1. Then David fled from Naioth in Ramah, and went and said to Jonathan, “What have I done? What is my iniquity, and what is my sin before your father, that he seeks my life?”
David realizes he cannot depend on the Spirit to keep Saul and his men in this helpless state for ever, so he flees. Yet he does not fly somewhere far away to hide, but rather he heads back to Saul’s court. Why would he do such a thing? Because he is seeking the aid of his friend Jonathan. Jonathan had helped him when he had fallen out of favor with his father before. Perhaps he can help him again now. Thus he goes to Jonathan to plead his cause. He protests to Jonathan that he has done nothing, so why does Saul his father seek his life?
2. So Jonathan said to him, “By no means! You shall not die! Indeed, my father will do nothing either great or small without first telling me. And why should my father hide this thing from me? It is not so!”
Jonathan is reluctant to believe David’s story. Remember, Jonathan has his father’s promise that David will not be harmed. Probably he is trusting that promise. Being a Godly man himself, he has trouble believing that his father would go back on such a thing, something which no good man would do. He argues with David that this could not be because Saul always shares everything he does with him, as his son and the heir to his throne. Why would Saul then have hid this from him? Therefore he concludes that David must be mistaken.
3. Then David took an oath again, and said, “Your father certainly knows that I have found favor in your eyes, and he has said, ‘Do not let Jonathan know this, lest he be grieved.’ But truly, as the LORD lives and as your soul lives, there is but a step between me and death.”
David knows that Jonathan is wrong, as he has experienced Saul’s attempts to take his life. To convince his friend, he takes an oath that he tells the truth. He answers Jonathan’s argument as well. Saul knows Jonathan cares about David and has shown grace to him, and so Saul has hidden this from him so as not to upset him. Yet David swears by the LORD and by Jonathan’s soul that he is only a step from death. As we would put it, one wrong move on David’s part and Saul will catch him and kill him.
4. So Jonathan said to David, “Whatever you yourself desire, I will do it for you.”
Whether Jonathan fully believes David or not, he can see how serious David is. Therefore, he acts as a friend should and offers to help in whatever way David might wish.
5. And David said to Jonathan, “Indeed tomorrow is the New Moon, and I should not fail to sit with the king to eat. But let me go, that I may hide in the field until the third day at evening.
David has a plan to prove Saul’s intentions to Jonathan. The Hebrew months started with the new moon, and ran on the moon cycles. On the first day of every month there were special sacrifices that had to be performed in the temple, as Numbers 28:11-15 makes clear.
11. ‘At the beginnings of your months you shall present a burnt offering to the LORD: two young bulls, one ram, and seven lambs in their first year, without blemish; 12. three-tenths of an ephah of fine flour as a grain offering, mixed with oil, for each bull; two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour as a grain offering, mixed with oil, for the one ram; 13. and one-tenth of an ephah of fine flour, mixed with oil, as a grain offering for each lamb, as a burnt offering of sweet aroma, an offering made by fire to the LORD. 14. Their drink offering shall be half a hin of wine for a bull, one-third of a hin for a ram, and one-fourth of a hin for a lamb; this is the burnt offering for each month throughout the months of the year. 15. Also one kid of the goats as a sin offering to the LORD shall be offered, besides the regular burnt offering and its drink offering.
The yearly feast of trumpets was on the first day of the seventh month, so that it was a special holiday on top of the monthly new moon holiday, as we learn from Numbers 29:1-6.
1. ‘And in the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work. For you it is a day of blowing the trumpets. 2. You shall offer a burnt offering as a sweet aroma to the LORD: one young bull, one ram, and seven lambs in their first year, without blemish. 3. Their grain offering shall be fine flour mixed with oil: three-tenths of an ephah for the bull, two-tenths for the ram, 4. and one-tenth for each of the seven lambs; 5. also one kid of the goats as a sin offering, to make atonement for you; 6. besides the burnt offering with its grain offering for the New Moon, the regular burnt offering with its grain offering, and their drink offerings, according to their ordinance, as a sweet aroma, an offering made by fire to the LORD.
Because of the big deal they were making of this particular new moon, trumpets might be the holiday here. Of course, we do not know their exact customs, and it could be that they made a big deal out of the first day of every month. We just cannot tell.
At any rate, David, as the king’s son-in-law and one of his army commanders, was considered as part of Saul’s court, and thus would be expected to be there as part of the family for the feast day. Yet instead of eating at the king’s table, he would hide in the field until the evening of the third day.
6. If your father misses me at all, then say, ‘David earnestly asked permission of me that he might run over to Bethlehem, his city, for there is a yearly sacrifice there for all the family.’
