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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 20

Haydock's Catholic Bible CommentaryHaydock's Catholic Commentary

Verse 1

To Jonathan, at Gabaa. He thought it no longer safe to remain at Najoth.

Verse 2

Be. The recent machinations and orders of Saul had been concealed from his son, with whom he used to consult on all important matters. (Calmet) --- Perceiving, however, that Jonathan was unwilling to come into his measures, Saul, in his phrenzy, tried to destroy David. (Haydock) --- But Jonathan, forming his judgment of others by his own upright heart, relied on the oath of his father, (Calmet) and on the information he had lately communicated to him, when he desired David to be slain. (Menochius) --- Abulensis believes that the particulars of a preceding reconciliation have been lost, which Salien supplies, the year of the world 2973.

Verse 3

As I may say, is not in Hebrew. Septuagint, "the space between me and thy father is filled up, unto death." We can never more have any union, nor dwell together in safety. (Haydock)

Verse 4

Soul, is often put for desire, Psalm xxvi. 12. (Calmet)

Verse 5

To-morrow is the new moon. The neomenia, or first day of the moon, kept according to the law, as a festival; and therefore Saul feasted on that day; and expected the attendance of his family. (Challoner) (Numbers x. 10.) --- Moon. Literally, "calends," a Greek word, intimating that the people were informed, or "called" together, on that occasion; as many nations follow the lunar system in the regulation of the year. (Haydock) --- The Rabbins say that people were stationed on the highest hills to observe the first appearance of the moon, and to give notice of it. But for fear of a mistake, two days were observed, as here we see that Saul gave a feast for such a length of time. This, however, is very uncertain. David speaks without any reference to the watchmen, as of a thing well known to all. The reason of Saul’s feasting two days, was because one of them was the sabbath. The following work-day David came to Nobe, (ver. 19,) and partook of the loaves which had been changed on the sabbath day, chap. xxi. 6., and Leviticus xxiv. 8. --- Sit. The custom of sitting at table seems to have been more ancient than that of lying. The Persians chiefly introduced the latter. They had very low tables, so that one of them placed under the feet of Alexander, when he sat upon the throne of Darius, which was too high for him. (Curtius v.) Both customs frequently prevailed at the same time, Ecclesiasticus ix. 12., and xxxi. 12. Women probably always sat, as the Chaldean says Esther did, Esther vii. 8. See Atheneus i. 14. V. Max. ii. 1. --- Day. The second of the month, after the sabbath was ended. (Calmet) --- Pezron thinks that both the last and first days of the month were festivals. (Du Hamel)

Verse 6

Tribe. It might seem an effect of pride, not to accept of such invitations of the king, without some good excuse. Ovid speaks of feasts instituted for relations alone. (Fast. ii.) Proxima cognati dixere Charistia cari

Et venit ad socios turba propinqua Deos. (Menochius)

--- Saul might pretend that his throwing his spear at David, was an effect of his distemper; and as the latter had returned to his palace after the first attempt, he might judge that he would do the like now, though he had so lately sought his life. David probably retired to Bethlehem, and returned the third day, when he bid adieu to Jonathan and to the court of Saul for ever, (ver. 21.; Calmet) though he saw Jonathan once more at Ziph, chap. xxiii. 16.

Verse 7

Height. Hebrew, "the evil is completed (or resolved upon) by him." (Haydock)

Verse 8

Lord, the most durable and sacred, confirmed by the name of God. (Calmet) --- Kill. So Moses besought God to take away his life. A friend would put him to as little torture as possible. (Menochius) --- But David only means strongly to assert his own innocence. (Haydock)

Verse 9

Thee. Hebrew, "then, should I not tell thee?" (Calmet) --- Septuagint, "and if it reach not thy cities, I will inform thee."

Verse 12

After. Septuagint, "The Lord....has known that I will sift my father, as opportunity shall serve, thrice," or repeatedly. (Haydock)

Verse 13

Father, at the beginning of his reign. Jonathan foresees that David will be his father’s successor. (Calmet) --- Hence he commends himself and family to his protection. (Menochius)

Verse 14

Die. Hebrew literally, "If I live, thou shalt not shew me, &c....and if I die, (15) thou shalt not," &c. It seems there is a negation too much. Jonathan requests that David would shew mercy to him and to his family; or he is willing that neither should partake of his kindness, if he prove a traitor to his friend. (Calmet) --- Protestants, "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 they kindness from my house for ever, no not when the Lord hath cut off," &c. (Haydock)

Verse 15

May he. It is a curse upon himself, if he should not be faithful to his promise. --- It. That is, revenge it upon David’s enemies, and upon me, if I shall fail of my word given to him. (Challoner) --- The Hebrew and several Latin manuscripts stop at earth; and what follows, is not found in some Greek and Latin editions. (Calmet) --- Enemies. May God punish David’s enemies, and me among the rest. (Menochius)

