Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
1-3. David fled from Naioth in Ramah, and came and said before
Jonathan--He could not remain in Naioth, for he had strong reason to
fear that when the religious fit, if we may so call it, was over, Saul
would relapse into his usual fell and sanguinary temper. It may be
thought that David acted imprudently in directing his flight to Gibeah.
But he was evidently prompted to go thither by the most generous
feelings--to inform his friend of what had recently occurred, and to
obtain that friend's sanction to the course he was compelled to adopt.
Jonathan could not be persuaded there was any real danger after the
oath his father had taken; at all events, he felt assured his father
would do nothing without telling him. Filial attachment naturally
blinded the prince to defects in the parental character and made him
reluctant to believe his father capable of such atrocity. David
repeated his unshaken convictions of Saul's murderous purpose, but in
terms delicately chosen
not to wound the filial feelings of his friend; while Jonathan,
clinging, it would seem, to a hope that the extraordinary scene enacted
at Naioth might have wrought a sanctified improvement on Saul's temper
and feelings, undertook to inform David of the result of his
observations at home.
5. David said unto Jonathan, Behold, to-morrow the new moon, and I
should not fail to sit with the king at meat--The beginning of a new
month or moon was always celebrated by special sacrifices, followed by
feasting, at which the head of a family expected all its members to be
present. David, both as the king's son-in-law and a distinguished
courtier, dined on such occasions at the royal table, and from its
being generally known that David had returned to Gibeah, his presence
in the palace would be naturally expected. This occasion was chosen by
the two friends for testing the king's state of feeling. As a suitable
pretext for David's absence, it was arranged that he should visit his
family at Beth-lehem, and thus create an opportunity of ascertaining how
his non-appearance would be viewed. The time and place were fixed for
Jonathan reporting to David; but as circumstances might render another
interview unsafe, it was deemed expedient to communicate by a concerted
11. Jonathan said to David, Come, let us go into the field--The
private dialogue, which is here detailed at full length, presents a
most beautiful exhibition of these two amiable and noble-minded
friends. Jonathan was led, in the circumstances, to be the chief
speaker. The strength of his attachment, his pure disinterestedness,
his warm piety, his invocation to God (consisting of a prayer and a
solemn oath combined), the calm and full expression he gave of his
conviction that his own family were, by the divine will, to be
disinherited, and David elevated to the possession of the throne, the
covenant entered into with David on behalf of his descendants, and the
denounced on any of them who should violate his part of the conditions,
the reiteration of this covenant on both sides
to make it indissoluble--all this indicates such a power of mutual
affection, such magnetic attractiveness in the character of David, such
susceptibility and elevation of feeling in the heart of Jonathan, that
this interview for dramatic interest and moral beauty stands unrivalled
in the records of human friendship.
19. when thou hast stayed three days--either with your family at
Beth-lehem, or wherever you find it convenient.
come to the place where thou didst hide thyself when the business was
in hand--Hebrew, "in the day," or "time of the business," when
the same matter was under inquiry formerly
remain by the stone Ezel--Hebrew, "the stone of the way"; a sort
of milestone which directed travellers. He was to conceal himself in
some cave or hiding-place near that spot.
23. as touching the matter which thou and I have spoken of--The plan
being concerted, the friends separated for a time, and the amiable
character of Jonathan again peers out in his parting allusion to their
covenant of friendship.
25. the king sat upon his seat, as at other times . . . by the
wall--The left-hand corner at the upper end of a room was and still
is in the East, the most honorable place. The person seated there has
his left arm confined by the wall, but his right hand is at full
liberty. From Abner's position next the king, and David's seat being
left empty, it would seem that a state etiquette was observed at the
royal table, each of the courtiers and ministers having places assigned
them according to their respective gradations of rank.
Jonathan arose--either as a mark of respect on the entrance of the
king, or in conformity with the usual Oriental custom for a son to
stand in presence of his father.
26. he is not clean--No notice was taken of David's absence, as he
might be laboring under some ceremonial defilement.
27. on the morrow, which was the second day of the month--The time of
the moon's appearance being uncertain--whether at midday, in the
evening, or at midnight, the festival was extended over two days.
Custom, not the law, had introduced this.
Saul said unto Jonathan his son, Wherefore cometh not the son of
Jesse--The question was asked, as it were, casually, and with as great
an air of indifference as he could assume. And Jonathan having replied
that David had asked and obtained his permission to attend a family
anniversary at Beth-lehem
[Ac 20:28, 29],
the pent-up passions of the king burst out in a most violent storm of
rage and invective against his son.
30. Thou son of the perverse rebellious woman--This is a striking
Oriental form of abuse. Saul was not angry with his wife; it was the
son alone, upon whom he meant, by this style of address, to discharge
his resentment. The principle on which it is founded seems to be, that
to a genuine filial instinct it is a more inexpiable offense to hear
the name or character of a parent traduced, than any personal reproach.
This was, undoubtedly, one cause of "the fierce anger" in which the
high-minded prince left the table without tasting a morsel.
33. Saul cast a javelin at him--This is a sad proof of the maniacal
frenzy into which the unhappy monarch was transported.
35. Jonathan went out into the field at the time appointed--or,
"at the place appointed."
36. he said unto his lad, Run, find out now the arrows which I
shoot--The direction given aloud to the attendant was the signal
preconcerted with David. It implied danger.
40. Jonathan gave his artillery unto his lad--that is, his missive
weapons. The French word artillerie, signifies "archery." The term
is still used in England, in the designation of the "artillery company
of London," the association of archers, though they have long disused
bows and arrows. Jonathan's boy being despatched out of the way, the
friends enjoyed the satisfaction of a final meeting.
1Sa 20:41, 42.
41, 42. David . . . fell on his face to the ground, and bowed three
times--a token of homage to the prince's rank; but on a close
approach, every other consideration was sunk in the full flow of the
purest brotherly affection.
42. Jonathan said to David, Go in peace--The interview being a stolen
one, and every moment precious, it was kindness in Jonathan to hasten
his friend's departure.