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1 Samuel 20:1-23
1And David fled from Naioth in Ramah, and came and said before Jonathan,1 What have I done? what is my iniquity and what is my sin before thy father that 2he seeketh my life? And he said unto him, God forbid [Far be it2]! Thou shalt not die; behold, my father will do3 nothing either great or small but that he will 3show it me, and why should my father hide this thing from me? it is not so. And David sware4 moreover,5 and said, Thy father certainly knoweth [knoweth well]6 that I have found grace in thine eyes, and he saith, Let not Jonathan know this.7 lest he be grieved. But truly, as the Lord [Jehovah] liveth, and as thy soul 4liveth, there is but a step between me and death.8 Then said Jonathan [And Jonathan said] unto David, Whatsoever thy soul desireth [saith],9 I will even [om. 5even] do it for thee. And David said unto Jonathan, Behold, to-morrow is the new moon, and I should not fail to sit10 with the king at meat; but let me go, that 6I may hide myself in the field unto the third11 day at even. If thy father at all [decidedly]12 miss me, then say, David earnestly asked13 leave of me that he might run to Bethlehem, his city, for there is a yearly sacrifice14 there for all the family. 7If he say thus, It is well, [ins. then] thy servant shall have peace; but if he be 8very wroth,15 then be sure that evil is determined by him. Therefore [And] thou shalt deal kindly with16 thy servant, for thou hast brought thy servant into a covenant of the Lord [Jehovah] with thee; notwithstanding [but], if there be in me iniquity, slay me thyself, for why shouldest thou bring me to thy father? And Jonathan 9said, Far be it17 from thee; for, if I knew certainly that evil were determined 10by my father to come upon thee, then would I not tell it thee?18 Then said David [And David said] to Jonathan, Who shall tell me? or what if thy father answer thee roughly ?19 And Jonathan said unto David, Come and let us go out 11into the field. And they went out both of them into the field.
12And Jonathan said unto David, O [By]20 Lord [Jehovah], God of Israel, when I have sounded my father about to-morrow any time [this time to-morrow] or the third day,21 and behold, if there be good towards David, and I then send not 13unto thee and shew it thee, the Lord [Jehovah] do so and much more to Jonathan.22  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 [Jehovah] be with thee 14as he hath been with my father. And thou shalt not only [And O that thou wouldest]23 while yet I live show me the kindness of the Lord [Jehovah] that I 15die not [And O,23 if I die]. But also thou shalt [that thou wouldst] not cut off thy kindness from my house forever, no, not [ins. even] when the Lord [Jehovah] 16hath cut off the enemies of David every one from the face of the earth. So [And] Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying,24 Let the Lore, even require [David, and Jehovah required] it at the hand of David’s enemies.
17And Jonathan caused David to swear25 again, because he loved him, for he loved him as he loved his own soul.
18Then [And] Jonathan said to David [him], To-morrow is the new moon, and 19thou shalt [wilt] be missed, because thy seat will be empty. And when thou hast stayed three days, then [om. then] thou shalt go down quickly26 and come to the place where thou didst hide thyself when the business was in hand, and thou shalt 20remain by the stone Ezel.27 And I will shoot three arrows on the side thereof, as 21though I shot at a mark.28 And, behold, I will send a lad, saying, Go, find out [om. 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, 22as the Lord [Jehovah] liveth. But if I say thus unto the young man, Behold the arrows are beyond thee, [ins. then] go thy way, for the Lord [Jehovah] hath sent 23thee away. And, as touching [as to] the matter which thou and I [I and thou] have spoken of, behold the Lord [Jehovah] be between thee and me [me and thee] forever.29
2. Jonathan learns Saul’s disposition towards David, and gives information to the latter, who flees
1 Samuel 20:24 to 1 Samuel 21:1 [1 Samuel 20:42]
24So [And] David hid himself in the field. And when the new moon was 25come, the king sat him down to eat meat. And the king sat upon his seat as at other times, even [om. even] upon a [the] seat by the wall, and Jonathan arose30 26and Abner sat by Saul’s side, and David’s place was empty. Nevertheless [And] Saul spake not any thing that day, for he thought, Something hath befallen him, Hebrews 2:0; Hebrews 2:07is not clean, surely he is not clean.31 And it came to pass on the morrow, which was the second day of the month [the morrow of the new moon, the second day],32 that David’s place was empty; and Saul said unto Jonathan his son, Wherefore 28cometh not the son of Jesse to meat, neither yesterday nor to-day? And Jonathan 29answered Saul, David earnestly asked leave of me to go to Bethlehem; And he said, Let me go, I pray thee, for our family hath a sacrifice in the city, and my brother, he33 hath commanded me to be there; and now, if I have found favor in thine eyes, let me get away,34 I pray thee, and see my brother. Therefore he cometh not unto the king’s table.
30Then Saul’s anger was kindled against Jonathan, and he said unto him, Thou son of the perverse rebellious woman,35 do I not know that thou hast chosen36 the son of Jesse to thy own confusion [shame] and unto the confusion [shame] of thy 31mother’s nakedness? For as long as the son of Jesse liveth upon the ground, thou shalt not be established, nor thy kingdom. Wherefore [And] now, send and fetch 32him unto me, for he shall surely die. And Jonathan answered Saul his father and 33said unto him, Wherefore shall he be slain? what hath he done? And Saul cast37 a [his] javelin at him to smite him, whereby [and] Jonathan knew that it was determined38 34of his father to slay David. So [And] 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.
35And it came to pass in the morning that Jonathan went out into the field at the 36time appointed with David, and a little lad with him. And he said unto his lad, Run, find out [om. out] now the arrows which I shoot. And as [om. and as] the 37lad ran [ins. and] he shot an [the] arrow beyond him. And when the lad was come to the place of the arrow which Jonathan had shot, Jonathan cried after the 38lad and said, Is not the arrow beyond thee? And Jonathan cried after the lad, Make speed, haste, stay not. And Jonathan’s lad gathered up the arrows39 and 39came40 to his master. But [And] the lad knew not any thing; only Jonathan and 40David knew the matter. And Jonathan gave his artillery41 unto his lad, and said 41unto him, Go, carry them to the city. As soon as the lad was gone [The lad went.] [ins. And] David arose out of a place toward the south [arose from beside the stone],42 and fell on his face to the ground, and bowed himself three times; and they kissed one another and wept with one another until David exceeded [wept greatly].43 42And Jonathan said to David, Go in peace, forasmuch as we have sworn both of us in the name of the Lord [Jehovah] saying, The Lord [Jehovah] be between me and thee and between my seed and thy seed forever.
1 Samuel 21:1 And he arose and departed; and Jonathan went into the city.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
1. 1 Samuel 20:1-23. Conversation and agreement between David and Jonathan on the mode of discovering Saul’s real attitude toward David, and informing him of it.
1 Samuel 20:1 is connected immediately with the foregoing, the narrative of David’s flight from Naioth in Ramah standing in pragmatic connection with the account (close of 1 Samuel 19:0.) of the proceedings of Saul and his messengers. They came to seize David; instead of which the irresistible Spirit of God had overpowered them and defeated their design. David must herein have seen the protecting hand of his God, which thus gave him opportunity to flee from Naioth, where he could no longer Find asylum.—Having by flight escaped the machinations of Saul and his followers, he seeks and finds a way to an interview with Jonathan.—David’s three-fold question as to his fault is a three-fold denial of it, since it involves as many assertions of his innocence. An echo of this assertion is found in the declaration, so frequent in the Davidic Psalms, of his innocence and purity in respect to the persecutions of his enemies.—That he seeks my soul, that is, my life, comp. Exodus 4:19. S. Schmid: “The questions in this verse are an appeal to Jonathan’s own knowledge.”
