Last modified on July 23, 2020, at 11:24

David and Jonathan

David and Jonathan are two famous characters in the Old Testament, whose committed friendship and brotherly love amidst much stress makes their story one of the most remarkable ones in the Bible. Both showed themselves to be daring warriors for Israel, achieving notable victories against great odds, by faith in God and for His cause, in a land in which dangerous enemies were yet to be fought. Their story is mainly told in 1 Samuel, chapters 13-23,31 and 2 Samuel 1, two books which contain the history of the kingdom of God in Israel, from the termination of the age of the judges to the close of the reign of king David.[1] David and Jonathan's close Godly kinship is revealed as an honored example of sacrificial and loyal platonic love in the cause of righteousness. However, pro-homosex proponents labor to construe it as a homoerotic affair, and charge the writers of the Bible with homophobia for covering it up, as it lacks the necessary descriptions used elsewhere to denote the eroticism they seek.

Jonathan's faith and his fighting

While David is usually mentioned first in referencing their relationship, due to his greater popularity in Scripture, it is Jonathan who chronologically first occurs, and whom God greatly used to enable David's accession to power. Jonathan is the English translation of the Hebrew word yehônâthân, which means YHVH[Yahweh]-given, a name shared by four Israelites. He was the oldest son of Saul, presumably of his wife, Ahinoam, and had two brothers, Ishui and Melchishua, and two sisters, Merab and Michal. (1Sam. 14:49,50) His father Saul had been anointed to be the first king by Samuel the prophet as directed by God, in condescension to the people's rebellious desire to be more like pagan nations. As the eldest son the kingship would normally have been his. It seems likely that he knew of his father's loss of the right to the kingship by disobedience, (1Sam. 13:14-16; 15; cf. Num 14:18) and possibly may have known that that David was to be the next king.

As the oldest son of Saul in a kingdom with many enemies, Jonathan would have been trained as a soldier. Jonathan is first mentioned in 1 Samuel 13, in which Saul had gathered 3,000 men of Israel to fight against the Philistines. Saul's army was outnumbered, and the Philistines had greatly restricted their ability to arm themselves, though with Saul and Jonathan there was found some weapons. (1Sam. 13:19-22) It is Jonathan who commits the first act in a war of independence, attacking a garrison of the Philistines with the 1,000 men Saul had allotted him. This results in the Philistines massing for retaliatory action, "as the sand which is on the sea shore in multitude", and Israel fleeing in distress.

The faithful prophet Samuel, who as the judge chosen by God (the original means of leadership) was the spiritual authority, had commanded Saul to wait for him 7 days, as the manner was, (1Sam. 10:6) in which the sacrifice would be offered and direction sought from God. When Samuel did not come at that time (perhaps Saul did not wait till sundown), then Saul, giving in to fear and pressure to act, presumed to offer the sacrifice. This manifested a lack of faith and impatience, and that of presumption.[2] (2Chr. 26:16-21)

Samuel reproves King Saul for his “foolishness”, and states that as a consequence his kingdom would not be established, as God sought a man after His own heart. (1Sam. 13:8-14) Keil & Delitzsch think this "refers to the fact that it was not established in perpetuity by being transmitted to his descendants. It was not till his second transgression that Saul was rejected, or declared unworthy of being king over the people of God (1 Samuel 15)." Samuel leaves, with Saul and Jonathan being together with the people.

In the next chapter it is recorded that while his father Saul "tarried in the uttermost part of Gibeah under a pomegranate tree", Jonathan independently called to his armourbearer, that they might go over unto the contingent of the uncircumcised (Philistines), as "it may be that the LORD will work for us: for there is no restraint to the LORD to save by many or by few." (2Chr. 14:11) This is seen to reveal his faith and commitment to the God of Israel,[3] and which David also demonstrated. (1Sam. 17:36,37) The response of the armor bearer, "I am with thee according to thy heart", (1Sam. 14:6,7) also indicates that Jonathan discerned and chose loyal and brave comrades. Jonathan's strategy (1Sam. 14:8-10) was one that would provide a sign whether God had delivered the Philistines into their hands to slay, and which also reveals that he was in communion with God, and depending on His Spirit.[4]

Jonathan and his armor bearer reveal themselves to the Philistines, who do not go toward the Hebrews but respond with an invitation to come to them to fight, which is the positive sign they were looking for, expressed by Jonathan, that "the LORD hath delivered them into the hand of Israel." The resultant slaughter of about 20 Philistines by only 2 Hebrews, as well as a small earthquake, places fear in their hearts of the Philistines, who proceed to fight amongst themselves, apparently in panic. (1Sam. 14:11-16)

King Saul, for his part, has placed his people under a complete fast until evening, with violation being a capital offense, and has also found that Jonathan is not among the people. He calls for the ark of God to inquire of Him, and as the noise of the implosion of the Philistines increases, all Israel joins in battle against them, resulting in a God-given defeat of their enemies. However, a faint Jonathan, ignorant of Saul's fast, has eaten a little honey for strength. Upon being made aware of his violation, Jonathan notes the poor judgment of his father in hindering (by hunger) Israel from effecting a greater laughter among the Philistines. Moreover, in their faint condition the people eat animals left behind by their enemies without draining the blood. Saul rectifies the latter situation, and also discovers Jonathan's violation of eating, and sentences him to death for it. Only earnest intercession by the people prevents this. This pressure by the people, or fear of it, will later factor in key decisions made by King Saul. (1Sam. 14:24-45) Saul's willingness to destroy his own son's life can later be seen in contrast with his sparing animals belonging to the Amalekites, which he was commanded by God to slay, (1Sam. 15:1-23) unlike the religious vow he autocratically made which would have slain his son.

