, and opportunities by which character is proved
and the soul prepared for another state. When this step is taken, all these
things belong to the past.
Ø It ushers us into THE DIVINE PRESENCE, no longer partially concealed
by the veil of material things, but fully revealed in light, which reveals the
moral attitude of every human spirit and judges it “in righteousness.”
“After death” (and following close upon it) “the judgment” (Hebrews
9:27). “We must all be manifest before the judgment seat of Christ,” etc.
(II Corinthians 5:10).
Ø It fixes our future destiny, in weal or woe. “What is a man profited
if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?" (Matthew 16:26)
know not. That we may be duly impressed by a truth which all admit, but
few adequately realize, consider:
Ø The frailty of the body, and the innumerable dangers to which it is
exposed. “Between us and hell or heaven there is nothing but life, the
most fragile thing in existence (Pascal).
Ø The facts of daily observation. What occurs to others so often, so
suddenly and unexpectedly, may occur to ourselves. We have no guarantee
that it will not. “Man’s uncertain life is like a raindrop on the bough, amid
ten thousand of its sparkling kindred, and at any moment it may fall.”
Ø The declarations of the Divine word. “Man knoweth not his time,” etc.
(Ecclesiastes 9:12). “Ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For
what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time,
and then vanisheth away!” (James 4:14). Why should we be left in such
o To teach us the sovereignty of God and our dependence upon Him.
o To accord with our present probationary position, which necessitates
the proper adjustment of motives to our freedom and responsibility.
o To enable us properly to perform the ordinary duties of life, in
connection with which we are appointed to serve God here and
prepare for His service hereafter.
o To check presumption in devoting undue attention to the affairs of this
life and neglecting those of the life to come.
o To lead us not to put the event out of our minds altogether, but rather
to constant preparation for it and for the life that lies beyond. “The
last day is kept secret that every day may be watched” (Augustine).
Whether death or Christ's coming -“Take ye heed, watch and pray,
for ye know not when the time is” (Mark 13:33). “Be ye therefore
ready also, for the Son of man cometh at an hour ye think not!"
any instant the step may be taken, it plainly behoves us TO BE ALWAYS
Ø By seeking and maintaining a right state of heart (John 3:2,14).
Ø By diligent, faithful, and persevering performance of duty.
Ø By constant and prayerful committal of our souls into the hands
So, whenever the step is taken, it will be “only a step” out of the shadows
and sorrows of earth into the glory and joy of heaven.
Mortal Peril (v. 3)
Brave men have their times of depression, and believing men have their fits
of discouragement. Of David’s courage there could be no question. He had
faced death without flinching, both in defense of his flock from beasts of
prey, and for the deliverance of
now recoiled, saying, “There is but a step between me and death.” He felt
as on the edge of a precipice. One push, and he was gone. We need not
wonder at this; for it is one thing to meet an enemy in the open field,
another thing to feel that one’s steps are dogged by treacherous malice,
and not know but one may be attacked in his sleep, or struck from behind,
or entrapped by some cruel stratagem. Of David’s faith in God there could
be just as little question as of his bravery. All the successes he had gained
had been triumphs of faith. But temperament goes for something too, and
the son of Jesse had the sensitive nature which goes with poetic genius. He
was capable of great exultation, but just as capable of sudden
discouragement; and when he gave way to a foreboding, melancholy mood,
his faith looked like unbelief. The young and healthy cannot, should not,
wish to die. We can feel for Henry Kirke White, though his tone was too
gloomy, when he wrote, deprecating his early fate:
“It is hard
To feel the hand of Death arrest one’s steps
Throw a chill blight o’er all one’s budding hopes,
And hurl one’s soul untimely to the shades.”
Poets, both heathen and Christian, have often deplored the disease and
violence which cast young lives headlong from the precipice. And we
regard the youthful David’s recoil from the cruel death which Saul
designed for him as quite natural, and in no sense discreditable to his
manhood. But there is more than this in his melancholy.
days before Christ, dimness overhung the doctrine of a future existence.
“Life and incorruption” had not been brought to light (II Timothy 1:10). It
was therefore reckoned a
blessing to live long in
to die in one’s youth. The
excitement of battle; and such prophets as Elijah and Jonah could even wish
for death in a hurt and discouraged mood of mind; but, as a rule, even the most
devout Hebrews regarded death with sadness and reluctance. No wonder
that David, brought up in the ideas of his own age, not of ours, should
shrink from the cutting short of his days by violence, just when he had won
distinction, and begun to be of service to his nation. The horror of it hung
above him for many a day; for even after many wonderful escapes we hear
him say, “I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul.” (ch. 27:1)
This sadness or reluctance in view of death never left an Old Testament worthy
like David except in the hour of battle, or under some such strong emotion as
once made him cry, “Would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my
son!” (II Samuel 18:33) At the end of his career he made express mention in
his song of thanksgiving of his deliverance from the “sorrows” and the “snares
of death” (II Samuel 22.). And when we see him in old age, anxiously nursed
that his days might be prolonged, we catch no sign of a spirit longing to be
free and assured of being with the Lord, such as one expects to find in the
latter days of almost any eminent Christian. “Now the days of David drew
nigh that he should die, and he charged Solomon his son, saying, I go the
way of all the earth.” (I Kings 2:1) Compare the language in Psalm 13:3;
30:9; 88:11; and that of Hezekiah in Isaiah 38. Contrast with this the
contempt of death which was admired and often exhibited by the heathen. But
the Hebrew feeling on the subject was really the more exalted, as having a
perception of the connection of death with sin, and a value for communion
with the living God in the land which was His, and therefore theirs, of
which the heathen mind knew nothing.
Ø Contrast with the case of David in youth
that of Stephen at
evidently young, or in the prime of life. His powers were at the full, and a
distinguished career of usefulness among the Hellenist Jews opened before
him. Those who entered into controversy with Stephen “were not able to resist
the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake.” (Acts 6:10) Suddenly the
enraged Jews seized him, and dragged him before the Sanhedrim on the capital
charge of blasphemy. Well did Stephen know that there was but a step between
him and death; but no melancholy fell upon his spirit. “All that sat in the
council, looking steadfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of
an angel.” (ibid. v. 15)
Ø Contrast with the case of David in old age that of “such an one as Paul
the aged” (Philemon 1:9), and his feeling when he was “ready to be offered,”
and the time of his departure was at hand. (II Timothy 4:6) He too was a man
of sensitive temperament, and suffered keenly at times from dejection. He too
was careful not to throw his life away. But when there seemed but a step
between him and death, what an access of light, what an advance of
consolation and hope, had the servant of God in the New Testament
over the servant of God in the Old! David said, “I go the way of all the earth.”
(I Kings 2:2) But Paul, “We are confident, and willing rather to be absent
from the body and present with the Lord.” (II Corinthians 5:8) O happy
ending of this troubled life! O welcome escape from fleshly impediment,
weariness, temptation, insufficiency, and sorrow!
is the Son of David, and the Lord of Stephen and of Paul, saw in the very
prime of youthful manhood that there was but a step between Him and
death, and that too a death of harsh violence such as his ancestor had
feared. There was, however, this difference between “the Man Christ
Jesus” and all other men — that He knew when, where, and how He should
die. It was to be at
very day on which He should “be perfected,” and indicated that it would be
by crucifixion in saying that the Son of man would be “lifted up from the
earth.” (John 12:32) From such knowledge it is well that we are exempt.
To know the place, time, and manner of our death would tempt, perhaps,
at first to carelessness; and then, as the date came near, would put a strain
on our spirits very hard to be borne. Such a strain was upon Christ, and, as
the bitter death approached, his spirit was “exceeding sorrowful.” (Matthew
26:38) As David had his friend Jonathan to show him sympathy and endeavor
to drive from his mind the presentiment of death, so Jesus Christ had His
disciples, who, as loved ones and friends, besought Him not to think of dying;
but He could not take comfort from them. The cup which his Father had given
him to drink, should He not drink it? (John 18:11) To Him death was gain.
He finished all His work and travail, then left the world and went to the Father.
“Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” (Luke 23:46) We have much
to learn from David, more from Stephen and Paul, MOST OF ALL from our
Lord Jesus. What if there be but a step between us and death? It is a step
which cannot be taken but as, and when, and where our Lord appoints.
“Lord Jesus, into thy hands I commit my spirit!” (Acts 7:59) “Absent from
the body, present with the Lord.” (II Corinthians 5:8)
5 "And David said unto Jonathan, Behold, to morrow is the new
moon, and I should not fail to sit with the king at meat: but let me
go, that I may hide myself in the field unto the third day at even.
