Saturday, February 2, 2019

Jonathan (1 Sam 20:1-43)

Jonathan—An instant friend  (1 Sam 20:1-43)
Dr. Paul Manuel—2019

Social media have revolutionized how we interact with other people and sometimes determine if we interact with other people.
The modern phenomenon of Facebook enables you to maintain contact with a vast number of individuals called "friends" who can remain apprised of your most exciting activities by reading or viewing what you post on the networking site. Should you become displeased with someone, for whatever reason, you can "unfriend"—an awkward new word now found in some modern dictionaries—you can "unfriend" that person, removing his or her name from your list of favored individuals who have access to your Facebook account and have the privilege of seeing whatever gems you post there.
Geico insurance company pokes fun at the phenomenon in a commercial that features three older women, two of whom do not quite grasp the Facebook technology. One woman brags about how easy it is to post pictures, as she refers to several photos she has taped to an actual wall. When a second woman expresses some displeasure at one of the pictures, the first woman thinks she can keep her from looking at all the pictures simply by saying out loud, "I 'unfriend' you," whereupon the third woman, obviously tech-savvy, says, "That's not how any of this works."
Social media have revolutionized how we interact with other people and sometimes determine if we interact with other people. Back in days of yore, when David lived (c. 1000 B.C.), long before social media, people talked with each other face-to-face, and people made friends face-to-face. Among David's Companions is Jonathan—An instant friend, with whom a relationship forms almost immediately, upon first meeting.

Despite the fact that David is one of the most prominent figures in sacred writ, the biblical author says very little about him before his confrontation with Goliath, giving only a brief description of his entry into the king's employ:
David came to Saul and entered his service. Saul liked him very much, and David became one of his armor-bearers. Then Saul sent word to Jesse [David's father], saying, "Allow David to remain in my service, for I am pleased with him." ...But David went back and forth from Saul to tend his father's sheep at Bethlehem. (1 Sam 16:21-22, 15)
David entered the court of King Saul where he became fast friends with Jonathan, the monarch's son.
Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself. From that day Saul kept David with him and did not let him return to his father's house. And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. (1 Sam 18:1-3)
A friendship forms between the two boys almost immediately. The characterization of their relationship as one of "love" (v. 3) is not sexual but political, as the repeated description of it as a "covenant" (18:3; 20:8, 16; 22:8; 23:18) also evinces.

Despite their comradery, though, David and Jonathan appear together in the biblical text only twice more before parting ways, separated at last by Jonathan's untimely death at the hands of "the Philistines" (1 Sam 31:2). Both times they are together the conversation is about Saul's animosity toward David, which seems to follow the public's declaration after Goliath's defeat: "Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands" (1 Sam 18:7).

Saul is determined to kill David, but he does not succeed, despite his having several opportunities to do so. David, on the other hand, is determined not to kill Saul, despite his having at least one opportunity to do so. David says, "The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD's anointed, or lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of the LORD." (1 Sam 24:6) David patiently bides his time, confident that God will bring him to the throne when the moment is right according to His plan.

The king is not shy about voicing his objections to the boys' friendship: "Saul told his son Jonathan and all the attendants to kill David" (1 Sam 19:1). After some discussion, Jonathan manages to talk his father down:
Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father and said to him, "Let not the king do wrong to his servant David; he has not wronged you, and what he has done has benefited you greatly. He took his life in his hands when he killed the Philistine. The LORD won a great victory for all Israel, and you saw it and were glad. Why then would you do wrong to an innocent man like David by killing him for no reason?" Saul listened to Jonathan and took this oath: "As surely as the LORD lives, David will not be put to death." So, Jonathan called David and told him the whole conversation. He brought him to Saul, and David was with Saul as before. (1 Sam 19:4-7).
The reprieve is short-lived, however, as the king's murderous ambitions surface again to his son's great consternation. Jonathan wants to think the best of his father, and that opinion puts him at odds with David.

