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David and Jonathan Become Friends

18 Saul decided to take David with him. He would not let David go back home to his father. After David finished talking with Saul, Jonathan developed a strong friendship with David.[a] Jonathan loved David as much as himself, so they made a special agreement. Jonathan took off the coat he was wearing and gave it to David. In fact, Jonathan gave David his whole uniform—including his sword, his bow, and even his belt.

Saul Notices David’s Success

David went to fight wherever Saul sent him. He was very successful, so Saul put him in charge of the soldiers. This pleased everyone, even Saul’s officers. David would go out to fight against the Philistines. On the way home, after the battles, women in every town in Israel would come out to meet him. They sang and danced for joy as they played their tambourines and lyres. They did this right in front of Saul! The women sang,

“Saul has killed his thousands,
    but David has killed tens of thousands.”

This song upset Saul and he became very angry. Saul thought, “The women give David credit for killing tens of thousands of the enemy, and they give me credit for only thousands. A little more of this and they will give him the kingdom itself![b] So from that time on, Saul watched David very closely.

Saul Is Afraid of David

10 The next day, an evil spirit from God took control of Saul and he went wild[c] in his house. David played the harp to calm him as he usually did, 11 but Saul had a spear in his hand. He thought, “I’ll pin David to the wall.” Saul threw the spear twice, but David jumped out of the way both times.

12 The Lord had left Saul and was now with David, so Saul was afraid of David. 13 Saul sent David away and made him a commander over 1000 soldiers. This put David out among the men even more as they went into battle and returned. 14 The Lord was with David, so he was successful in everything. 15 Saul saw how successful David was and became even more afraid of him. 16 But all the people in Israel and Judah loved David because he was out among them and led them into battle.

Saul Wants His Daughter to Marry David

17 One day Saul said to David, “Here is my oldest daughter, Merab. I will let you marry her. Then you will be like a son to me and you will be a real soldier.[d] Then you will go and fight the Lord’s battles.” Saul was really thinking, “Now I won’t have to kill David. I will let the Philistines kill him for me.”

18 But David said, “I am not an important man from an important family. I can’t marry the king’s daughter.”

19 So when the time came for David to marry Saul’s daughter, Saul let her marry Adriel from Meholah.

20 People told Saul that his daughter Michal loved David. This made Saul happy. 21 He thought, “I will use Michal to trap David. I will let Michal marry David, and then I will let the Philistines kill him.” So Saul said to David a second time, “You can marry my daughter today.”

22 Saul commanded his officers to speak to David in private. He told them to say, “Look, the king likes you. His officers like you. You should marry his daughter.”

23 Saul’s officers said these things to David, but David answered, “Do you think it is easy to become the king’s son-in-law? I am just a poor, ordinary man.”

24 Saul’s officers told Saul what David said. 25 Saul told them, “Say this to David, ‘David, the king doesn’t want you to pay money for his daughter.[e] He wants to get even with his enemy, so the price for marrying his daughter is 100 Philistine foreskins.’” That was Saul’s secret plan. He thought the Philistines would kill David.

26 Saul’s officers told this to David. David was happy that he had a chance to become the king’s son-in-law, so immediately 27 he and his men went out to fight the Philistines. They killed 200[f] Philistines. David took these Philistine foreskins and gave them to Saul. He did this because he wanted to become the king’s son-in-law.

Saul let David marry his daughter Michal. 28 He saw that the Lord was with David and he also saw that his daughter, Michal, loved David. 29 So Saul became even more afraid of David and was against him all that time.

30 The Philistine commanders continued to go out to fight the Israelites, but David defeated them every time. He became famous as Saul’s best officer.

Jonathan Helps David

19 Saul told his son Jonathan and his officers to kill David. But Jonathan liked David very much, 2-3 so he warned him. “Be careful! Saul is looking for a chance to kill you. In the morning go into the field and hide. I will go out into the field with my father. We will stand in the field where you are hiding. I will talk to my father about you, and I will tell you what I learn.”