6 If thy father at all miss me, then say, David earnestly asked leave
of me that he
might run to
sacrifice there for all the family. 7 If he say thus, It is well; thy servant
shall have peace: but if he be very wroth, then be sure that evil is determined
by him." Tomorrow is the new moon. The first day of the new moon
was a joyful festival, its appearance being greeted with the sounding of
trumpets, and celebrated by a burnt offering and a sin offering. It was,
moreover, kept by Saul as a family festival, at which David, as his son-in-law,
was expected to be present. As, moreover, David was to hide unto
the third day at even, counting from the time when he was arranging his
plans with Jonathan, it is plain that it was the rule to prolong the feasting
unto the second day. When then Jonathan, convinced by David’s pleading,
had consented to aid him in his own way, they arrange that he shall absent
himself from this festival, and remain during it hidden out of sight. In case
Saul missed him and asked the reason of his absence, Jonathan was to offer
as an excuse for him that he had earnestly requested leave to pay a hurried
took the excuse in good part it would be a sign that he had no malicious
purposes towards David, whereas if he fell into a rage it would be a proof
of a settled evil design. A yearly sacrifice for all the family. For all the
mishpachah, i.e. not for all Jesse’s household, but for all that subdivision
of the tribe of
families, and these again into fathers’ houses (Joshua 7:16-17). The
occasion would thus be a grand one. In ch.16:2 we have an
instance of a special sacrifice at
mishpachah was held every year; and evidently before the temple was built
there was such a festival, and that the fictitious part of Jonathan’s story
was that David had been summoned to it.
8 "Therefore thou shalt deal kindly with thy servant; for thou hast
brought thy servant into a covenant of the LORD with thee:
notwithstanding, if there be in me iniquity, slay me thyself; for why
shouldest thou bring me to thy father?" Thou hast brought thy servant
into a covenant of Jehovah with thee. As the friendship between Jonathan
and David had been cemented by the invocation of the name of Jehovah,
it was one firm and assured, and David might look not merely for one act of
kindness, but for constant truth and help. It was, moreover, Jonathan’s own
doing; and yet, if there be in me, David says, iniquity, i.e. treason against Saul,
if I have not been a faithful and true servant to him, but, on the contrary, have
plotted evil against him, or now entertain any evil designs, then let the
covenant be abrogated. David refuses to shelter himself under it if he has
incurred guilt, and only asks that Jonathan, by the authority which he
exercised as the king’s son, should himself put him to death, and not
deliver him up to Saul
9 "And Jonathan said, Far be it from thee: for if I knew certainly that
evil were determined by my father to come upon thee, then would not
I tell it thee?" Far be it, the word rendered God forbid in v. 2. It indignantly
rejects the idea of David having committed any crime. The rest of the verse
is an incomplete sentence: “If I knew certainly that evil were determined by
my father to come upon thee, and did not tell thee –” These broken
sentences have great force in the original, as signs of intense feeling (compare
Luke 19:42). We must complete the sentence mentally in some such
way as the Syriac: “then Jehovah do so to me, and more also.”
10 "Then said David to Jonathan, Who shall tell me? or what if thy
father answer thee roughly?" Who shall tell me? or what if, etc. The if is
an insertion of the Authorized Version. Really David’s question is very involved
and ungrammatical, as was natural in his excited state. It may be translated,
“Who will tell me (or, how shall I know) what rough answer thy father will
give thee?” But some Jewish authorities render, “Who will tell me if so be that
thy father give thee a rough answer?”
Endangered Life and Reputation (vs. 1-10)
The facts are:
1. David, believing in Saul’s purpose to kill him, flees to Jonathan, and
inquires into the cause of this persecution.
2. Jonathan quiets him by the assurance that Saul would not hide any
purpose from him.
3. On David referring to Saul’s knowledge of their friendship and its effect
on his methods, Jonathan expresses readiness to do whatever David may
4. Thereupon David suggests a means by which Saul’s disposition towards
him can be ascertained.
5. He further pleads, on the ground of their strong friendship, that Jonathan
should slay or aid to deliver him.
It is not improbable that the coming of the prophetic spirit on Saul was, among other
reasons, designed to help him once more to a due consideration of his course. But
by this time David appears to have awakened to the conviction that the recent
attempts on his life were not to be ascribed to fitful outbursts of madness, but to a
fixed purpose, for reasons he could not surmise. As then he had sought refuge
with Samuel from the hand of passionate violence, so now he naturally turns to
his beloved friend Jonathan to ascertain from one presumably in his father’s
secrets the causes of this persistent attempt on his life, and to demand of him
the offices of true friendship. A triple consciousness pervades this appeal of
David: namely, of integrity, of danger, of duty of self-preservation.
David was quite unaware of the secret of Saul’s conduct. It is probable that
he knew nothing of that fearful doom pronounced by Samuel (ch. 15:26-29)
which had operated so disastrously on the guilty mind of Saul. With the
innocence of an unworldly man, he could not imagine that a
monarch reigning over the people of God could ever devise destruction
against a subject unless he believed that subject to have committed some
crime worthy of death. Possibly the king might be under an unfounded
impression; and as Jonathan was heir to the throne and in his father’s
confidence, he would surely inform his friend. At all events, so far as he
knew his own heart, he was conscious only of integrity. “What have I
done? What is mine iniquity?” In dealing with the important matter
involved in these questions, let us observe that —
Ø Integrity is to be sought in every man. David was correct in the
assumption underlying his inquiry — that every one ought to be
characterized by integrity of life, and that on its existence alone can we
justly claim exemption from scorn, suffering, abandonment, and a right to
respect, enjoyment of life, and personal protection. There is in every man a
voice unceasingly demanding of him uprightness, moral soundness. The eye
with which we look on one another is guided by this conviction. And it is
in the universal recognition of the truth that integrity is to be sought in
every one that we find a basis of appeal in the name of righteousness, and a
rational place for the doctrines of atonement and regeneration.
Ø Integrity is to be regarded in a twofold aspect. It will be observed that
David simply raises the question as to what he had done in relation to Saul
or his kingdom. He distinguished between integrity in his relations to man
and integrity in his relations to God. All moral relations to man involve
moral relations to God, but the reverse is not true. Man’s relations to God
are wider than those to his fellow men. Religious morality is not identical
with secular morality. The spiritual embraces obligations transcending the
humanly moral. Integrity in relation to man lies in the faithful discharge of
all obligations due to man, under the influence of pure motives in detail,
and a supreme sense of justice in general. But integrity in relation to God
means perfect rightness of spirit, manifesting itself in perfect love of God,
perfect obedience to God, perfect purity of thought — in fact, conformity
in every secret and open movement of will with the holy will of God. This
soundness, this health, is certain to insure integrity in relation to man, but
the reverse is not true. This distinction is of great importance to the
understanding of Scripture and the regulation of life (compare II Chronicles
6:36-39; Job 15:14; Psalm 15.; Isaiah 33:15-16; Romans 3:23-28;
James 5:16; I John 1:8).
Ø Integrity in its human relation is, in ordinary life, maintained without
self-assertion. During the months of David’s service, from the day he
entered into conflict with Goliath till his flight to Naioth, he had been a
true, sincere man, doing his duty. But all this time he was not conscious of
anything remarkable. The beauty of integrity of life lies in the naturalness
which suggests no reflection upon itself. True virtue excludes self-
admiration, and, when in exercise, self-consciousness. Our Saviour never
refers to His goodness as a praise to Himself. The sun needs only to shine,
the truth only to be (Matthew 6:1-4; Luke 18:11-12).
Ø Integrity may be asserted when challenged by detractors, or when
wrong is done to one’s interests. David’s uprightness of life would have
gone on without self-introspection and self-assertion were it not that he
was subject to a treatment not explicable on ordinary principles. It was
time for him to affirm his innocence, and bring his natural integrity into
distinct consciousness. He often does this in the Psalms, not to claim
righteousness in relation to God, but to rebut accusations in reference to
his conduct amongst men. It was the same sense of injustice which led Job
to assert his innocence of many of the charges of his friends. “I will
maintain mine own ways before him” (Job 13:15). The Apostle Paul
also vindicated his own life against the insinuations of false brethren
(II Corinthians 10:8-11; 11:6-10, 21-30). Our Saviour also, when persecuted
by malicious men, could ask, “Which of you convinceth me of sin?”
(John 8:46). Only a stern sense of duty — a protest against wrong —
will break a righteous man’s silence in relation to himself.
Ø Integrity before man must never be a substitute for integrity before
God. David’s object was simply vindication from supposed charges of
wrong deliberately done to Saul. He had a deep consciousness at the same
time that in the sight of God, as a spiritual being, he was unworthy and in
need of mercy. Only such a man, sensible of sinfulness before God, would
dwell so much on mercy (Psalm 52:8; 62:12; 86:5), and at the same
time on “integrity” and “uprightness” (Psalm 7:8; 25:21; 26:1; 41:12).
