David And Jonathan In The Bible

David is one of the most referenced people in the Bible with sixty-six chapters dedicated to him. According to scripture, David is a young shepherd who earns recognition initially as a musician and later by defeating the gigantic champion, Goliath. He becomes favored by King Saul and a friend of Saul’s son Jonathan.

David And Jonathan In The Bible

We know from 1 Samuel 18:1 that Jonathan loved David. Second Samuel 1:26 records David’s lament after Jonathan’s death, in which he said that his love for Jonathan was more wonderful than the love of a woman. Some use these two passages to suggest a homosexual relationship between David and Jonathan. This interpretation, however, should be rejected for at least three reasons.

First, the Hebrew word for “love” used here is not the typical word used for sexual activity. This word for “love” has clear political and diplomatic connotations (see 1 Samuel 16:21 and 1 Kings 5:1). Second, David’s comparison of his relationship with Jonathan with that of women is probably a reference to his experience with King Saul’s daughter. He was promised one of Saul’s daughters for killing Goliath. But Saul continued to add conditions upon this marriage with the underlying desire to have David killed in battle (1 Samuel 18:17, 25). The love David had received from Jonathan was greater than anything he could have received from Saul’s daughter. Third, the Bible clearly and consistently denounces homosexuality (Genesis 1:26-27; Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Romans 1:18-25). Extolling a homosexual love between David and Jonathan would be contradicting the prohibitions of it found throughout the Bible.

The friendship between David and Jonathan was a covenantal relationship. In 1 Samuel 18:1-5, we read of David and Jonathan forming an agreement. In this agreement, Jonathan was to be second in command in David’s future reign, and David was to protect Jonathan’s family (1 Samuel 20:16-17, 42; 23:16-18).

Obviously, these two men were also very good friends. In their relationship we can see at least three qualities of true friendship. First, they sacrificed for one another. In 1 Samuel 18:4, we read that Jonathan gave David his clothes and military garb. The significance of this gift was that Jonathan recognized that David would one day be king of Israel. Rather than being envious or jealous, Jonathan submitted to God’s will and sacrificed his own right to the throne. Second, in 1 Samuel 19:1-3, we read of Jonathan’s loyalty toward and defense of David. King Saul told his followers to kill David. Jonathan rebuked his father and recalled David’s faithfulness to him in killing Goliath. Finally, Jonathan and David were also free to express their emotions with one another. In 1 Samuel 20, we read of a plan concocted by Jonathan to reveal his father’s plans toward David. Jonathan was going to practice his archery. If he told his servant that the arrows he shot were to the side of the target, David was safe. If Jonathan told his servant that the arrows were beyond the target, David was to leave and not return. Jonathan told the servant that the arrows were beyond the target, meaning that David should flee. After releasing his servant, Jonathan found David and the two men cried together.

Rather than being evidence for a homosexual relationship in the Bible, the account of David and Jonathan is an example of true biblical friendship. True friendship, according to the Bible, involves loyalty, sacrifice, compromise, and yes, emotional attachment. That is what we should learn from David and Jonathan. The idea that the only person in the Bible described as “a man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22), was a practicing homosexual (or bisexual) is ridiculous and has no true biblical basis.

David And Jonathan In The Bible

Jonathan tried again to reconcile Saul with David but he had even less success. David came to Jonathan in secret, revealing that he feared for his own life. “There is only a step between me and death!” he told his older friend. Jonathan agreed to test out his father’s feelings on the matter and to let David know where things stood. While David hid, Jonathan would signal him the news by using a bow and arrows. Jonathan asked only that David swear to this promise: “Never withdraw your loyal love from my household, even when Jehovah wipes out all the enemies of David from the face of the earth.” David agreed that he would always look out for those of Jonathan’s household.​—1 Samuel 20:​3, 13-​27.

Jonathan tried to speak well of David to Saul, but the king became enraged! He called Jonathan a “son of a rebellious woman” and derided his loyalty to David as shameful to the family. He tried to appeal to Jonathan’s self-interest: “As long as the son of Jesse is alive on the earth, you and your kingship will not be firmly established.” Unmoved, Jonathan again pleaded with his father: “Why should he be put to death? What has he done?” Saul exploded in violence! Though aged, Saul was still a mighty warrior. He hurled a spear at his son! Practiced though he may have been, he missed. Deeply hurt and humiliated, Jonathan left in anger.​—1 Samuel 20:24-​34.

Jonathan passed the test of self-interest

The next morning, Jonathan went out into the field near David’s hiding place. He fired off an arrow as agreed, letting David know that Saul was still intent on killing him. Then Jonathan sent his attendant back into the city. He and David were alone, so they had a fleeting chance to talk. Both men wept, and Jonathan sadly saw his young friend off as David started his new life as a refugee.​—1 Samuel 20:35-​42.

Jonathan’s loyalty passed the test of self-interest. Satan, the enemy of all faithful people, would surely have loved to see Jonathan follow in Saul’s steps and put his own ambitions for power or glory first. Remember, Satan loves to appeal to the selfish inclinations of humans. He succeeded with Adam and Eve, our first parents. (Genesis 3:​1-6) Yet, he failed with Jonathan. How frustrated Satan must have been! Will you resist similar attempts? We live in times when selfishness is epidemic. (2 Timothy 3:​1-5) Will we learn from Jonathan’s selfless, loyal spirit?

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