When Saul questions David’s absence, Jonathan is to pretend that the family of Jesse has a tradition of making a sacrifice on this feast day, so he has gone home at attend that instead. Neither the new moons nor the feast of trumpets were feasts that had to be kept in the city which the LORD would choose, so David could keep this feast wherever he desired to.
7. If he says thus: ‘It is well,’ your servant will be safe. But if he is very angry, be sure that evil is determined by him.
Under normal circumstances, Saul should not care about this. No breach of etiquette will have taken place, for as Saul’s son, Jonathan certainly had the authority to approve this for David without consulting his father. Therefore if Saul was not hoping to kill David at the feast, he should not care. But if he had planned to murder him, this news that David has avoided his trap will enrage him. Thus by his father’s reaction Jonathan will know the truth. Of course, David knows very well what his reaction will be, though he probably wishes very much that Jonathan was right. After all, who would want to be a fugitive?
8. Therefore you shall deal kindly with your servant, for you have brought your servant into a covenant of the LORD with you. Nevertheless, if there is iniquity in me, kill me yourself, for why should you bring me to your father?”
If Jonathan will learn the truth of the matter, this will be a kindness to him. David calls upon him to remember the covenant they made with each other before Jehovah. Yet if he has done wrong, David is not seeking to get out of justly deserved punishment. In fact, if he thinks he deserves death, then he urges Jonathan to kill him himself! Why wait for Saul to do it? Of course, both David and Jonathan are aware that David has done nothing against Saul or his court, and so there is no stretch of the imagination by which he might deserve death.
9. But Jonathan said, “Far be it from you! For if I knew certainly that evil was determined by my father to come upon you, then would I not tell you?”
Of course Jonathan knows David is innocent, and so he will not harm him. He again promises that if he knew that his father was plotting against David, he would have told him already.
10. Then David said to Jonathan, “Who will tell me, or what if your father answers you roughly?”
This is as far as his plan goes, but David wants some way to know how Saul answers Jonathan, especially if the news is bad and Jonathan is unable to appease his father’s wrath. Now it is his friend’s turn to come up with a plan.
11. And Jonathan said to David, “Come, let us go out into the field.” So both of them went out into the field.
We do not know where exactly David met Jonathan, perhaps in his house. Jonathan takes David from wherever he met him into a field. Jonathan, as the king’s son, was probably a busy man and much sought after. Perhaps he was afraid that at any second someone might arrive to see him and interrupt his meeting with David. If David is really wanted by his father, their interview being interrupted by someone else in Saul’s court could be disastrous. Thus, they are better off meeting out in the field.
12. Then Jonathan said to David: “The LORD God of Israel is witness! When I have sounded out my father sometime tomorrow, or the third day, and indeed there is good toward David, and I do not send to you and tell you,
Jonathan will do what David has suggested and sound out his father sometime on the next day or the third day following. He calls on Yahweh God of Israel as a witness against himself if he does not let David know if in fact his father does not have evil plans towards David.
13. may the LORD do so and much more to Jonathan. But if it pleases my father to do you evil, then I will report it to you and send you away, that you may go in safety. And the LORD be with you as He has been with my father.
This phrase, “May the LORD do so,” may have been accompanied by some gesture, as I have suggested before, such as when we draw a line across our throats, indicating death. Thus Jonathan vows to tell David if his fears are for nothing. Then, he calls on the LORD even more to curse him if he does not tell David if Saul actually has evil plans against him. If this is so, he then will send David away in peace, making sure he is able to flee safely, and with a blessing from him in the LORD’s name. If this is really what is going on, then he wishes the LORD’s presence to be with David from now on, as formerly He had been with his father Saul. Jonathan meant his vows that he made to David, and he faithfully remains on his side in this unfortunate situation.
14. And you shall not only show me the kindness of the LORD while I still live, that I may not die;
He calls upon David to show him kindness as well, if the time ever comes where the situation is reversed, and his own life is in David’s hands. Of course, David would have shown much kindness and done much else for his friend Jonathan if such circumstances had ever arisen, but they never did.
15. but you shall not cut off your kindness from my house forever, no, not when the LORD has cut off every one of the enemies of David from the face of the earth.”
Jonathan does not know how long he will live himself. He was more than twenty years older than David, as we have already discussed. Thus, he also calls upon David to remember their covenant even after he is off the scene, and to be kind to his family for his sake. Even if Saul’s family is to become David’s enemies, and even if Jehovah blesses David and helps him cut off all his other enemies from the face of the earth, he wishes him not to treat his own family as enemies or to cut them off.