Men take a very superficial view of things when they imagine that
goodness which passes among men, and is a fulfillment of our earthly
obligations, “extendeth” unto God (Psalm 16:2-3). This was one of the
deadly errors of the Pharisees, and it was exposed by the whole tenor of
our Saviour’s teaching (Luke 18:9-14; John 3:1-11). As we have
not integrity before God, we must be born again, repent, seek forgiveness
and acceptance, not because of what we are and have done, but because of
Christ having loved us and given Himself for us (Acts 4:12; Romans
3:24-28; 4:5-8; 5:1-2; Philippians 3:8-9).
feared death at the hand of Saul, and, most of all, loss of reputation. He
rightly judged that if the king
that end in view, the impression would be conveyed to many that he had
been guilty of some act of wrong well known to Saul, though unknown to
the people. An upright man, although able to commit himself to God,
dreads to be thought a wrong doer, and to die as though he were such.
Hence his pleading with Jonathan, his pain at the suspicion of want of
integrity, his desire to learn whether the king’s mind was more placable.
These two perils beset us all. In one sense we are safe from death till our
appointed time has come, for God’s care fails not; yet in relation to the
forces at work around us we know not what a day or an hour may bring
forth. Life is begirt with powers of destruction. There is but a “step” between
us and death (ch. 20:3) “In the midst of life we are in death.” The proper
effect of this sense of peril is wholesome. It leads to such an estimate of
life as renders it wiser, more sober, earnest, and devout (Psalm 39:4-7;
90:12; Ecclesiastes 9:10; 11:9; 12:13; I Corinthians 7:29-31). But
to a sincerely good man danger to reputation is more serious. Many would
rather die than either actually lose character or be deemed to have lost it.
They can sympathize with David’s wish that Jonathan would slay him if
really moral cause existed. Our Saviour’s pain was great because of the
effort to ruin His character. But though all are exposed to these two perils
in common with David, there is one other peril of life which often is an
occasion of loss of reputation. We are exposed to the wiles of the devil. As
Saul sought the life of David, so Satan goeth about seeking whom he may
devour (I Peter 5:8). Every day the adversary destroys by “his strong
ones.” The language of the Psalmist (Psalm 10:8-10) will apply with
wonderful precision to the destroyer of souls, the “murderer from the
beginning” (John 8:44). The proper effect of this sense of peril is to
induce watchfulness, avoidance of the haunts of iniquity, prayer for
strength, and such consecration to work as shall leave no time or thought
for dalliance with the tempter (Matthew 7:13; 26:41; Ephesians 6:11-12, 18).
with Goliath, amidst the regular duties of his public course, David seems to
have been under no concern for his life or reputation. He did his duty and
trusted in God. But when he suspected attempts in the dark on his life and
character, he felt bound to devise means of securing himself, and rightly
manifested much anxiety in relation thereto. It is possible that character
may be so defamed during life that only death will prove its vindication, as
in case of our Saviour; nevertheless, no means should be left unused to
assert our innocence and if possible prove it. The subtle powers which
threaten our life may be often avoided by observance of laws of health and
abstention from unnecessary risks. Many men commit slow suicide by
willful neglect of fresh air, good and moderate food, and by excessive toil
for gain. The preservation of character may often be secured by abstaining
from the “appearance of evil” (I Thessalonians 5:22), though we shall never
rid ourselves ofbuncharitable defamers.
If we cannot vindicate our reputation before men, let us have comfort in
God’s knowledge of us (Psalm 37:5-6; 139:1-4).
The Interaction of Friends (vs. 1-10)
The regard which true friends have for each other prompts to much
communion. In it they find an exalted pleasure, and a sure resource of help
and comfort in adversity. Hence David, in his continued distrust and fear of
Saul, hastened to his friend Jonathan. Concerning their deep friendship, notice:
1. Its entire freedom. They tell each other, without reserve, all that is in
their hearts. Such freedom can be wisely indulged only in the presence of a
friend. “A principal fruit of friendship is the ease and discharge of the
fullness and swellings of the heart which passions of all kinds do cause and
induce. No receipt openeth the heart but a true friend, to whom you may
impart griefs, joys, fears, hopes, suspicions, counsel, and whatsoever lieth
upon the heart to oppress it, in a kind of civil shrift or confession. It
redoubleth joys, and cutteth griefs in halves” (Bacon, ‘Essays’).
2. Its gentle expostulations and reproofs. When David said, “Thy father
seeketh my life” (an expression often used in the Psalms), Jonathan
reproved his distrust — “It is not so;” and only after a solemn oath could
be induced to share it (ve. 9). Rebuke is a duty and evidence of true
friendship; and “where a man’s ears are shut against the truth so that he
cannot hear it from a friend, the welfare of such a one is to be despaired
of.” “As many as I love I rebuke.” (Revelation 3:19)
3. Its kindly assurances. “Whatsoever thy soul desireth, I will do it for
thee.” Such assurances he gave generously, sincerely, solemnly, and
repeatedly, and they imparted encouragement and increased confidence.
How “exceeding great and precious” are the promises which the heavenly
Friend has given for this purpose to His friends! (II Peter 1:4)
4. Its anxious consultations and intelligent counsels. “The second fruit of
friendship is healthful and sovereign for the understanding, as the first is for
the affections; for friendship maketh indeed a fair day in the affections from
storm and tempests, but it maketh daylight in the understanding out of
darkness and confusion of thoughts; neither is this to be understood only of
faithful counsel. The last fruit is aid, and bearing a part in all actions and
5. Its earnest requests of aid (v. 8). Although it is the part of friendship
to grant help to a friend rather than to beg it of him, yet it shows itself by
reliance upon him in great emergencies, and confidently claims the
fulfillment of former assurances; nor will it look for aid to a true friend in
6. Its manifest imperfection. For, like all things earthly, human friendship is
imperfect. Its communion is liable to interruption (vs. 10, 41). It often
entertains thoughts, devises plans, and makes requests which are mistaken
and injurious. The statement of David (though founded upon a measure of
truth) was a mere pretext, and through failing faith in God he fell into
“foolish and hurtful devices.” It also:
a. omits reproof when it should be given,
b. complies with doubtful requests, and
c. promises what it is not able to perform.
But all the defects which are found in the highest human friendship are absent
from, and all the excellences which it possesses, and infinitely more, are present
in, THE FRIENDSHIP OF CHRIST!
11"And Jonathan said unto David, Come, and let us go out into the field. And
they went out both of them into the field. 12 And Jonathan said unto David,
O LORD God of Israel, when I have sounded my father about to morrow any
time, or the third day, and, behold, if there be good toward David, and I then
send not unto thee, and shew it thee; 13 The LORD do so and much more to
Jonathan: but if it please my father to do thee evil, then I will shew it thee, and
send thee away, that thou mayest go in peace: and the LORD be with thee, as
He hath been with my father." Let us go out into the field. David’s question had
shown Jonathan that there were grave difficulties in their way, and so he proposes
that they should walk into the country, to be able to talk with one another
more freely, and concert measures for the future. And there Jonathan binds
himself with a solemn oath, if Saul’s intentions be good, to send a trusty
messenger to inform David, but if there be danger, then to come and tell
David himself. O Lord God. With a few manuscripts we must supply the usual
formula of an oath: “As Jehovah the God of Israel liveth.” About
tomorrow any time, or the third day. This cumbrous translation arose
out of the mistaken idea that the word rendered tomorrow could only be
used in that limited sense. Strictly it signifies the morning, and is applicable
to any morrow. Jonathan fixes one time, and one only, and the passage
should be rendered, “By this time on the third morrow.” The meeting was
to be on the morrow after the second day of the festival, and so on the
third morrow after the conversation. The whole may be translated, “As
Jehovah the God of Israel liveth, when by this time on the third morrow I
have searched my father, and, behold, there be good for David, if then I
send not to thee, and uncover thy ear, Jehovah do so and much more to
Jonathan.” The alternative case is then put, and if the news be evil,
Jonathan undertakes himself to be the messenger, and David is to provide
for his safety by flight. The concluding prayer that Jehovah might be with
David as he had been with Saul contains the same presentiment of David
attaining to great power and dignity which is more directly expressed in the
14 "And thou shalt not only while yet I live shew me the kindness of the LORD,
that I die not: 15 But also thou shalt not cut off thy kindness from my house for
ever: no, not when the LORD hath cut off the enemies of David every one from
the face of the earth." The construction of this passage is very difficult if we
retain the three negatives of the Masoretic text; but most commentators,
following the reading of the Syriac as regards at least one of them, consider
that the Masorites have been mistaken in the vowels which they have
attached to the consonants (see on ch. 1:7). Read with other
vowels, two of these negatives become interjections of desire — O that;
and the whole may be translated, “And O that, while I still live, yea, O that
thou wouldst show me the kindness of Jehovah, — i.e. great unfailing
kindness, such as was that of Jehovah to
thou cut off thy kindness from my house forever.” It was the sanguinary
custom in the East on a change of dynasty to put all the seed royal to death
(I Kings 15:29; 16:11, etc., and compare II Samuel 19:28). As then
Jonathan foresaw that it was Jehovah’s will to transfer the kingdom to
David, he binds him by the memory of his own true love to him to show
mercy to his race.