1 Samuel 20:2. Jonathan’s answer to David’s complaint is (1) the distinct assurance: far be it, thou shalt not die, and (2) the ground of this affirmation. Though this assurance has immediate reference to what David says of Saul’s attack on him (as Jonathan’s following words are intended to show that he knew nothing of such a murderous plan on Saul’s part), yet at the same time Jonathan, looking to David’s high divine mission for the people, prophetically declares what was determined in the Divine counsel concerning the maintenance and preservation of his friend’s life.—For לו (“to him”) read לֹא (“not.”) The marginal Impf. (יַעֲשֶׂח) is to be preferred to the Perf. of the text, expressing customary action (“does nothing” [Eng. A. V. “will do nothing”]); so Sept., Vulg., Chald. We may indeed read the word as Prtcp. with Bunsen, who therefore regards the “masoretic change” as unnecessary. Jonathan means to say: “My father as a rule does nothing without telling me, nothing great or small,” that is, absolutely nothing, comp. 1 Samuel 22:15, 1 Samuel 25:36, Numbers 22:18. The appended remark: “Why should my father hide this thing from me? It is not so!” supposes that the intitimate relation between Jonathan and David had been concealed as far as possible from Saul. They were secret friends, as far as he was concerned. Otherwise Saul would certainly not have spoken to his son Jonathan (1 Samuel 19:1) of his purpose to kill David. This confirms what Jonathan here says to David. Saul’s lack of self-control44 showed itself in his taking counsel about his scheme of murder with those about him, his violent passion so mastering him that he could not at all conceal the fury of his heart. His communication of his plan (1 Samuel 19:1) was the occasion of Jonathan’s hindering it; Saul even swore to Jonathan that he would not kill David, and this Jonathan told David (1 Samuel 19:6-7). To this Jonathan’s word here refers: “thou shalt not die,” &c. Since that time there had been another war with the Philistines (ib. 1 Samuel 20:8), and shortly before this conversation of David and Jonathan the incident narrated in 1 Samuel 20:9-24 occurred. David’s words in 1 Samuel 20:3 : “he (Saul) thought Jonathan must not know this,” confirm Jonathan’s assurance that his father had told him nothing of a plan of murder. But, it may properly be asked, did Jonathan know nothing of the events just described, on which David’s declaration is based? It is certainly possible that he [Jonathan] was at that time absent from court; but the connection does not favor this view. But, if he were present, Saul’s attempt against David could not possibly have remained concealed from him. Accepting this supposition as the more probable, we must, in order to understand Jonathan’s words, look at the whole situation. The account of all the occurrences from 1 Samuel 19:9 on exhibits Saul in a relatively unsound state of mind, produced by a new attack of rage and madness. As now Saul had before, after recovering from such an attack, sworn to Jonathan in consequence of his representations, that he would not kill David, Jonathan might regard this late attempt on David as the result of a new but temporary access of rage, and, remembering his distinct oath in his lucid period, might suppose that he would not in a quiet state of mind resolve on and execute such a murder. Thus his decided “it is not so” may be psychologically explained. Nägelsbach: “Between 1 Samuel 19:2 and 1 Samuel 20:2 there is no contradiction, since in the latter passage Jonathan merely denies that there is now a new attempt against David’s life” (Herz. R.-E. xiii. 403). But while Jonathan had in mind merely the symptom in his father’s condition, David knew how deeply rooted in envy and jealousy Saul’s hate toward him was. He assures him with an oath, what was perfectly clear to him, that Saul sought his destruction. עוֹד refers to what is said in 1 Samuel 20:1, and so=“thereto, moreover,” not “the second time, again,” since nothing is said of a previous oath. David’s reply contains two things: (1) the explanation (connected with the indirect affirmation that Saul had resolved to murder him) of Jonathan’s statement that Saul had said nothing to him of the murder, by referring to Saul’s undoubted knowledge of the friendship between them, and (2) the assertion (with a double oath) that he saw nothing but death before him. (כִּי is here intensive, =imo, so especially in oaths, 1 Samuel 14:44, 1 Kings 1:29 sq., 1 Samuel 2:23 f., 2 Kings 3:14.—כְּ expresses comparison or similarity). “Yea, as a step, like a step.” The picture is of a precipice, from which he is only a step removed, over which he may any moment be plunged.
1 Samuel 20:4. Jonathan’s answer supposes that he gives credence to David’s assertion, and proves his friendship by offering his help, with the declaration that he wished to fulfill every wish of his soul. The reply of David (1 Samuel 20:5) shows how far he had cause to fear that there was only a step between him and death. The recollection of the obligation on him to take part in the new moon feast at court as a member of Saul’s family (not merely as one (Then.) who had a standing formal invitation), brings him face to face with the danger in which his life stood; for the feast fell on the following day. On the religious celebration of the day of new moon with burnt-offering and sin-offering and sound of trumpet see Numbers 10:10; Numbers 28:11-15. As a joyful festival it was connected with a cheerful meal. To this refers Saul’s conjecture (1 Samuel 20:26) that David was absent on account of levitical uncleanness. And I must sit at table with the King. That is, as a matter of course, according to custom, he would be expected by Saul to take part in the meal. The Vulg. rightly renders ex more sedere soleo, but the Sept., proceeding from the fact that David was not present, wrongly inserts a negative: “I shall not sit at meat.” Ew. § 338 b.: “I am to sit,” where the meaning is, “I will certainly sit.” As in 1 Samuel 16:2, it is here supposed that the custom was to sit, not to recline at table.—Let me go, that I may hide myself. This is not a mere formula of courtesy, but a request that Jonathan would not press him to appear at table, but permit him to depart, that he might escape the danger threatening him. Till the evening of the third day, that is, from the present day. This supposes that the festival was prolonged by a meal the day after new moon.—Comp. 1 Samuel 20:12; 1Sa 20:27; 1 Samuel 20:34, where Saul looks for David also the day after new moon.—From the fact that both David and Saul here look to the former’s appearance at the royal table, it has been held (Then., Ew.) that this whole narrative contradicts 1 Samuel 19:0., and is taken from another source. But there is no contradiction if we remember that Saul acted (according to 1 Samuel 19:9 sq.) under an attack of rage or madness, and, on the return of a quiet frame of mind, would expect everything to go on as usual, and the whole personnel of his family to be present at table. After his previous experiences, David must now know certainly whether Saul in his times of quiet and lucidness, maintained against him that hostile disposition which showed itself in his intermittent attacks of rage.
1 Samuel 20:6. David wishes through Jonathan to determine Saul’s attitude toward him, and find out certainly whether in his hate the latter has really conceived a plan for his destruction. As David, according to 1 Samuel 20:5, is to hide in the field till the evening of the third day, his excuse for absence can be regarded only as a pretext, or a “lie of necessity,” and the explanation that, by reason of the proximity of Bethlehem to Gibeah, he might, meantime, easily go home, must be rejected as out of keeping with the sense of the whole narrative. In this statement, which Jonathan was to make in case Saul missed David, namely, that the latter had gone to attend a family feast, the fact (easily explained from the absence of a central sanctuary) is supposed “that individual families in Israel were accustomed to celebrate yearly festivals” (Keil); this would be the case more naturally in those places where, as in Bethlehem (comp. 1 Samuel 16:2 sq.), there were altars dedicated to the Lord as centres of sacrifice. O. v. Gerlach: “In the then disorganized condition of public worship, to which David first gave regular form, family usages of this sort, after the manner of other nations, had established themselves, which were contrary to the prescriptions concerning the unity of divine worship.” On the yearly sacrifice see on 1 Samuel 1:1.,—(נִשְׁאַל from the connection not Pass. but Reflex.,=“sought for himself.”) David could ask leave of absence from Jonathan as competent representative of the royal family, if he did not wish to go to Saul.
1 Samuel 20:7. Saul’s conduct in these two contrasted forms, was for Jonathan as for David the sign of his permanent attitude towards David in the condition of quiet in which he now was; for such a sign was necessary not only for Jonathan (S. Schmid) but also for David, since, as appears from the tenor of the whole narration, he did not yet certainly know how Saul in the depths of his heart was disposed towards him. If he says “well,” it means peace for thy servant, that is, from the connection, “he has laid no plot of murder against me.” In the other event, if his “anger burn,” know that evil on his part is a settled thing. כָּלָח = “to be finished, settled,” “firmiter decretum est” (S. Schmid). The “evil” is not “malice,” and its development to the highest point (Vulg.), but the danger to David, Saul’s murder scheme, as appears from the phrase “by him.”
1 Samuel 20:8. And show mercy to thy servant,—this refers not merely to the request of 1 Samuel 20:6 (S. Schmid, Keil), nor to what Jonathan should do in case Saul’s answer was unfavorable, but to the general help expected from him, that David might escape the threatened danger. That it includes what David looks for from Jonathan in case Saul answers angrily, appears from Jonathan’s reply in 1 Samuel 20:9. David grounds his request on the covenant of the Lord which Jonathan had made with him. So he calls their covenant of friendship, because it was not only made with invocation of the Lord’s name, but also had its deepest ground and origin in God, and its consecration in their life-like communion with God. Thou hast brought me,—this indicates the initiative which, in the concluding of the covenant, was on the side of Jonathan (1 Samuel 18:1-3).—In the words: “If there is iniquity in me, slay thou me,” David adds a special request, which is closely connected with what precedes. He would rather atone for any sin which might rest on him by death at his friend’s hand; Jonathan shall do him the kindness in this case not to deliver him up to Saul, that he may not be slain by him. This supposes that Jonathan had the right to inflict capital punishment for crimes against his father as king.
1 Samuel 20:9. Jonathan’s answer first decidedly sets aside the case last put by David. The “far be it from thee” is not to be connected with what follows, as if it were here said what was to be far (Ges., Del., Maur.), but is to be taken absolutely, and to be referred (as 1 Samuel 20:2) to what David had just said. The “from thee” is therefore not expletive (Cleric.) The Vulg. rightly: absit hoc a te. This involves Jonathan’s firm conviction of David’s innocence.—Then follows Jonathan’s solemn assurance that he will inform David if Saul exhibits a hostile disposition towards him. This was the service of love which he had first to do for his friend, that the latter might then take further measures for saving his life. (כִּי is particle of asseveration=yea, truly.) If I know certainly that * * * * that is, if, from your statement (1 Samuel 20:7), I know beyond doubt that evil on my father’s part is a thing determined. From the connection, and on account of the vigor and emphasis of the interrogation, which is in keeping with Jonathan’s excited feeling, it is better to construe the “if,” etc., as first member (protasis), and the “and not,” &c, as second interrogative member (apodosis) of a conditional sentence45 [as in Eng. A. V.]