An occasion for David to remember these words of Jonathan and his promise concerning his family did occur, as we will see in II Samuel 9. When the time came, David remembered his promise and showed kindness to Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth. Both these men were Godly people who knew how to make an oath and keep it!
16. So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, “Let the LORD require it at the hand of David’s enemies.”
Jonathan again makes a covenant with David and his house, that is, his family after him. If David does not keep this vow, Yahweh will bring His punishment upon his family through the agency of David’s enemies. Notice how certain Jonathan is that Yahweh’s word regarding David will come true, and that David will become the powerful man in Israel, while Saul’s family will lose all their power and position. Jonathan was a man of faith, as well as a generous friend. We can all learn many things about Godliness from this man!
17. Now Jonathan again caused David to vow, because he loved him; for he loved him as he loved his own soul.
Jonathan causes David also to swear again, and they renew their agreement and vow. We learn that it was not so much because of fear for his own family but instead because of his love for David that Jonathan made him swear this vow again. Perhaps he knew how greatly it would benefit David to show such a generous spirit to Jonathan’s family in that future day when the time would come for him to fulfill this vow. Indeed, long after Jonathan’s own death, David’s heart was greatly moved when he was able to show grace to the family of his dear, old friend. The vow Jonathan made David take was a gift to him that benefitted David long after Jonathan’s tragic death.
We are assured that Jonathan loved David as he loved his own soul. His “soul” here means himself. He loved David like he loved himself. This was a close friendship indeed!
18. Then Jonathan said to David, “Tomorrow is the New Moon; and you will be missed, because your seat will be empty.
Jonathan now sets forth his own plan. His plan follows up on the one already proposed by David. David will be missed at the meeting of Saul’s household at the New Moon celebration the next day when his customary seat is empty.
19. And when you have stayed three days, go down quickly and come to the place where you hid on the day of the deed; and remain by the stone Ezel.
David will wait three days for Jonathan to spy out the situation. That number includes the current day, or what we would call “inclusive reckoning” (including parts of days as full days.) Then, he should hide in the same place he hid “on the day of the deed.” This doubtless refers to the previous occasion when he and Jonathan sought to turn Saul from his murderous course against David, as we saw it in I Samuel 19:2-3.
2. So Jonathan told David, saying, “My father Saul seeks to kill you. Therefore please be on your guard until morning, and stay in a secret place and hide. 3. And I will go out and stand beside my father in the field where you are, and I will speak with my father about you. Then what I observe, I will tell you.”
Now, David is to utilize the same hiding place, though this time his object will not be to listen in on Jonathan and Saul. Instead, this will be the place where Jonathan will give him the results of his testing of his father’s intentions.
The stone Ezel, which means “Departure,” is an interesting name in this situation, for they were about to depart from each other at this place.
20. Then I will shoot three arrows to the side, as though I shot at a target;
Jonathan will bring his bow with him as if he is going out to practice. He will shoot three arrows to the side of the stone Ezel as if he were shooting at a target, though no target will actually be there.
21. and there I will send a lad, saying, ‘Go, find the arrows.’ If I expressly say to the lad, ‘Look, the arrows are on this side of you; get them and come’—then, as the LORD lives, there is safety for you and no harm.
Jonathan will bring a servant boy with him, whom he will then send to retrieve his arrows. If he waits to call to him until he has gone too far and then tells him to come back for the arrows, this means all is well with Saul. David is safe from him, and need no longer fear that Saul might harm him.
22. But if I say thus to the young man, ‘Look, the arrows are beyond you’—go your way, for the LORD has sent you away.
On the other hand, if Jonathan calls to him that he has not gone far enough to find the arrows yet, this means David needs to flee. Jonathan says that will mean that Jehovah has sent David away. An interesting way to put it, when it is in fact the murderous hatred and jealousy of his father that truly will be sending David away. Yet it seems that Jonathan considers Jehovah as being in control of all that happens to David. Though in normal circumstances we might argue against the idea that Jehovah is to blame for every bad thing that happens, we must admit that He did guide David’s footsteps very closely and had much to do with orchestrating what happened to him. The problem is when we take such an idea forward and act like it is true of us in the dispensation of grace. God simply does not bring calamity on people in our day, since that would not be gracious, and He acts today only in grace.
23. And as for the matter which you and I have spoken of, indeed the LORD be between you and me forever.”
Again he remembers their oath to each other. They will be unable to keep each other accountable for keeping the oath, since they will be apart. Yet Yahweh will remember their oath, and He will be between them regarding this matter for the outflow.