16 "So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, Let
the LORD even require it at the hand of David’s enemies."
This verse also is very difficult, but it is probably to be taken as
an insertion of the narrator: “So Jonathan made a covenant with the house
of David” — that is, so as to bind his descendants — “saying, Let Jehovah
require it at the hand of David’s enemies.” These last words probably are a
euphemism, and mean David himself. So Rashi explains the words. The
courtesy of an Oriental forbade his saying, May Jehovah punish David for
it, but he prays that God would requite it on some one. But if the Divine anger
visits even David’s enemies for it, how much more the guilty perjurer himself.
17 "And Jonathan caused David to swear again, because he loved him: for he
loved him as he loved his own soul." Jonathan caused David to swear again.
So strong was his conviction in David’s future kingdom, and his wish that there
should be an unbroken bond of love between the two families, that he makes
David solemnly repeat his promise. The Septuagint and Vulgate, by altering the
vowels, read, “And Jonathan sware again to David.” At first sight this
interpretation seems most in accordance with the reason given for the
renewal of the oath, namely, Jonathan’s own love; but the Masoretic text
agrees better with what has gone before, and with his wish that their
covenant under no change of circumstances should be broken.
18 "Then Jonathan said to David, To morrow is the new moon: and
thou shalt be missed, because thy seat will be empty.
19 And when thou hast stayed three days, then thou shalt go down
quickly, and come to the place where thou didst hide thyself when
the business was in hand, and shalt remain by the stone Ezel."
Jonathan now arranges his plan for communicating the
result to David. For when thou hast stayed three days, at which all the
versions stumble, a slight alteration gives the right sense: “And on the third
day.” David on the third day was to go down quickly — Hebrew,
“greatly, i.e. he was to go a long way down into the valley. The rendering
quickly is taken from the Vulgate, but makes no sense. It did not matter
whether David went fast or slow, as he was to hide there for some time,
but it was important that David should be far away, so that no prying eye
might chance to catch sight of him. When the business was in hand.
Literally, “the day of the business,” probably that narrated in ch.19:2-7.
The Septuagint, Vulgate, and Chaldee all understand “a working
day,” in opposition to a feast day; but “where thou didst hide thyself on a
week day” gives no intelligible meaning. By the stone Ezel. As the name
Ezel is formed from a verb signifying to go, some understand by it a road
stone, a stone to mark the way.
20 "And I will shoot three arrows on the side thereof, as though I shot
at a mark. 21 And, behold, I will send a lad, saying, Go, find out the arrows.
If I expressly say unto the lad, Behold, the arrows are on this side of
thee, take them; then come thou: for there is peace to thee, and no
hurt; as the LORD liveth. 22 But if I say thus unto the young man, Behold,
the arrows are beyond thee; go thy way: for the LORD hath sent thee away.
23 And as touching the matter which thou and I have spoken of, behold, the
LORD be between thee and me for ever." The two friends now agree upon the
sign. Jonathan was to shoot three arrows at this stone, Ezel, as his mark, and was
then to send his servant to gather them up. When he had gone some distance
Jonathan was to shout to him, loud enough for David to hear. If Jonathan said
that the arrows were on that side the mark, i.e. between it and Jonathan, David
was to come forth boldly, as all was well. But if Jonathan said that the arrows
were further on, then David must understand that he was to seek safety in
flight. For there is peace to thee, and no hurt, the Hebrew has “there is
peace to thee, and it is nothing,” a simpler and more idiomatic rendering.
As touching the matter, etc. Rather, “As for the word that we have spoken,
I and thou, behold, Jehovah is between me and thee forever.” The word
was the bond and covenant by which they had pledged their truth to one
another. Though separated, their love was to continue, and Jehovah was to
be their eternal center of union, and the witness to their covenant.
The Spring of Self-sacrifice (vs. 11-23)
The facts are:
1. Jonathan and David retire from observation to confer further.
2. Jonathan undertakes to do all that David requires, and solemnly pledges
himself to let him know the mind of Saul.
3. He pleads with David, in prospect of his elevation to power, that he and
his house may receive mercy.
4. In his eagerness he seeks a renewal of David’s promise.
5. They then arrange that, after consulting with Saul, an arrow before or
beyond a certain mark shall reveal safety or danger.
This beautiful narrative brings out the love and confidence of these young men in
such a way that one is constrained to ask whether there is not here, not only an
exquisite instance of what all our religious friendship should be in spirit and
expression, but an historical foreshadowing of the relation of the loving,
confiding soul to the true Anointed of the Lord. We know that in the New
Testament the promised land is a shadow of the “better country” (Hebrews 11:15),
the “rock” in the wilderness a figure of
Christ (I Corinthians 10:4),
own heart, a pattern of another David, the only begotten of the Father, the
eternal King in
(Psalm 45.) and in Isaiah there are references to the deep interest of the
Church in Christ and of Christ in the Church. It is not, then, unwarrantable
to regard the devotion of Jonathan to the coming king, and because be was
beloved as the coming king, as, at all events, suggestive of an analogous
devotion of the true believer to Christ. The most striking feature of the
narrative before us is the utter self-sacrifice of Jonathan and the deep love
from which it sprang. We may notice the main features of the story, and in
doing so point out their truth in Christian life.
AS THEY ARE EXPLICITLY KNOWN. Some might regard the
retirement of the two into the seclusion of “the field” as suggestive of the
private and sacred communion of a believer and Christ; but, without
dwelling on that, it may be noticed that as soon as privacy was secured
Jonathan at once, with solemn and pathetic earnestness, pledges himself to
all that David had so far required. How true this is of a believer in Christ!
When the “Anointed of the Lord” makes known His request, whether it be
to bear witness for Hhim, to remember His death, or to feed and clothe the
little ones, the true heart responds with all zeal and delight. It is a mark of a
true Christian, that of delighting to do His will. His yoke is easy and His
burden light. It was a very delicate and difficult business to find out Saul’s
mind, and involved no little risk to Jonathan; and it is possible that much in
which we have to acquiesce involves a strain and tension of feeling, a
firmness and endurance, a risk of worldly loss, and a certainty of personal
inconvenience; but nevertheless all is welcome, because it is for Him who
has won our love and is worthy of the best service we can ever render.
SUPREMACY, AND A CORRESPONDING SENSE OF PERSONAL
UNWORTHINESS OF SUCH DISTINGUISHED FRIENDSHIP. It is
hard to say in words how refined spiritual minds obtain all their knowledge.
They seem to possess an insight, a super-sensual instinct, which takes them
straight through the present external conditions to the abiding reality. At all
events, Jonathan was convinced that his beloved friend was destined to be
with all this reverence and awe of the coming majesty and power, there
was the tender love “passing that of women.” Faith saw through the
loneliness and oppressed state of
David, and recognized the king in
This was the real feeling of the apostles, in their better moods, during the
Saviour’s humiliation. They knew that, though men were divided in
judgment, He was “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew
16:13-16). The deep love of John when reclining on his bosom, and the
sense of unworthiness of Peter when he cried, “Depart from me, for I am a
sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:8), were only instances of the feeling
which usually pervaded their minds. And it is this recognition and the
feeling accompanying it which enters into every believer’s life. He is the
King, the Hope of the afflicted nations, the “Restorer of paths to dwell in”
(Isaiah 58:12). As Jonathan with passionate love and strong confidence
gazed on the handsome face of David, so do we look with intense interest
on Christ and feel sure, in spite of the slow ages and the present
antagonisms, that He “must reign,” that on His own head an imperishable
crown shall flourish (Psalm 72.). And while admiration, joy, and
satisfaction attend this prevision of the coming glory, the heart is filled with
wonder and gratitude in being permitted to call that Chosen One a Friend.
THE REALIZATION OF HIS SUPREMACY. Nothing, humanly
speaking, was more precious to Jonathan than his right to the succession,
and the prospects of power and distinction involved therein. Nothing in
history is more beautiful than the spontaneity and heartiness with which he
laid aside all this, and found joy and satisfaction in the coming supremacy
of David (vs. 14-17). What noble self-sacrifice for high spiritual
purposes! This was more than “houses and lands,” more than “father and
mother” (Matthew 19:29). Only the true spiritual vision of the kingdom
of God will account for such deviation from the selfish ways of the world.
“The Lord” was in the mind of Jonathan, and “the Name” (ch. 17:45)
which David had exalted was the “Name” to be still more honored in his
coming reign. And in this is the essence of our Christian life. Surrender of
all for Christ: sacrifice of every power, prospect, hope, and wish to the
holy purposes for which the “Anointed One” lives. In this there is no
exaction and no constraint. Christ does not demand something for His mere
personal gratification, and we do not yield to a loss because a more
powerful One claims what we have. Jonathan and David were as one (v.17).
