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18 David and Saul finished talking, and soon David and Jonathan[a] became best friends. Jonathan thought as much of David as he did of himself. From that time on, Saul kept David in his service and would not let David go back to his own family.

Jonathan liked David so much that they promised to always be loyal friends. Jonathan took off the robe that he was wearing and gave it to David. He also gave him his military clothes,[b] his sword, his bow and arrows, and his belt.

David was a success in everything that Saul sent him to do, and Saul made him a high officer in his army. That pleased everyone, including Saul's other officers.

Saul Becomes David's Enemy

David had killed Goliath, the battle was over, and the Israelite army set out for home. As the army went along, women came out of each Israelite town to welcome King Saul. They were celebrating by singing songs and dancing to the music of tambourines and harps. (A) They sang:

Saul has killed
    a thousand enemies;
David has killed
    ten thousand!

This song made Saul very angry, and he thought, “They are saying that David has killed ten times more enemies than I ever did. Next they will want to make him king.” Saul never again trusted David.

10 The next day the Lord let an evil spirit take control of Saul, and he began acting like a crazy man inside his house. David came to play the harp for Saul as usual, but this time Saul had a spear in his hand. 11 Saul thought, “I'll pin David to the wall.” He threw the spear at David twice, but David dodged and got away both times.

12 Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was helping David and was no longer helping him. 13 Saul put David in charge of 1,000 soldiers and sent him out to fight. 14 The Lord helped David, and he and his soldiers always won their battles. 15 This made Saul even more afraid of David. 16 But everyone else in Judah and Israel was loyal to[c] David, because he led the army in battle.

17 One day, Saul told David, “If you'll be brave and fight the Lord's battles for me, I'll let you marry my oldest daughter Merab.” But Saul was really thinking, “I don't want to kill David myself, so I'll let the Philistines do it for me.”

18 David answered, “How could I possibly marry your daughter? I'm not very important, and neither is my family.”

19 But when the time came for David to marry Saul's daughter Merab, Saul told her to marry Adriel from the town of Meholah.

20 Saul had another daughter. Her name was Michal, and Saul found out that she was in love with David. This made Saul happy, 21 and he thought, “I'll tell David he can marry Michal, but I'll set it up so that the Philistines will kill him.” He told David, “I'm going to give you a second chance to marry one of my daughters.”

22-23 Saul ordered his officials to speak to David in private, so they went to David and said, “Look, the king likes you, and all of his officials are loyal to you. Why not ask the king if you can marry his daughter Michal?”

“I'm not rich[d] or famous enough to marry princess Michal!” David answered.

24 The officials went back to Saul and told him exactly what David had said. 25 Saul was hoping that the Philistines would kill David, and he told his officials to tell David, “The king doesn't want any silver or gold. He only wants to get even with his enemies. All you have to do is to bring back proof that you have killed 100 Philistines!”[e] 26 The officials told David, and David wanted to marry the princess.

King Saul had set a time limit, and before it ran out, 27 David and his men left and killed 200 Philistines. David brought back the proof that Saul had demanded and showed it to him, so he could marry Michal. Saul agreed to let David marry Michal. 28 King Saul knew that she loved David,[f] and he also realized that the Lord was helping David. 29 But knowing those things made Saul even more afraid of David, and he was David's enemy for the rest of his life.

30 The Philistine rulers kept coming to fight Israel, but whenever David fought them, he won. He was famous because he won more battles against the Philistines than any of Saul's other officers.

Saul Tries To Have David Killed

19 One day, Saul told his son Jonathan and his officers to kill David. But Jonathan and David were best friends, 2-3 and he warned David, “My father is trying to have you killed, so be very careful. Hide in a field tomorrow morning, and I'll bring him there. Then I'll talk to him about you, and if I find out anything, I'll let you know.”

4-5 The next morning, Jonathan reminded Saul about the many good things David had done for him. Then he said, “Why do you want to kill David? He hasn't done anything to you. He has served in your army and has always done what's best for you. He even risked his life to kill Goliath. The Lord helped Israel win a great victory that day, and it made you happy.”

Saul agreed and promised, “I swear by the living Lord that I won't have David killed!”

Jonathan went to David and told him what Saul had said. Then he brought David to Saul, and David served in Saul's army just as he had done before.

The next time there was a war with the Philistines, David fought hard and forced them to retreat.

Michal Helps David Escape

9-10 One night, David was in Saul's home, playing the harp for him. Saul was sitting there, holding a spear, when an evil spirit from the Lord took control of him. Saul tried to pin David to the wall with the spear, but David dodged, and it stuck in the wall. David ran out of the house and escaped.

