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Jonathan Seeks to Protect David

20 David fled from Naioth in Ramah. He came to Jonathan and asked,[a] “What have I done? What is my offense?[b] How have I sinned before your father, that he is seeking my life?”

Jonathan[c] said to him, “By no means are you going to die! My father does nothing[d] large or small without making me aware of it.[e] Why would my father hide this matter from me? It just won’t happen!”

Taking an oath, David again[f] said, “Your father is very much aware of the fact[g] that I have found favor with you, and he has thought,[h] ‘Don’t let Jonathan know about this, or he will be upset.’ But as surely as the Lord lives and you live, there is about one step between me and death!” Jonathan replied to David, “Tell me what I can do for you.”[i]

David said to Jonathan, “Tomorrow is the new moon, and I am certainly expected to join the king for a meal.[j] You must send me away so I can hide in the field until the third evening from now. If your father happens to miss me, you should say, ‘David urgently requested me to let him go[k] to his town Bethlehem, for there is an annual sacrifice there for his entire family.’ If he should then say, ‘That’s fine,’[l] then your servant is safe. But if he becomes very angry, be assured that he has decided to harm me.[m] You must be loyal[n] to your servant, for you have made a covenant with your servant in the Lord’s name.[o] If I am guilty,[p] you yourself kill me! Why bother taking me to your father?”

Jonathan said, “Far be it from you to suggest this! If I were at all aware that my father had decided to harm you, wouldn’t I tell you about it?” 10 David said to Jonathan, “Who will tell me if your father answers you harshly?” 11 Jonathan said to David, “Come on. Let’s go out to the field.”

When the two of them had gone out into the field, 12 Jonathan said to David, “The Lord God of Israel is my witness![q] I will feel out my father about this time the day after tomorrow. If he is favorably inclined toward David, will I not then send word to you and let you know?[r] 13 But if my father intends to do you harm, may the Lord do all this and more to Jonathan, if I don’t let you know[s] and send word to you, so you can go safely on your way.[t] May the Lord be with you, as he was with my father. 14 While I am still alive, extend to me the loyalty of the Lord, or else I will die. 15 Don’t ever cut off your loyalty to my family, not even when the Lord has cut off every one of David’s enemies from the face of the earth 16 and called David’s enemies to account.” So Jonathan made a covenant[u] with the house of David.[v] 17 Jonathan once again took an oath with David, because he loved him. In fact Jonathan loved him as much as he did his own life.[w] 18 Jonathan said to him, “Tomorrow is the new moon, and you will be missed, for your seat will be empty. 19 On the third day[x] you should go down quickly[y] and come to the place where you hid yourself the day this all started.[z] Stay near the stone Ezel. 20 I will shoot three arrows near it, as though I were shooting at a target. 21 When I send a boy after them, I will say, ‘Go and find the arrows.’ If I say to the boy, ‘Look, the arrows are on this side of you;[aa] get them,’ then come back. For as surely as the Lord lives, you will be safe and there will be no problem. 22 But if I say to the boy, ‘Look, the arrows are on the other side of you,’[ab] then get away. For in that case the Lord has sent you away. 23 With regard to the matter that you and I discussed, the Lord is the witness between us forever.”[ac]

24 So David hid in the field. When the new moon came, the king sat down to eat his meal. 25 The king sat down in his usual place by the wall, with Jonathan opposite him[ad] and Abner at his side.[ae] But David’s place was vacant. 26 However, Saul said nothing about it[af] that day, for he thought,[ag] “Something has happened to make him ceremonially unclean. Yes, he must be unclean.” 27 But the next morning, the second day of the new moon, David’s place was still vacant. So Saul said to his son Jonathan, “Why has Jesse’s son not come to the meal yesterday or today?”

28 Jonathan replied to Saul, “David urgently requested that he be allowed to go to Bethlehem. 29 He said, ‘Permit me to go,[ah] for we are having a family sacrifice in the town, and my brother urged[ai] me to be there. So now, if I have found favor with you, let me go[aj] to see my brothers.’ For that reason he has not come to the king’s table.”