They had but one interest, and lived for one object. Loss and gain
were inadequate terms. The surrender to one was as a surrender to self.
Loss was gain, and gain was loss. So is it in the mystical union of our lives
with Christ. Though we give up all, and perform what men call self-sacrifice,
we yet give up nothing. For us “to live is Christ.” (Philippians 1:21) Blessed
oneness! Always giving, always receiving; ever denying self, ever enriching
self! THE GLORY OF THE KING is our glory; the sorrows of our heart are
His sorrows; deeds to others are deeds to him (Matthew 25:34-40; John
17:24; Hebrews 4:15).
ALL THIS SELF-SACRIFICE. Jonathan’s love was the master passion —
“passing that of women” — pure, steady, unaffected by public opinion and
private influence (vs. 30-31), illumined and regulated by spiritual insight,
prompt in expression, giving joy and satisfaction to every deed and word
that might bring future honor to David or present comfort in trouble. This
undying love, this regnant force, so pure, so sweet, so strong, so gentle:
ennobled its possessor, and was regarded by its object as the most beautiful
and precious thing on earth. Events show that it was reciprocal (v. 41;
II Samuel 1:25-26). It is this strong master passion that lies at the
spring of all our true Christian service. “We love him because he first loved
us.” (I John 4:19) “The love of Christ constraineth us.” (II Corinthians 5t:14)
We do His will, lay our talents, possessions, prospects, all we inherit or can
acquire, at His feet because we love to do so, and would not do otherwise if
Ø No box of ointment is too costly for those dear feet that have
trodden the sorrowful paths of life for us!
Ø No crown too glorious for that brow that once was pierced and
pained for us!
Ø No joy too excessive in final enthronement over all principality
and power of Him who once did battle for us, and destroyed the
gigantic foe of God’s people!
o To measure out our service,
o to reckon how little we can spare or do,
o to shut Him out from any section of our life —
this were debasement and shame indeed. Love —
“passing that of women” — seeks satisfaction in living
for Christ and glorying only in Him.
The due culture of love for Christ as the supreme affection of life demands thought
and care. The cure of many of the sorrows and ills of Christians and Churches lies
in the quickening of this personal interest in Christ.
A Covenant of Friendship (vs. 11-23)
“And Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David” (v. 16). The
friendship of Jonathan and David was expressed and confirmed by a sacred
covenant (ch.18:3). The covenant now made differed from the former.
1. It was made at a time of trial. Their friendship was put to a severe test;
for it had become clear to the mind of Jonathan that David was destined to
be king (v. 13), as he afterwards stated more fully (ch. 23:17)
“Jonathan caused David to swear again” (v. 17), not because he
distrusted him, but “because he loved him: for he loved him as be loved his
own soul;” and in times of special danger such repeated and solemn
assurances may be needful and beneficial.
2. It included the obligation to show kindness to the house of Jonathan as
well as himself. Consider it as:
a covenant (contract or agreement) to take an oath in which God was
appealed to as a witness and an avenger of its violation (Genesis 26:28;
31:45-53). Even when no such appeal is expressly made it should be
Ø That He observes the promises and engagements which men make to one
another, and keeps a faithful record thereof (Malachi 3:16).
Ø That He loves to see truth and faithfulness in their speech and conduct
(Deuteronomy 7:9; 32:4).
Ø That He manifests His displeasure toward those who neglect or violate
their engagements (Ezekiel 17:9).
Ø That He shows favor and affords help to those who strive to keep them
faithfully. “Who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn
deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the Lord” (Psalm 24:4;
15:4; Ephesians 4:25).
covenant creates a new obligation; in others (like that of friendship) it
intensifies the force and feeling of it:
Ø By the solemn manner in which it is made.
Ø By the greater definiteness in which the obligation is expressed.
Ø By the permanent record which is formed of it in the memory, often
associated with particular places and objects (Joshua 24:27).
Ø And this is important as an incentive to faithfulness in temptation arising
from self-interest and strong passion to set it aside. As often as Jonathan
and David remembered their sacred covenant they would be impelled to
ever higher love and faithfulness.
etc. (v. 12). “And O that thou wouldst while I live show me kindness,”
etc. (v. 14). Each received as well as gave assurances of kindness, which
Ø To afford a claim that might be confidently urged in difficulty and
danger (v. 8).
Ø To enrich the soul with a permanent feeling of pure and elevating joy.
“Very pleasant hast thou been to me” (II Samuel 1:26).
Ø To preserve it from despondency in hours of darkness and trouble.
Ø To increase its aspiration and endeavor after all that is excellent. The
continued loyalty of David to Saul and his acts of kindness to him were
doubtless greatly incited by the love of Jonathan; and the latter was not less
morally strengthened and blessed by the love of David. “There is no
influence on a feeling mind stronger than the sense of being loved; nothing
more elevating, more securing to the inner life.”
wouldst not cut off thy kindness from my house forever,” etc. (vs. 15, 23).
“His request that his house may be excepted from this judgment, as
executor of which he regards David, is founded on and justified by his
position outside the circle of ‘enemies’ (since he recognizes God’s will
concerning David, and bends to it as David’s friend), so that, though a
member of Saul’s house, he does not belong to it as concerns the judgment
of extermination” (Erdmann).
Ø A parent naturally desires and ought to seek the welfare of his family.
Ø He may by his faithful conduct do much to promote it.
Ø For the sake of one many are frequently and justly spared and blessed.
“Is there yet any that is left of the house of Saul, that I may show him
kindness for Jonathan’s sake” (II Samuel 9:1).
Ø The memory of the good is a perpetual incitement to goodness.
OPEN HATRED OF SAUL AGAINST DAVID
24 "So David hid himself in the field: and when the new moon was
come, the king sat him down to eat meat. 25 And the king sat upon his seat,
as at other times, even upon a seat by the wall: and Jonathan arose, and Abner
sat by Saul’s side, and David’s place was empty. 26 Nevertheless Saul spake
not any thing that day: for he thought, Something hath befallen him, he is not
clean; surely he is not clean." The king sat him down to eat meat. Hebrew, “the
king sat down at the bread to eat.” On sitting at table see ch.16:11.
And Jonathan arose. When the king had taken his usual place, that of
honor, next the wall, and therefore farthest from the door, Jonathan arose
and took his place on one side of the king, while Abner sat on the other.
David’s place below them was left empty. The omission of the statement
that Jonathan sat down makes the passage obscure, and the versions bungle
in rendering it, but there can be little doubt that these words ought to be
supplied. He is not clean. Saul supposed that some ceremonial defilement
(see Leviticus 15:2-16) had befallen David, and as the new moon was a
religious festival, this would necessarily prevent his attendance.
27 "And it came to pass on the morrow, which was the second day of
the month, that David’s place was empty: and Saul said unto Jonathan
his son, Wherefore cometh not the son of Jesse to meat, neither yesterday,
nor to day? 28 And Jonathan answered Saul, David earnestly asked leave of
me to go to
hath a sacrifice in the city; and my brother, he hath commanded me to be
there:" and now, if I have found favor in thine eyes, let me get away, I pray
thee, and see my brethren. Therefore he cometh not unto the king’s table."
On the morrow, which was the second day of the month. Hebrew, “on the morrow
of the new moon, the second day.” David’s absence on the second day made Saul
aware that it was no accident, and he demands of Jonathan the reason; whereupon
he gives the excuse previously arranged, adding that it was David’s brother who
had required his attendance. The Septuagint has brothers, being offended at the
singular, because Jesse was still alive. But as the festival was not confined
to Jesse’s household, his brother might very properly be the convener,
without usurping his father’s place. Let me get away. Literally, “let me
escape,” “let me get off,” a light, half jocose way of speaking adopted by
Jonathan, as if the matter were a mere trifle.
30 "Then Saul’s anger was kindled against Jonathan, and he said unto
him, Thou son of the perverse rebellious woman, do not I know that thou
hast chosen the son of Jesse to thine own confusion, and unto the confusion
of thy mother’s nakedness? 31 For as long as the son of Jesse liveth upon
the ground, thou shalt not be established, nor thy kingdom. Wherefore
now send and fetch him unto me, for he shall surely die."
Thou son of the perverse rebellious woman. Literally, “thou son of one
perverse in rebellion.” In the East it is the greatest possible insult to a man
to call his mother names; but the word rendered perverse, instead of being
a feminine adjective, is probably an abstract noun, and “son of perversity of
rebellion” would mean one who was thoroughly perverse in his resistance to
his father’s will. (For Saul in relation to his Heavenly Father, this was like
calling the kettle black. - CY - 2016) Unto the confusion of thy mother’s
nakedness. I.e. thy mother will feel ashamed and disgraced at having borne
such a son. He shall surely die. Hebrew, “he is a son of death,” son, being
constantly used in Hebrew to express qualities, or, as here, the fate to which
a man is destined.