1 Samuel 20:10, Tremell, Ges., Ew. (§ 352 a), Then, and Bunsen take this as one sentence: “who will show me what rough thing perchance thy father will answer thee” (אוֹ מָח = whatever thing); against which we must insist with Keil that this signification of או occurs only where another case is mentioned, where the ground-meaning is “or.” As מָה [“what”] indicates a new question, we must here suppose two questions. The first: Who will show me? is connected immediately with the last words of Jonathan in 1 Samuel 20:9 : “I will come to thee and tell thee,” namely, the evil determined on by my father. David is thinking in this first question of the danger which Jonathan would thus incur, and, for that very reason, putting him out of the question, asks: “Who will show me (the evil),” that is, what thy father decrees against me (Maur.) “He asks what he would be willing to tell a servant” (S. Schmid). The Berl. Bib. explains excellently: “The matter cannot be entrusted to a servant, and thou must have care for thyself, lest thou also come under thy father’s displeasure.” The sense is therefore: “No one will tell me,” namely, the evil determined by Saul. This question, with its negative sense, is the answer, spoken with excited feeling, to Jonathan’s word: “I will tell thee the evil determined on,” and the tender, thoughtful form in which he clothes the decided: “Thou canst not tell me.” The second question: Or what harsh thing will thy father answer thee? refers to Saul’s anger (1 Samuel 20:7), whence Jonathan purposed learning that Saul’s evil plan against David was completed. Schmid’s explanation: “and if thou choose a messenger, how shall I understand what evil thy father answers?” rests on the false distinction between a person bringing the information (to whom only the first question is to refer), and the nature of the information (to which the second question is to refer), and requires us to supply a sentence which could by no means have been omitted. Maur., De Wette, Keil regard the question as referring to the evil consequences to Jonathan, if he himself brought the information to David: What would thy father answer thee hard (Maur.: “what thinkest thou he would decree against thee,” contrary to to the meaning of עָנָה), if thou thyself didst it? Against this is the word “answer,” since Jonathan would not say to Saul that he intended to tell David—and we cannot appropriately supply the idea that, if Saul afterwards heard of Jonathan’s going to David, he would answer him harshly. Rather the second question reads fully: “Or who will tell what thy father,” etc. Saul’s evil word, by which his fixed evil purpose is to be discovered, is distinguished from this latter. But the evil answer is not to be understood of threats against David (Böttcher), but of harsh language towards Jonathan (1 Samuel 20:6-7). In this double question David denies or doubts that in this unfortunate case information can be given him. The two-fold question, with its negative meaning, corresponds to David’s excited state of mind, and makes a full and candid conversation necessary, for which purpose Jonathan invites David to go with him to the field. [Erdmann’s translation is hardly satisfactory; the second clause does not suit the question: “who will tell?” The rendering: “who will tell me if perchance thy father,” &c, is the smoother, and suits the context better, but it is doubtful whether אוֹ can mean simply “if.”—Tr.] 1 Samuel 20:11. Let us go into the field, namely, out of the city of Gibeah, or the royal residence therein, where this conversation was held. It certainly accords with David’s words to suppose that they wished to escape from observation (Then.), in order to speak further undisturbedly of the matter, and to think over ways and means (Berl. Bib.); but at the same time the context suggests as another aim, that Jonathan wished to point out what he thought a fit place wherein to give his friend by a trustworthy sign the desired information, comp. 1 Samuel 20:19-24. This obviously supposes Jonathan’s fixed determination, in spite of David’s protest, to bring the message himself. That Jonathan went out for the sake of the oath which he afterwards [see 1 Samuel 20:42] renewed with David (Grot.: “they used to swear in the open air”) is less probable.
1 Samuel 20:12-23 is essentially the full positive answer to David’s question, which was meant in a negative sense. 1 Samuel 20:12-13. Jonathan’s solemn oath that he will inform him of the mind of his father. The solemnity and loftiness of the vow, heightened by the oath, answers to the epoch-making importance and decisive significance of this moment in David’s life; for from this moment David’s way must coincide with that of Saul, or for ever diverge from it and be for him a way of uninterrupted suffering.—That Jonathan begins his address with a solemn invocation of God, “Jehovah, God of Israel” (De Wette, Keil) [so Eng. A. V., see “Text, and Gram.”] is untenable, because there is no analogy for such a mode of address, and because of the introduction “Jonathan said to David” (Thenius). Nor can we suppose an interrupted discourse, resumed in 1 Samuel 20:13, for against this is the beginning of 1 Samuel 20:13 : “The Lord do so.”46 As an oath follows, it is simplest to regard this as the formula of an oath by God, not supplying (with Maurer): “may God destroy me,” or (Syr., Arab.): “God is my witness,” but (with Thenius supplying חַי “after Cod. Kenn. 560 and 224 margin,” which might easily fall out before יהוה) reading: “as God lives;” unless with Bunsen we take the “Jehovah, God of Israel,” as a lively ejaculation in the sense of an oath = “by God.”—The protasis begins: “when I sound my father,” and goes to the end of 1 Samuel 20:12. כָּעֵת מָחָר = “to-morrow about this time,” as in 1 Kings 19:2; 1Ki 20:6; 2 Kings 7:1; 2 Kings 7:18, and the full phrase in Joshua 11:6 (Gesen.). The following word “on the third day” is without a conjunction (which with Sept. and Vulg. is to be supplied from the sense) and similarly depends on כָּעֵת,= “the third day about this time.” This expression “to-morrow or next day” refers to the statement of time in 1 Samuel 20:5, and supposes that the festival was continued by a meal the day after new moon. And behold, there is good for David, etc.—In circumstantial phrase, which befits the solemn and serious character of the situation, Jonathan distinguishes the two cases, the favorable and the unfavorable, in order to make each the object of a solemn oath. Jonathan swears that in the first case he will send to David to uncover his ear, that is, to reveal to him, inform him that Saul is favorably disposed towards him, comp. 1 Samuel 22:8.
1 Samuel 20:13 the apodosis: “so do the Lord to Jonathan,” etc. The same formula in oaths in 1 Samuel 14:44; 1 Kings 19:2.—The opposite case is introduced with כִּי without adversative particle: “(But) if it please my father to do thee evil,” etc.47 The apodosis: “I will show it thee and send thee away that thou mayest go in peace,” asserts, in distinction from the preceding apodosis, that Jonathan in this case will bring David the information himself without the intervention of a messenger. With this promise, confirmed by an oath, Jonathan connects the wish: “The Lord be with thee as he hath been with my father.” This indicates that Jonathan has at least a presentiment of David’s high destiny and his future calling, which he is some time to fulfil as King of Israel in Saul’s place.—This comes out still more clearly in what follows. For in 1 Samuel 20:14-16 with such a presentiment he begs David in the future to maintain faithfully his mercy and love towards him even in misfortune. On the ground of what is now happening to Saul and David under the divine providence, he foresees how Saul and his house will be hurled from the royal power, and David thereto elevated. In Jonathan’s pious soul, which felt and perceived God’s righteous working, there lay hid a divinatory and prophetic element, as here appears. Jonathan, having before expressed his wish for David, here declares what he desires from David as counter-proof of faithful friendship. With reference to the oriental custom of killing the children and relations of the former king on ascending the throne, Jonathan begs David hereafter to show mercy to his house. “The syntactical construction is a somewhat violent one, as accords with the emotion of the speaker” (Bunsen). Of the various explanations of this difficult passage only the two following are worthy of consideration. The one understands a question to the end of 1 Samuel 20:14 : “And wilt thou not, if I yet live, wilt thou not show me the kindness of the Lord, that I die not?” 1 Samuel 20:15 cannot then be a part of the question, but must be taken as the subjoined expression of confident expectation: “And thou wilt not cut off thy kindness from my house for ever, not even when,” etc. But this sudden, abrupt transition to a question and then again to direct discourse is strange, even if these vacillations and diversities of discourse are referred to Jonathan’s excited feeling. The second explanation, which is the preferable one, introduces a wish by a slight change in the pointing of the Hebrew.48 Jonathan, having invoked a blessing on David, thus expresses his wish for himself: “And wouldst thou, if I still live, wouldst thou show me the kindness of God, and not, if I die, not cut off thy love from my house for ever?” So Syr., Arab., Maur., Then., Ew., Keil. The correspondence and parallelism of the clauses is thus evident: to “if I yet live” answers “if I die.”49 To the “show kindness to me” answers the similar negative request, “cut not off thy kindness from my house,—not even when,” &c. “Kindness of the Lord;” that is, love, goodness, such as the Lord, as covenant-God, shows His people according to His promise, and, therefore, one member of the people ought to show to another, especially in such a covenant of love made in the presence of the Lord. By this request for the “kindness of the Lord” Jonathan indicates David’s duty to show him this love. “Not even when the Lord shall cut off the enemies of David, every one from the face of the earth.” The בְֹּהַכְרִית forms an assonance תַכְרִית וְלֹא: “do not cut off … even when the Lord shall cut off.” Jonathan clearly understands that enmity against David is enmity against the Lord’s purpose and act, and that God s destroying judgment must fall on his father’s house because of its opposition to the will of the Lord. 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 of the circle of “enemies” (since he recognises 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 so far as concerns the judgment of extermination.—See the fulfilment of Jonathan’s request, 2 Samuel 9:0.