I. They debate Saul's intentions for David (1 Sam 20:1-4).
1 Sam 20:1 David...went to Jonathan and asked, "What have I done? What is my crime? How have I wronged your father, that he is trying to take my life?" 2 "Never!" Jonathan replied. "You are not going to die! Look, my father doesn't do anything, great or small, without confiding in me. Why would he hide this from me? It's not so!"
A. Jonathan believes the king's intentions are good.
This talk about the king's being ill-disposed toward David is at worst paranoia, at best speculation. If there were any truth to it, surely the king's son would know.
1 Sam 20:3 But David took an oath and said, "Your father knows very well that I have found favor in your eyes, and he has said to himself, 'Jonathan must not know this or he will be grieved.' Yet as surely as the LORD lives and as you live, there is only a step between me and death." 4 Jonathan said to David, "Whatever you want me to do, I'll do for you."
David uses an oath formula ("as surely as the LORD lives" v. 3) to strengthen his assertion to Jonathan that Saul's plan is to do him harm.
B. David believes the king's intentions are evil.
An oath is a common verbal certification that what the speaker is asserting is true, in this case David's claim that Saul wants to kill him.

Application: "I promise" has become an all-too-common tag line in modern speech, such that the phrase has become perfunctory and devoid of meaning. Its ubiquity also devalues a person's word, making the veracity of his regular daily pronouncements suspect. As Jesus counsels, it is best to avoid attempts at emphasis and to allow a simple statement to convey your conviction. "Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No" (Mat 5:37). Besides, added linguistic stress invites added theocentric scrutiny, because as Moses says,
Num 30:2 When a man makes a vow to the LORD or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word but must do everything he said.
And again,
Deut 23:21 If you make a vow to the LORD your God, do not be slow to pay it, for the LORD your God will certainly demand it of you and you will be guilty of sin.
Remember: Everything you promise is either to God or before God.

II. They determine Saul's intentions for David (1 Sam 20:5-17).
1 Sam 20:5 David said, "Look, tomorrow is the New Moon festival, and I am supposed to dine with the king; but let me go and hide in the field until the evening of the day after tomorrow. 6 If your father misses me at all, tell him, 'David earnestly asked my permission to hurry to Bethlehem, his hometown, because an annual sacrifice is being made there for his whole clan.' 7 If he says, 'Very well,' then your servant is safe. But if he loses his temper, you can be sure that he is determined to harm me. 8 As for you, show kindness to your servant, for you have brought him into a covenant with you before the LORD. If I am guilty, then kill me yourself! Why hand me over to your father?"
The "New Moon festival" (v. 5) is probably a secular event that David and Jonathan regularly attend. On the basis of the "covenant" (v. 8) of friendship between them, David asks Jonathan to gauge Saul's disposition at the gathering, especially "the day after tomorrow" (v. 5), when David's absence has become
more conspicuous.
A. Jonathan reviews the king's attitude.
The son will test his father's patience with David by suggesting an excuse for David's missing diner with the king.
1 Sam 20:9 "Never!" Jonathan said. "If I had the least inkling that my father was determined to harm you, wouldn't I tell you?" 10 David asked, "Who will tell me if your father answers you harshly?" 11 "Come," Jonathan said, "let's go out into the field." So, they went there together. 12 Then Jonathan said to David: "By the LORD, the God of Israel, I will surely sound out my father by this time the day after tomorrow! If he is favorably disposed toward you, will I not send you word and let you know? 13 But if my father is inclined to harm you, may the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if I do not let you know and send you away safely. May the LORD be with you as he has been with my father. 14 But show me unfailing kindness like that of the LORD as long as I live, so that I may not be killed, 15 and do not ever cut off your kindness from my family—not even when the LORD has cut off every one of David's enemies from the face of the earth." 16 So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, "May the LORD call David's enemies to account." 17 And Jonathan had David reaffirm his oath out of love for him, because he loved him as he loved himself.
Jonathan pledges to inform David of his findings no matter how disheartening that news may be.
B. Jonathan reveals the king's attitude.
Jonathan is reluctant to admit that his father holds any malice toward David, and he attempts to assuage David's concern by confirming his "covenant" (v. 16) with him, extending the contract to include David's descendants if this opinion about Saul proves to be correct.