Overall, King Saul faced challenges and failed in some key ones, the latter resulting in the forfeiture of the kingdom for himself and his house. Yet it also recorded that Jonathan had as a father one that "took the kingdom over Israel, and fought against all his enemies on every side.., and whithersoever he turned himself, he vexed [them]." And that while he delivered Israel from the Amalekites, yet "there was sore war against the Philistines all the days of Saul". In addition, it will be seen as relevant that "when Saul saw any strong man, or any valiant man, he took him unto him." (1 Sam 14:47,48,52)


See also: David

David was from the tribe of Judah, (Ruth 4:18-22) and the second king of Israel, after King Saul. It is held that it is David's tribe which Genesis 49:10 speaks of the Messiah coming from.[5] (Genesis 49:10; cf. 2 Samuel 7:12-16; Matt.1:2, Heb. 7:14-17) David was the youngest of 8 sons of Jesse, who also had 2 daughters. (1Sam. 16:8-12; 17:2; 1Chr. 2:13-16[6]) The name of David's mother is not given, but it appears he had a devoted father. The name David, like the similar name Jedidish (2Sam. 12:25), comes from a root meaning “to love.” David is the only person who bears this name in the Bible. David's ancestor Nahshon was chieftain of the whole tribe of Judah, (Num. 1:7; 2:3; 1Chr. 2:10) and brother-in-law of Aaron the high priest. (Exo. 6:23; 1Sam. 22:3; 22:1) Thus David had a rich spiritual heritage.

David worked as a shepherd of sheep, and which would require both tending to the needs of sheep as well as defending them, not only against marauders from the surrounding deserts, but also from the lions and bears with inhabited the country. This was work which, while then unknown to him, helped prepared him to later defend and lead Israel. The descriptions given of him in this regard indicates obedience to his father and diligence in his work. (1Sam. 17:20-22)

David's call, character and combat

The story of David's call, character and combat is relevant to his future as part of Saul's household, and his friendship with Jonathan, and his future occupation as the king of Israel. (see David)

David is revealed as a type of person who was "lovable." It is recorded that both Saul and Jonathan loved David, (1Sam. 16:21; 18:1,3; 20:17) as did all Saul's servants, (1Sam. 18:20,28) and all Israel and Judah, (1Sam. 18:16) and Saul's daughter, Michal. (1Sam. 18:20,28) David overall expressed great love for God, love toward others, and even toward personal adversaries, though he was also a mighty man of war. (Ps. 23; 73; 35; 69; 18) In addition, he was a man who served in many functions and situations, and manifested different gifts, and was called "the sweet psalmist of Israel" (2Sam. 23:1,2) who spoke by the Spirit of God.[7]

David had been chosen by God to succeed Saul due to the latter's disobedience, which revealed his heart. God sent the prophet Samuel to anoint the lowly but "ruddy" and handsome shepherd boy David, who apparently was thought to be the least qualified candidate. Saul, for his part, was punished by God with an evil spirit which troubled him, rather than the Holy Spirit which God previously had anointed Saul with. As a result, David was called as he could o play a harp type instrument, and which drove the evil spirit away for a time.

Saul was at war with the Philistines on a regular basis, and a giant named Goliath dared Israel to find a man to fight him, with the winner gaining the submission of the opposing side. No Israelite dared face him, and when David's father sent him with food to the battle ground for his 3 oldest brothers, David heard Goliath's taunts and his cursing, invoking his pagan gods, and how Saul had offered even his own daughter in marriage to one who would defeat Goliath. In response David soon declared to Goliath that God would enable him to defeat him, "that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. And all this assembly shall know that the LORD saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the LORD'S, and he will give you into our hands." (1Sa 17:46,47) David went on to defeat Goliath with one stone out of his slingshot, and removed Goliath's head with his own sword. The Philistines then fled with Israel in pursuit, with them going on to realize a great defeat of their foe that day.

Jonathan, David and Saul

As a result of David's victory over the Philistines, Saul inquired as to who he was, evidently not being able to perceive that David was the same man who used to play the peace-bringing harp, and being reintroduced, David then spoke with Saul. Having seen and heard David, Jonathan realized an immediate soul-bond with the young warrior, with whom (their respective accounts indicate) he was so much alike in heart and faith. As John Wesley notes, "Loved him - For his excellent virtues and endowments, which shone forth both in his speeches and actions; for the service he had done to God and to his people; and for the similitude of their age and qualities."[8] Saul, as his practice was, (1Sam. 14:52) would not let David return home. Jonathan and David enter into a covenant, a common practice among leaders, which was one of 3 they would make. Jonathan might well have known of his father's forfeiture of the kingdom by disobedience, that Samuel had anointed a shepherd boy as the next king, (1Sam. 13;15-16) and evidently as part of the covenant, Jonathan removes his robe and outer garments,[9] even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his soldiers girdle (likely armor:[10] 2Sam. 20:8; 2King. 3:21) that was upon him, to give them to David. This is seen to have a ceremonial significance, as Moses did likewise to the high priest Aaron, (Num. 20:26) stripping him of his garments to put them upon Eleazar his son, in transference of the office, and here this would signify David taking the place of Jonathan as king, as it normally would have been his by inheritance. It also was an unselfish providence of clothes befitting a member of the royal court, as David would have on the clothes of a shepherd. (1Sam. 18:1-4)

Saul versus David

David serves Saul obediently and wisely, and become the general of the army, and is victorious in battle over the Philistines. As a result, the women came out of all cities of Israe, singing and dancing, to meet king Saul. And as they played they said, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands." In response Saul becomes very angry and jealously, and fears that David will take his place as king, and thus keeps a watchful, suspicious eye on David from thence on. (1Sam. 18:5-7)

The evil spirit sent (or allowed by) God comes upon Saul, by which he prophesies, but though David plays the harp to deliver him as before, with his jealousy toward David, Saul attempts to kill him with the javelin that he had in his hand, but David avoided him twice. Saul removes David, and demotes him, but "David behaved himself wisely in all his ways; and the LORD was with him", which makes Saul even more paranoid of him. (1Sam. 18:10-15)

