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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 20

Peake's Commentary on the BiblePeake's Commentary

Verses 1-42

1 Samuel 20. David and Jonathan (J).

1 Samuel 20 has no obvious connexion with any of the preceding or following sections: “ And David fled from Naioth in Ramah,” is an editorial insertion to connect this section with the preceding after the events narrated in 1 Samuel 19:1-17, Jonathan could hardly assure David that Saul would not kill him, and that he was privy to all his father’ s plans. Similarly the literal translation of 1 Samuel 21:1 is “ And David came, etc.” 1 Samuel 20 is probably an extract from an early document, but the editor has omitted its context and supplied the gaps from other sources.

1 Samuel 20:1-10 . David tells Jonathan that he is convinced that Saul seeks his life. They arrange that Jonathan shall test Saul’ s intentions. To-morrow is the feast of the new moon; in the natural course of things, David would be amongst the king’ s guests, but saith he, “ I will not sit with the king at meat,” so LXX; “ let me go that I may hide myself in the field until the evening,” so LXX. Jonathan will gather Saul’ s intentions from what he says about David’ s absence; but how will David know?

1 Samuel 20:11-17 (E). An insertion from another parallel narrative, probably also early. There is no reason why the conversation should be interrupted that they may “ go out into the field.”

Jonathan promises to tell David his father’ s intentions. At Jonathan’ s request, David swears that if he becomes king, he will show favour to Jonathan’ s family.

1 Samuel 20:18-23 (J). Continues 1 Samuel 20:10; perhaps 1 Samuel 20:18 is an editorial addition.

Jonathan arranges that on the third day David shall be “ by yonder heap of stones,” so LXX, not “ by the stone Ezel.” Jonathan will come with a boy, as if to practise archery; by his words to the boy, he will give the desired information.

1 Samuel 20:24-34 (J). Continues 1 Samuel 20:23.

Accordingly, at the feast, Jonathan, sitting opposite his father (so LXX, not “ stood up” ), watches to see what Saul will say as to David’ s absence. The first day, Saul thinks he is kept away by some ceremonial uncleanness, but the next day, he asks Jonathan for an explanation. He gives the reply agreed upon between himself and David: David’ s family are holding their annual sacrifice at Bethlehem. Such a sacrifice would be a great banquet and reunion, at which every member of the family would be expected to be present, if it were in any way possible. The new moon (p. 101) would be a natural occasion for such a function: obviously the writer has no idea that it is lawful to offer sacrifices only at a single central sanctuary. Saul bursts into a passion, abuses David and Jonathan, insinuating that Jonathan is not his son, and throws a spear at him, so that he leaves the table in anger.

1 Samuel 20:29 . my brother: read, “ my brethren” with Vatican LXX

1 Samuel 20:35-42 (J). The next morning, Jonathan gives David the signal agreed upon. Afterwards he dismisses his attendant and takes personal leave of David, who arose from the heap of stones, where he had hidden ( cf. 1 Samuel 20:19, so Vatican LXX), not “ out of a place toward the south.” According to many, 1 Samuel 20:40-42 are an editorial addition; the elaborate arrangements for the signal would not have been necessary, if it had been safe for the friends to have a personal interview.

Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 20". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pfc/1-samuel-20.html. 1919.
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