32 "And Jonathan answered Saul his father, and said unto him, Wherefore
shall he be slain? what hath he done? 33 And Saul cast a javelin at him to
smite him: whereby Jonathan knew that it was determined of his father to
slay David. 34 So Jonathan arose from the table in fierce anger, and did
eat no meat the second day of the month: for he was grieved for David,
because his father had done him shame." When Jonathan pleaded mildly
for his friend, Saul did not cast, but “brandished” (see ch.18:11) his javelin
at him, threatening to smite him. This fierce behavior of his father filled
Jonathan also with anger, and he arose, refused to partake of the meal, and
went away in wrath. His indignation was roused not merely at his father
having thus brandished his javelin in his face, for he was sitting close to Saul,
but because he had cast shameful aspersions upon David in saying that he was
a rebel, and deserved death.
Wasted Influences, Muffed Thoughts, and Conflicting Interests
The facts are:
1. While David lies hidden, Saul notices his absence from the feast on the
first day, and refers it to some ceremonial defilement.
2. On the second day he calls Jonathan’s attention to the fact, and inquires
3. On his explaining the reason, Saul, in a fit of anger, accuses him of friendship
with David, and points out the injury which he thinks will arise therefrom.
4. On Jonathan reasoning against the command to fetch David that he may
be slain, Saul, in his rage, casts a javelin at him.
5. Jonathan, indignant at the injustice and cruelty of his father, leaves the
court and spends the day in fasting and sorrow.
The chief interest of this section turns on the conduct of Jonathan and Saul in
the absence of David. The event proved the sagacity of David in keeping at a
safe distance from his declared enemy. The facts of this narrative may be best
dealt with as furnishing suggestions of realities common even in modern life.
board, a court banquet, and a blending in it of characters most dissimilar.
First there was Saul, sullen, morose, charged to the full with envy and
malice, ready for deeds of blood, and fearful of a doom of which he dared
not speak. Then there was Jonathan, pure, bright, the very soul of chivalry
and honor, carrying on his heart a tender secret, and bound by holy bonds
to the interests of a coming king. By him was Abner in a seat of honor,
just coming into distinction, a warrior destined to play an important part in
the future affairs of
influence, varying in temper and diversely influenced by the strange events
of the age. And, in spirit, holding his right to a vacant place, David, who in
sympathy sustained the heart of his beloved friend in face of a perilous
undertaking. A motley assembly in a moral point of view! Representative
of many a banquet and social gathering! Society is strangely formed. The
necessities of life, sustained by custom, bring into contact elements most
dissimilar, each being toned down by the presence of the other, and the
powers that lie in the heart being systematically repressed out of deference
to the proprieties of life. The contending forces of sin and holiness,
modified by diversities in education and association, issue in shades of
character in endless variety. Take any assembly, around the festive board
or in a wider circle; what passions, hopes, fears, terrors, joys, aspirations,
motives, designs lie concealed in each breast! Each one there is a distinct
world; carries in himself a special destiny; is a sepulcher of buried joys, or a
garden of germinating seeds. How little we know of those sitting by our
side! What tragedies are to be wrought out by some we meet!
(Matthew 10:26; I Corinthians 2:11).
evidence that all the efforts to bring him to a right state of mind were in
vain. During his career
prophet and people, threatening and encouragement, and lately through the
wise and gentle persuasions of his eldest son and the awe-inspiring
presence of the prophetic company (ch. 19:21-24). But it all
proved to be as the “morning cloud and early dew.” Indeed, the coarse
language and foul abuse and increased violence on this occasion remind us
of the unclean spirit returning with other spirits to make the last state
worse than the first (Matthew 12:45). This necessarily raises the
thought of the extent and lessons of the wasted influences of life. That vast
and varied influences are brought to bear on human beings, which, so far as
we can trace in this life, do not issue in their legitimate results is obvious.
“Seed on stony ground” is a fact in the moral as in the physical world.
(Matthew 13:20) “How often would I have gathered thee!” is repeated
by hundreds of parents and teachers after the example of the sorrowing
Lord. (ibid. 23:37) The bitter tears of broken hearted parents and the
lamentations of our true Jeremiahs over degenerate nationalities
(Ezekiel 9:4) raise the question of why such wasted energy for good?
It does not, indeed, follow that all is lost which seems to be lost
on the immediate object. The
waste of life which
‘Analogy’ is, we know, not really such in the economy of the universe.
And so even the fruitless expenditure of moral influence on our reckless
souls is wrought up into useful expenditure, for moral instruction and
maintenance of justice, in the whole circle of moral existence. Our
Saviour’s appeals issued in rejection by the Pharisees, but the two together
will form an element in the discipline and instruction of untold ages which
will be highly useful. It suggests thought as to the mystery of the human
will, and the relation of present to future existence. It suggests inquiries for
all Christian workers — whether their methods are wisest, are sustained in
a right spirit, and are sufficiently varied in kind. It brings grave questions to
the conscience of those who enjoy privileges — as to what account they
will render, and whether they shall ever be more than AWFUL MONUMENTS
IN THE UNIVERSE for the warning of other beings!
thought” (v. 26). As the monarch sat at the head of his table the guests
saw his stately form and heard his voice when he conversed on the ordinary
topics of the day; but also “he thought” — thoughts of David, his past
honors, his possible future, his absence today, and his appearance on the
morrow, and then his speedy death, passed swifter than lightning through
the dark mind, indicating their existence in the low, muffled tones which
only the ear of God could discern. Thought is constantly tending to
expression in words, and there are gradations in its movement. From
simple definiteness of existence up to loud exclamations, Saul’s thoughts,
like muffled bells, were ringing within in subdued tones, their language
being distinct to himself and to God. It is often forgotten that thought is
language in the world of mind; and it is a solemn fact that our real life lies
in the thoughts we allow to pass through our mind. Many are under the
delusion that what is said audibly and done visibly constitutes the material
of which character is built and on which judgment will one day be
pronounced. We are spiritual, invisible beings. And while thus our thoughts
are the real forms of our life, it is worthy of remark that not one
thousandth part of what we think ever finds expression in distinct, audible
tones. The vast preponderance of our thoughts beat in muffled tones
because we dare not or cannot utter them. What God must hear beating in
the hearts of men daily! It was muffled thought which Christ detected
saying, “This man blasphemeth” (Matthew 9:3; Luke 6:6-8), and
which said, “There is no God.” The same is true of the “groaning of the
prisoner” (Psalm 79:11; 102:20) which cometh up before God, and the
prayers of the children of God all over the earth. Keep thy heart with all
diligence “for out of it are the issues of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)
authority with his father in all matters pertaining to the court and
government (vs. 2, 27). The muffled thoughts which all along had
muttered vengeance against David now found audible and violent
expression in the abuse poured on Jonathan and the villanous attempt on
his life. He set before Jonathan as conflicting interests, between which he
was to make a choice, his friendship for David and his succession to the
kingdom. If Jonathan kept the one he must lose the other. Saul assumed
that policy and prudence would dictate the choice of the succession, for,
with the swift logic of the cruel, he wound up his argument by, “Therefore
now send and fetch him unto me, for he shall surely die” (v. 31). It is
easy to show that Saul’s logic, like that of all the wicked, was faulty; for if
David was really the “neighbor” to whom God had decreed to give the
kingdom (ch.15:28), no breaking of friendship would prevent his
having it; and if David was a friend of Jonathan he would never rob him of
his right should the friendship be maintained. Jonathan’s love and spiritual
insight enabled him to see through the fallacy and to make his choice.
There are alternatives open to most men in the course of years which bring
material and spiritual considerations into sharp contrast. Here it was:
Ø the selfish grasping at power versus
joy in God’s
Moses had to say whether the probability of becoming prime minister of
in prosecution of a spiritual enterprise. The same contrast arose, though
the choice was different, when the young rich man was required to evince
his supreme love for God and all that that implies by giving up the wealth
on which his heart was set (Matthew 19:20-22). The possession of
wealth and acquisition of honor in public life are not inconsistent with
true piety, but it makes all the difference when parents say to young men,
“Give up your religion if you are to make your way in the world;”
“Surrender the Greater than David, and grasp the honors of this life.”
Every one is called on to decide between:
Ø CHRIST and
Ø the supremacy of material, earthly interests.
In which lies wisdom is evident (Matthew 10:37; 19:27-29).
influence, material considerations delusively presented, and even
threatening of death. He pleaded for right and innocence. He mourned the
debasement of a father. He was indignant at the base insinuations against
the noblest and purest of men. He dared to let the court know his
preference for the SPIRITUAL over the material (v. 34). This is heroism
requiring far more courage than to go amidst the cheers of men and the
pageantry of war to the cannon’s mouth. Here is the power of faith, the
sufficiency of God’s grace, the victory that overcometh the world
(Hebrews 11:32-38). The world is short sighted. Jonathan now wears a
crown which will never fade (II Timothy 2:12; 4:7-8; Revelation 3:21).