However, "all Israel and Judah loved David, because he went out and came in before them", and Saul tried to kill him by marrying him to his oldest daughter Merab, evidently by means shown shortly thereafter, but which marriage would have fulfilled him promise. (1Sam. 17:25) But Saul reneges on this promise, giving Merab to another man. But when Saul hears that Michal loved David, then he offers a second chance to become the king's son, but requires a dowry that would have normally gotten him killed. however, David is victorious in this, and "Saul gave him Michal his daughter to wife. Saul then "knew that the LORD was with David, and that Michal Saul's daughter loved him." Yet Saul "was yet the more afraid of David; and Saul became David's enemy continually." David, however, continued to grow in stature, with his engagements with the Philistines (etc.) demonstrating greater wisdom than the other servants.[11] (1Sa 18:16-30)

Jonathan's intercession

In contrast to Saul's antipathy toward David was Jonathan's esteem and love towards him, which contrast was conducive to the manifestation of such. While Saul commanded Jonathan his son and all his servants, that they should kill David, Jonathan alerted David and suggests he hide while he intercedes on his behalf. Jonathan then reasons with his father, that David did no wrong against him, and instead did him good, and that David risked his life for Israel, and which Saul rejoiced in, and so how could his father slay an innocent man? Saul comes to his senses for the time, and swears by the living God that he shall not be slain, and Jonathan brings David back into the company of Saul. (1Sam. 19:1-7)

However, war gain breaks out with the Philistines, and though David is again victorious over them, the evil spirit comes again over Saul as he sits in his house, and he again attempts to kill David with it. David escapes, and Saul watches his house, where he lives with his wife Michal, intending to kill him in the morning. Michal alerts him to this, and lets him down through a window, and makes his bed up so as to fool his abductors. (They discover it, and she tells Saul David threatened to kill her.) David comes to the prophet Samuel in Ramah, Saul finds out and he sends men to apprehend him, but when they see Samuel over a company of prophets prophesying, then they do likewise. Saul sends 2 more parties, with the same result. Finally, Saul himself goes and himself prophesies. God thus prevented them from injuring the person of David, and manifests how contrary the two influences upon Saul were, and is understood as demonstrating that "Saul's raging against David was fighting against Jehovah and His Spirit," and that "Saul was seized by this mighty influence of the Spirit of God in a more powerful manner than his servants were, both because he had most obstinately resisted the leadings of divine grace, and also in order that, if it were possible, his hard heart might be broken and subdued by the power of grace. If, however, he should nevertheless continue obstinately in his rebellion against God, he would then fall under the judgment of hardening, which would be speedily followed by his destruction."[12] (1Sam. 19:8-24)

Escape from King Saul

After this a hunted David is perplexed, and inquires of Jonathan as to why this changeable Saul, whom David has not sinned against, would want to kill him. Jonathan responds that his father will not act against unless he knows it, and indicates he doubt Saul would kill him. However, David's not only understands that Saul would hide his murderous plan, due to Saul knowing that his son is allied with him, but knows of a certainly that Saul is very close to killing him. Jonathan is not at all uncertain as to whose side his is on, and expresses he is fully willing to do whatever is necessary to enable David's deliverance. David provides a strategy that will reveal Saul's heart, and obtains assurance from Jonathan that he will not betray him. Realizing the pressure by Saul he will face, Jonathan binds himself to an oath before God not to fail, but seeks a promise from David that he will not cut off his house, as the manner of kings would be in such a situation, showing that Jonathan knew David would be king. This was a request that Saul would also basically make (1Sam. 24:21) and "so Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David", but required "David to swear again, because he loved him: for he loved him as he loved his own soul." (1Sam. 19:1-17)

Jonathan next offers as plan to signal David one Saul's intent is made clear. When David does not show up for the new moon feast nor the meal the day after, and Saul discerns Jonathan's excuse was false, then he explodes in anger at Jonathan, calling his mother (who is nowhere named) by a slur name, and charging Jonathan with being shame on her conception, by forfeiting the power and kingdom that should have been his by birth. When Saul commands him to go get David so that he can kill him, Jonathan again seeks to reason with his father, saying, "Wherefore shall he be slain? what hath he done?" But Saul casts a javelin at him, wherefore Saul's intent toward David was made positively evident, which shameful treatment of David Jonathan is grieved at.

The signaling strategy goes as planned, and upon David knowing that Saul is fully intent upon taking his life, and that David must forever depart, Jonathan and David have an emotional departure, expressed in ways keeping with the culture, akin to that seen in Joseph and his brethren meeting, (Gn. 45:15) or the apostle Paul's departing. (Acts 20:17)

Saul will go on to consult a witch, in his need to hear from God whom he effectively forsook, and would die in battle, along with Jonathan and two of his brothers, against the Philistines. (1Sam. 31) These two dear friends and sworn allies, David and Jonathan, whom the Scripture evidences had no others close by on their side, and whose brotherly love was proved in danger and intrigue, would see each other no more on this earth. While Jonathan could have fled with Jonathan, nothing indicates that he had any such plans, but that he knew the kingdom belonged to David, and he was part of God's plan to bring it to pass. With that in view, and righteousness in general, then as by faith they both fought against Israel's common enemy the Philistines, so they were forced to fight against the one who would destroy Israel's God-chosen king. And as the Philistines found out, so Saul had realized at the end that one cannot fight against God and win.