1 Samuel 20:16 is a remark of the narrator 1) on this covenant between Jonathan and David, and 2) on the actual fulfilment of Jonathan’s word respecting the overthrow of David’s enemies. “And Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David.” After וַיִּכְרֹת supply בְּרִית: comp. 1 Samuel 22:8; Joshua 6:1; Judges 19:30; 2 Chronicles 7:18 [1 Kings 8:9. The examples from Josh, and Judges present omissions of other words.—Tr.]—The second part of the verse (וּבֵקִּשׁ) is by many put into Jonathan’s mouth as part of his oath, “and the Lord take vengeance on the enemies of David” (Then., Maur., De Wette, Buns.). But the objection to this is, that then (unless with Then, we adopt the corrupt Sept. and Vulg. text: “and may Jonathan’s name not be cut off from the house of David”) we must supply “saying” (אָמַר between וּ and בֵקִּשׁ), which is hard, and is not found elsewhere. And Keil rightly remarks that after the insertion between conjunction and verb the Perf. could not have an Optative sense. Finally against this view is the fact that it is psychologically and ethically not quite conceivable how Jonathan should have expressed such a wish, especially as this judgment as a future fact had already been distinctly looked at by him, and was the condition and basis of his wish. “Require at the hand” (בֵּקִּשׁ מִיַד =“take vengeance, punish,” with the word “blood,” 2 Samuel 4:11, without it here and Joshua 22:23.
1 Samuel 20:17. And Jonathan caused David to swear again. According to the connection this does not refer to what follows from 1 Samuel 20:18 on (Maur.), but concludes naturally the transaction between Jonathan and David,—but not as an oath by which Jonathan assures David anew that he will keep his promise (Then.), according to the incorrect rendering of Sept. and Vulg. “he swore to David” (from which Then, would read “to David,” instead of Acc. “David”)—rather it is an oath by which Jonathan adjures David to fulfil his last request (1 Samuel 20:14-15). The “again” refers to 1 Samuel 20:12. He adjured him “by his love to him;” that is, he made his love to David the ground of his request, so that David might in turn show his love. [Or, his love to David made him anxious to maintain friendly relations between their houses; he could not bear to think of his children shut out from the love of this his much-loved friend, whom he loved as himself.—Tr.]. The words: “for he loved him as his own soul” confirm and define the preceding “by his love to him,” and indicate the cordialness of his friendly love, which is like his love for himself; that is, he loves his friend as himself. The “soul” is the centre of the inner life and of the whole personality. Comp. 1 Samuel 18:1-3.
1 Samuel 20:18 sq. Further conversation on the carrying out of Jonathan’s promise.—As to 1 Samuel 20:18 comp. 1 Samuel 20:5.—(The Perf. with Waw consec. has a future signification when preceded not only by an express Fut. but also by any indication of futurity, as here the words: “to-morrow is new moon.”) The presupposed situation is resumed as basis for the following agreement.
1 Samuel 20:19. And on the third day come down quickly. If we point the Heb. form as a verb =“to do a thing the third day” (וְשִׁלַּשְׁתָּ), Ges., Ew., Maur., it is to be taken asyndetically with the following word in an adverbial sense (Ges., § 142, 3, c) = “do it on the third day that thou come down.” But this sense of the word occurs nowhere else; Gesenius’ reference to the Arab. “to come every fourth day” does not suit here, because nothing is said of coming every fourth day. We might more easily assume the meaning “to do a thing the third time” (1 Kings 18:34), and render “a third time come down.” The first time of his going down was in 1 Samuel 19:2, our present narrative gives the second time, and 1 Samuel 20:35 would be the third time. But besides the forced character of this explanation, we have against this vocalization of the Heb. text (the Sept. τρισσεύσεις favors it) the Chald., Syr., Arab., and Vulg., which render “And on the third day,” and we must therefore read וּשְׁלִשִׁית, which agrees with 1 Samuel 20:5. The words “Come down very” [so literally the Heb.] are also somewhat strange; not on account of the Adv. “down” (Then.), for this is explained by the nature of the ground, the field of meeting being lower than the surrounding highlands (Cler.: “Jonathan seems to wish David to go down into a very deep valley as near as possible to Gibeah, where Jonathan himself would tell him what was to be done”—but on account of the word “very” (מְאֹר). The Vulg. has “descend quickly.” From the difficulty of the reading some substitute “thou wilt be missed” (תִּפָּקֵד, Chald., Syr., Ar.) for the “come down;” but, apart from the difficulty of explaining how the Heb. text came from this reading, the expression “On the third day thou wilt be much missed” is very strange, and the “very” with “come down” is less surprising if we take it = “quickly,” and suppose it necessary to insist on a quick descent to the place of meeting on account of the danger of being observed. Perhaps, however, the text is corrupt, and instead of מְאֹד (“very”) we should read מוֹעֵד, “appointed place of meeting,” comp. Joshua 8:14. It would be an Acc. of place as in 1 Samuel 20:11; see the similar expression in verse 35, which refers to this passage. [Eng. A. V. gives a very doubtful translation of the Heb. text; see “Text. and Gram.”—Tr.].—And come to the place where thou didst hide on the day of the business. These words are usually rightly referred to the narrative in 1 Samuel 19:2. But what does “the day of the business” mean? Against the reference to the wicked deed of Saul, which forced David to fly (Maur., Ew., De Wette), Thenius rightly says that the word never means “wicked deed” in itself, but only when the connection points to it (Job 33:17). But in 1 Samuel 19:2. there is mention not of a deed, but only of a purpose of Saul; the explanation “on the day of the purposed evil” (Ew.) adds something not contained in the word. Against the rendering “on the work day” as opposed to “feast-day” (Chald., Sept., Vulg., Ges., Luther) is the fact that, as Then. remarks, to obtain a fitting sense, we must then read: “Thou wilt come from, the place where thou (on the work-day) shalt have hidden thyself.” Bunsen’s explanation “on the day when that happened” (1 Samuel 19:2-3) attenuates the meaning of the Heb. word (מַּעֲשֶׂה), yea, directly contradicts it. [The word means “something done.”—Tr.] The rendering “on the day of the business (known to thee)” (Tanchum, Then., Keil) is unsatisfactory, because it is then wholly uncertain what business occurred on that day. Holding fast to the view that that day (1 Samuel 19:2 sq.) was the one here referred to, the “business,” regarded by Jonathan as specially memorable, could only be Jonathan’s deed, when near that spot he turned aside his father’s murderous thoughts from David, having brought him to the spot where David was hidden and could hear the conversation. This was the business which Jonathan’s brief allusion would suggest to David. A reference to this explanation is found as early as Clericus: “rather the allusion seems to be to the day when Jonathan occupied himself with this very business of David’s safety.”—And remain by the stone Ezel. (Sept. παρὰ τὸ Εργὰβ ἐκεῖνο, הָאַרְגּב הַלָּז, “by that stone-heap.” So Then, and Ew., except that the latter reads הָאָזֵל, “the lonely waste.” There is, however, no need for change of text; אֶבֶן is a hollow rock as a hiding-place, and Ezel is a proper name.) [On the reading see “Text. and Gram.”—Tr.].
1 Samuel 20:20. He will shoot three arrows on the side of the stone; the Art. “the three arrows” is explained by supposing that Jonathan, who had no doubt come armed, showed David three arrows by which the latter might from his hiding-place recognise his presence. Jonathan would act as if he were practicing at a mark (Vulg. “as if exercising at a mark”), it being understood that the arrows thus shot were to be gathered up50 from the place where they fell, whether in front of or behind the mark. (Böttcher: In צדָּהֿ the Raphe, as the accent shows, denotes that ה loses its aspiration by reason of the neighboring hard consonants (2 צ and then ר), or remains as suffix ־ָהּ, not as toneless local ־ַה; this—־ָה refers to the preceding fem. אֶבֶן, so that צִדָּהֿ = juxta eam, at its (the stone’s) side (so render Vulg., De Wette, and even Luther), expresses a definite mark.)
1 Samuel 20:21. The agreement as to the sign, whereby David was to know whether there was danger for him or not. Before “go, find the arrows” the word “saying” has not fallen out, but is to be supplied (with Sept. and Vulg.) from the sense. Comp. 1 Samuel 11:7; Isaiah 10:3-4. The procedure is as follows: The servant, taking position by order on the side of the mark, is first, after the shooting, to go to the mark in order to find the arrows; if then Jonathan calls to him: “The arrows are from thee,” that is from the place where thou art “hitherward,” bring them,—that is a sign for David that it is well, he is to come; for there is peace to thee, and it is nothing, as the Lord liveth. But if (1 Samuel 20:22) he says: “The arrows are from thee,” that is “yonsides,” that is a sign that David is to go away, to flee. For the Lord sendeth thee away, that is, commands thee to go away.