Application: Some people think the best of others even when they do not deserve it. Given the depravity of man, it is better to avoid disappointment by having a realistic expectation. As Jeremiah observes, "The heart is deceitful above all things.... Who can understand it?" (Jer 17:9) Nevertheless, God can rework the heart and even make it new. As He says through Ezekiel, "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you" (Ez 36:26). When God does that, as He does when He regenerates a person, it is appropriate to think the best of him, and it is appropriate to expect the best from him. To be sure, that person is not perfect yet, and he may disappoint you, but he is (or should be) closer than he was before and moving closer all the time—not there yet but definitely on his way, getting nearer to the goal each day. As Paul says, "I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.... I press win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (Phil 3:12, 14) What is that prize? It is perfection; it is glorification; it is Christ-likeness. So John writes, "We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is" (1 John 3:2). Saul is far from it here, but David is close to it, which is why he is "a man after [God's] his own heart" (1 Sam 13:14).

Having committed to discerning Saul's objectives, David and Jonathan devise a way to communicate what they discover.

III. They depict Saul's intentions for David (1 Sam 20:18-23).
1 Sam 20:18 Then Jonathan said to David: "Tomorrow is the New Moon festival. You will be missed, because your seat will be empty. 19 The day after tomorrow, toward evening, go to the place where you hid when this trouble began, and wait by the stone Ezel. 20 I will shoot three arrows to the side of it, as though I were shooting at a target. 21 Then I will send a boy and say, 'Go, find the arrows.' If I say to him, 'Look, the arrows are on this side of you; bring them here,' then come, because, as surely as the LORD lives, you are safe; there is no danger. 22 But if I say to the boy, 'Look, the arrows are beyond you,' then you must go, because the LORD has sent you away. 23 And about the matter you and I discussed—remember, the LORD is witness between you and me forever."
Jonathan will use his archery skills to convey his findings about Saul to David, whatever they may be.
A. If the arrows are near, the king's intent is good, and David should stay.
B. If the arrows are far, the king's intent is evil, and David should flee.
Jonathan uses the same oath formula ("as the LORD lives" v. 21) to assure David that whatever he discovers about his father he will disclose to his friend.

Application: In this case, the shooting of arrows is a sign act that confirms the inclination of Saul against David. Other sign acts in scripture, those whose author is God, convey more certainty and greater (even unimpeachable) credibility.  David's anointing is a sign act that affirms the credibility of God who directs it and confirms the veracity of Samuel who enacts it: "The LORD said, 'Rise and anoint him; he is the one" (1 Sam 16:12)." Jonathan's shooting is a human sign act that conveys his findings about Saul's attitude toward David.

However loath he is to admit the king's hostility toward David, Jonathan finally recognizes his father's animus. The two boys are now in agreement.

IV. They denounce Saul's intentions for David (1 Sam 20:24-34).
1 Sam 20:24 So David hid in the field, and when the New Moon festival came, the king sat down to eat. 25 He sat in his customary place by the wall, opposite Jonathan, and Abner sat next to Saul, but David's place was empty. 26 Saul said nothing that day, for he thought, "Something must have happened to David to make him ceremonially unclean—surely he is unclean." 27 But the next day, the second day of the month, David's place was empty again. Then Saul said to his son Jonathan, "Why hasn't the son of Jesse come to the meal, either yesterday or today?" 28 Jonathan answered, "David earnestly asked me for permission to go to Bethlehem. 29 He said, 'Let me go, because our family is observing a sacrifice in the town and my brother has ordered me to be there. If I have found favor in your eyes, let me get away to see my brothers.' That is why he has not come to the king's table."
A. Jonathan excuses David's absence.
Jonathan attempts to cover for David, but the boy's absence at the royal table by the second day is too obvious and too much for the king to overlook.
1 Sam 20:30 Saul's anger flared up at Jonathan and he said to him, "You son of a perverse and rebellious woman! Don't I know that you have sided with the son of Jesse to your own shame and to the shame of the mother who bore you? 31 As long as the son of Jesse lives on this earth, neither you nor your kingdom will be established. Now send and bring him to me, for he must die!" 32 "Why should he be put to death? What has he done?" Jonathan asked his father. 33 But Saul hurled his spear at him to kill him. Then Jonathan knew that his father intended to kill David. 34 Jonathan got up from the table in fierce anger; on that second day of the month he did not eat, because he was grieved at his father's shameful treatment of David.
The king regards Jonathan's excuse for David's not being present at the royal table as insufficient, an affront to decorum, although Saul also offers his own reason ("he is unclean" v. 26). Nevertheless, ceremonial impurity usually only lasts afew hours.
B. Saul excoriates David's absence.
At last the reason for Saul's anger comes out: David is a threat to Saul's dynasty, something Jonathan should take seriously because it affects his future. If David takes the throne, "neither you nor your kingdom will be established" (v. 31). Saul is so angry with his son's laissez-faire ('come what may') attitude that he lashes out at Jonathan as he did earlier at David, throwing "his spear" (v. 33).