Jonathan talked to his father Saul. Jonathan said good things about David. He said, “You are the king. David is your servant. David hasn’t done anything wrong to you, so don’t do anything wrong to him. He has always been good to you. He risked his life when he killed the Philistine. The Lord won a great victory for all Israel. You saw it, and you were happy. Why do you want to hurt David? He’s innocent. There is no reason to kill him.”

Saul listened to Jonathan and made a promise. He said, “As surely as the Lord lives, David won’t be put to death.”

So Jonathan called David and told him everything that was said. Then Jonathan brought David to Saul, and David was with Saul as before.

Saul Tries Again to Kill David

Once again there was war with the Philistines, and David went out to fight. He defeated them badly, and they ran away. Later, in Saul’s house, David was playing the harp. Saul was there with his spear in his hand. Then an evil spirit from the Lord came on Saul. 10 Saul threw his spear at David and tried to pin him to the wall. David jumped out of the way, so the spear missed him and stuck in the wall. That night, David ran away.

11 Saul sent men to watch David’s house. They stayed there all night. They were waiting to kill David in the morning, but David’s wife Michal warned him. She said, “You must run away tonight and save your life. If you don’t, you will be killed tomorrow.” 12 Then Michal let David down out of a window, and he escaped and ran away. 13 Michal took the household god, put clothes on it, and put goats’ hair on its head. Then she put the statue in the bed.

14 Saul sent messengers to take David prisoner. But Michal said, “David is sick.”

15 The men went and told Saul, but he sent the messengers back to see David. Saul told these men, “Bring David to me. Bring him lying on his bed if you must, even if it kills him.”

16 The messengers went to David’s house. They went inside to get him, but they saw it was only a statue and that its hair was only goats’ hair.

17 Saul said to Michal, “Why did you trick me like this? You let my enemy escape, and now he is gone.”

Michal answered Saul, “David told me he would kill me if I didn’t help him escape.”

David Goes to the Camps at Ramah

18 David escaped and ran away to Samuel at Ramah. He told Samuel everything that Saul had done to him. Then David and Samuel went to the camps where the prophets stayed. David stayed there.

19 Saul heard that David was there in the camps near Ramah. 20 So he sent some men to arrest David. But when they came to the camps, there was a group of prophets prophesying.[g] Samuel was standing there leading the group. The Spirit of God came on Saul’s messengers and they began prophesying.

21 Saul heard about this, so he sent other messengers, but they also began prophesying. So Saul sent messengers a third time, and they also began prophesying. 22 Finally, Saul himself went to Ramah. Saul came to the big well by the threshing floor at Secu. He asked, “Where are Samuel and David?”

The people answered, “In the camps near Ramah.”

23 So Saul went out to the camps near Ramah. The Spirit of God came on Saul, and he also began prophesying. He prophesied all the way to the camps at Ramah. 24 Saul even took off his clothes. He lay there naked all day and through the night. So even Saul prophesied there in front of Samuel.

That is why people say, “Is Saul also one of the prophets?”

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.’[h] 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[i] 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.[j]

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.[k] 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 18:1 Jonathan … with David Literally, “Jonathan’s soul was tied to David’s soul.”
  2. 1 Samuel 18:8 A little more … itself This is not in one of the oldest and best copies of the ancient Greek version.
  3. 1 Samuel 18:10 Saul … wild Or “Saul prophesied.” The Hebrew word means that the person lost control of what they said and did. Usually this meant God was using them to give a special message to other people.
  4. 1 Samuel 18:17 real soldier That is, a member of the warrior class. They were free from certain duties of ordinary citizens.
  5. 1 Samuel 18:25 money for his daughter In Bible times a man usually had to give money to a woman’s father before he could marry her.
  6. 1 Samuel 18:27 200 The ancient Greek version has “100.”
  7. 1 Samuel 19:20 prophesying This usually means “speaking for God.” But here, this also means that the Spirit of God took control of the people, causing them to sing and dance. Also in verse 23.
  8. 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.”
  9. 1 Samuel 20:14 enemies Or “descendants.”
  10. 1 Samuel 20:16 The Hebrew text here is unclear, and several different translations are possible.
  11. 1 Samuel 20:30 that son of Jesse Saul refers to David by his father’s name, intending it as an insult.

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