The death of Saul and Jonathan and lament of David

David, having escaped Saul's pursuit for many years, and sparing the king's life many times out of reverence for "the Lord's anointed," hears of the death of Saul and his sons by the hands of the Philistines. In response the psalmist of Israel expresses a deeply felt (as the Hebrew is said to show) lament "over Saul and over Jonathan his son", (2Sam. 1:17-27) of "how are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle!" His psalm here evidences that David's love for both his foe and his friend had not diminished. In part David expresses, "The beauty of Israel is slain upon thy high places: how are the mighty fallen!" "Saul and Jonathan were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided: they were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions. Ye daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, who clothed you in scarlet, with other delights, who put on ornaments of gold upon your apparel. How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle! O Jonathan, thou wast slain in thine high places. I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant hast thou been unto me: thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women. How are the mighty fallen, and the weapons of war perished!" (2 Sam 1:19,23-27)

David beautifully expresses his recollections and distress "in the most tender and the most striking manner, with lively images of love and greatness", states Clark,[13] "Being himself a warrior, it is in that character he sees their greatest excellence; and though his imagination hurries from one point of recollection to another, yet we hear him - at first, at last, everywhere - lamenting, How are the mighty fallen!

Herein David expresses the seeming incongruity of beauty being slain, and of the mighty being fallen, and of whole hearted brotherly platonic being superior to "the love of women" - that being that which men uniquely (lawfully) realize from them, of a romantic or erotic nature.[14] Christians are commanded, (and are seen to come short of) "And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins."

Homoerotic rendering of David and Jonathan

See also: Homosexuality and biblical interpretation

While the relationship of David and Jonathan only makes evident strong platonic love between two like-hearted men of faith and commitment righteousness, revisionist pro-homosex proponents, seeking to read their own sinful desires into Scripture where they do not exist, labor to construe it as a physically "homoerotic affair", and charge the writers of the Bible with "homophobia" for covering it up, as it lacks the necessary descriptions used elsewhere to denote eroticism. In response, traditional exegesis evidences that the Bible makes basic laws as well as human sexual behavior (in particular) evident, in their respective contexts, with David and Jonathan's love being manifest as an supreme example of non-sexual brotherly love, with all accounts of their affection critically lacking the descriptions needed to postulate or establish the erotic.

Horner,[15] with the aid of a secular psychiatrist, wishfully sees the description as "homosexual", with the words such as knit, “soul” love, covenant, “delighteth” and chosen, being focused upon by him and others as conveying a desired "sexual" meaning. Horner also enlists radical revisionists,[16][17] who perceive sex in pagan fictional poetry such as Gilgamesh and Enkidu, and believe that redactors encrypted same-sex allusions into Biblical text (though there is disagreement here about which one played the female part). Horner also thinks that a similar story "must have" happened many times in royal courts in the Middle East in all periods. Greenberg[18] claims to see homosex in many places in the Bible and the Talmud, and a "sexual triangle" between Saul, David and Jonathan, and from the outset claims the latter was "erotic".

In response, the means of traditional exegesis evidences that the Bible makes basic laws as well as sexual human behavior (in particular) versus platonic actions evident, in their respective contexts, with David and Jonathan's love being a supreme example of non-sexual brotherly love. As manifested by his sacrificial loyalty to David, holy brotherly affection, and commitment to the future of the kingdom, Jonathan's love for David is seen as being of a superior platonic kind than that the mere romantic or erotic "love of women".[19] All such accounts are critically lacking the descriptions needed to postulate or establish erotic love, and in addition (homosexual) expression would be radically contrary to explicit commands and the transcendent ethos of Israel. The divestiture of Jonathan's garments to place them upon David is evidenced as being partial, and having a clear ceremonial precedent. (Num. 20:25-28) The assertions of pro-homosex grammatical attempts are examined and found to be forced, and the strong emotive language expressed by David towards Jonathan is seen as being akin to that of platonic expressions in the Bible, (Gn. 33:4; 45:14,15) [20] and which is seen in more expressive cultures today.[21] As a team of theologians (including some pro-homosexuals) led by Craig Blomberg of Denver Seminary points out, "only modern Westerners unfamiliar with the physical expression of friendship between men in the Middle East would mistake the Bible's references for homosexuality."[22] The political/social ramifications of pro-homosex polemics are also pointed out as presenting insurmountable problems.[23][24][25]

Responses to homoerotic polemics: chapter 18

"And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. And Saul took him that day, and would let him go no more home to his father's house. Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle. And David went out whithersoever Saul sent him, and behaved himself wisely: and Saul set him over the men of war, and he was accepted in the sight of all the people, and also in the sight of Saul's servants." (1Sam. 8:1-5).

In 1Sam. 18:1 the word "knit" (qâshar) is seen as by pro-homoerotic advocates as signifying homosexual attraction, but rather than being used for human sexual bonding in the Bible, it denotes being of one heart and soul, with "loved him as his own soul" correlating to Gen 44:30.

In v. 2, Saul not letting David go any more home to his father's house is consistent with his practice previously, in which "when Saul saw any strong man, or any valiant man, he took him unto him" (1Sam. 14:52) as part of his army. While Horner sees Jonathan being homosexually attracted David by the sight of him, and even entertains the idea that Jonathan became naked, it is far more reasonable to surmise that Jonathan, who (contrary to Horner) also is manifested to be a daring warrior of faith, and who evidenced he valued those of like mind (1Sam. 13:3; 14:1-14), sees David as the bold yet humble hero that he was, whose love for God was shown in action. Knowing of his father's loss of the kingdom, (1Sam. 13:13; 15:17-29) Jonathan was likely not only yearning for such a fellow soldier as David showed himself to be, but also a chosen successor to Saul. Due to the kinship they find as like-minded warriors of faith, Jonathan not only enlists him in the household, but ensures a committed bond of friendship, and David's future place as the head of the kingdom (evidenced in the divestiture of Jonathan's royal attire and armor upon David). As such, David shows zeal to uphold the laws of God, which is abundantly evidenced as forbidding illicit sex, which manifests David's notable failure, as well as it being of a purely heterosexual nature. Their bond would thus be spiritual and platonic, nor erotic.

