David and Jonathan

20 Then David fled from Naioth at Ramah and went to Jonathan and asked, “What have I done? What is my crime? How have I wronged(A) your father, that he is trying to kill me?”(B)

“Never!” Jonathan replied. “You are not going to die! Look, my father doesn’t do anything, great or small, without letting me know. Why would he hide this from me? It isn’t so!”

But David took an oath(C) and said, “Your father knows very well that I have found favor in your eyes, and he has said to himself, ‘Jonathan must not know this or he will be grieved.’ Yet as surely as the Lord lives and as you live, there is only a step between me and death.”

Jonathan said to David, “Whatever you want me to do, I’ll do for you.”

So David said, “Look, tomorrow is the New Moon feast,(D) and I am supposed to dine with the king; but let me go and hide(E) in the field until the evening of the day after tomorrow. If your father misses me at all, tell him, ‘David earnestly asked my permission(F) to hurry to Bethlehem,(G) his hometown, because an annual(H) sacrifice is being made there for his whole clan.’ If he says, ‘Very well,’ then your servant is safe. But if he loses his temper,(I) you can be sure that he is determined(J) to harm me. As for you, show kindness to your servant, for you have brought him into a covenant(K) with you before the Lord. If I am guilty, then kill(L) me yourself! Why hand me over to your father?”

“Never!” Jonathan said. “If I had the least inkling that my father was determined to harm you, wouldn’t I tell you?”

10 David asked, “Who will tell me if your father answers you harshly?”

11 “Come,” Jonathan said, “let’s go out into the field.” So they went there together.

12 Then Jonathan said to David, “I swear by the Lord, the God of Israel, that I will surely sound(M) out my father by this time the day after tomorrow! If he is favorably disposed toward you, will I not send you word and let you know? 13 But if my father intends to harm you, may the Lord deal with Jonathan, be it ever so severely,(N) if I do not let you know and send you away in peace. May the Lord be with(O) you as he has been with my father. 14 But show me unfailing kindness(P) like the Lord’s kindness as long as I live, so that I may not be killed, 15 and do not ever cut off your kindness from my family(Q)—not even when the Lord has cut off every one of David’s enemies from the face of the earth.”

16 So Jonathan(R) made a covenant(S) with the house of David, saying, “May the Lord call David’s enemies to account.(T) 17 And Jonathan had David reaffirm his oath(U) out of love for him, because he loved him as he loved himself.

18 Then Jonathan said to David, “Tomorrow is the New Moon feast. You will be missed, because your seat will be empty.(V) 19 The day after tomorrow, toward evening, go to the place where you hid(W) when this trouble began, and wait by the stone Ezel. 20 I will shoot three arrows(X) to the side of it, as though I were shooting at a target. 21 Then I will send a boy and say, ‘Go, find the arrows.’ If I say to him, ‘Look, the arrows are on this side of you; bring them here,’ then come, because, as surely as the Lord lives, you are safe; there is no danger. 22 But if I say to the boy, ‘Look, the arrows are beyond(Y) you,’ then you must go, because the Lord has sent you away. 23 And about the matter you and I discussed—remember, the Lord is witness(Z) between you and me forever.”

24 So David hid in the field, and when the New Moon feast(AA) came, the king sat down to eat. 25 He sat in his customary place by the wall, opposite Jonathan,[a] and Abner sat next to Saul, but David’s place was empty.(AB) 26 Saul said nothing that day, for he thought, “Something must have happened to David to make him ceremonially unclean—surely he is unclean.(AC) 27 But the next day, the second day of the month, David’s place was empty again. Then Saul said to his son Jonathan, “Why hasn’t the son of Jesse come to the meal, either yesterday or today?”

28 Jonathan answered, “David earnestly asked me for permission(AD) to go to Bethlehem. 29 He said, ‘Let me go, because our family is observing a sacrifice(AE) in the town and my brother has ordered me to be there. If I have found favor in your eyes, let me get away to see my brothers.’ That is why he has not come to the king’s table.”

30 Saul’s anger flared up at Jonathan and he said to him, “You son of a perverse and rebellious woman! Don’t I know that you have sided with the son of Jesse to your own shame and to the shame of the mother who bore you? 31 As long as the son of Jesse lives on this earth, neither you nor your kingdom(AF) will be established. Now send someone to bring him to me, for he must die!”

32 “Why(AG) should he be put to death? What(AH) has he done?” Jonathan asked his father. 33 But Saul hurled his spear at him to kill him. Then Jonathan knew that his father intended(AI) to kill David.

34 Jonathan got up from the table in fierce anger; on that second day of the feast he did not eat, because he was grieved at his father’s shameful treatment of David.

35 In the morning Jonathan went out to the field for his meeting with David. He had a small boy with him, 36 and he said to the boy, “Run and find the arrows I shoot.” As the boy ran, he shot an arrow beyond him. 37 When the boy came to the place where Jonathan’s arrow had fallen, Jonathan called out after him, “Isn’t the arrow beyond(AJ) you?” 38 Then he shouted, “Hurry! Go quickly! Don’t stop!” The boy picked up the arrow and returned to his master. 39 (The boy knew nothing about all this; only Jonathan and David knew.) 40 Then Jonathan gave his weapons to the boy and said, “Go, carry them back to town.”

41 After the boy had gone, David got up from the south side of the stone and bowed down before Jonathan three times, with his face to the ground.(AK) Then they kissed each other and wept together—but David wept the most.

