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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 20

Hawker's Poor Man's CommentaryPoor Man's Commentary

Verse 1


The subject of David's distresses, on account of Saul's seeking his life, is continued through this Chapter. David leaveth Naioth, and flees to Jonathan for counsel. They confer on the best means for David to adopt. A plan is suggested for this purpose, but it fails. They meet by appointment, and it becoming necessary for David to escape for his life, Jonathan and David part with tears.

1 Samuel 20:1

(1) ¶ And David fled from Naioth in Ramah, and came and said before Jonathan, What have I done? what is mine iniquity? and what is my sin before thy father, that he seeketh my life?

In those frequent flights of David from one place to another, is not the Reader reminded how Jesus was frequently compelled to make his escape from the fury of his enemies. From his birth, he was constrained to flee into Egypt. And in the Synagogue, when they thrust him out, and led him to the brow of the hill to cast him down headlong, he was obliged to seek his safety in hastening to Capernaum: and again, to avoid being stoned, to conceal himself from their knowledge by passing through the crowd. See Matthew 2:13 ; Luke 4:28-30 ; John 8:59 .

Verses 2-4

(2) And he said unto him, God forbid; thou shalt not die: behold, my father will do nothing either great or small, but that he will shew it me: and why should my father hide this thing from me? it is not so. (3) And David sware moreover, and said, Thy father certainly knoweth that I have found grace in thine eyes; and he saith, Let not Jonathan know this, lest he be grieved: but truly as the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, there is but a step between me and death. (4) Then said Jonathan unto David, Whatsoever thy soul desireth, I will even do it for thee.

It is somewhat astonishing, that as David had been anointed for the succession to the kingdom, and as such, was sure of the Lord's design, that his faith had not got the better of his fears. But we see in him, that mingled frame of mind which distinguishes, more or less, all God's people. Sometimes believing, and acting according to that belief. At others doubting, and then calling in question all God's promises. Fear not, little flock, (saith Jesus to his people) it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. But in the midst of this, how often do we find the people of God complaining lest they should fail of the grace of God. Luke 12:32 ; Hebrews 12:15 .

Verses 5-7

(5) And David said unto Jonathan, Behold, tomorrow is the new moon, and I should not fail to sit with the king at meat: but let me go, that I may hide myself in the field unto the third day at even. (6) If thy father at all miss me, then say, David earnestly asked leave of me that he might run to Bethlehem his city: for there is a yearly sacrifice there for all the family. (7) If he say thus, It is well; thy servant shall have peace: but if he be very wroth, then be sure that evil is determined by him.

The feast of the new moon was a solemn ordinance in the church, and observed in Israel with great solemnity. In pious families, it should seem by what is said of Jesse's household, these services were much attended to. Job's was of this kind. And was it not with an eye to Jesus, as a feast upon a sacrifice? The sacrifice was to be once offered. But the precious effects of it were to be continually eyed in solemn remembrance. Such is the ordinance of the Lord's supper now. See Job 1:5 .

Verse 8

(8) Therefore thou shalt deal kindly with thy servant; for thou hast brought thy servant into a covenant of the LORD with thee: notwithstanding, if there be in me iniquity, slay me thyself; for why shouldest thou bring me to thy father?

The reference to this covenant is very interesting, because the covenant of the Lord, as it is called; included the engagements which are in Christ, the promised seed in the Covenant.

Verses 9-17

(9) ¶ And Jonathan said, Far be it from thee: for if I knew certainly that evil were determined by my father to come upon thee, then would not I tell it thee? (10) Then said David to Jonathan, Who shall tell me? or what if thy father answer thee roughly? (11) And Jonathan said unto David, Come, and let us go out into the field. And they went out both of them into the field. (12) And Jonathan said unto David, O LORD God of Israel, when I have sounded my father about tomorrow any time, or the third day, and, behold, if there be good toward David, and I then send not unto thee, and shew it thee; (13) The LORD do so and much more to Jonathan: but if it please my father to do thee evil, then I will shew it thee, and send thee away, that thou mayest go in peace: and the LORD be with thee, as he hath been with my father. (14) And thou shalt not only while yet I live shew me the kindness of the LORD, that I die not: (15) But also thou shalt not cut off thy kindness from my house forever: no, not when the LORD hath cut off the enemies of David everyone from the face of the earth. (16) So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, Let the LORD even require it at the hand of David's enemies. (17) And Jonathan caused David to swear again, because he loved him: for he loved him as he loved his own soul.

