1 Samuel 20

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Read 1 Samuel 20

David and Jonathan

1 Then David fled from Naioth at Ramah and went to Jonathan and asked, “What have I done? What is my crime? How have I wronged your father, that he is trying to kill me?”

“Never!” Jonathan replied. “You are not going to die! Look, my father doesn’t do anything, great or small, without letting me know. Why would he hide this from me? It isn’t so!”

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.”

Jonathan said to David, “Whatever you want me to do, I’ll do for you.”

So David said, “Look, tomorrow is the New Moon feast, 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. 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.’ 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. 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?”

“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, “I swear by the Lord, the God of Israel, that 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 intends to harm you, may the Lord deal with Jonathan, be it ever so severely, if I do not let you know and send you away in peace. May the Lord be with you as he has been with my father. 14 But show me unfailing kindness like the Lord’s kindness 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.

18 Then Jonathan said to David, “Tomorrow is the New Moon feast. 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.”

24 So David hid in the field, and when the New Moon feast 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.”

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 someone to 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 feast he did not eat, because he was grieved at his father’s shameful treatment of David.

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 about all this; only Jonathan and David knew.) 40 Then Jonathan gave his weapons to the boy and said, “Go, carry them back to town.”

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.

Go Deeper

In this chapter we see one of the most gut-wrenching scenes in the life of David. Here he is, innocent of all wrongdoing, at least towards Saul at this point, and he is being persecuted due to Saul’s own jealousy. Why is this important or unique? Not only was David innocent of anything even remotely deserving of death, he was one of Saul’s best men, the future king, and literally a part of Saul’s family! David was the leader of Saul’s forces, husband of Saul’s daughter Michal, and best friend of Saul’s son Jonathan. We see in this chapter that David ate meals with them…he did life with them. This wasn’t just persecution by some faceless ruler, this was persecution within a family unit. 

This is the backdrop for one of the most interesting and powerful bonds in Scripture, the brotherly, covenantal friendship between David and Jonathan. This bond was so strong that Jonathan risked his life just to see if David would be safe to return to Saul’s court. When it was deemed too dangerous for David to return, Jonathan didn’t think directly of himself. Verse 34 says that Jonathan was grieved because of his father’s “shameful treatment of David.” Why is this significant? This shows a pretty powerful love between the brothers-in-law that, right after his own father threw a spear at him with intent to kill, Jonathan was more upset with how David was being treated. 

We see this small yet impactful encounter the next day between David and Jonathan. Here is the culmination of this friendship, this brotherhood. These two grown men were so grieved, but so close to one another, that they were able to stand and weep together. Once he composes himself, Jonathan harkens back to the covenant friendship the two shared, knowing that, if this is their last time meeting, that’s okay. Jonathan here, and throughout the chapter, refers to their descendants being together in the Lord as these brothers are, almost as if he is alluding to his willingness to die for David to receive his place as king (we saw Jonathan concede his right to the throne in 1 Samuel 18). 

In David and Jonathan, we see true biblical friendship. We see the idea of loving your neighbor as yourself playing out. This is a beautiful example of what it means to truly live out one of the core callings of all Christians, to imitate Christ by loving as He did, even to the point of death. 


  1. Think of a time when someone loved you with a sacrificial love. What did it look like? How did it make you feel? 
  2. Who is someone today you can love with this sacrificial love? What would that look like? Don’t make this too complicated, just start with one and start now. 
  3. How can we go and make this kind of love commonplace in our homes, schools, jobs, churches, etc.? 

Keep Digging

David and Jonathan’s friendship is an amazing example of the love of Christ shown between two believers. Jesus teaches this love through His actions and words, and it is especially evident in John 15. Read John 15:9-17 on your own this week, maybe later today, and to reflect on it in light of this covenantal friendship. What would it look like to implement these principles into your life today? Do it!

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2 thoughts on “1 Samuel 20”

  1. Ella Snodgrass

    I’ve shared many friendships in my lifetime but none so precious as those between faith filled believers. Through sickness, death of loved ones, marriages of children, etc. they have “multiplied joys and divided sorrows”. They have held me accountable, prayed over me and asked the hard questions, loving through thick & thin. Jesus is more precious to me because of these friendships. I’m ever so grateful for our Life Group where we get to experience covenant friendship. It truly is one of the greatest experiences of our lives.

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