Verses 9–23

Here, I. Jonathan protests his fidelity to David in his distress. Notwithstanding the strong confidence David had in Jonathan, yet, because he might have some reason to fear that his father’s influence, and his own interest, should make him warp, or grow cool towards him, Jonathan thought it requisite solemnly to renew the professions of his friendship to him (1 Sam. 20:9): “Far be it from thee to think that I suspect thee of any crime for which I should either slay thee myself or deliver thee to my father; no, if thou hast any jealousy of that, Come let us go into the field (1 Sam. 20:11), and talk it over more fully.” He did not challenge him to the field to fight him for an affront, but to fix him in his friendship. He faithfully promised him that he would let him know how, upon trial, he found his father affected towards him, and would make the matter neither better nor worse than it was. “If there be good towards thee, I will show it thee, that thou mayest be easy (1 Sam. 20:12), if evil, I will send thee away, that thou mayest be safe” (1 Sam. 20:13); and thus he would help to deliver him from the evil if it were real and from the fear of evil if it were but imaginary. For the confirmation of his promise he appeals to God, 1. As a witness (1 Sam. 20:12): “O Lord God of Israel, thou knowest I mean sincerely, and think as I speak.” The strength of his passion made the manner of his speaking concise and abrupt. 2. As a judge: “The Lord do so and much more to Jonathan (1 Sam. 20:13), if I speak deceitfully, or break my word with my friend.” He expressed himself thus solemnly that David might be abundantly assured of his sincerity. And thus God has confirmed his promises to us, that we might have strong consolation, Heb. 6:17, 18. Jonathan adds to his protestations his hearty prayers: “The Lord be with thee, to protect and prosper thee, as he has been formerly with my father, though now he has withdrawn.” Thus he imitates his belief that David would be in his father’s place, and his good wishes that he might prosper in it better than his father now did.

II. He provides for the entail of the covenant of friendship with David upon his posterity, 1 Sam. 20:14-16. He engages David to be a friend to his family when he was gone (1 Sam. 20:15): Thou shalt promise that thou wilt not cut off thy kindness from my house for ever. This he spoke from a natural affection he had to his children, whom he desired it might go well with after his decease, and for whose future welfare he desired to improve his present interest. It also intimates his firm belief of David’s advancement, and that it would be in the power of his hand to do a kindness or unkindness to his seed; for, in process of time, the Lord would cut off his enemies, Saul himself was not expected; then “Do not thou cut off thy kindness from my house, nor revenge my father’s wrongs upon my children.” The house of David must likewise be bound to the house of Jonathan from generation to generation; he made a covenant (1 Sam. 20:16) with the house of David. Note, True friends cannot but covet to transmit to theirs after them their mutual affections. Thy own friend, and thy father’s friend, forsake not. This kindness, 1. He calls the kindness of the Lord, because it is such kindness as God shows to those he takes into covenant with himself; for he is a God to them and to their seed; they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes. 2. He secures it by an imprecation (1 Sam. 20:16): The Lord require it at the hand of David’s seed (for of David himself he had no suspicion) if they prove so far David’s enemies as to deal wrongfully with the posterity of Jonathan, David’s friend. He feared lest David, or some of his, should hereafter be tempted, for the clearing and confirming of their title to the throne, to do by his seed as Abimelech had done by the sons of Gideon (Jdg. 9:5), and this he would effectually prevent; but the reason given (1 Sam. 20:17) why Jonathan was so earnest to have the friendship entailed is purely generous, and has nothing of self in it; it was because he loved him as he loved his own soul, and therefore desired that he and his might be beloved by him. David, though now in disgrace at court and in distress, was as amiable in the eyes of Jonathan as ever he had been, and he loved him never the less for his father’s hating him, so pure were the principles on which his friendship was built. Having himself sworn to David, he caused David to swear to him, and (as we read it) to swear again, which David consented to (for he that bears an honest mind does not startle at assurances), to swear by his love to him, which he looked upon as a sacred thing. Jonathan’s heart was so much upon it that, when they parted this time, he concluded with a solemn appeal to God: The Lord be between me and thee for ever (1 Sam. 20:23), that is, “God himself be judge between us and our families for ever, if on either side this league of friendship be violated.” It was in remembrance of this covenant that David was kind to Mephibosheth, 2 Sam. 9:7; 21:7. It will be a kindness to ourselves and ours to secure an interest in those whom God favours and to make his friends ours.

III. He settles the method of intelligence, and by what signs and tokens he would give him notice how his father stood affected towards him. David would be missed the first day, or at least the second day, of the new moon, and would be enquired after, 1 Sam. 20:18. On the third day, by which time he would have returned from Bethlehem, he must be at such a place (1 Sam. 20:19), and Jonathan would come towards that place with his bow and arrows to shoot for diversion (1 Sam. 20:20), would send his lad to fetch his arrows, and, if they were shot short of the lad, David must take it for a signal of safety, and not be afraid to show his head (1 Sam. 20:21); but, if he shot beyond the lad, it was a signal of danger, and he must shift for his safety, 1 Sam. 20:22. This expedient he fixed lest he should not have the opportunity, which yet it proved he had, of talking with David, and making the report by word of mouth.