Nothing can be more engaging, to interest the Reader in behalf of Jonathan, than what is here related of him. Though it should seem, he knew that David would be his father's successor in the kingdom; yet there is no jealousy on his part. His love for David threw all other considerations to the ground. He only desired that David would show kindness to his house. And amidst all the unpromising circumstances about David, his faith seemed now to be getting up again. But here, my soul, let Jonathan teach thee another lesson. Did he look forward to the period of David's exaltation, amidst all the obstacles which seemed at this time to quench the hopes of it, and cause David to promise mercy to his family, when things were so discouraging; and wilt thou not depend upon the promises of thy Jesus, who is purposely exalted at the right hand of power, to prepare sure happiness for all his people? Shall Jonathan's faith in David's prospects of preferment, be so sanguine as to take an oath from him, for a blessing in it; and wilt thou doubt the word, the promise, the oath of thy God and Father in Christ Jesus? Oh! for faith to believe the record which God hath given of his dear Son. 1 John 5:11 .

Verses 18-24

(18) Then Jonathan said to David, Tomorrow is the new moon: and thou shalt be missed, because thy seat will be empty. (19) And when thou hast stayed three days, then thou shalt go down quickly, and come to the place where thou didst hide thyself when the business was in hand, and shalt remain by the stone Ezel. (20) And I will shoot three arrows on the side thereof, as though I shot at a mark. (21) And, behold, I will send a lad, saying, Go, find out the arrows. If I expressly say unto the lad, Behold, the arrows are on this side of thee, take them; then come thou: for there is peace to thee, and no hurt; as the LORD liveth. (22) But if I say thus unto the young man, Behold, the arrows are beyond thee; go thy way: for the LORD hath sent thee away. (23) And as touching the matter which thou and I have spoken of, behold, the LORD be between thee and me forever. (24) ¶ So David hid himself in the field: and when the new moon was come, the king sat him down to eat meat.

If the Reader recollects, our dear Lord did not go up publicly to the feast, but after his brethren were gone, he then made a private visit there. John 7:1-10 .

Verses 25-34

(25) And the king sat upon his seat, as at other times, even upon a seat by the wall: and Jonathan arose, and Abner sat by Saul's side, and David's place was empty. (26) Nevertheless Saul spake not anything that day: for he thought, Something hath befallen him, he is not clean; surely he is not clean. (27) And it came to pass on the morrow, which was the second day of the month, that David's place was empty: and Saul said unto Jonathan his son, Wherefore cometh not the son of Jesse to meat, neither yesterday, nor today? (28) And Jonathan answered Saul, David earnestly asked leave of me to go to Bethlehem: (29) And he said, Let me go, I pray thee; for our family hath a sacrifice in the city; and my brother, he hath commanded me to be there: and now, if I have found favour in thine eyes, let me get away, I pray thee, and see my brethren. Therefore he cometh not unto the king's table. (30) Then Saul's anger was kindled against Jonathan, and he said unto him, Thou son of the perverse rebellious woman, do not I know that thou hast chosen the son of Jesse to thine own confusion, and unto the confusion of thy mother's nakedness? (31) For as long as the son of Jesse liveth upon the ground, thou shalt not be established, nor thy kingdom. Wherefore now send and fetch him unto me, for he shall surely die. (32) And Jonathan answered Saul his father, and said unto him, Wherefore shall he be slain? what hath he done? (33) And Saul cast a javelin at him to smite him: whereby Jonathan knew that it was determined of his father to slay David. (34) So Jonathan arose from the table in fierce anger, and did eat no meat the second day of the month: for he was grieved for David, because his father had done him shame.

It should seem, that the plan between David and Jonathan for the discovery of the real intention of Saul, was of the Lord. For, humanly speaking, had David sat in his usual place, before Saul, he could not have escaped with his life, when Jonathan's life became so endangered, only from Saul's disappointment. How profitable is it to remark the watchful eye of the Lord over his people! Reader! depend upon it, there are a thousand escapes of this kind, more or less, in the lives of God's children, and of which they are altogether unconscious. When we come to look over the battlements of heaven, and see all the way which the Lord our God hath led us through the wilderness, what songs of praise will burst forth in the view of deliverances? See that sweet promise: Isaiah 42:16 .