1 Samuel 20:23. And the word that we have spoken, that is, not merely the sign agreed on, but (as is indicated by the “we” and the “I and thou”) what they had said to one another in the whole affair, and promised one another before the Lord. Behold, the Lord is between me and thee for ever, comp. Genesis 31:49. We need not with Sept. supply the word “witness,” since without it the thought is clearly expressed that it is the Lord in whom they have here anew concluded their covenant of friendship, and in whose fear they feel themselves bound to maintain it and fulfil their promises to one another.
1 Samuel 20:24-34. The execution of the agreement, and the open exhibition of Saul’s deadly hate against David.
1 Samuel 20:24. Instead of “sat,” the Sept. has “came to the table,” but the Heb. text is to be retained as in keeping with the rapid and minute portraiture of the narrative. The text “on” (above) the food [עַל, Eng. A. V. omits the prep.] is to be retained against the marginal reading (Qeri) “to;” “he who sits at table is elevated, comp. Proverbs 23:30” (Maur.).—“David hid himself—Saul sat at table on new-moon-day,”—this lapidary double remark admirably and vividly introduces the following narration, which is marked precisely by this two-fold fact. Saul sat in his “seat by the wall,” as the highest, most honorable place, opposite the door. See Harmar, Beob. über d. Orient, II. 66 sq. “As time on time,” that is, as formerly, as usually, comp. iii. 4; Numbers 24:1. Vulg. secundum consuetudinem. The word “arose” presents serious difficulties. It is proposed to adopt the Sept. κὰι προ έφθασε τὸν ’Ιωνάθαν (וַיְּקַדֵּם for וַיָּקָּם), and render “Jonathan sat in front” (Then., Ew., Buns.). But this meaning of the Heb. word is not proved, while the rendering of the Sept. “he (Saul) went before Jonathan” would certainly accord with it, since the verb means “to go before.” But that would be understood of itself, apart from the fact that the context and the syntax do not allow us to take “Saul” as subject; therefore, too, Clericus’ explanation falls to the ground; “Saul alone preceded Jonathan,” that is, Jonathan sat down next after him. The rendering of the Sept. clearly springs from the difficulty of the expression “And Jonathan arose.” We must try to hold to the text. The Syr. renders: “And Jonathan arose and seated himself and Abner (seated himself) at Saul’s side” (connecting וַיֵּשֶׁב with וַיָקָם, and putting וְ before אַבְנֵר). But the insertion of “and” is arbitrary, the “sat” must be connected with “Abner,” and the circumstantial introduction of the simple matter-of-course act “sat” by the phrase “arose,” which always emphatically indicates a transition from rest to a new act or activity, is somewhat farcical. The explanation “and Jonathan came” (De Wette, Maurer: Jonathan sat down next after Saul) does not agree with the meaning of the Heb. word (קוּם), which is used instead of “coming” in the elevated, solemn sense = “appearing,” but never of simple “coming.” If we keep the text and render “and Jonathan arose, and Abner sat” (Vulg.), the only possible explanation is: Jonathan rose from his place when Abner came, whether to show him honor as his uncle, or to give him his proper place at Saul’s side, which he had taken perhaps in Abner’s absence under the impression that the latter would not come to the meal.—Another rendering, however, naturally suggests itself; pointing the verb (ישׁב) as causative (Hiph. וַיּשֶׁב), written defectively) as in 2 Chronicles 10:2 (Ges. § 69, 3 R. 7), and understanding that Jonathan had already seated himself after Saul, and that David’s absence was observed, we translate “he arose, and seated Abner at Saul’s side,” that is, in the place left vacant by David’s absence,51 in order that the seat next to Saul might not be empty, he himself having taken the seat on the other side of Saul.—Maurer conjectures that the words “and Jonathan arose” have been inserted here by the mistake of a transcriber from the beginning of 1 Samuel 20:34.
1 Samuel 20:26. The first day Saul explained David’s absence by supposing that he was ceremonially unclean and unable to take part in the religious festival. See Leviticus 7:20 sq.; 1 Samuel 15:16; Deuteronomy 23:4. [Kitto suggests as the explanation of Saul’s expecting David, that he supposed David would infer from the occurrence at Naioth 1 Samuel 19:24, that Saul’s mood was changed, and there was no longer danger.—Tr.].
1 Samuel 20:27. The statement of time here is with Keil to be literally rendered: “it was on the morrow after the new moon, the second day (הַשֵּׁנִי is Nom. with וַיְהִי, not Gen. after הַחֹדֶשׁ) and David’s place was missed,” so De Wette: “it came to pass on the following day of the new moon, the second.” In reply to Saul’s question about him Jonathan gave the answer agreed on in 1 Samuel 20:6, only adding that David was called to Bethlehem by his brother.
1 Samuel 20:28. David earnestly asked leave of me to Bethlehem, an elliptical expression, in which “to go” (1 Samuel 20:6) is to be supplied
1 Samuel 20:29. And he hath commanded me, my brother, and now, etc. Stumbling at the Sing. “brother,” the Sept. has “brothers;” we are to understand the eldest brother (Ew.) as head of the family, who had the care of the domestic arrangements for the feast. Vulg. wrongly: “one of my brothers.” Syr. and Arab. wrongly translate: “and he (David) exhorted me and said to me, my brother, if, etc.” Jonathan’s quotation of David’s words is somewhat loose and incompact, agreeing with the cordial, light tone in which one friend makes such statements to another in confidential intercourse. This is the explanation also of the somewhat rough and jocose phrase “let me get away, take myself off” (אִמָּלְטָה). Comp. the “run” in 1 Samuel 20:6 (Bunsen).
1 Samuel 20:30 sq. Saul’s outbreak of wrath in consequence of these words of Jonathan. Against the rendering “thou son of a woman perverse and rebellious” (literally, “perverse one of rebellion,” נַעֲוָה as Ni. partcp., Maurer: “son of a perverse and contumacious mother—O perverse and obstinate son”) is partly the hardness of the phrase “perverse one of rebellion,” partly the monstrosity of the insult thus offered to Jonathan’s mother, which contradicts the Heb. family-spirit.52 The last objection lies also against the rendering of Sept. and Vulg. “thou son of a rebellious woman” (נַעֲוָה for נַעֲוָה, Then.), or, as Vulg., “thou son of a woman who voluntarily seizes on a man” (obviously reading הַמֻּרְדָּף (Isaiah 14:6) or הַמִּרְדּוֹף for מַרְדּוּת). So Ew., who puts Plu. instead of Sing.: “thou son of wenches who run after (men).” The most tolerable rendering is that of Köster, unjustly made light of by Then., found also in Clericus: “Thou son of perversity of rebellion” (taking נַעֲותַ as abstract noun, Ni. particip. of עוה), full of perverse rebellion. Cleric.: “It is much better to say that Jonathan is called a son of perversity of rebellion, a common Hebraism for a man of perverse and refractory nature.”53 Saul observes that Jonathan is on the side of David, whom he wishes to destroy as an aspirant after the throne and therefore a rebel. And so he looks on Jonathan also as a rebel.—In the words “Do I not know?” Saul intimates that he is well aware of the secret friendship between Jonathan and David, and regards this excuse as confirmatory of his opinion. (בָּחַר denotes choice out of love, commonly construed with בְּ, here only with לְ. [On the unnecessary Sept. reading see “Text. and Gram.”—Tr.]). To thy shame and to the shame of thy mother’s nakedness, who will be ashamed of having borne thee. So we must translate, and not with De Wette, “to the shame and nakedness of thy mother,” nor with Bunsen, “to the shame of thy unchaste mother.” Such an expression from Saul would be in contradiction to his previous reference to Jonathan’s mother according to the translation which we have rejected. In 1 Samuel 20:31 we see clearly why Saul called Jonathan a “son of perverse rebellion.” David is making a rebellious attempt on the royal throne, and Jonathan, bound to him in intimate friendship, is therefore a rebel. He calls this rebellion “perversity,” because “as long as the son of Jesse lives on the earth, he (Jonathan) and his kingdom will not be established.” It is therefore Saul’s determined and permanent purpose to slay David as a rebel. And so he says: Now send and fetch him to me, for he is a son of death. These words fully reveal his disposition towards David.
1 Samuel 20:32. In spite of this outbreak of rage on his father’s part Jonathan tries with mild and quiet words to set forth David’s innocence and the injustice of putting him to death, as in 1 Samuel 19:4-5. At that time Saul’s better feeling got the upper hand. Here, completely enslaved by his passion, he is an impotent instrument of his own blind hate.
1 Samuel 20:33. As David before, so now Jonathan is the mark of his spear hurled [or, brandished,—Tr.], in blind rage (comp. 1 Samuel 18:11). Jonathan saw that it was a settled thing with his father to kill David (comp. 1 Samuel 20:9).
1 Samuel 20:34. A vivid and psychologically true description of Jonathan’s consequent conduct; he rises in fierce anger from the table, eats nothing this second day of the new moon (in contrast with the first, when he took part in the meal), and, what is the reason of his not eating, is grieved for David,54 because his father had done him shame [that is, done David, not Jonathan shame.—Tr.]. That there is nothing of this in the text (Then.) cannot be maintained, for the way in which Saul spoke of the relation of Jonathan to David, and his indirect declaration that David was a rebel against him, the king, and therefore deserved death, was shame and insult enough. And that Jonathan thought this insult offered to his friend as a completely innocent man is clear from his question: Why shall he die? What has he done?