11 (B) Saul sent guards to watch David's house all night and then to kill him in the morning.

Michal, David's wife, told him, “If you don't escape tonight, they'll kill you tomorrow!” 12 She helped David leave through a window and climb down to the ground.[g] As David ran off, 13 Michal put a statue in his bed. She put goat hair on its head and dressed it in some of David's clothes.

14 The next morning, Saul sent guards to arrest David. But Michal told them, “David is sick.”

15 Saul sent the guards back and told them, “Bring David to me—bed and all—so I can kill him.”

16 When the guards went in, all they found in the bed was the statue with the goat hair on its head.

17 “Why have you tricked me this way?” Saul asked Michal. “You helped my enemy get away!”

She answered, “He said he would kill me if I didn't help him escape!”

Samuel Helps David Escape

18 Meanwhile, David went to Samuel at Ramah and told him what Saul had done. Then Samuel and David went to Prophets Village[h] and stayed there.

19 Someone told Saul, “David is at Prophets Village in Ramah.”

20 Saul sent a few soldiers to bring David back. They went to Ramah and found Samuel in charge of a group of prophets who were all prophesying. Then the Spirit of God took control of the soldiers and they started prophesying too.

21 When Saul heard what had happened, he sent some more soldiers, but they prophesied just like the first group. He sent a third group of soldiers, but the same thing happened to them. 22 Finally, Saul left for Ramah himself. He went as far as the deep pit[i] at the town of Secu, and he asked, “Where are Samuel and David?”

“At Prophets Village in Ramah,” the people answered.

23 Saul left for Ramah. But as he walked along, the Spirit of God took control of him, and he started prophesying. Then, when he reached Prophets Village, 24 (C) he stripped off his clothes and prophesied in front of Samuel. He dropped to the ground and lay there naked all that day and night. That's how the saying started, “Is Saul now a prophet?”

Jonathan Helps David Escape

20 David escaped from Prophets Village. Then he ran to see Jonathan and asked, “Why does your father Saul want to kill me? What have I done wrong?”

“My father can't be trying to kill you! He never does anything without telling me about it. Why would he hide this from me? It can't be true!”

“Jonathan, I swear it's true! But your father knows how much you like me, and he didn't want to break your heart. That's why he didn't tell you. I swear by the living Lord and by your own life that I'm only one step ahead of death.”

Then Jonathan said, “Tell me what to do, and I'll do it.”

(D) David answered:

Tomorrow is the New Moon Festival,[j] and I'm supposed to eat dinner with your father. But instead, I'll hide in a field until the evening of the next day. If Saul wonders where I am, tell him, “David asked me to let him go to his hometown of Bethlehem, so he could take part in a sacrifice his family makes there every year.”

If your father says it's all right, then I'm safe. But if he gets angry, you'll know he wants to harm me. Be kind to me. After all, it was your idea to promise the Lord that we would always be loyal friends. If I've done anything wrong, kill me yourself, but don't hand me over to your father.

“Don't worry,” Jonathan said. “If I find out that my father wants to kill you, I'll certainly let you know.”

10 “How will you do that?” David asked.

11 “Let's go out to this field, and I'll tell you,” Jonathan answered.

When they got there, 12 Jonathan said:

I swear by the Lord God of Israel, that two days from now I'll know what my father is planning. Of course I'll let you know if he's friendly toward you. 13 But if he wants to harm you, I promise to tell you and help you escape. And I ask the Lord to punish me severely if I don't keep my promise.

I pray that the Lord will bless you, just as he used to bless my father. 14-15 (E) Someday the Lord will wipe out all of your enemies. Then if I'm still alive, please be as kind to me as the Lord has been. But if I'm dead, be kind to my family.

16 Jonathan and David made an agreement that even David's descendants would have to keep.[k] Then Jonathan said, “I pray that the Lord will take revenge on your descendants if they break our promise.”[l]

17 Jonathan thought as much of David as he did of himself, so he asked David to promise once more that he would be a loyal friend. 18 After this Jonathan said:

Tomorrow is the New Moon Festival, and people will wonder where you are, because your place at the table will be empty. 19 By the day after tomorrow, everyone will think you've been gone a long time.[m] Then go to the place where you hid before and stay beside Going-Away Rock.[n] 20 I'll shoot three arrows at a target off to the side of the rock, 21 and send my servant to find the arrows.

You'll know if it's safe to come out by what I tell him. If it is safe, I swear by the living Lord that I'll say, “The arrows are on this side of you! Pick them up!” 22 But if it isn't safe, I'll say to the boy, “The arrows are farther away!” This will mean that the Lord wants you to leave, and you must go. 23 But he will always watch us to make sure that we keep the promise we made to each other.

