1 Samuel 20


David complains to Jonathan of Saul's enmity against him;

Jonathan comforts him, 1-10.

They walk out into the field, and renew their covenant, 11-17.

David asks Jonathan's leave to absent himself from Saul's

court; and Jonathan informs him how he shall ascertain the

disposition of his father towards him, 18-23.

David hides himself; is missed by Saul; Jonathan is questioned

concerning his absence; makes an excuse for David; Saul is

enraged, and endeavours to kill Jonathan, 24-33.

Jonathan goes out to the field; gives David the sign which they

had agreed on, and by which he was to know that the king had

determined to take away his life, 34-39.

He sends his servant back into the city; and then he and David

meet, renew their covenant, and have a very affectionate

parting, 40-42.


Verse 1. David fled frown Naioth] On hearing that Saul had come

to that place, knowing that he was no longer in safety, he fled

for his life.

Verse 2. My father will do nothing] Jonathan thought that his

father could have no evil design against David, because of the

oath which he had sworn to himself 1Sa 19:6; and at any rate,

that he would do nothing against David without informing him.

Verse 3. There is but a step between me and death.] My life is

in the most imminent danger. Your father has, most assuredly,

determined to destroy me.

The same figure used here, there is but a step between me and

death, may be found in Juvenal, who, satirizing those who risk

their lives for the sake of gain in perilous voyages, speaks


I nune et ventis animam committe, dolato

Confisus ligno, digitis a morte remotus

Quatuor aut septem, si sit latissima teda.

SAT. xii., ver. 57.

"Go now, and commit thy life to the winds, trusting to a hewn

plank, four or seven fingers thick, if the beam out of which it

has been cut have been large enough."

Verse 5. To-morrow is the new moon] The months of the Hebrews

were lunar months, and they reckoned from new moon to new moon.

And as their other feasts, particularly the passover, were

reckoned according to this, they were very scrupulous in observing

the first appearance of each new moon. On these new moons they

offered sacrifices, and had a feast; as we learn from

Nu 10:10; 28:11. And we may suppose that the families, on such

occasions, sacrificed and feasted together. To this David seems to

refer; but the gathering together all the families of a whole

tribe seems to have taken place only once in the year. There is a

yearly sacrifice there for all the family, 1Sa 20:6.

Verse 8. If there be in me iniquity] If thou seest that I am

plotting either against the state, or the life of thy father, then

slay me thyself.

Verse 10. Who shall tell me?] Who shall give me the necessary

information? What means wilt thou use to convey this intelligence

to me?

Verse 11. Come, and let us go out into the field] In answer to

David's question, he now shows him how he shall convey this

intelligence to him.

Verse 12. Jonathan said-O Lord God of Israel] There is, most

evidently, something wanting in this verse. The Septuagint has,

The Lord God of Israel doth KNOW. The Syriac and Arabic, The

Lord God of Israel is WITNESS. Either of these makes a good sense.

But two of Dr. Kennicott's MSS. supply the word chai, "liveth;"

and the text reads thus, As the Lord God of Israel LIVETH, when I

have sounded my father-if there be good, and I then send not unto

thee, and show it thee, the Lord do so and much more to Jonathan.

This makes a still better sense.

Verse 13. The Lord be with thee, as he hath been with my

father.] From this, and other passages here it is evident that

Jonathan knew that the Lord had appointed David to the kingdom.

Verse 14. Show me the kindness of the Lord] When thou comest to

the kingdom, if I am alive, thou shalt show kindness to me, and

thou shalt continue that kindness to my family after me.

Verse 20. I well shoot three arrows] Jonathan intended that

David should stay at the stone Ezel, where probably there was some

kind of cave, or hiding place; that, to prevent all suspicion, he

would not go to him himself, but take his servant into the fields,

and pretend to be exercising himself in archery; that he would

shoot three arrows, the better to cover his design; and that, if

he should say to his servant, who went to bring back the arrows,

"The arrows are on this side of thee," this should be a sign to

David that he might safely return to court, no evil being

designed; but if he should say, "The arrows are beyond thee," then

David should escape for his life, Saul having determined his


Verse 25. The king sat upon his seat] It seems that there was

one table for Saul, Jonathan, David, and Abner; Saul having the

chief seat, that next to the wall. As only four sat at this table,

the absence of any one would soon be noticed.

Verse 29. Our family hath a sacrifice] Such sacrifices were

undoubtedly festal ones; the beasts slain for the occasion were

first offered to God, and their blood poured out before him;

afterwards all that were bidden to the feast ate of the flesh.

This was a family entertainment, at the commencement of which God

was peculiarly honoured.

Verse 30. Thou son of the perverse rebellious woman] This clause

is variously translated and understood. The Hebrew might be

translated, Son of an unjust rebellion; that is, "Thou art a rebel

against thy own father." The Vulgate, Fili mulieris virum ultro

rapientis; "Son of the woman who, of her own accord, forces the

man." The Septuagint is equally curious, υιεκορασιων

αυτομολουντων; "Son of the damsels who came of their own accord."

Were these the meaning of the Hebrew, then the bitter reflection

must refer to some secret transaction between Saul and Jonathan's

mother; which certainly reflects more dishonour on himself than on

his brave son. Most sarcasms bear as hard upon the speaker, as

they do on him against whom they are spoken. Abusive language

always argues a mean, weak, and malevolent heart.

Verse 34. Jonathan arose-in fierce anger] We should probably

understand this rather of Jonathan's grief than of his anger, the

latter clause explaining the former: for he was grieved for David.

He was grieved for his father-he was grieved for his friend.

Verse 38. Make speed, haste, stay not.] Though these words

appear to be addressed to the lad, yet they were spoken to David,

indicating that his life was at stake, and only a prompt flight

could save him.

Verse 40. Jonathan gave his artillery] I believe this to be the

only place in our language where the word artillery is not applied

to cannon or ordnance. The original ( keley) signifies

simply instruments, and here means the bow, quiver, and arrows.

Verse 41. Until David exceeded.] David's distress must, in the

nature of things, be the greatest. Besides his friend Jonathan,

whom he was now about to lose for ever, he lost his wife,

relatives, country; and, what was most afflictive, the altars of

his God, and the ordinances of religion.

Saul saw David's growing popularity, and was convinced of his

own maladministration. He did not humble himself before God, and

therefore became a prey to envy, pride, jealousy, cruelty, and

every other malevolent temper. From him David had every thing to

fear, and therefore he thought it was safer to yield to the storm,

than attempt to brave it; though he could have even raised a very

powerful party in Israel, had he used the means which were so much

in his power. But as he neither sought not affected the kingdom,

he left it to the providence of God to bring him in by such means,

at such a way, and in such a time, as was most suited to his godly

wisdom. He that believeth shall not make haste: God's way and time

are ever the best; and he who, even in God's way, runs before he

is sent, runs at random; runs without light, and without Divine

strength. Feeble, therefore, must be his own might, his own

counsel, and his own wisdom: though he encompass himself with his

own sparks yet this hath he at the Lord's hand-he shalt lie down

in sorrow.

Copyright information for Clarke