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Tuesday, July 23rd, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
1 Samuel 20

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary

Verse 1


1. David fled Probably very soon after he witnessed the desperate attempts of Saul to seize upon him in the presence of Samuel and the prophets. Recently he fled to Samuel, (1 Samuel 19:18,) hoping, in the sanctity of the school of the prophets, to find a secure asylum; but now he sees that his persecutor will rashly invade even that sacred retreat. Next he flies to his tried friend, Jonathan.

What have I done David feels conscious of innocence. He probably did not yet understand that he was destined to supersede Saul, and that the king looked upon him as a rival. In all his intercourse with him at Ramah, Samuel seems not to have deemed it prudent to acquaint the young psalmist with this matter of the kingdom.

Verses 1-42

DAVID’S FLIGHT TO RAMAH, AND SAUL’S PURSUIT, 1 Samuel 19:18 to 1 Samuel 24:18.

David fled… to Samuel Whither could he better go for help and counsel at a time like this? Surely, he thinks, Samuel will defend me against Saul.

He and Samuel went and dwelt in Naioth Naioth is not to be regarded as a proper name. The word means habitations, dwelling places, and refers to the dwellings of the band of prophets over whom Samuel presided. The plural is used because of the number of cells or huts in this locality. The Targum renders the word house of instruction, and Ewald defines it as studium, or school. Here these disciples of Samuel dwelt, and disciplined themselves in holy exercises. How long David enjoyed this society of Samuel and these prophets before Saul ascertained whither he had fled we cannot determine, but probably not long.

Verse 4

4. Whatsoever thy soul desireth Literally, Whatever thy soul shall say even I will do for thee. This conversation, up to 1 Samuel 20:11, took place in the city, and perhaps in or near Saul’s house.

Verse 5

5. To-morrow is the new moon The beginning of the Jewish month, when, according to the law, (Numbers 28:11,) all Israel was to offer a burnt offering unto the Lord. It was Saul’s custom to hold also at this time a civil festival, at which his chief officers were expected to be present.

Verse 6

6. David earnestly asked leave of me The whole narrative assumes that the king’s son had authority to grant such leave of absence.

A yearly sacrifice there for all the family Jesse was now a very old man, (1 Samuel 17:12,) and once a year, at the time of some set sacrifice for all the people, he had his children and his children’s children come together at his own city for the purpose of a great sacrifice and festival. It is probable that such family gatherings were not uncommon things in Israel. At this time, however, David hid himself in a field near Gibeah, and did not meet with his father’s family.

Verse 11

11. Come and let us go out into the field There to fix upon some signal by which David might learn the result of Jonathan’s interview with his father.

Verse 13

13. The Lord be with thee, as he hath been with my father These words, according to Keil, express the presentiment in Jonathan’s soul that David was yet to occupy the throne of Israel. This conviction is expressed more clearly in the next two verses. We may believe that Saul had now fully made up his mind that David was his rival for the throne; that he was the man after God’s own heart of whom Samuel had told him; and perhaps the fact that Samuel had anointed him at Beth-lehem was now generally known. Jonathan’s entering, with all these facts before him, into a solemn covenant with the house of David, and with no animosity, no jealousy, no harsh words, but still loving his rival as his own soul, is the most marvellous instance of human friendship and tenderness with which the records of our race acquaint us.

Verse 19

19. When the business was in hand Margin, in the day of the business. Referring to the circumstance of Jonathan’s previous intercession for David, (1 Samuel 19:3,) that business or affair so similar to the one now in hand. Ewald thinks the affair here referred to was Saul’s personal attempt to take David’s life, and that “a sort of filial reverence here induces Jonathan to call that day simply the day of the affair, to avoid having to give that affair its right name.”

Ezel The name of a stone near Gibeah well known to Jonathan and David, but now unknown.

Verse 22

22. Go thy way Jonathan thus provides for informing David of Saul’s designs without making a personal interview between them necessary. Such an interview might be hazardous to both of them, and so they make provision for the worst. They had, however, the opportunity of another personal interview. 1 Samuel 20:41-42.

Verse 25

25. Upon a seat by the wall The uppermost seat opposite the entrance to the room, and consequently by the wall. See cut appended to note on Matthew 23:6.

And Jonathan arose The meaning seems to be that Jonathan was sitting by Saul’s side, and when Abner entered he arose and gave to him the seat of honour he had himself been occupying.

Verse 26

26. He is not clean Some ceremonial defilement prevents his attendance at this festival of the new moon. Compare marginal references.

Verse 27

27. Wherefore cometh not the son of Jesse to meat But how could Saul reasonably expect him to come after all his dark attempts upon his life? Those attempts had all been made during real or apparent fits of madness, and he probably supposed that David would not regard them as the result of deep-seated intentions. He may also have learned that David had returned from Ramah, and had been seen with Jonathan since he had sent messengers and had gone himself to take him.

Verse 30

30. Son of the perverse rebellious woman On this passage the versions vary, but ours conveys the meaning of the Hebrew. “There are some traces of this form of abuse, in principle, among the least refined portion of our own population; but in the East no man is too high or too refined to be above it. Even a son will abuse his brother by casting contumely upon his mother, regardless of the fact that she is also his own mother, and whom, as such, he venerates and loves. The mother herself is not held to be affronted in such cases, but the son who hears such words applied to her is insulted, and is meant to be insulted, beyond expiation.” Kitto.

Verse 31

31. As long as the son of Jesse liveth… thou shalt not be established Here for the first time Saul reveals the reason of his wrath towards David; for though the probability of David’s attaining the throne may have been at other times talked over between himself and Jonathan, and others, (see note on 1 Samuel 20:13,) yet he seems to have been careful hitherto of expressing his own feelings on the subject.

Verse 33

33. Jonathan knew that it was determined… to slay David He had before been disposed to attribute his father’s acts of violence towards David to his madness, and the demon that at times possessed him; but now he is convinced that David’s suspicions of his bloody design (1 Samuel 20:3) are well founded, and he arose from the table in a wild tumult of passions, and the next morning, true to his word, he went forth to bid David fly.

Verse 40

40. Artillery Rather, his implements. His bow, arrows, and quiver. Jonathan is not content to dismiss David with a mere signal; he covets one more interview and fond embrace.

Verse 41

41. Out of a place toward the south Or, more literally, from the side of the south; that is, southwards from where Jonathan was standing.

Bowed himself three times In token of his profound gratitude, obligation, and reverence.

Until David exceeded Surpassed Jonathan in the exhibition of his grief, and wept aloud over his sorrows; for, says Bishop Patrick, he was now about to become an exile from his friends, his wife, his kindred, the people of God, and all the solemnities of sacred worship.

“This is the culminating point,” says Ewald, “in the mutual relations of the two friends, who furnish the eternal type of the perfection of noble friendship. In these last hours before their separation all the threads of their destinies, henceforth so widely different, are secretly woven together. As Jonathan here foresees, David afterwards obtains the kingdom; and, in accordance with his oath to his friend, he afterwards, when a powerful king, always spares the descendants of Jonathan, in grateful remembrance of his dearly loved friend, and never loses an opportunity of showing them kindness. We may well believe that when, in after years, David drew to his court the posterity of Jonathan, he often told them himself of these last events before their separation, with which no one but the two friends could be acquainted, and that our present narrative springs ultimately from this source.”

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 20". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/1-samuel-20.html. 1874-1909.
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