Verse 16

Enemies. This seems to be a second translation of the former sentence, with a small variation. --- Required may be expressed in the future, as an imprecation made by the two friends against those who should attempt to break the covenant, or to oppose David’s reign. Septuagint omit this verse entirely, and translate the following, (17) "and Jonathan continued to swear to David, inasmuch as he loved him, because he loved the soul of the man who loved him." He had such an affection for David, that he extended his love to all his friends. Protestants, "so Jonathan made a covenant with....David, saying: Let the Lord even require it at," &c. (Haydock) --- He did so in due time, and the covenant between these two had its effect. (Calmet)

Verse 19

Morrow. Hebrew, "and after three days (Haydock; or, on the third day) thou shalt," &c. Syriac and Arabic, "Thou wilt be called for at table, at the third hour." (Calmet) --- Septuagint use the same word, Greek: trioseuseis, as in the following verse: "I will shoot thrice at wild beasts, with arrows, sending as far as Laarmattarai," so here they may insinuate that David must "wait three days," (Haydock) or come on each of these days, that he may not slip an opportunity. (Cajetan) --- Work. Le Clerc translates, "in the day of the business." Protestants, "where thou didst hide thyself when the business was in hand, and shalt remain by the stone Ezel." Alexandrian Septuagint, "by this affair." Vatican [Septuagint], "Ergab," a word which Grabe admits instead of Greek: ergon, in his edition. (Haydock) --- Other copies, with the Syriac and Arabic, have simply, "near this stone," which Junius styles speculam, as if it were a butt or landmark, (Calmet) or a stone to shew the road, (Lyranus) or mile-stone, (Tirinus) which latter supposition is not probable, as David desired to be concealed. (Menochius) --- He would therefore choose some cavern, so as to be able to hear what Jonathan said, without being seen. (Haydock) --- this precaution was necessary for the safety of both. (Menochius)

Verse 23

Ever. Let us always inviolably adhere to our covenant. (Haydock)

Verse 24


Field, on the third day, having gone in the mean time to Bethlehem, ver. 6.

Verse 25

Arose, out of respect. Septuagint, "he had the precedence over Jonathan" alone, as the latter sat "on the king’s right hand, and Abner on the left," Arabic. (Calmet) --- David’s place was after Abner. (Menochius)

Verse 26

Purified, having perhaps touched some dead body, &c., Leviticus xi. 24.

Verse 27

To-day, which was the sabbath. (Calmet) --- On the new moons people did not travel far. (Menochius)

Verse 29

Sacrifice. Hebrew, "my family hath a sacrifice," &c., ver. 5. (Haydock)

Verse 30

A man. Hebrew, "of an unjust revolt." Thou hast taken part against thy father. (Calmet) --- Protestants, "son of the perverse rebellious woman." Septuagint, "of the fugitive, (Haydock) or of those girls who go in quest of men." We must not suppose that Jonathan’s mother was really of this description. Saul, in rage, wishes to affront his son, (Calmet) as some frantic parents call their children bastards, not reflecting that the reproach would fall upon themselves. --- Isai, as he styles him out of contempt, ver. 27. --- Mother. Hebrew, &c., "of thy mother’s nakedness or shame." (Menochius) --- Instead of a crown, thou must expect ot be reduced to a private station, to the disgrace of my family. (Haydock)

Verse 31

The son of death. That is, one that deserveth death, and shall surely be put to death. (Challoner) --- So people are often styled sons of perdition, of hell, of light, &c., (Calmet) when they are worthy of such things. (Haydock) --- All the crime of David, was his too exalted merit, which, under a jealous prince, is often fatal. Nec minus periculum ex magna fama, quam ex mala. (Tacitus, Agricola.)

Verse 34

Great. Literally, in the anger of fury." (Haydock) --- Him, either David or Jonathan. (Calmet) --- Indeed the crime of rebellion had been imputed to both. (Haydock) --- Jonathan was grieved on account of the affront and danger (Menochius) to which he had been publicly exposed, as well as for his friend, upon whose destruction he perceived that his father was now deliberately bent, and not merely during his fits of madness. --- Confusion. Septuagint, "because his father had completed his malice against him;" (Haydock) or, "had resolved to make an end of him." (Calmet)

Verse 36

Another. The Hebrew, &c., do not express this distinctly; (Calmet) but we find, ver. 38, "the lad gathered up the arrows."

Verse 40

Arms. Protestants, "artillery:" but the bow and arrow, &c., are meant. The boy was sent away under this pretext.

Verse 41

Place. Protestants, "out of a place towards," &c. (Haydock) --- Chaldean, "from the side of the rock Asha;" (or Ezel, ver. 19,) though the name is written rather differently in Hebrew. But this was the place appointed. (Calmet) --- Septuagint, "from sleep,....and adored him,....and each bewailed his neighbour, to great perfection." (Haydock) --- More. Jonathan strove to comfort him, as he was leaving wife, friends, and all. (Menochius)

Verse 42

Stand. This is not expressed in the text, which is left imperfect, (Haydock) to denote the anguish of the parting friends, (Menochius) very beautifully. (Salien) --- David did not exactly comply with this covenant, and his grandson lost half the kingdom, 2 Kings xix. (Tirinus)

Bibliographical Information
Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 20". "Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/hcc/1-samuel-20.html. 1859.
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