1 Samuel 20:1-42 – Jonathan’s Long Goodbye


1 Samuel 20:1-42


Jonathan attempts, one last time, to see if Saul has irrevocably turned against David or not. When Jonathan finds that Saul has indeed set himself against David, he constructs an elaborate warning ritual with arrows to send his friend to safety. 


As on other occasions, Jonathan sought to speak to his father, Saul, to determine how the king felt about David. When Jonathan defended David yet again, Saul threw a spear at his own son. Saul continues his pattern of missing the targets of his indoor spear throws (he has missed David at least twice as well). Jonathan then goes to warn David to leave forever through a pre-arranged sign of firing an arrow and telling his servant that the arrow was beyond him. David and Jonathan kissed, embraced, and wept together before parting for the last time. 

The insults that Saul gives his son Jonathan are interesting. Saul called Jonathan the son of perversion and rebellion (alternatively the son of a perverse, rebellious woman), and insisted that Jonathan chose David to his own shame and the shame of his mother’s nakedness. Interpretations differ widely. There are those who see Saul’s insinuations about perversion and shameful [rejection?] of female nakedness – coupled with the kissing and embrace between Jonathan and David a few verses later, and David’s insistence that Jonathan’s “love was better than a woman’s” (2 Samuel 1:26) – to suggest that Saul knows of a romantic/sexual relationship between Jonathan and David. If this is what Saul is implying, Saul seems only to be bothered by this relationship when it threatens his dynasty. It may be, of course, that Jonathan and David are simply profoundly close yet not romantically entwined. Saul is certainly critiquing Jonathan’s turning his back on his father, and on Jonathan’s own opportunity to be king.