30 Saul became angry with Jonathan[ak] and said to him, “You stupid traitor![al] Don’t I realize that to your own disgrace and to the disgrace of your mother’s nakedness you have chosen this son of Jesse? 31 For as long as[am] this son of Jesse is alive on the earth, you and your kingdom will not be established. Now, send some men[an] and bring him to me. For he is as good as dead!”[ao]

32 Jonathan responded to his father Saul, “Why should he be put to death? What has he done?” 33 Then Saul threw his spear at Jonathan[ap] in order to strike him down. So Jonathan was convinced[aq] that his father had decided to kill David. 34 Jonathan got up from the table enraged. He did not eat any food on that second day of the new moon, for he was upset that his father had humiliated David.[ar]

35 The next morning Jonathan, along with a young servant, went out to the field to meet David. 36 He said to his servant, “Run, find the arrows that I am about to shoot.” As the servant ran, Jonathan[as] shot the arrow beyond him. 37 When the servant came to the place where Jonathan had shot the arrow, Jonathan called out to[at] the servant, “Isn’t the arrow farther beyond you?” 38 Jonathan called out to the servant, “Hurry! Go faster! Don’t delay!” Jonathan’s servant retrieved the arrow and came back to his master. 39 (Now the servant did not understand any of this. Only Jonathan and David knew what was going on.)[au] 40 Then Jonathan gave his equipment to the servant who was with him. He said to him, “Go, take these things back to the town.”

41 When the servant had left, David got up from beside the mound,[av] knelt[aw] with his face to the ground, and bowed three times. Then they kissed each other and they both wept, especially David. 42 Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, for the two of us have sworn together in the name of the Lord saying, ‘The Lord will be between me and you and between my descendants and your descendants forever.’”

David Goes to Nob

(21:1)[ax] Then David[ay] got up and left, while Jonathan went back to the town of Naioth.[az]