Ø Seeing that such varied characters are around us, let us be in every place
as the “salt of the earth” and “light of the world.” (Matthew 5:13-14)
Ø It is our duty to exercise the holiest influence and to work unweariedly,
whatever be the issue (Ecclesiastes 11:6).
Ø We should cultivate such an inner life that if all our thoughts found
audible expression we need not be ashamed (Psalm 51:6, 10).
Ø Fidelity in seasons of great trial depends much on previously cultivated
friendship with Christ.
Anger (vs. 24-34)
“Saul’s anger was kindled against Jonathan” (v. 30). “And Jonathan arose
from the table in fierce anger” (v. 34). Anger is not necessarily sinful. “It is in
itself, and in its original, no more than indignation against injury and wickedness”
in which it is indulged. How different was the anger of Saul now from what it
was on a former occasion (ch. 11:6). Consider that —
reason which Jonathan gave why “David’s place was empty” was doubtless
a mere pretext (v. 12), harmless as he thought, and not designed to
provoke wrath; but Saul saw through it at once, and his anger was kindled
against Jonathan on account of it and his taking part with one whom he
regarded as his enemy. Care should be exercised, even when no harm is
meant, to furnish no occasion for offence, especially in relations with
those who are of an irritable and passionate temper, and to avoid “all
appearance (every kind) of evil.” (I Thessalonians 5:22) Deception
practiced for a good end is not good, and sometimes produces much
Ø When it springs from selfishness and pride, and is associated with malice
and revenge. Saul’s anger against Jonathan was the offspring of the envy
toward “the son of Jesse” which slumbered in his breast, if indeed he had
not now formed the deliberate purpose of putting him to death at the first
opportunity. It is not said that “the evil spirit from Jehovah came upon
him” again. Hatred of David had become the pervading spirit of his life,
and it gave a coloring to everything. “Anger is an agitation of the mind
that proceeds to the resolution of a revenge, the mind assenting to it”
(Seneca, on ‘Anger’).
Ø When it is felt without just or adequate cause. The questions of
Jonathan (v. 32) did not, any more than the reason he had previously
given, justify his father’s wrath, and his jealousy of David was groundless
and wicked. “Whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall
be in danger of the judgment.” (Matthew 5:22).
Ø When it becomes excessive, and ceases to be under the control of right
reason. “Be master of thine anger.”
Ø When it issues in bitter words, and violent and unjust acts. “Whosoever
hateth his brother is a murderer,” (I John 3:15). He has within him
the principle of murder, the germ from which the outward act naturally
grows. “Cease from anger and forsake wrath” (Psalm 37:8). “Where
envy and strife are there is confusion and every evil work” (James
3:16). “Sinful anger:
o destroys our own peace of mind,
o hurts the unity of spirit among brethren,
o blocks up the way to the Divine throne,
o exposes us to danger,
o makes work for bitter repentance,
o fires the minds of others,
o makes us unlike the meek and lowly Jesus,
o causes us to resemble madmen and devils, and
o is cruel and murderous” (Fawcett, ‘Essay on Anger’.).
· IT CAN BE UNBLAMABLY ENTERTAINED (v. 34). It may in
certain circumstances be a Christian virtue. But in order to this:
Ø It must be directed, out of love to righteousness, against the wrong
which is done or intended rather than against the wrong doer, and be
associated with sorrow for him and good will toward him. “Resentment is
not inconsistent with good will. These contrary passions, though they may
lessen, do not necessarily destroy each other. We may therefore love our
enemy and yet have resentment against him for his injurious behavior
toward us” (
looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of
their hearts,” etc. (Mark 3:5).
Ø It must be felt from love to others rather than ourselves, especially to
those who love God, and from zeal for His honor. “He was grieved for
David, because his father had done him shame.”
Ø It must be kept under proper control. Jonathan did not retaliate. He
“arose from the table,” and went out; to fast, not to raise a rebellion
against his father, as Absalom did at a subsequent period.
Ø It must not be suffered to continue too long. “Wise anger is like fire
from flint; there, is a great ado to bring it out; and when it does come, it is
out again immediately (Matthew Henry). “Be ye angry and sin not; let not
the sun go down upon your wrath, neither give place to the devil.”
suppressed by the use of proper means, such as consideration of the effects
of sinful anger on others and on ourselves, of the allowance which ought to
be made for others, of our own faults, and of the patience and gentleness of
Christ; the realization of the presence and love of God; the cultivation of
the opposite principles of humility, charity, and meekness; and continual
prayer for the Holy Spirit.
JONATHAN’S LAST MEETING WITH DAVID
35 "And it came to pass in the morning, that Jonathan went out into the
field at the time appointed with David, and a little lad with him. 36 And he
said unto his lad, Run, find out now the arrows which I shoot. And as the lad
ran, he shot an arrow beyond him. 37 And when the lad was come to the
place of the arrow which Jonathan had shot, Jonathan cried after the lad,
and said, Is not the arrow beyond thee? 38 And Jonathan cried after the lad,
Make speed, haste, stay not. And Jonathan’s lad gathered up the arrows, and
came to his master. 39 But the lad knew not any thing: only Jonathan and
David knew the matter." The next morning Jonathan went out into the field, not
at the time, but “to the place” appointed, taking with him a little lad, as
less likely to suspect a reason. Having shot at the mark, he sends him to
pick up the arrows, and as he runs to do so he shoots one beyond him, and,
calling aloud, gives David the sign that there was no hope. To keep the
boy’s attention engaged he gives him hurried commands — Make speed,
haste, stay not. Instead of the arrows the written text has “Jonathan’s lad
gathered up the arrow,” i.e. that one especially which Jonathan had shot
beyond him, and to which his rapid commands referred.
40 "And Jonathan gave his artillery unto his lad, and said unto him,
Go, carry them to the city. 41 And as soon as the lad was gone, David
arose out of a place toward the south, and fell on his face to the ground,
and bowed himself three times: and they kissed one another, and wept one
with another, until David exceeded. 42 And Jonathan said to David,
Go in peace, forasmuch as we have sworn both of us in the name of the
LORD, saying, The LORD be between me and thee, and between my seed
and thy seed for ever. And he arose and departed: and Jonathan went
into the city." His artillery. I.e. his weapons. To get rid of the boy
Jonathan sends him home with his bow and arrows, and then David arose
out of a place toward the south, or “from the south side” of the stone
Ezel, and while not forgetting in his repeated obeisance the honor due to
Jonathan’s dignity, yet friendship prevailed, and they kissed one another
and wept sore, until David exceeded, i.e. broke down, and was completely
mastered by his grief. And so they parted, David to begin a life of danger
and wandering, while Jonathan returned to the city to be a dutiful son to
Saul. Phillipson remarks, “The scenes in this chapter are some of the most
affecting presented to us in history, whether in old or modern times, and
we may well wonder at the delicacy of feeling and the gentleness of the
sentiments which these two men in those old rough times entertained for
one another. No ancient writer has set before us so noble an example of a
heart felt, unselfish, and thoroughly human state of feeling, and none has
described friendship with such entire truth in all its relations, and with such
complete and profound knowledge of the human heart.”
The Parting of Friends (v. 41)
Friends sometimes part because they cease to esteem each other. They also
sometimes part not in feeling, but only in space; not willingly, but under the
constraint of a higher necessity; and their separation is one of the most
painful trials of life. Such was the parting of Jonathan and David. “This is
the culminating point in the mutual relations of the two friends who furnish
the eternal type of the perfection of noble friendship; and, moreover, in
these last hours before their separation, all the threads of their destinies,
henceforth so widely different, are secretly woven together. It is also at this
point, consequently, that the clearest anticipation of the whole subsequent
history already shines through. As Jonathan here foresees, David
afterwards obtains the kingdom; and, in accordance with his oath to his
friend, he afterwards, when a powerful king, always spares the descendants
of Jonathan, in grateful remembrance of his dearly loved friend, and never
loses an opportunity of showing them kindness” (Ewald). In their parting
three times.” He did so not merely in external and courtier like obeisance
to the prince, but also in heartfelt esteem and homage to the friend, who
had shown his fidelity in a great crisis, virtually renounced the prospect of a
kingdom for his sake and in obedience to what he saw to be the Divine
purpose, and was worthy of the highest honor. True courtesy:
Ø Has its seat in the heart, and expresses itself in appropriate speech and
conduct in converse with others, according to the custom of the time and
place and the relative position they occupy. The outward bearing of itself,
is morally worthless. It may be superficial and hypocritical. Yet “courtesy
of feeling is very much acquired and promoted by cultivating courtesy of
manner. Gentleness of manner has some influence on gentleness of life.”
Ø Is the opposite of:
o selfishness and pride (the chief causes of its absence);
o austerity, and moroseness;
o coldness, reserve, and neglect;
o contemptuous demeanor, rudeness, and undue familiarity.
And it by no means implies obsequiousness or want of self-respect.
