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David Makes a Promise to Jonathan

20 David fled from the pastures at Ramah, came to Jonathan, and asked, “What have I done? What crime am I guilty of? What sin have I committed against your father that he’s trying to kill me?”

Jonathan answered, “That’s unthinkable! You’re not going to die! My father does nothing without telling me, whether it’s important or not. Why should my father hide this from me? It’s just not that way.”

But David took an oath, saying, “Your father certainly knows that you support me, so he said to himself, ‘Jonathan must not know about this. It will bring him distress.’ But I solemnly swear, as Yahweh and you live, I’m only one step away from death.”

Jonathan said to David, “I’ll do whatever you say.”

David replied, “Tomorrow is the New Moon Festival, when I should sit and eat at the king’s table. But let me go and hide in the countryside for two more nights. If your father really misses me, tell him, ‘David repeatedly begged me to let him run to Bethlehem, his hometown, because his relatives are offering the annual sacrifice there.’ If he says, ‘Good!’ then I will be safe. But if he gets really angry, then you’ll know for sure that he has decided to harm me. Now, be kind to me. After all, you forced me into an agreement with Yahweh. If I have committed any crime, kill me yourself. Why bother taking me to your father?”

Jonathan answered, “That’s unthinkable! If I knew for sure that my father had decided to harm you, I would have told you about it.”

10 Then David asked, “Who will tell me whether or not your father gives you a harsh answer?”

11 Jonathan said, “Let’s go out into the country.” So they went out into the country.

12 “As Yahweh Elohim of Israel is my witness,” Jonathan continued, “I’ll find out in the next two or three days how my father feels about you. If he does feel kindly toward you, then I will send someone to tell you. 13 If my father plans to harm you and I fail to tell you and send you away safely, may Yahweh harm me even more. May Yahweh be with you as he used to be with my father. 14 But as long as I live, promise me that you will show me kindness because of Yahweh. And even when I die, 15 never stop being kind to my family. Yahweh will wipe each of David’s enemies off the face of the earth. 16 At that time, if Jonathan’s name[a] is cut off from David’s family, then may Yahweh punish David’s house.”[b]

17 Once again Jonathan swore an oath to David because of his love for David. He loved David as much as he loved himself. 18 “Tomorrow is the New Moon Festival,” Jonathan told him, “and you will be missed when your seat is empty. 19 The day after tomorrow you will be missed even more.[c] So go to the place where you hid on that other occasion, and stay by the rock. 20 I will shoot three arrows from beside it toward a target. 21 Then I will send out a boy and say, ‘Go, find the arrows.’ Now, if I tell the boy, ‘Look, the arrows are next to you; get them,’ then come back with me. You will be safe, and there will be no trouble. I swear it, as Yahweh lives. 22 But if I tell the boy, ‘The arrows are next to you,’ then go, because Yahweh has sent you away. 23 We have made a promise to each other, and Yahweh is a witness between you and me forever.”

24 So David hid in the countryside. When the New Moon Festival came, King Saul sat down to eat the festival meal. 25 He sat in his usual seat by the wall, while Jonathan stood. Abner sat beside Saul, but David’s place was empty. 26 Saul didn’t say anything that day, thinking, “Something has happened to him so that he’s unclean.[d] He must be unclean.” 27 But on the second day of the month, David’s place was still empty.

Saul asked his son Jonathan, “Why hasn’t Jesse’s son come to the meal either yesterday or today?”

28 Jonathan answered Saul, “David repeatedly begged me to let him go to Bethlehem. 29 David said to me ‘Please let me go. Our relatives will offer a sacrifice in the city, and my brother ordered me to be there. If you will permit it, please let me go to see my brothers.’ This is why he hasn’t come to your banquet.”

30 Then Saul got angry with Jonathan. “Son of a crooked and rebellious woman!” he called Jonathan. “I know you’ve sided with Jesse’s son. You have no shame. You act as if you are your mother’s son but not mine.[e] 31 As long as Jesse’s son lives on earth, neither you nor your right to be king is secure. Now, send some men to bring him to me. He’s a dead man!”

32 Jonathan asked his father, “Why should he be killed? What has he done?”

33 Saul raised his spear to strike him. Then Jonathan knew his father was determined to kill David. 34 Jonathan got up from the table very angry and ate nothing that second day of the month. He was worried sick about David because Jonathan had been humiliated by his own father.

35 In the morning Jonathan went out to the country to the place he and David had agreed on. Jonathan had a young boy with him. 36 “Run,” he told the boy, “please find the arrows I shoot.”

The boy ran, and Jonathan shot the arrow over him. 37 When the boy reached the place where Jonathan’s arrow had landed, Jonathan called after him, “The arrows are next to you!” 38 Jonathan added, “Quick! Hurry up! Don’t stand there!” Jonathan’s young servant gathered the arrows and came to his master. 39 The boy had no idea what was going on, but Jonathan and David understood. 40 Then Jonathan gave his weapons to the boy. He told the boy, “Take them back into town.”

41 When the boy had left, David came out from the south side of the rock and quickly bowed down three times with his face touching the ground. Then they kissed each other and cried together, but David cried the loudest.[f]

42 “Go in peace!” Jonathan told David. “We have both taken an oath in Yahweh’s name, saying, ‘Yahweh will be a witness between me and you and between my descendants and your descendants forever.’”[g]

So David left, and Jonathan went into the city.


  1. 1 Samuel 20:16 Greek; Masoretic Text omits “name.”
  2. 1 Samuel 20:16 Ancient scribal tradition; Masoretic Text “punish David’s enemies.” At times some scribes would alter the text when they thought it was disrespectful.
  3. 1 Samuel 20:19 Hebrew meaning uncertain.
  4. 1 Samuel 20:26 “Unclean” refers to anything that Moses’ Teachings say is not presentable to God.
  5. 1 Samuel 20:30 English equivalent difficult.
  6. 1 Samuel 20:41 Hebrew meaning uncertain.
  7. 1 Samuel 20:42 1 Samuel 20:42b in English Bibles is 1 Samuel 21:1 in the Hebrew Bible.

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