  1. 1 Samuel 20:1 tn Heb “and he came and said before Jonathan.”
  2. 1 Samuel 20:1 tn Heb “What is my guilt?”
  3. 1 Samuel 20:2 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Jonathan) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  4. 1 Samuel 20:2 tc The translation follows the Qere, many medieval Hebrew mss, and the ancient versions in reading “he will not do,” rather than the Kethib of the MT (“do to him”).
  5. 1 Samuel 20:2 tn Heb “without uncovering my ear.”
  6. 1 Samuel 20:3 tc The LXX and the Syriac Peshitta lack the word “again.”
  7. 1 Samuel 20:3 tn The infinitive absolute appears before the finite verb for emphasis.
  8. 1 Samuel 20:3 tn Heb “said,” that is, to himself. So also in v. 25.
  9. 1 Samuel 20:4 tn Heb “whatever your soul says, I will do for you.”
  10. 1 Samuel 20:5 tn Heb “and I must surely sit with the king to eat.” The infinitive absolute appears before the finite verb for emphasis.
  11. 1 Samuel 20:6 tn Heb “to run.”
  12. 1 Samuel 20:7 tn Heb “good.”
  13. 1 Samuel 20:7 tn Heb “know that the evil is completed from with him.”
  14. 1 Samuel 20:8 tn Heb “and you must do loyalty.”
  15. 1 Samuel 20:8 tn Heb “for into a covenant of the Lord you have brought your servant with you.”
  16. 1 Samuel 20:8 tn Heb “and if there is in me guilt.”
  17. 1 Samuel 20:12 tc The Hebrew text has simply “the Lord God of Israel.” On the basis of the Syriac version, many reconstruct the text to read “[is] my witness,” which may have fallen out of the text by homoioarcton (an error which is entirely possible if עֵד (ʿed, “witness,”) immediately followed דָּוִד, “David,” in the original text).
  18. 1 Samuel 20:12 tn Heb “and uncover your ear.”
  19. 1 Samuel 20:13 tn Heb “uncover your ear.”
  20. 1 Samuel 20:13 tn Heb “in peace.”
  21. 1 Samuel 20:16 tn Heb “cut.” The object of the verb (“covenant”) must be supplied.
  22. 1 Samuel 20:16 tn The word order is different in the Hebrew text, which reads “and Jonathan cut with the house of David, and the Lord will seek from the hand of the enemies of David.” The translation assumes that the main clauses of the verse have been accidentally transposed in the course of transmission. The first part of the verse (as it stands in MT) belongs with v. 17, while the second part of the verse actually continues v. 15.
  23. 1 Samuel 20:17 tn Heb “for [with] the love of his [own] life he loved him.”
  24. 1 Samuel 20:19 tc Heb “you will do [something] a third time.” The translation assumes an emendation of the verb from שִׁלַּשְׁתָּ (shillashta, “to do a third time”) to שִׁלִּישִׁית (shillishit, “[on the] third [day]”).
  25. 1 Samuel 20:19 tn Heb “you must go down greatly.” See Judg 19:11 for the same idiom.
  26. 1 Samuel 20:19 tn Heb “on the day of the deed.” This probably refers to the incident recorded in 19:2.
  27. 1 Samuel 20:21 tn Heb “from you and here.”
  28. 1 Samuel 20:22 tn Heb “from you and onward.”
  29. 1 Samuel 20:23 tc Heb “the Lord [is] between me and between you forever.” The translation assumes that the original text read עֵד עַד־עוֹלָם (ʿed ʿad ʿolam), “a witness forever,” with the noun “a witness” accidentally falling out of the text by haplography. See P. K. McCarter, I Samuel (AB), 338.
  30. 1 Samuel 20:25 tc Heb “and Jonathan arose.” Instead of MT’s וַיָּקָם (vayyaqom, “and he arose”; from the hollow verbal root קוּם, qum), the translation assumes a reading וַיְקַדֵּם (vayeqaddem, “and he was in front of”; from the verbal root קָדַם, qadam). See P. K. McCarter, I Samuel (AB), 338.
  31. 1 Samuel 20:25 tn Heb “and Abner sat at the side of Saul.”
  32. 1 Samuel 20:26 tn The words “about it” are not present in the Hebrew text, although they are implied.
  33. 1 Samuel 20:26 tn Heb “said,” that is, to himself.
  34. 1 Samuel 20:29 tn Heb “send me.”
  35. 1 Samuel 20:29 tn Heb “commanded.”
  36. 1 Samuel 20:29 tn Heb “be released [from duty].”
  37. 1 Samuel 20:30 tc Many medieval Hebrew mss include the words “his son” here.
  38. 1 Samuel 20:30 tn Heb “son of a perverse woman of rebelliousness.” But such an overly literal and domesticated translation of the Hebrew expression fails to capture the force of Saul’s unrestrained reaction. Saul, now incensed and enraged over Jonathan’s liaison with David, is actually hurling very coarse and emotionally charged words at his son. The translation of this phrase suggested by Koehler and Baumgartner is “bastard of a wayward woman” (HALOT 796 s.v. עוה), but this is not an expression commonly used in English. A better English approximation of the sentiments expressed here by the Hebrew phrase would be “You stupid son of a bitch!” However, sensitivity to the various public formats in which the Bible is read aloud has led to a less startling English rendering which focuses on the semantic value of Saul’s utterance (i.e., the behavior of his own son Jonathan, which he viewed as both a personal and a political betrayal [= “traitor”]). But this concession should not obscure the fact that Saul is full of bitterness and frustration. That he would address his son Jonathan with such language, not to mention his apparent readiness even to kill his own son over this friendship with David (v. 33), indicates something of the extreme depth of Saul’s jealousy and hatred of David.
  39. 1 Samuel 20:31 tn Heb “all the days that.”
  40. 1 Samuel 20:31 tn The words “some men” are supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons.
  41. 1 Samuel 20:31 tn Heb “a son of death.”
  42. 1 Samuel 20:33 tn Heb “him”; the referent (Jonathan) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  43. 1 Samuel 20:33 tn Heb “knew.”
  44. 1 Samuel 20:34 tn Heb “for he was upset concerning David for his father had humiliated him.” The referent of the pronoun “him” is not entirely clear, but the phrase “concerning David” suggests that it refers to David, rather than Jonathan.
  45. 1 Samuel 20:36 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Jonathan) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  46. 1 Samuel 20:37 tn Heb “called after” (also in v. 38).
  47. 1 Samuel 20:39 tn Heb “knew the matter.”
  48. 1 Samuel 20:41 tc The translation follows the LXX in reading “the mound,” rather than the MT’s “the south.” It is hard to see what meaning the MT reading “from beside the south” would have as it stands, since such a location lacks specificity. The NIV treats it as an elliptical expression, rendering the phrase as “from the south side of the stone (rock NCV).” This is perhaps possible, but it seems better to follow the LXX rather than the MT here.
  49. 1 Samuel 20:41 tn Heb “fell.”
  50. 1 Samuel 20:42 sn Beginning with 20:42b, the verse numbers through 21:15 in the English Bible differ from the verse numbers in the Hebrew text (BHS), with 20:42b ET = 21:1 HT, 21:1 ET = 21:2 HT, 21:2 ET = 21:3 HT, etc., through 21:15 ET = 21:16 HT. With 22:1 the verse numbers in the ET and HT are again the same.
  51. 1 Samuel 20:42 tn Heb “he”; the referent (David) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  52. 1 Samuel 20:42 tn The words “of Naioth” are not in the Hebrew text but have been supplied for clarity.