Application: Whether or not Jonathan understands the role David will have in the nation's future, he views his commitment to David as more valuable than the his assuming the throne. David will one day ask and answer: "LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? ...[He] who keeps his oath even when it hurts." (Ps 15:1, 4) Jonathan makes a covenant with David, a pledge of friendship that supersedes even his claim to the throne. What is your word worth? If you want to be with God, then your integrity must be similar to that of God. In other words, you must value what He values, like the commitments you make. Just as you can depend on Him to keep His word, so you must be dependable to keep your word. "For no matter how many promises God has made, they are 'Yes' in Christ" (2 Cor 1:20).

Saul's anger has dispelled any lingering doubt about his thoughts toward David. The time has come to implement the final stage of the plan.

V. They defeat Saul's intentions for David (1 Sam 20:35-43).
1 Sam 20:35 In the morning Jonathan went out to the field for his meeting with David. He had a small boy with him, 36 and he said to the boy, "Run and find the arrows I shoot." As the boy ran, he shot an arrow beyond him. 37 When the boy came to the place where Jonathan's arrow had fallen, Jonathan called out after him, "Isn't the arrow beyond you?" 38 Then he shouted, "Hurry! Go quickly! Don't stop!" The boy picked up the arrow and returned to his master. 39 (The boy knew nothing of all this; only Jonathan and David knew.) 40 Then Jonathan gave his weapons to the boy and said, "Go, carry them back to town."
Just as they plan, Jonathan directs his arrows far enough away so that the meaning of the exercise is clear.
A. Jonathan warns David about imminent danger.
1 Sam 20:41 After the boy had gone, David got up from the south side [of the stone] and bowed down before Jonathan three times, with his face to the ground. Then they kissed each other and wept together— but David wept the most. 42 Jonathan said to David, "Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the LORD, saying, 'The LORD is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants forever." Then David left, and Jonathan went back to the town.
Jonathan uses another oath formula ("The LORD is witness between you and me" v. 42), but one he employed earlier (v. 23), to stress their abiding friendship.
B. David leaves Jonathan with great sorrow.
Reluctantly, they part company, with their friendship intact but unsure when or if they will meet again.

Application: Once you commit to a course of action, it is important you follow through and complete that course of action. This especially so when you commit yourself to God's agenda. Jesus said, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62). It is better not to begin than to begin than not to finish.

Conclusion: Although from very different backgrounds, Jonathan immediately becomes David's closest friend and remains so despite the king's disapproval. Because David will eventually become Israel's ruler and follow Saul's reign, Jonathan's father discourages their friendship, hoping to extend his own dynasty. The Philistines (not David) bring Saul's kingship to an end, killing both the father and his sons. Among David's Companions is Jonathan—An instant friend, with whom a relationship forms almost immediately, upon first meeting, even before David assumes the throne.

For the Footnotes and Bibliography see the pdf here.

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Relevant and civil comments are welcome. Whether there will be any response depends on whether Dr. Manuel notices them and has the time and inclination to respond or, if not, whether I feel competent to do so.
Jim Skaggs