24 So David hid there in the field.

During the New Moon Festival, Saul sat down to eat 25 by the wall, just as he always did. Jonathan sat across from him,[o] and Abner sat next to him. But David's place was empty. 26 Saul didn't say anything that day, because he was thinking, “Something must have happened to make David unfit to be at the Festival.[p] Yes, something must have happened.”

27 The day after the New Moon Festival, when David's place was still empty, Saul asked Jonathan, “Why hasn't that son of Jesse come to eat with us? He wasn't here yesterday, and he still isn't here today!”

28-29 Jonathan answered, “The reason David hasn't come to eat with you is that he begged me to let him go to Bethlehem. He said, ‘Please let me go. My family is offering a sacrifice, and my brother told me I have to be there. Do me this favor and let me slip away to see my brothers.’ ”

30 Saul was furious with Jonathan and yelled, “You're no son of mine, you traitor! I know you've chosen to be loyal to that son of Jesse. You should be ashamed of yourself! And your own mother should be ashamed that you were ever born. 31 You'll never be safe, and your kingdom will be in danger as long as that son of Jesse is alive. Turn him over to me now! He deserves to die!”

32 “Why do you want to kill David?” Jonathan asked. “What has he done?”

33 Saul threw his spear at Jonathan and tried to kill him. Then Jonathan was sure that his father really did want to kill David. 34 Jonathan was angry and hurt that his father had insulted David[q] so terribly. He got up, left the table, and didn't eat anything all that day.

35 In the morning, Jonathan went out to the field to meet David. He took a servant boy along 36 and told him, “When I shoot the arrows, you run and find them for me.”

The boy started running, and Jonathan shot an arrow so that it would go beyond him. 37 When the boy got near the place where the arrow had landed, Jonathan shouted, “Isn't the arrow on past you?” 38 Jonathan shouted to him again, “Hurry up! Don't stop!”

The boy picked up the arrows and brought them back to Jonathan, 39 but he had no idea about what was going on. Only Jonathan and David knew. 40 Jonathan gave his weapons to the boy and told him, “Take these back into town.”

41 After the boy had gone, David got up from beside the mound[r] and bowed very low three times. Then he and Jonathan kissed[s] each other and cried, but David cried louder. 42 Jonathan said, “Take care of yourself. And remember, we each have asked the Lord to watch and make sure that we and our descendants keep our promise forever.”

David left and Jonathan went back to town.


  1. 18.1 Jonathan: Saul's oldest son (see chapter 14).
  2. 18.4 military clothes: Or “armor.”
  3. 18.16 was loyal to: Or “loved.”
  4. 18.22,23 not rich: It was the custom for a man to give the bride's father some silver or gold in order to marry his daughter, and it would take a large amount to marry the daughter of the king.
  5. 18.25 proof … Philistines: Hebrew “100 Philistine foreskins.” In ancient times soldiers would sometimes cut off body parts of their dead enemies to prove how many they had killed.
  6. 18.28 she … David: Hebrew; one ancient translation “all Israel was loyal to David.”
  7. 19.12 ground: The house was probably built into the town wall, allowing David to come down outside the wall.
  8. 19.18 Prophets Village: Or “Naioth.”
  9. 19.22 pit: A cistern, a large pit dug down into the rock and used for storing rainwater.
  10. 20.5 New Moon Festival: The first day of the month, when Israelites offered special sacrifices to the Lord and had special sacred meals.
  11. 20.16 Jonathan … keep: Or, continuing Jonathan's statement to David, “You and your descendants must not kill off my descendants.”
  12. 20.16 I pray … promise: Or “I pray that the Lord take revenge on you if you break our promise!”
  13. 20.19 By … time: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  14. 20.19 Going-Away Rock: Or “Ezel Rock”; one ancient translation “that mound” (see 20.41).
  15. 20.25 sat … him: One ancient translation; Hebrew “stood up.”
  16. 20.26 unfit … Festival: During the New Moon Festival a sacred meal was served that could only be eaten by people who were properly prepared. Some of the things that could make a person unfit are listed in Leviticus 7.20,21; 15.2,31; 22.4-8; Deuteronomy 23.10,11.
  17. 20.34 insulted David: Or “insulted him” (that is, Jonathan).
  18. 20.41 the mound: One ancient translation; Hebrew “from the south side.”
  19. 20.41 kissed: A common way of greeting or saying goodbye in biblical times (see Mark 14.44).

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