Verses 35-40

(35) ¶ And it came to pass in the morning, that Jonathan went out into the field at the time appointed with David, and a little lad with him. (36) And he said unto his lad, Run, find out now the arrows which I shoot. And as the lad ran, he shot an arrow beyond him. (37) And when the lad was come to the place of the arrow which Jonathan had shot, Jonathan cried after the lad, and said, Is not the arrow beyond thee? (38) And Jonathan cried after the lad, Make speed, haste, stay not. And Jonathan's lad gathered up the arrows, and came to his master. (39) But the lad knew not anything: only Jonathan and David knew the matter. (40) And Jonathan gave his artillery unto his lad, and said unto him, Go, carry them to the city.

I cannot help remarking on these verses, how many times the Lord makes men, like this lad, the unconscious instruments of working after the counsel of his will. What a glorious instance of this kind, is that of the Jews crucifying the Lord Jesus. Him (saith Peter in his inspired Sermon) being delivered, by the determinate counsel and fore-knowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands, have crucified and slain. Acts 2:23 .

Verses 41-42

(41) And as soon as the lad was gone, David arose out of a place toward the south, and fell on his face to the ground, and bowed himself three times: and they kissed one another, and wept one with another, until David exceeded. (42) And Jonathan said to David, Go in peace, forasmuch as we have sworn both of us in the name of the LORD, saying, The LORD be between me and thee, and between my seed and thy seed forever. And he arose and departed: and Jonathan went into the city.

The sweetest instruction from this parting interview, (for they knew not that they should ever see one another again) is the recollection of that everlasting covenant, in which all the people of God are included. That precious promise made by Jehovah to the person of the Lord Jesus, the great Head of his people, is of everlasting efficacy: As for me, saith the Lord, this is my covenant with them: my Spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, saith the Lord, from henceforth and forever. Isaiah 59:21 . This became the security in the parting of Jonathan and David. And the same is the everlasting security of the faithful, in all the separations made in life, or death, among the Lord's heritage. Children may die; friends may forsake us, we may be bereaved of all earthly things we hold dear; but, the Lord is the Rock of ages, and his mercy endureth forever.

Verse 42


READER! there is so much loveliness in the character of Jonathan, according as the Holy Ghost hath been pleased to present him before the church, in his conduct towards David, that I think it is our duty, as well as our privilege, to look at him with proper attention: and while we adore the gracious God that made him so lovely, we should implore grace to imitate his bright example. How beautiful he appears in this chapter, in his wisdom of discovering the real state of his father's mind towards David, and in his contrivance of communicating the same, unobserved, to the mind of David! How very engaging he appears also, in his sympathizing with David on the occasion, and mingling his tears with his, in the prospect of separation! How lovely in his piety towards the Lord, in so cheerfully looking forward to the sure succession of David to the kingdom, though to the exclusion of himself and his own family, because the thing was of the Lord!

But, my soul, when thou host taken the fullest, and most leisurely survey of the loveliness, and wisdom, and generosity of Jonathan, turn thy thoughts to the contemplation of thy Jesus, in whom are hid all the treasures of loveliness, wisdom, and knowledge; and behold that matchless superiority in him to everything excellent. Jesus is, indeed, the altogether lovely, and the chiefest among ten thousand. He is the wonderful Counsellor, for guiding and instructing his people in wisdom and knowledge. And he is not only the noblest of all possible examples of mercy, but mercy itself; even the mercy promised. Yes! blessed Jesus, it is thy sweet and friendly office to give us counsel in all seasons of perplexity; to impart to us the secrets of thy Father's will, both in a way of providence and of grace: and thou dost indeed sooth us in all our troubles. When on earth thou didst mingle thy tears with the sorrows of thy distressed family. And now in glory, thou still retainest the feelings of our human nature: and when we are driven out and forsaken of all men, thou dost never leave us, nor forsake us. Oh! Precious Lord God! when I think of thy matchless love, how infinite, how inexhaustible; that even my ingratitude and forgetfulness of thee cannot wear out. Shall I not in all seasons when viewing anything lovely in the creature, like this of Jonathan, shall I not call to mind thy surpassing loveliness, in mercy, grace, and favour to me, and to thy people? And shall I not, under the impression of the vast superiority, point to Jesus, as the church of old, and say, this is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.

Bibliographical Information
Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 20". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pmc/1-samuel-20.html. 1828.
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