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Chapter 20

David Consults with Jonathan. David fled from Naioth in Ramah, and went to Jonathan. “What have I done?” he asked him. “What crime or what offense does your father hold against me that he seeks my life?”(A) Jonathan answered him: “Heaven forbid that you should die! My father does nothing, great or small, without telling me. Why, then, should my father conceal this from me? It cannot be true!” But David replied: “Your father is well aware that I am favored with your friendship, so he has decided, ‘Jonathan must not know about this or he will be grieved.’ Nevertheless, as the Lord lives and as you live, there is only a step between me and death.” Jonathan then said to David, “I will do whatever you say.” David answered: “Tomorrow is the new moon, when I should in fact dine with the king. Let me go and hide in the open country until evening.(B) If it turns out that your father misses me, say, ‘David urged me to let him go on short notice to his city Bethlehem, because his whole clan is holding its seasonal sacrifice there.’(C) If he says, ‘Very well,’ your servant is safe. But if he becomes quite angry, you can be sure he has planned some harm. (D)Do this kindness for your servant because of the Lord’s covenant into which you brought us: if I am guilty, kill me yourself! Why should you give me up to your father?” But Jonathan answered: “Not I! If ever I find out that my father is determined to harm you, I will certainly let you know.” 10 David then asked Jonathan, “Who will tell me if your father gives you a harsh answer?”

Mutual Agreement. 11 Jonathan replied to David, “Come, let us go out into the field.” When they were out in the open country together, 12 Jonathan said to David: “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, I will sound out my father about this time tomorrow. Whether he is well disposed toward David or not, I will inform you. 13 (E)Should it please my father to bring any harm upon you, may the Lord do thus to Jonathan and more,[a] if I do not inform you of it and send you on your way in peace. May the Lord be with you even as he was with my father. 14 Only this: if I am still alive, may you show me the kindness of the Lord. But if I die, 15 never cut off your kindness from my house. And when the Lord cuts off all the enemies of David from the face of the land, 16 the name of Jonathan must never be cut off from the family of David, or the Lord will make you answer for it.” 17 And in his love for David, Jonathan renewed his oath to him, because he loved him as he loved himself.

18 Jonathan then said to him: “Tomorrow is the new moon; you will be missed, since your place will be vacant. 19 On the third day you will be missed all the more. Go to the spot where you hid on the other occasion and wait near the mound there.(F) 20 On the third day of the month I will shoot arrows to the side of it, as though aiming at a target. 21 I will then send my attendant to recover the arrows. If in fact I say to him, ‘Look, the arrow is this side of you; pick it up,’ come, for you are safe. As the Lord lives, there will be nothing to fear. 22 But if I say to the boy, ‘Look, the arrow is beyond you,’ go, for the Lord sends you away. 23 However, in the matter which you and I have discussed, the Lord shall be between you and me forever.” 24 So David hid in the open country.

David’s Absence. On the day of the new moon, when the king sat down at the feast to dine, 25 he took his usual place against the wall. Jonathan sat facing him, while Abner sat at the king’s side. David’s place was vacant. 26 (G)Saul, however, said nothing that day, for he thought, “He must have become unclean by accident.”[b] 27 On the next day, the second day of the month, David’s place was still vacant. So Saul asked his son Jonathan, “Why has the son of Jesse not come to table yesterday or today?” 28 Jonathan explained to Saul: “David pleaded with me to let him go to Bethlehem. 29 ‘Please let me go,’ he begged, ‘for we are having a clan sacrifice in our city, and my brothers insist on my presence. Now then, if you think well of me, give me leave to visit my brothers.’ That is why he has not come to the king’s table.” 30 But Saul grew angry with Jonathan and said to him: “Son of a rebellious woman, do I not know that, to your own disgrace and to the disgrace of your mother’s nakedness, you are the companion of Jesse’s son? 31 For as long as the son of Jesse lives upon the earth, you cannot make good your claim to the kingship![c] Now send for him, and bring him to me, for he must die.”(H) 32 But Jonathan argued with his father Saul: “Why should he die? What has he done?” 33 At this Saul brandished his spear to strike him, and thus Jonathan learned that his father was determined to kill David.(I) 34 Jonathan sprang up from the table in a rage and ate nothing that second day of the month, because he was grieved on David’s account, and because his father had humiliated him.

Jonathan’s Farewell. 35 The next morning Jonathan, accompanied by a young boy, went out into the field for his appointment with David. 36 There he said to the boy, “Run and find the arrows.” And as the boy ran, he shot an arrow past him. 37 When the boy made for the spot where Jonathan had shot the arrow, Jonathan called after him, “The arrow is farther on!” 38 Again he called to the boy, “Hurry, be quick, don’t delay!” Jonathan’s boy picked up the arrow and brought it to his master. 39 The boy suspected nothing; only Jonathan and David knew what was meant. 40 Then Jonathan gave his weapons to his boy and said to him, “Go, take them to the city.” 41 When the boy had gone, David rose from beside the mound and fell on his face to the ground three times in homage. They kissed each other and wept aloud together. 42 (J)At length Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, in keeping with what the two of us have sworn by the name of the Lord: ‘The Lord shall be between you and me, and between your offspring and mine forever.’”


  1. 20:13 See note on 3:17.
  2. 20:26 The meal on the first day of the month would have had religious overtones, and a ritual impurity (Lv 15:16; Dt 23:10–12) would have barred David from sharing in it.
  3. 20:31 Your claim to the kingship: Saul admits his intention that Jonathan should succeed him and that David is a threat to his lineage (cf. 23:17). However Jonathan has already acknowledged David’s kingship (18:3–4) and his own subservient role (20:13–16).