Ø Consists of humility, benevolent regard for others, kindly consideration
for their feelings even in little things, gentleness, and frankness.
Is attended with many advantages; commended by the examples
recorded in the word of God, and enjoined by its precepts (Genesis 23:12;
Luke 7:44; Acts 28:7; Philemon). “Whatsoever things are
lovely,” etc. (Philippians 4:8). “Be courteous” (I Peter 3:8).
another, until David exceeded” (Septuagint, “wept one with another with great
lamentation”). The tenderness of their affection and grief was “wonderful.”
Something of the same tenderness:
Ø Is commonly possessed by men of a brave and noble type of character.
“There is in David (as there is said to be in all great geniuses) a feminine as
well as a masculine vein; a passionate tenderness, a keen sensibility, a vast
capacity of sympathy, sadness, and suffering which makes him truly a type
of the Man of sorrows” (Kingsley).
Ø Is revealed in them by special circumstances, and is in such
circumstances worthy of them.
Ø Is shown in sympathy with the trouble of others, rather than in grief
occasioned by the deprivation of their friendship and aid. The loss which
David and Jonathan were each about to suffer by the separation was great;
but they were chiefly affected by the thought of the trouble which awaited
each other: the one to become an outlaw and to be pursued with relentless
malice; the other to bear the frowns of his royal father, and witness his
ruinous career, without any consolation but that derived from the prospect
of a better time under the rule of his chosen friend.
Ø Appears in the restraint which is put upon the indulgence of personal
feeling, from concern for others’ welfare. The interview might not be
prolonged. There was danger in delay. And Jonathan hastened the
departure of his friend, saying, “Go in peace.” Equal tenderness appears in
none save those whose hearts are softened and pervaded by Divine grace
(Acts 20:37-38; 21:13), or in JESUS CHRIST “the Friend of sinners.”
God before they were knit to each other; the one was the cause of the
other; their covenant was made “in the name of Jehovah,” and He would
still be with them when they parted. The piety which is possessed in
common alleviates and sanctifies the grief occasioned by the separation of
friends. It appears in:
Ø The fellowship which is held with the eternal Friend and abides amidst
all earthly changes.
Ø Submission to His sovereign will, which appoints the lot of each and all
Ø Faith in His overruling power and goodness, according to which “all
things work together for good” (Romans 8:28) the welfare of His people,
and the establishment of His kingdom.
Ø The wish and prayer for His continued presence and blessing. In Him
parted friends may still meet, continue of “one heart and one soul,” and
obtain by their prayers invaluable benefits for one another.
again in this life (which was fulfilled – ch. 23:16), and doubtless
also in the eternal home to which God gathers His people. “Let it be
considered what a melancholy thing any friendship would be that should be
destined to expire with all its pleasures and advantages at death. That is the
worthy and happy friendship, and that alone, where the parties are
zealously preparing and have a good hope to meet in a nobler scene” (J.
Foster). The friendship which is formed and cherished in God is not
dissolved by death, but is renewed in “a life beyond life,” and
“As for my friends, they are not lost;
The several vessels of thy fleet,
Though parted now, by tempest tossed,
Shall safely in the haven meet.”
An Obedient Lad (vs. 35-40)
(A word to the young.) Prince Jonathan went out into the country, by the
stone Ezel, to practice archery of his famous bow (II Samuel 1:18, 22),
and took with him a lad, “a little lad” (v. 35), to carry his arrows and
gather them up after they had been shot at the mark. This lad;
1. Had learned a great lesson, the first and most important lesson of life:
OBEDIENCE! He was a young soldier, and had learned a soldier’s chief duty.
“Children, obey your parents” (Ephesians 6:1). “Servants, obey your
masters” (Colossians 3:22). “Obey” your teachers (Hebrews 13:17).
“Obey magistrates” (Titus 3:1).
2. Had learned his lesson well. He did what he was told to do willingly,
cheerfully, quickly (“make speed, haste, stay not”), fully, “without asking
3. Was very useful to his master. Though but a little lad, he could be of
service to a prince and great hero.
4. Did a greater service than he was aware of. He was seen by David from
his hiding place in the rock, and was useful to him as well as to Jonathan.
“And the lad knew not anything” (v. 39). In doing our duty One sees us
whom we see not, and regards it as done to Him.
5. Did not go unrewarded. He pleased his master, and would be more
highly valued for this service and promoted to a higher position, for which
it helped to prepare him.
6. Set a pattern of the kind of service we should render to God. “We ought
to obey God” (Acts 5:29) above all. “Speak, Lord; for thy servant
heareth.” (ch. 3:9)
Warning in Danger (vs. 35-42)
The facts are:
1. In accordance with arrangement, Jonathan, on the next day, goes out
into the field, and, on shooting the arrow beyond the lad with him, he cries
out the signal of danger.
2. David recognises the sign, and the lad is sent away to the city.
3. Thereupon David and Jonathan embrace each other, and take a
sorrowful farewell — Jonathan giving him his benediction, and reminding
him for his comfort of the sacred covenant between them both.
A crisis had come in the life of David which demanded prompt action. He had
passed from a quiet pastoral occupation to the full glory of a victor’s triumph, and
from thence through the checkered scenes of public service in the army and
the court. Meanwhile the hidden purposes of God were fast developing;
and now the “anointed” has to take a painful step in order to insure the
preservation of life essential to the realization of the end for which Samuel
had chosen him in the name of God. The manner in which Jonathan
performed his part is a beautiful instance of wise and faithful friendship
under most perilous circumstances. We see here:
DANGER WHICH AT ONE TIME WOULD NOT BE ANTICIPATED.
The life of the anointed of the Lord was in real peril by reason of the fixed
purpose of an enraged and envious king. No one would have supposed
such a condition of things when the ruddy youth went forth to meet the
giant, and subsequently received favors at the hand of Saul. But the
possibilities of human experience transcend all our effort to foresee. What
the web of life will embrace as the weaving goes on who can tell? It is true
one stage prepares the way for another according to fixed laws, but we
know not what new external condition a day or an hour may bring forth to
modify an existing stage. Who less than Divine could have supposed that
Adam, pure and blessed, would soon be exposed to so deadly a peril in
subject of angelic praise would be sought by a murderous Herod? The
great lines of human experience are still the same. In business affairs the
once prosperous come sometimes into risks of property, reputation, and all
that is dear. By associations not looked for, characters once without
suspicion are in danger of a fatal compromise. The tender, happy youth of
a pious home, encircled by all that love can provide, is found far from
home on the verge of a moral precipice. No position of privilege or service
sets us above the possibility of grave dangers. Even David, the chosen
servant, was nigh unto death, and the holy apostle was anxious lest, having
preached to others, he himself should at last be a “castaway” (I Corinthians
DANGER AND INCENTIVES TO ESCAPE. In the service of God David
came into this great peril, but by the offices of friendship God mercifully
provided for his need. The signal was given, and he recognized its meaning.
It said to him, “Flee; escape.” Perhaps it may be safely said that there is no
circumstance of moral — and often of material — danger into which we
may be brought in the unfolding of events but that God makes known our
position and opens a way of escape. Even in ordinary affairs the voice of a
sober judgment, if not of some personal friend, may warn the merchant of
his risks, and suggest a speedy retreat from entanglements. Often a man,
gradually forming undesirable associations, is warned by relatives and those
who love him best of the peril of his reputation. The former youth of
purity hears a voice as from a mother’s heart saying, as he in later years
stands on the brink of ruin, “Flee!”
shoot the arrow and cry “Beyond.”
ACT ON THE WARNING AT ANY COST. In David’s case we see the
reasonableness of his noting the sign, acting on its significance, even
though in so doing it cost him the bitter pang of parting from the
dearest friend of his life, and becoming a beggar and a fugitive.
Only thus could he ultimately fulfill the end of his existence. It was
reasonable, for Jonathan knew the danger to be real, and would not
deceive. So in any case of our peril, whether of health, business,
reputation, Christian profession, or future salvation, it is important at once
to heed the voice of warning;
many are ruined in spite of warning. The reason is, they either will not
cultivate the habit of discerning the “signs of the times” in moral and
spiritual matters (Matthew 16:3); or, discerning them, they fall under
the delusion that somehow they shall escape, even though they remain as
they are; or else they refuse to believe the signs. Many reject the testimony
of the faithful Jonathan. They prefer their own speculations to the declared
testimony of Christ (Revelation 1:18). Verily unbelief is folly, and those
who pride themselves on reason are the most unreasonable. It often costs
much to act promptly on the voice of warning. We may not have to endure a
separation from a holy friend as did David; but a temporary loss may be
sustained of serious character. The ruin threatening from a man’s entangled
business affairs may be escaped by a prompt surrender of luxurious habits
and home comforts. To save reputation friends may have to be abandoned.
A soul can only be saved from death sometimes by a resolute plucking out
of a right eye (Matthew 5:29).
Lot lost all in
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