In v. 3, the idea that Jonathan entered into a covenant of "marriage" with David is dismissed in the light of the fact that covenants were common in that world, the word occurring 285 times in the Old Testament, such as in assuring present and future alliances,[26] and only once in reference to marriage, (Mal. 2:14) with the Bible again being faithful manifest what moral manner these are of. What is manifest here in this regard is not marriage but commitments that both political and brotherly alliances require. And the fact that Jonathan and David made three covenants (1Sam. 18:3, 20:16 and 23:18) testifies to this form. Early Christians are said to have entered into a covenant daily with each other, never to lie, or betray one another, etc., and by which each party pledged mutual trust.[27] Moreover, it is inconceivable that if this purported marriage existed, that Jonathan would not go with David when it was made clear that he must depart, and Jonathan indicated he would not see him again. (1Sam. 20:15)

Gagnon notes that this description here can also be compared to formulaic treaty language in the ancient Near East, such as the address of the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal to his vassals ("You must love [me] as yourselves") and the reference in 1 Kings 5:1 to King Hiram of Tyre as David's "lover."[28]

In regard the words for love ('âhab 'âhêbor or its feminine form, 'ahăbâh) in 18:3, these can denote platonic (the most common), or romantic, or erotic love, as there is no specific word for each, but like today, in the Bible such is manifest by its context or phraseology (as in Gn. 24:67; 29:18,30; 34:2-4; Dt. 21:15,16; Jdg. 16:4; 1Sam. 18:20,28; 2Sam. 13:1,4,15; 1Ki. 11:1; 11:21; Est. 2:17; Ps. 88:18; SoS. 1:16; 2:7; 3:1-5; 5:8; 7:6; Is. 57:8; Lam. 1:2.19; Ezek. 16:33,36,37; 23:5,9,22; Hos. 2:5,7,10,12,13; 3:1; 4:18; 9:1,10)

In regards to sexual relations, examination of the Bible shows them to be evident, but none of the specific descriptions and or their euphemisms seen so often elsewhere therein to denote such is used for David and Jonathan's relationship. ("know/knew/known": Gn. 4:1,17,25; 24:16; 38:26; Num. 31:17,18,35; Jdg. 11:39; 19:25; 21:11,12; 1Sam. 1:19; 1Ki. 1:4; Mt. 1:25; Lk. 1:34; "in unto her": Gn. 29:21,23,cf. v.30; 30:3,4; 38:2; 38:18; Dt. 21:13; 22:13; 25:5; Jdg. 16:1; Ruth 4:13; 2Sam. 12:24; Ezek. 23:44; “lie/lay,laid, with”: Gn. 19:32-34; 26:10; 30:15; 34:2; 39:7,12,14; Ex. 22:16,19; Lv. 15:18,24; 18:22,23; 19:20; 20:11,12,15,18; Num. 5:13; Dt. 22:22,23,25,28,29; 27:20-23; 28:30; 2Sam. 11:4,11; 12:11,24; 13:11,14; "bed of love": Ezek. 23:17; miscl: Gn. 24:67)

In v. 4, the notable divestiture by Jonathan of his garments, "even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle" to place them on David, is first evidenced as being a partial disrobing (especially in the Hebrew), limiting it to his robe and outer garments, his sword, bow and "girdle," the latter denoting part of a soldier's armor[29] in such places as 2Samuel 20:8 and 2Kings 3:21. Besides such acts being a soldierly token of respect and friendship, as is seen in stories by Homer and other ancient writers,[30] and an unselfish providence to the lowly shepherd of clothing fit for the royal household, this ceremony is shown to have a clear ceremonial significance and precedent in Numbers 20:26, (cf. Esther 3:60) in which God commanded Moses, "And strip Aaron of his garments, and put them upon Eleazar his son", in transference of the office of the former upon the latter. Likewise, Jonathan, who most likely knew of Samuel's discharge of Saul as king, would be symbolically and prophetically transferring the kingship of himself (as the normal heir) to David, and which would come to pass.[31][32][33] Jonathan later evidences he know David was to be king. (1Sam. 20:15)

In 1Sa 18:21, an attempt is made by some to render "thou shalt this day [yôm] be my son in law [châthân] in the one of the twain [shenayim / shettayimto]" (KJV: words in italics are not in original) to mean David was "married" to Jonathan and would become Saul's son-in-law again by his marriage to Michal. However, besides the unwarranted and absurd idea that Saul would recognize a homosexual "marriage", or would not use such a time to get rid of David once for all, (Lv. 18:22; 20:13) and the ambiguity of the passage due to the sparsity of words, the context here is not that of Saul's son but his daughters Merab and Michal. (1Sa 18:17-20) As Saul had promised a daughter to the slayer of Goliath (1Sam. 17:25), so he promised Merab to David, but consistent with his guile and changeable spirit he gave her to Adriel (Michal would end up raising her children: 2Sam. 21:8) It is thus understood that by a second offer (cf. Job. 33:14) David may become the king's son-in-law by marriage with Michal, or as David had become the king's son-in-law by when he was betrothed to Merab, which was basically considered marriage, so once again he would be son-in-law to Saul by his marriage to his youngest daughter.[34][35]

1 Samuel 19 and 20: brotherly love

Other passages invoked are 1 Sam 19:2,8; 20:4,16-17, 30,31;

The word in 1Sam. 19:2 for "delight" (châphêts) is invoked as favoring homosexuality, but this word is also used with the word love in 1Sam. 18:22 for Saul's delight in David, whom everyone loved, (vs. 16) and in 2Sam. 24:3 for David (wrongly) delighting in numbering Israel, and Ps. 119:70 for the Psalmist delighting in the law of God, (which forbids homosex). When used for romantic delight, (Gn. 34:2,3,19; Dt. 21:13,14) as usual the descriptive context makes that meaning possible, in contrast to here.