1 Samuel 20:35-42. [Heb. 21:1]. According to the agreement David is informed of Saul’s attitude towards him, and, after a sorrowful parting with his friend, betakes himself to flight.
1 Samuel 20:35. The following morning Jonathan went to the field to meet David at the appointed place (לְמוֹעֵד דּ׳), not “at the time agreed on,” which translation requires too much to be supplied; and with him a small servant “who would not so easily suspect anything; this trifling notice is of great value as testimony to the historical realness of the occurrence”—(Then.).
1 Samuel 20:36. The narration is evidently abridged. Jonathan says to the servant: Bring the arrows. This plural answers to the agreement in 1 Samuel 20:20 sq., which seems to be contradicted by the following statement that Jonathan shot only one arrow (חֵֽצִי is ancient unshortened Sing. for later חֵץ, as in 1 Samuel 20:37-38; 2 Kings 9:24; see Ew., § 186, 2 e). “To send it beyond him,” so that the arrow went further than the servant had run.
1 Samuel 20:37. To the place (or, the region, Thenius) of the arrow which Jonathan had shot, according to the agreement with David, which referred to three arrows to be shot, Jonathan calls to the boy: “Is not the arrow beyond thee?” Jonathan uses a question instead of direct discourse (as in 1 Samuel 20:20-22) in order more certainly to make the boy believe that he was merely practicing at a mark. He heaps up words of command “hasten, hurry, stay not,” to keep the boy’s attention fixed on the arrow, that he might not chance to see David, who was hid near by. “The boy took up the arrow.” The text (Sing.) is to be retained against the Qeri (Plu.), since the purpose is to tell of one arrow only. “He came (not as Sept. ‘brought’) to his master,” that is, bringing the arrow. While in 1 Samuel 20:20-22 this procedure is summarily described of three arrows, the account here is of one. The difference is not to be explained by the supposition that Jonathan shortened the affair and shot only once, because there was danger in delay (Then.), for the shooting of three arrows was a principal point in the agreement, and if there had been such need of haste, the following parting-scene could not have taken place. Rather we must suppose that Jonathan did so with each of the three arrows. Either, as Bunsen remarks, Jonathan shot the arrows one right after another, or he thrice repeated it. In the first case we must hold with Keil that the Sing. here “stands in an indefinite general way, the author not thinking it necessary, after what he has before said, to state that Jonathan shot three arrows one after another.”
1 Samuel 20:40. Jonathan, having given his artillery to the lad—we need not with Sept. read עַל for אֶל (Then.)—sent him to the city, that he might be alone with David.
1 Samuel 20:41. David rose from the south side of the rock, where he had been concealed, the preceding affair having occurred on the north side, whence the boy returned to the city which lay north of David’s hiding-place, so that the latter was completely hid from him. It accords very well with this statement of the points of the compass that David afterward fled southward to Nob.55 The affecting description of the sorrowful parting is in keeping with the deep emotion of these two hearts (one loving the other as himself) not merely on account of the separation, which was final, but on account of the great dangers and grievous sufferings which the one saw that the other must inevitably endure from Saul. “David fell on his face to the ground and bowed himself thrice.” Clericus: “To do Jonathan honor, that he might implore his help or gratefully acknowledge his kindness.” Josephus: “he did obeisance and called him the saviour of his life.”—There is no need to render with Vulgate and Syriac (אַךְ for עַד): “But David wept still more,” that is, than Jonathan. No sense can be extracted from the reading of the Septuagint “unto a great consummation” (ἔως συντελείας μεγάλης, according to Thenius from substitution of תֹּם for דָּוִד), which provokes from Capell the merry remark that, according to this, the two friends are still weeping, and will continue to weep till the last day.56 We must render literally: “David did greatly,”—namely, wept violently, aloud. For the construction comp. Joel 2:20-21; Psalms 126:2-3.
1 Samuel 20:42. Jonathan must quickly part from his weeping friend to spare him further danger. From the connection and the circumstances it is not probable that another conversation [of which Jonathan’s words are merely the conclusion] had before taken place (Keil). Jonathan’s parting word is: 1) a wish for peace or blessing, and 2) conjuring him that the covenant of friendship be forever maintained. The apodosis is not uttered; the aposiopesis accords with Jonathan’s deep emotion.—1 Samuel 20:1 [in Eng. A. V. 1 Samuel 20:42]. The concluding scene. David goes his way in flight; Jonathan returns in the opposite direction to the city.
HISTORICAL AND THEOLOGICAL
1. David designates the covenant of friendship which Jonathan had made with him (1 Samuel 28:1 sq.) as one which he made with him in the Lord (comp. 1 Samuel 23:18). It was therefore not a friendship which rested merely on mutual good feeling, but was based on a recognized common union of heart with the living God. Jonathan’s heart clung in firm faith and trust to the Lord; this was the root of his heroic courage and his victorious prowess (comp. 1 Samuel 24:6); this fresh power of faith, which elevated and sanctified his whole being, won him David’s regard and love. David’s whole life-course showed Jonathan the direct wonderful gracious leading of the Lord, to which he humbly submitted himself. The two hearts were one in looking to and hoping in the living God, in humble obedience to His holy will. This was the foundation of their communion of love and life in the Lord. “God works such unions through and in Himself, so that such souls become wholly one” (Berl. Bib.).
2. On the light of this noble friendship concluded in the Lord falls the shadow of the “lie of necessity” to which David resorts in order to save himself from Saul’s murderous designs, and into which Jonathan allows himself to be enticed by David, having given the unconditional promise: “What thy soul says, I will do for thee.” Yet the duty of absolute truthfulness could not be known so clearly from the stand-point of the Old Testament as from that of the New; of the same David who expressly said “Keep thy lips from speaking guile” (Psalms 34:14 ) precisely the opposite is here and elsewhere related. But though there is in the narrative no condemnation of the lie, the course of events brings a judgment on it; for Saul sees through it immediately. On Jonathan falls his father’s rage (thereby roused), and Saul’s anger burns the more violently against David. Instead of having recourse to a lie as a supposed necessary self-help, they ought to have united in unconditional trust in the Lord’s help, and have committed their affairs to Him. Compare how the Lord formerly exposed and brought to naught the lies of Abraham and Isaac (Genesis 12:11 sq.; 1 Samuel 26:7 sq.), and punished the lie of Rebecca and Jacob (Genesis 27:6 sq.).
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
1 Samuel 20:1 sqq. Schlier: The old saying is right:
Silently suffer, forbear and endure,
Thy troubles to no one lament;
Despair not of God, for His promise is sure,
And daily thy help will be sent.
But it is another thing when we are indeed silent to the world, but tell our troubles and conflicts to a faithful friend, when we communicate to others all that oppresses us, when we do not complain and lament, but do seek counsel and consolation.—Starke: Even great-hearted men sometimes grow faint-hearted; let us therefore not build too much on ourselves, but on God, whose power is mighty in the weak (2 Corinthians 12:9; Psalms 30:8).—[1 Samuel 20:2. Scott: Pious children will veil the faults of their parents as far as consists with other duties, and speak as favorably of them as truth permits.—Tr.]
1 Samuel 20:3. Starke: Even in the midst of life we are in death.57 O man, do think of it, and never feel secure (Psalms 39:6).—[1 Samuel 20:4. Here friendship goes too far. It is wrong to promise unconditional compliance with the wishes of another. He may err in judgment and ask what is unwise, or may be misled by interest and ask what is wrong. And, besides, every man is solemnly bound to exercise his own judgment and conscience in the direction of his conduct. Jonathan was led by this promise to tell a falsehood, which his father detected, and was thereby the more enraged (1 Samuel 20:28-33).
1 Samuel 20:6. Taylor: From brooding morbidly over Saul’s treatment of him, to the entire exclusion from his mind of God’s constant care over him, David fell into despair, and ran into a course of reckless deceit which brought the most fearful consequences in its train (1 Samuel 20-22).—Tr.]
1 Samuel 20:8. Starke: So long as one sees before him ordinary ways and means of escaping from danger, he should make use of them, and not look for extraordinary help from God, that he may not tempt God.
1 Samuel 20:10. S. Schmid: A wise man not only proposes to himself to do good, but he looks around him for suitable means of accomplishing his good designs (Proverbs 21:25-26).
1 Samuel 20:11. Conversations between friends united in the Lord upon the highest and holiest matters of the inner or the outer life are to be preserved from the disturbing influences of the unquiet world; the thoughts interchanged in stillness before the Lord and in the Lord unite their hearts in all the closer inward ties for time and eternity.
1 Samuel 20:13. All the highest and most blessed things that souls united in the Lord can wish for each other are included in the one word: The Lord be with thee; for what is greater and more blessed than the Lord’s guidance and gracious presence?