42 Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace,(AL) for we have sworn friendship(AM) with each other in the name of the Lord,(AN) saying, ‘The Lord is witness(AO) between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants forever.(AP)’” Then David left, and Jonathan went back to the town.[b]

Footnotes

  1. 1 Samuel 20:25 Septuagint; Hebrew wall. Jonathan arose
  2. 1 Samuel 20:42 In Hebrew texts this sentence (20:42b) is numbered 21:1.

A Covenant Friendship in God’s Name

20 David got out of Naioth in Ramah alive and went to Jonathan. “What do I do now? What wrong have I inflicted on your father that makes him so determined to kill me?”

“Nothing,” said Jonathan. “You’ve done nothing wrong. And you’re not going to die. Really, you’re not! My father tells me everything. He does nothing, whether big or little, without confiding in me. So why would he do this behind my back? It can’t be.”

But David said, “Your father knows that we are the best of friends. So he says to himself, ‘Jonathan must know nothing of this. If he does, he’ll side with David.’ But it’s true—as sure as God lives, and as sure as you’re alive before me right now—he’s determined to kill me.”

Jonathan said, “Tell me what you have in mind. I’ll do anything for you.”

5-8 David said, “Tomorrow marks the New Moon. I’m scheduled to eat dinner with the king. Instead, I’ll go hide in the field until the evening of the third. If your father misses me, say, ‘David asked if he could run down to Bethlehem, his hometown, for an anniversary reunion, and worship with his family.’ If he says, ‘Good!’ then I’m safe. But if he gets angry, you’ll know for sure that he’s made up his mind to kill me. Oh, stick with me in this. You’ve entered into a covenant of God with me, remember! If I’m in the wrong, go ahead and kill me yourself. Why bother giving me up to your father?”

“Never!” exclaimed Jonathan. “I’d never do that! If I get the slightest hint that my father is fixated on killing you, I’ll tell you.”

10 David asked, “And whom will you get to tell me if your father comes back with a harsh answer?”

11-17 “Come outside,” said Jonathan. “Let’s go to the field.” When the two of them were out in the field, Jonathan said, “As God, the God of Israel, is my witness, by this time tomorrow I’ll get it out of my father how he feels about you. Then I’ll let you know what I learn. May God do his worst to me if I let you down! If my father still intends to kill you, I’ll tell you and get you out of here in one piece. And God be with you as he’s been with my father! If I make it through this alive, continue to be my covenant friend. And if I die, keep the covenant friendship with my family—forever. And when God finally rids the earth of David’s enemies, stay loyal to Jonathan!” Jonathan repeated his pledge of love and friendship for David. He loved David more than his own soul!

18-23 Jonathan then laid out his plan: “Tomorrow is the New Moon, and you’ll be missed when you don’t show up for dinner. On the third day, when they’ve quit expecting you, come to the place where you hid before, and wait beside that big boulder. I’ll shoot three arrows in the direction of the boulder. Then I’ll send off my servant, ‘Go find the arrows.’ If I yell after the servant, ‘The arrows are on this side! Retrieve them!’ that’s the signal that you can return safely—as God lives, not a thing to fear! But if I yell, ‘The arrows are farther out!’ then run for it—God wants you out of here! Regarding all the things we’ve discussed, remember that God’s in on this with us to the very end!”

24-26 David hid in the field. On the holiday of the New Moon, the king came to the table to eat. He sat where he always sat, the place against the wall, with Jonathan across the table and Abner at Saul’s side. But David’s seat was empty. Saul didn’t mention it at the time, thinking, “Something’s happened that’s made him unclean. That’s it—he’s probably unclean for the holy meal.”

27 But the day after the New Moon, day two of the holiday, David’s seat was still empty. Saul asked Jonathan his son, “So where’s that son of Jesse? He hasn’t eaten with us either yesterday or today.”

28-29 Jonathan said, “David asked my special permission to go to Bethlehem. He said, ‘Give me leave to attend a family reunion back home. My brothers have ordered me to be there. If it seems all right to you, let me go and see my brothers.’ That’s why he’s not here at the king’s table.”

30-31 Saul exploded in anger at Jonathan: “You son of a slut! Don’t you think I know that you’re in cahoots with the son of Jesse, disgracing both you and your mother? For as long as the son of Jesse is walking around free on this earth, your future in this kingdom is at risk. Now go get him. Bring him here. From this moment, he’s as good as dead!”

32 Jonathan stood up to his father. “Why dead? What’s he done?”

33 Saul threw his spear at him to kill him. That convinced Jonathan that his father was fixated on killing David.

34 Jonathan stormed from the table, furiously angry, and ate nothing the rest of the day, upset for David and smarting under the humiliation from his father.

35-39 In the morning, Jonathan went to the field for the appointment with David. He had his young servant with him. He told the servant, “Run and get the arrows I’m about to shoot.” The boy started running and Jonathan shot an arrow way beyond him. As the boy came to the area where the arrow had been shot, Jonathan yelled out, “Isn’t the arrow farther out?” He yelled again, “Hurry! Quickly! Don’t just stand there!” Jonathan’s servant then picked up the arrow and brought it to his master. The boy, of course, knew nothing of what was going on. Only Jonathan and David knew.

40-41 Jonathan gave his quiver and bow to the boy and sent him back to town. After the servant was gone, David got up from his hiding place beside the boulder, then fell on his face to the ground—three times prostrating himself! And then they kissed one another and wept, friend over friend, David weeping especially hard.

42 Jonathan said, “Go in peace! The two of us have vowed friendship in God’s name, saying, ‘God will be the bond between me and you, and between my children and your children forever!’”