Pro-homosex proponents also attempt to use 1Sam. 20:3, where David states he found grace in Jonathan's eyes. However, this word denotes kindness or favor and contextually the situation is that Jonathan is David's necessary ally against Saul, who seeks his life. This is entirely fitting here without any erotic denotation, as seen by its common use in the Biblical such as in 1Sam. 17:5, where in a similar situation David states he had found grace in the eyes of Achish, or 2Sam. 14:22, where Joab finds grace in David's eyes, and Gen 32:5 of Jacob and Essau, etc.

In relation to Jonathan's friendship with David, which Saul reacts to with anger in chapter 20:30,31, Horner,[36] labors to negate the idea that David was only Jonathan's friend, and instead construes Saul's anger toward Jonathan to be due to a "homosexual affair", and not to his friendship with David placing him closer to the throne. Horner denies that Jonathan would be in line to be king, and never even shows awareness of the prophetic significance of the divestiture by Jonathan of his garments to place them upon David. (Numbers 20:26) Instead, he both supposes Jonathan and David would take after pagan nations in a homosexual relationship, and that Israel's means of determining kings would also be after their manner, which only sometimes chose the husband of the king's daughter as such.

In this regard however, it was not the manner of Israel to choose kings (or priests) through the son in law, but sons of kings became the heir. (1Ki. 11:43; 14:20,31; 15:8,24; 16:6,28; 22:40,50; 2Ki. 18:4; 10:35; 13:9; 14:16,29; 15:7,22,38; 16:20; 20:21; 21:18; 24:6) Originally kings were (manifestly) Divinely appointed. Under Samuel the prophet, Israel asked for a king because Samuel's sons were corrupt. (1Sam. 8:5,6) In condescension to the people, Samuel was commanded by God to anoint Saul as king, (1Sam. 9:15,16) but due to his consequent failures he was told he had lost the kingdom, (1Sam. 13) As a consequence, David was chosen by God through Samuel, to be his successor. (1Sam. 16) Jonathan indicates he was aware of his father's failure and loss of kingdom, and of David's anointing to be king. (1Sam. 20:15) For his part, Saul yet hoped for Jonathan to be his successor. (1Sa. 20:31) But perhaps fearing an insurrection due to David popularity, or that David's ascension might by the more directly Divine means, Saul sought to kill David while he was still (evidently) single. (1Sam. 18:8) In seeking to do so, he betroths David to his daughter Michal (1Sam. 18:17-27), requiring a dowry that required great risk to his life. After that plan to kill David failed, then Saul did marry him to his daughter Michal, but later gave her to another man. (David would later require her return: 2Sam. 3:13-16.)

The preceding directly relates to Horner's rendering of the next passage of interest, 1 Sam 20:30-31: "Then Saul's anger was kindled against Jonathan, and he said unto him, Thou son of the perverse rebellious woman, do not I know that thou hast chosen [bâchar] the son of Jesse to thine own confusion [bôsheth], and unto the confusion of thy mother's nakedness? {31} For as long as the son of Jesse liveth upon the ground, thou shalt not be established, nor thy kingdom. Wherefore now send and fetch him unto me, for he shall surely die."

Here, an angry Saul warns Jonathan that due to his friendship and political alliance with his (Saul's) enemy instead of him, then Saul will not advance him in power or to be king. While the word women is added by translators (in italics in the KJV), and might allow the verse may read, "thou son of perverse rebellion", yet like today, "son of a b****" is seen as an expression of contempt (Job. 30:8),[37] like that of "cursed children" (2Pt. 2:14) "Thy mother's nakedness" does indeed Biblically denote something sexual, but here it is the shame of his mother's intercourse by which she normally would have conceived a future king.[38]

Though these verses are contrary to Horner's idea that the kingly successor would be chosen from a son-in-law, Horner attempts to enlist it for his homo-theology, Seeking to extrapolate an inference of sexual involvement between Jonathan and David, Horner asserts textual corruption exists, and finds an alternative meaning for the Hebrew word for "chosen", bâchar (or bocher), and an equivalent word in the Greek LXX (μέτοχος metoxov) which can mean participation in, and then alters the phrase, "you have chosen the son of Jesse" to "you are an intimate companion to the son of Jesse." However, the Hebrew uses a different word here, and is used to describe Israel choosing Saul to be king, (1Sam. 12:13) and similarly in almost all of its 150 occurrences, and in no place refers to sexual intimacy. The Greek word in the LXX is used in Ps. 119:63 to denote Godly companions who fear God, which intimates nothing sexual, while in Hos. 4:17 it does have a sexual inference, but one that is spiritual.

Horner then sees "son of Jesse" as also inferring eroticism, but this is a common title for David (used 18 times), just as "Saul the son of Kish" is. Moreover, the context here clearly defines that the shame that Saul was referring to was Jonathan's loss of the kingdom, while any erotic or marital union would be all Saul would need to exclude David from ever being king — and alive. (Lv. 20:13) Horner seems to utterly ignore the ramifications of what he is proposing, while requiring that such strong platonic love between same genders must be homosexual.

Horner's next attempt can also be seen as also as "wresting" Scripture, (2Pt. 3:16) as he asserts that the word bôsheth in 1Sam. 20:30 and translated "confusion" (or most usually "shame") "is associated in the mainstream of Israelite society patriarchal society with sex, as illustrated in the Garden of Eden story (Gn. 3) and numerous other passages." However, examination shows bôsheth is not used in the Garden story (a different word is used in Gn. 2:25) nor in all its 29 occurrences is it ever used to denote sexual shame. It is not (nor is its root) the word used for "confusion" (tebel) in Lv. 18:23; 20:12.