1 Samuel 20:14. The kindness of the Lord itself exercises and employs the child of God as its instrument for his fellow-children and brethren; children of God love one another with and in the love of God which dwells in their hearts.
1 Samuel 20:15. Berlenb. Bible: A truly tranquil soul seeks neither honor nor advantage for itself. It is just as joyful when God is glorified in others as in itself. It only asks such a faithful friend, whom with joy it sees preferred before itself, that he will give it any help it may need in the spiritual life.
1 Samuel 20:17. Disselhoff: Unselfish love bears especially two noble fruits—to rejoice with them that rejoice, and to weep with them that weep. How heart-refreshingly do both of these beckon to us from the history of our two friends. Through David’s glorious victory, Jonathan, who had before been highly praised by the people as a conqueror, fell wholly into the shade. He lost through David even his hope of the crown. Yet he looked with joyful eye upon the deeds of David and his growing fame.—[True love delights in receiving and giving repeated and strong assurances. This is very different from the renewed assurance which distrust demands.—Tr.]
1 Samuel 20:23. S. Schmid: What has been once promised and is not opposed to God must be held fast.—Schlier: A faithful friend is a gift of God, and God gives such a blessing to him that fears Him. The God-fearing David received from the Lord such a noble blessing of friendship as few others ever enjoyed.
1 Samuel 20:30 sqq. Schlier: We take up so easily with anger, and yet how fearful is the power of anger! How blind does anger make a man—how it carries him out of himself, so that he does not even know what he is doing; how it makes a man like a beast, so that he ceases to be himself, and falls under the power of darkness.
1 Samuel 20:35-40. Starke [from Hall]: In vain are those professions of love which are not answered with action (1 John 3:18).
1 Samuel 20:32. Berl. Bible: A friend in grace cannot possibly let himself be moved by self-advantage. When he has once let self-seeking go, in order to give himself to God, then nothing disturbs him of all that may be said or done against him. He well knows the essential deep ground of unity, which is in God alone.—Unity with favored souls draws after it also a like condition and like sorrow. So long as David is thy friend, thou must also have part in his cross.—[1 Samuel 20:34. Scott: Under great provocations the meekest cannot always refrain from anger; but when its emotions are felt, it is our wisdom to withdraw in silence; and it is generous to be more grieved for our insulted friends than for ourselves.—Tr.]
1 Samuel 20:41. S. Schmid: In misfortune the love of true friends must much rather increase than fall off.—Osiander: The pious experience such weakness when they stand in fear of death or other trials, in order that they may know, when they have overcome misfortune, that they have done so not by their own strength, but that it is God’s gift. 1 Samuel 20:42. S. Schmid: When we are separated from our dearest friends in the world, it is our consolation if we are not separated from God, but have Him for a friend (Psalms 73:25 sq.).—Berl. Bible: The unions that are made in God are for that reason the strongest of all. Nothing human forms their bond. Presence does not increase them, just as little as absence diminishes them. Thence comes it that such persons separate without pain if God so wills. They desire only one thing, namely, to maintain peace even amid the greatest antagonisms, since this peace is a sure sign that one has not withdrawn from submission to the will of God.
J. Disselhoff to 1 Samuel 20:0 : Friendship among the servants of God. Three questions: 1) Wherein is friendship among the servants of God grounded?—It is a covenant in the Lord. 2) What perils threaten even friendship among the servants of God?—That one friend, overlooking another’s sin, may do for his sake what is not right in the sight of God. 3) What blessing rests upon friendship among the servants of God?—It teaches unenvying joy with them that rejoice, and faithful mourning and forbearing with them that mourn.
F. W. Krummacher (1 Samuel 20:16-17): Sanctified friendship: The love of Jonathan for David is put to a severe test by a three-fold discovery which he makes: he gets a glimpse of the real disposition cherished by his royal father towards his friend, the heroic youth—of the high destiny which God designs for his beloved friend—and of the danger which threatens himself through his connection with David.
[1 Samuel 20:3 (end). A good funeral text in case of sudden death, especially when from accident.
1 Samuel 20:14-15. The friend’s plea for kindness. 1) Kindness notwithstanding separation and outward antagonism. 2) Kindness not merely on grounds of personal regard, but “kindness of Jehovah.” 3) Kindness not only to himself, but also to his posterity.
1 Samuel 20:41. Strong men weeping. 1) Great occasion for it here, a) Personal separation, b) Mad in justice of their father (comp. 1 Samuel 24:16). c) Prospect of a bitter conflict. 2) Not unbecoming when on sufficient occasion. Compatible a) With manly courage and spirit. David and Jonathan were certainly brave, b) With great self-control (1 Samuel 17:29; 1 Samuel 18:14; 1 Samuel 20:32). c) With living trust in Providence (v. 42).—Tr.]
[1 Samuel 20:1. Sept. “came before Jonathan and said,” not so well. Wellhausen refers for a similar order to 2 Samuel 18:18.—Tr.]
[1 Samuel 20:2. The divine name is not in the Heb.—Tr.]
[1 Samuel 20:2. On the Qeri and Keth. see Exposition.—Tr.]
[1 Samuel 20:3. So Chald., Syr., Vulg., Arab.; Sept. “answered.” Wellh.: “The Sept. is right for David never swears,” but see latter part of this verse and 1 Kings 2:8.—Tr.]
[1 Samuel 20:3. See Erdmann’s Expos. against Thenius.—Tr.]
[1 Samuel 20:3. The Inf. Absol. is throughout the chapter variously translated.—Tr.]
[1 Samuel 20:3. Anonymous Greek version adds: “lest he tell David,” which is probably a gloss and not a translation.—Tr.]
[1 Samuel 20:3. The Sept. here gives substantially the sense of the Heb.—Tr.]
[1 Samuel 20:4. Margin of Eng. A. V.: “Say what is thy mind,” which is a free rendering—Tr.]
[1 Samuel 20:5. Literally: “I should certainly sit,” and so Chald. and Vulg., Syr., Arab., Rashi (“I am accustomed to sit”) and the Greek vss. except Sept., which has “I will not sit,” clearly from the succeeding narrative; on a special occasion like this (there seems to have occurred between 1 Samuel 19:0 and 1 Samuel 20 a reconciliation of Saul and David) he would be looked for.—Tr.]
[1 Samuel 20:5. The fem. form is difficult. We may suppose עֶרֶב here fem., or render (Rashi) “evening of the third day,” against which is the Art. with ערב, or (with Sept. and Wellh.) omit the numeral.—Tr.]
[1 Samuel 20:6. Infin. Absol. “pressingly inquire after me.”—Tr.]
[1 Samuel 20:6. Niph. reflexive.—Tr.]
[1 Samuel 20:6. Margin of Eng. A. V. “feast,” which gives the sense.—Tr.]
[1 Samuel 20:7. Sept., “if he answer thee roughly,” probably from 1 Samuel 20:10.—Tr.]
[1 Samuel 20:8. Heb. עַל. Sept., Chald., Syr. (perh. Vulg., Arab.) עִם which is the Heb. usage (עַל seems to be found nowhere else, לִפְנֵי אֵל לְ in a few instances after חֶסֶד).—Tr.]
[1 Samuel 20:9. This is the same Heb. phrase as is found in 1 Samuel 20:2.—Tr.]
[1 Samuel 20:9. Or, we may render: “If I knew, etc., and did not tell thee—” and supply “Jehovah do so,” etc. Syr.: “If I knew, etc., I would come and tell thee,” an impossible rendering, but perhaps from a different text.—Sept. adds after “come upon thee,” μη ῇ εἰς τὰς πόλεις σου, which is probably a duplet (so Wellh.).—Tr.]
[1 Samuel 20:10. See Erdmann in the Expos. No satisfactory rendering is offered by vss. or expositors. Eng. A. V. is substantially supported by Chald.; the other vss. render: “who will tell me whether thy father, etc?” and this seems best if the present text is retained. But, while there is no good external authority for changing the text, the meaning “whether perchance” for או מָה is not established.—Abarbanel quotes the explanation: “who will tell me if thy father answers peace, or who will tell me what thy father answers rough?” (which is nearly the form adopted by Erdmann), and then gives his own view that David says two things: 1) he asks who will tell him Saul’s decision, whether good or bad? 2) he exclaims “or what will thy father, etc?”—Ewald and others follow the vss. as above.—Tr.]
[1 Samuel 20:12. On the whole passage, 1 Samuel 20:12-17, see Erdmann’s discussion.—The Vocative here (as in Eng. A. V.) is hardly possible. The vss. supply different words, Syr., Arab., “witness,” Sept., “knows.” Two MSS. insert חַי “by the life of Jehovah” and Rashi calls it an oath. We must either so take it (which is simpler), or suppose the phrase interrupted and resumed below in the beginning of 1 Samuel 20:13.—Tr.]
[1 Samuel 20:12. The same difficulty as in 1 Samuel 20:5; יוֹם occurs a few times (perhaps only in Ezekiel 7:10) as fem. We have also to supply “or” between מחר and השׁלשׁית. Yet we cannot throw out the latter (Wellh.) which is sustained by all the vss., and does not in its content contradict the narrative. Jonathan may easily have seen reason for putting off his inquiry till the third day.—Tr.]
