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1 Samuel 20Easy-to-Read Version (ERV)

David and Jonathan Make an Agreement

20 David ran away from the camps at Ramah and went to Jonathan and asked him, “What have I done wrong? What is my crime? Why is your father trying to kill me?”

Jonathan answered, “That can’t be true! My father isn’t trying to kill you. My father doesn’t do anything without first telling me. It doesn’t matter how important it is, my father always tells me. Why would my father refuse to tell me that he wants to kill you? No, it is not true!”

But David answered, “Your father knows very well that I am your friend. Your father said to himself, ‘Jonathan must not know about it. If he knows, he will tell David.’[a] But as surely as you and the Lord are alive, I am very close to death.”

Jonathan said to David, “I will do anything you want me to do.”

Then David said, “Look, tomorrow is the New Moon celebration. I am supposed to eat with the king, but let me hide in the field until the evening. If your father notices I am gone, tell him, ‘David wanted to go home to Bethlehem. His family is having its own feast for this monthly sacrifice. David asked me to let him run down to Bethlehem and join his family.’ If your father says, ‘Fine,’ then I am safe. But if your father becomes angry, you will know that he wants to hurt me. Jonathan, be kind to me. I am your servant. You have made an agreement with me before the Lord. If I am guilty, you may kill me yourself, but don’t take me to your father.”

Jonathan answered, “No, never! If I learn that my father plans to hurt you, I will warn you.”

10 David said, “Who will warn me if your father says bad things to you?”

11 Then Jonathan said, “Come, let’s go out into the field.” So Jonathan and David went together into the field.

12 Jonathan said to David, “I make this promise before the Lord, the God of Israel. I promise that I will learn how my father feels about you. I will learn if he feels good about you or not. Then, in three days, I will send a message to you in the field. 13 If my father wants to hurt you, I will let you know. I will let you leave in safety. May the Lord punish me if I don’t do this. May the Lord be with you as he has been with my father. 14-15 As long as I live, show me the same kindness the Lord does. And if I die, never stop showing this kindness to my family. Be faithful to us, even when the Lord destroys all your enemies[b] from the earth.” 16 So Jonathan made this agreement with David and his family, and he asked the Lord to hold them responsible for keeping it.[c]

17 Jonathan loved David as himself, and because of this love, he asked David to repeat this agreement for himself.

18 Jonathan said to David, “Tomorrow is the New Moon celebration. Your seat will be empty, so my father will see that you are gone. 19 On the third day go to the same place you hid when this trouble began. Wait by that hill. 20 On the third day I will go to that hill and shoot three arrows as if I am shooting at a target. 21 Then I will tell the boy to go find the arrows. If everything is fine, I will tell the boy, ‘You went too far! The arrows are closer to me. Come back and get them.’ If I say that, you can come out of hiding. I promise, as surely as the Lord lives, you are safe. There is no danger. 22 But if there is trouble, I will say to the boy, ‘The arrows are farther away. Go get them.’ If I say that, you must leave. The Lord is sending you away. 23 Remember this agreement between you and me. The Lord is our witness forever.”

24 Then David hid in the field.

Saul’s Attitude at the Celebration

The time for the New Moon celebration came, and the king sat down to eat. 25 He sat next to the wall where he usually sat, and Jonathan sat across from him. Abner sat next to Saul, but David’s place was empty. 26 That day Saul said nothing. He thought, “Maybe something happened to David so that he is not clean.”

27 On the next day, the second day of the month, David’s place was empty again. Then Saul said to his son Jonathan, “Why didn’t Jesse’s son come to the New Moon celebration yesterday or today?”

28 Jonathan answered, “David asked me to let him go to Bethlehem. 29 He said, ‘Let me go. Our family is having a sacrifice in Bethlehem. My brother ordered me to be there. Now if I am your friend, please let me go and see my brothers.’ That is why David has not come to the king’s table.”

30 Saul was very angry with Jonathan and said to him, “You son of a twisted, rebellious woman! I know that you have chosen to support that son of Jesse.[d] This will bring shame to you and to your mother. 31 As long as Jesse’s son lives, you will never be king and have a kingdom. Now, bring David to me! He is a dead man.”

32 Jonathan asked his father, “Why should David be killed? What did he do wrong?”

33 But Saul threw his spear at Jonathan and tried to kill him. So Jonathan knew that his father wanted very much to kill David. 34 Jonathan became angry and left the table. He was so upset and angry with his father that he refused to eat any food on the second day of the festival. He was angry because Saul humiliated him and because Saul wanted to kill David.

David and Jonathan Say Goodbye

35 The next morning Jonathan went out to the field to meet David as they had agreed. Jonathan brought a little boy with him. 36 He said to the boy, “Run. Go find the arrows I shoot.” The boy began to run, and Jonathan shot the arrows over his head. 37 The boy ran to the place where the arrows fell, but Jonathan called, “The arrows are farther away.” 38 Then he shouted, “Hurry! Go get them. Don’t just stand there.” The boy picked up the arrows and brought them back to his master. 39 The boy knew nothing about what went on. Only Jonathan and David knew. 40 Jonathan gave his bow and arrows to the boy and told him to go back to town.

41 When the boy left, David came out from his hiding place on the other side of the hill. David gave a formal greeting by bowing to the ground three times to show his respect for Jonathan. But then David and Jonathan kissed each other and cried together. It was a very sad goodbye, especially for David.

42 Then Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace. We have taken an oath in the Lord’s name to be friends forever. We have asked the Lord to be a witness between us and our descendants forever.”


  1. 1 Samuel 20:3 he will tell David This is from the ancient Greek version. The standard Hebrew text here has “he will be upset.”
  2. 1 Samuel 20:14 enemies Or “descendants.”
  3. 1 Samuel 20:16 The Hebrew text here is unclear, and several different translations are possible.
  4. 1 Samuel 20:30 that son of Jesse Saul refers to David by his father’s name, intending it as an insult.
Easy-to-Read Version (ERV)

Copyright © 2006 by Bible League International


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