The only word left for Horner here is nakedness, but the reference is to Jonathan's mother, and specifically the shame of Jonathan's mother's conception due to his loss of the kingship, which usually would have been his by heredity, and which "shame" is akin to that which may cause toward against one's own house, such as is spoken of in Hab. 2:10.[39]

1Sam 20:41 is also focused upon:

"And as soon as the lad was gone, David arose out of a place toward the south, and fell on his face to the ground, and bowed himself three times: And they kissed one another, and wept one with another, until David exceeded."

Here, akin to the apostle Paul's departure in Acts 20:38, Jonathan and David shall see each other's face no more. And thus it is like this and some other emotional meetings the Bible, being marked by tears and kisses of non-sexual brotherly affection: "And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul's neck, and kissed him" (Acts 20:37). "And he fell upon his brother Benjamin's neck, and wept; and Benjamin wept upon his neck. Moreover he kissed all his brethren, and wept upon them: and after that his brethren talked with him." (Gen 45:14-15) This was a fairly common but nonsexual sign of affection in that culture, as it is may be today.[40] Christians are exhorted, "Greet one another with an holy kiss" (2Cor. 13:12). Kissing is mentioned 35 times in the Old Testament but is not evident as sexual, except between a man and a women in an erotic context, place or manner, which is very rare. (Prov. 7:13; SOS 1:2; 8:1) Here again the story lacks these descriptions.

2 Samuel 1: David's lament

The poetic expression of 2 Sam 1:19-27 and 1:26 in particular is asserted or postulated by pro-homosexual proponents as being homoerotic, but "pleasant" also fails to be used in a sexual context elsewhere, and describes both Saul and Jonathan, and can even describe land (Gn. 49:15). And while "love" can be used to denote erotic love, here it again lacks the necessary context and or euphemisms seen elsewhere that manifests when it is. Horner[41] resorts to labeling the platonic understanding "homophobic", and claims this is "homoerotic" as he also perceives such in pagan stories, utterly ignoring that Israel was distinctly enjoined not to be like such pagan nations, (Lev. 20:23; Ex. 23:24; Dt. 12:4; 12:30,31; Jer. 10:2,3) particularly as regard sexual practices, (Lv. 18) which laws Israel as yet was still largely faithful to, and David and Jonathan most especially would have been.

Rather than denoting a better form of erotic love, the phrase that Jonathan's love surpassed that of women best conveys the opposite, that the platonic love as manifested by Jonathan in helping David escape Saul's wrath on his way to replacing him was far superior to the erotic or romantic "love of women," as true sacrificial love is manifested and realized in a far more comprehensive and deeper manner than simple sexual love, and the latter may often fail to even qualify as true love. Moreover, David and Jonathan's battle-proven and loyalty-tested love in a very close friendship would easily be far more rare, needful and appreciated than of the women we see that David had known. As Craig Blomberg of Denver Seminary and a team of theologians (including some pro homosexuals) state (in "What the Bible Really Says About Sex"), "After Jonathan has been killed in battle, David does indeed lament that 'his love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.' But . . . David's whole point in this text is that Jonathan was his 'blood brother' with a loyalty that surpassed that which mere eroticism creates."

Finally, the fact that both Jonathan (who had a child) and David were both married to women (David many times), and had children by such testifies to their heterosexual sexuality, and in David's case it is further affirmed not only by his many wives, 1Sam. 30:5; 2Sam. 5:13) but also (in a negative context) by his adulterous affair with Bathsheba. Thus, while pro-homosex polemicists must strive and contrive to make David and Jonathan "sexually involved", the Bible makes sexual relations evident when they do occur, and that it was not men that David was sexually attracted to, but women (2Sam. 11). Moreover, if Jonathan and David were in a homosexual relationship through the years, then they would have been adulterous bisexuals, and which have been scandalous in the household of Saul and kingdom of Israel.