[1 Samuel 20:12. This clause clearly belongs to 1 Samuel 20:13.—Tr.]
[1 Samuel 20:14-15. Instead of לאֹ read לוּא לוּ לֻא.—Tr.]
[1 Samuel 20:16. There is no reason for the insertion of “saying” here. Chald., Vulg., render by the Aor. “required,” Syr. has Fut. It is properly a remark of the author, not of Jonathan, but it sounds like a marginal gloss which has crept into the text, though the Sept. had it before them. See the Exposition. On the opinion that “David’s enemies” here stands for “David” himself, and that this was fulfilled when his kingdom was divided because he deprived Mephibosheth of half of his possessions (2 Samuel 19:0), see Poole’s Synopsis in loco.—Tr.]
[1 Samuel 20:17. Sept., “swore to David.” The difficulty is in the reason assigned, namely, Jonathan’s love for David, which seems to support the Greek reading, on which see Erdmann in loco.—Tr.]
[1 Samuel 20:19. Literally “very.” Sept. and apparently Chald (תִּתְבְּעִי) and Syr. read פקד instead of ירד. The מְאֹד seems to be maintained by the vss., Chald. and Syr., “well, greatly,” Vulg. “quickly” (so Eng. A. V.); some explain it of a deep descent into the valley. The Denom. שִׁלַּשְׁתָּ “thou shalt thrice do” (So Erdmann), hardly “thou shalt wait three days” (but contra Philippson, Wellh., and apparently some vss.). Perhaps the best rendering would be: “and the third day thou shalt watch thy opportunity and come to the place.”—Tr.]
[1 Samuel 20:19. Syr., “that stone,” Chald., “stone of a sign,” whence Rashi “lapis viatorius” to point travellers on the way.—Tr.]
[1 Samuel 20:20. Literally “to shoot (me) at a mark.” Sept. “I will shoot three times with arrows,” afterwards one arrow only is mentioned; as in 1 Samuel 20:21, where the Heb. has the plu. And in 1 Samuel 20:36 we have the Sing. in the Heb. Yet this does not establish the Sept. reading, since the Plu. in the Heb. may be used in a general sense, while the Greek may have changed the number to make it agree with 1 Samuel 20:36.—Tr.]
[1 Samuel 20:23. Chald. and Sept. have “a witness for ever,” which may be simply an explanation, or they may have read עֵד for עַד.—Tr.]
[1 Samuel 20:25. On this reading see the Exposition.—Tr.]
[1 Samuel 20:26. Better, after the Sept., “he has not cleansed himself.”—Tr.]
[1 Samuel 20:27. The Heb. is difficult. Wellh., combining Heb. and Sept., reads simply “on the second day.” Chald.: “on the day after, which was the interealation of the second month” (translated in Walton’s Polyg. “the day after that day which was, etc.”) that is the day after the “second new-moon,” or the second day of the month. The rendering given above is altogether the easiest.—Tr.]
[1 Samuel 20:29. The Heb. does not admit this rendering. Wellh. suggests וְהֵא “and lo!”—Tr.]
[1 Samuel 20:29. Some MSS. and edd. have “send me away.”—Tr.]
[1 Samuel 20:30. Sept., son of “a faithless damsel,” as if they read נַעֲרַת instead of נַעֲוַת, which is against the vss. and the rule proclivi scriptioni prœstat ardua.—Tr..]
[1 Samuel 20:30. Sept., “art associated with” (חבר). The לְ before בֶן is unusual. Yet if we substitute בְּ for לְ there seems to be no good reason for changing the text.—Tr.]
[1 Samuel 20:33. Or, brandished (Bib.-Com.).—Tr.]
[1 Samuel 20:33. Instead of כָּלָה הִיא read כָּלְתָה (Wellh.).—Tr.]
[1 Samuel 20:38. So in Qeri; the text has Sing. “arrow.” See on 1 Samuel 20:20.—Tr.]
[1 Samuel 20:38. Sept., brought them,” וַיָּבֵא. Between the two readings it is hard to decide.—Tr.]
[1 Samuel 20:40. Literally his “implements.” The distinctive word “artillery,” though now rarely used in this sense, is needed and should be retained.—Tr.]
[1 Samuel 20:41. A difficult passage. The Heb. (as given in Eng. A. V.) does not yield a good sense, and the vss. deal variously with the sentence. Chald.: “from beside the stone of the sign (or the stone Atha) which is on the south” (from 1 Samuel 20:19), Syr.: “from beside the stone,” Sept., Vat., “from the Argab,” Alex., “from sleep” (see Orig. Hex. ed Montf.), Vulg. and others as the Heb. It seems probable that the readings here and in 1 Samuel 20:19 are the same, and that we should render in both cases either “beside the stone” or “beside the stone Ezel (or, the sign-stone”).—Tr.]
[1 Samuel 20:42. Or, with Sept. and Wellh. omitting “David,” “wept with one another greatly.”—Tr.]
[This seems to be the meaning of Erdmann’s innere haltlosigkcit here.—Tr.]
[See “Text, and Gram.”—Tr.]
[Yet it is quite possible to read: “Jehovah, God of Israel—when I have sounded, etc.,—if there be good and I show it not, so do Jehovah to Jonathan,” which is instead of “Jehovah do so to me if there be good and I show it not.” The difficulty is only in the post-position of the adjuration.—Tr.]
Instead of Hiphil יִיִטַב read with Böttch. and Then. Qal. יִיטַב, “which may be construed, as with בְּעֵינֵי לְ לִפְנֵי (Ps. 64:32), so also with אֵל” (Böttch.). The Accus, particle before the subject הָרָעָה =“as respects,” quoad, “if it please my father in respect of evil.” “But this word (אֵת) can never denote the Nominative; yet often only the general sense of the discourse calls forth the Acc., since the active form of connection everywhere presses in as the most natural” (Ew., §277 d). So stands the Accus.-particle after the opposite of יִיטַב, that is, יֵרַע, 2 Samuel 11:25. Bunsen remarks that after “my father” לְהָבִיא “to bring,” has probably fallen out. But “it is not necessary, in order to maintain אֵת as Accus. particle, to insert a supposed לְהָבִיא from the Sept. What the latter renders ἀνοίσω is clearly not לְהָבִיא, but אָבִי itself read as אָבִיא (as in 1 Kings 21:29; comp. 1 Samuel 17:54; 1 Samuel 18:27), because יִיטַב אֶל־ was wanting in its text” (Böttch.).
In 1 Samuel 20:14, instead of the double וְלֹא is read וְלוּא, or וְלוּ וְלֻא, particle of wish, so in 1 Samuel 14:30; Isaiah 63:19 : “O that,” utinam, usually with the Impf., Ew. § 329 b, § 358 b.
For אָמוּת, which, put thus absolutely, accords with the feeling of the speaker, we are not with Thenius after Sept. and Vulg. to read וְאִם מוּת אָמוּת; the conditional particle is often wanting, and is here naturally supplied from the preceding “if I still live.”
[This Verb is supplied conjecturally, being omitted in the German text.—Tr.]
[Similar is Abarbanel’s view, and also Rashi’s.—Tr.]
[The most grievous insult to an Arab is one directed against his mother, but such a phrase is not probable here; in the general uncertainty and obscurity of the language, Erdmann’s explanation seems the least objectionable.—Tr.]
[Wellhausen reads after Sept.נַעֲרַת ה׳ and renders from Judges 16:12 (παῖδας αὐτομολούντων, comp. Lagarde’s Syr. vs.) “runaway slave.” On our passage Frankel (Vorstudien zur LXX. 187) says: “The Hagada relates that Jonathan’s mother was one of the maidens carried off at Shiloh (Judges 21:0), and willingly offered herself to Saul (comp. Rashi in loco). This Hagada is expressed in the Greek (LXX.), and still more clearly in the Vulgate. So also in Joseph. Ant. VI. 11, 9, probably from the Sept., as is frequent with Josephus.”—Tr.]
[Bib. Comm.: The generosity of Jonathan’s character is seen in that he resented the wrong done to his friend, not that done to himself.—Tr.].
[A point can hardly be made of this. David might just as well have fled in any other direction, and chose the south because he was naturally more familiar with the region where he was brought up.—See “Text. and Gram.” for the difficulties of the text.—Tr.].
[The phrase συντελεία is used in New Test of the end of the world, as in Matthew 13:39 al.—Tr.].
 [Starke quotes this saying in substantially the form given it by Luther in a metrical version. We have substituted the form familiar to the English-speaking world from the Book of Common Prayer. Luther’s hymn (Knapp 2824, Schaff 446) derives its first stanza, with alterations, from an older German version. The original Latin is found in Daniel, Thesaurus Hymnologicus II. 329, is certainly quite old, and believed by some to have been written by a monk who died A. D. 912. It was once a favorite battle-song. The first line is so famous that it may be well to insert the whole:
Media vita in morte sumus:
Quem quœrimus adjutorem nisi te, domine,
Qui pro peccatis nostris iuste irasceris:
Sancte Deus, sancte fortis, sancte et misericors salvator:
Amarœ morti ne tradas nos.—Tr.]
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Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 20". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13