  • 1. The story of Jonathan and David lacks the euphemisms (“knew”, “lay with” “went into” etc.) and or manner of descriptions which the Bible abundantly evidences in revealing erotic or romantic love, as well as marriage.
  • 2. While pro-homosex polemicists focus on words like “knit, “love,” “soul,” “delight”, “grace”, “covenant”, “chosen,” yet context describes what is meant but these words, and which here does not evidence anything more than platonic brotherly affection and esteem. None of the grammatical attempts to favor a homoerotic or homoromantic interpretation are found to merit such, and rely upon inferring homosexuality based upon phrases or words which are used for non-sexual love in many, most or all places elsewhere, and which are contextually defined.
  • 3. If the word covenants is allowed to mean marriage in this story - though is commonly used for mutual commitments among among leaders, in contrast to marriages, and Jonathan and David made 3 of them - then it is incongruous that Jonathan, who demonstrated sacrificial love toward David and for his coming kingdom, would not leave the house of Saul when it was made evident David must. (2Sam. 20) By his father's own words Jonathan had no real future in the house of Saul, and with only one child he could have rather easily left. Even more in-credible would be the alternative idea that eroticism could be allowed outside marriage, which is contrast to Scripture, as well as the manner of evidence here.
  • 4. Rather than being a homoerotic “love at first sight,” Jonathan and David's strong kinship and love is easily understood as the result of their shared faith and selfless commitment to God and Israel, humble and honest heart, and courageous daring spirit in battle, which stood in contrast to other soldiers. David's slaying of the blasphemer Goliath, whom even Jonathan evidently dared not stand up to, along with his zealous but overall genuineness and demeanor, exampled him to be the kind of man of God a soldier of like heart should want to be in fellowship with.
  • 5. Strong, non-sexual emotive expressions (Gn. 45:13,14) or language as well as hyperbole (Ps. 37) is shown to be a characteristic of the Hebrews, of David, and certain other cultures.
  • 6 The expression that the love of Jonathan's surpassed the “love of women” best conveys that the platonic love manifested by Jonathan was far superior to the erotic or romantic “love of women.”
  • 7. Pro-homosex proponents typically manifest that they rely upon an erroneous premise that strong platonic love must indicate homoerotic or homo-romantic love, as well as an unwarranted premise that the Bible doctrinally sanctions such, and would not make such sanction clear if it did. In addition, Biblically, romantic love includes the possibility it can and most likely will be expressed erotically, (Song of Solomon) and which makes even a homo-romantic perception of Jonathan and David's relationship even more problematic. It is the “way of a man with a maid” that is one of the things David's son Solomon marveled at. (Prov. 30:19)
  • 8. All the evidence of Israel's and Judaism's historic teaching shows that that any kind of homosexual eroticism would always have been scandalous in Israel when overall in obedience to God, and such would have accomplished Saul's goal of eliminating David as a future king, and perhaps from living.
  • 9. Pro-homosex polemical assertions are shown to also depend upon making Israel morally akin to pagan nations which they were to be distinctly morally separate from, especially in regards to sexual relations.
  • 10. The attempt to interpret David as becoming king by becoming Saul's son-in-law through marriage (to Jonathan or Michal), or that Saul's anger towards his son was based upon an erotic relationship with David are evidenced to be erroneous.
  • 11. The Bible clearly manifests David's sexual “orientation” as toward women, with him being married many times (all to women), once after being captivated by the beauty of married Bathsheba, (2Sam. 11) and perhaps attracted to the promise of marriage to Saul's daughter for slaying Goliath, (1Sa 17:25,36) while Jonathan evidently had also married. (2Sam. 4:4) All of which is contrary to assertions of homosexuality between them, or that the Bible (which is manifestly counter-cultural) would not make such evident if there were.
  • 12. The divestiture by Jonathan of his garments is evidenced as being partial, and to have a clear ceremonial significance and precedent, (Numbers 20:26; cf. Esther 3:60) in which Moses stripped Aaron of his garments to put them upon in transference of the office of the former upon the latter. Likewise, Jonathan would be symbolically and prophetically transferring the kingship of himself (as the normal heir) to David, and which would come to pass.[42][43][44]
  • 13. The homosexual hypothesis relies upon the political premise that the text is basically a work of “homophobic” scribes, and who would have edited out what the pro-homosex advocates seek to establish, but which premise negates any moral authority of it. Yet if the text were the work of such men, then it is hardly reasonable that they would use even use descriptions which homosexuals might see as erotic or romantic.
  • 14. Taking the Bible as the Word of God, and consistent with the means of establishment of other major doctrines, an interpretation of a historical narrative itself does not establish moral doctrine, nor is it reasonable when the descriptions of the interpreted activity and related aspects are unclear, and the derived conclusion is radically contrary to the explicit basic moral laws or treatment mentioned elsewhere, and its foundational principle.

See also


  1. Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament
  2. Albert Barnes
  3. Keil & Delitzsch, 1Sam. 14:6
  4. Matthew Henry. 1Sam. 14:1-15
  6. see Keil & Delitzsch on 1Chrn. 2:9-41
  7. Standard Bible Encyclopedia, James Orr, M.A., D.D, David
  8. John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible
  9. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, DRESS
  10. Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
  11. Gill, Keil & Delitzsch, 1Sam. 18:30
  12. John Calvin, as quoted by Keil & Delitzsch, 1Sa 19:22-24
  13. Adam Clarke, LL.D., F.S.A., (1715-1832)
  14. Matthew Henry, 1Sam. 1:26
  15. By Thomas Horner, Jonathan loved David, pp. 38-63
  16. Susan Ackerman, When Heroes Love:. The Ambiguity of Eros in the Stories of Gilgamesh and David, pp. 82, 165-231
  17. Nardel, Homosexuality and Liminality in the Gilgamesh and Samuel (Amsterdam, Hakkert, 2007), pp. 28-63li
  18. Steven Greenberg, Wrestling with God and men, pp. 99-104
  19. Matthew Henry
  20. Were David and Jonathan Gay Lovers?, James Patrick Holding
  21. Regan, P. C; Jerry, D; Narvaez, M; Johnson, D. Public displays of affection among Asian and Latino heterosexual couples. Psychological Reports. 1999;84:1201–1202
  22. "What the Bible Really Says About Sex"
  23. Prof. Dr. Robert A. J. Gagnon The Bible and Homosexual Practice, 146-54
  24. Markus Zehnder, "Observations on the Relationship between David and Jonathan and the Debate on Homosexuality," Westminster Theological Journal 69.1 [2007]: (127-74)
  25. Thomas E Schmidt, "Straight or Narrow?"
  26. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Covenant, in the Old Testament
  27. The Early Christians in Rome, by Henry Donald Maurice Spence-Jones; p. 52
  28. Gagnon, ibid.
  29. Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown, 1Sam. 18:4
  30. Clarke
  31. Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice, pp. 146-54
  32. Markus Zehnder, “Observations on the Relationship between David and Jonathan and the Debate on Homosexuality,” Westminster Theological Journal 69.1 [2007]: 127-74)
  33. Thomas E Schmidt, “Straight or Narrow?”
  34. Were Jonathan and David "Married"?,
  35. Albert Barnes, Dr. John Gill, 1Sa 18:21
  36. ibid. p. 29, 30
  37. Albert Barnes, 1Sam. 12:30
  38. John Gill, 1Sam. 12:30
  39. Were Jonathan and David "Married"?
  40. Were David and Jonathan Gay Lovers? James Patrick Holding
  41. Horner, ibid. pp. 34,38
  42. Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice, pp. 146-54
  43. Markus Zehnder, “Observations on the Relationship between David and Jonathan and the Debate on Homosexuality,” Westminster Theological Journal 69.1 [2007]: 127-74)
  44. Thomas E Schmidt, “Straight or Narrow?”

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