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- David loved Jonathan more than women
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David loved Jonathan more than women
But there is more to the story than this one meeting. The text goes on to tell us David became a mighty warrior, and his popularity with the people of Israel threatened Saul’s throne, so Saul planned to kill David. But Jonathan warned David, and he fled the palace before Saul could act. Eventually, Jonathan convinced his father to allow David back, but Saul soon planned again to kill David. This time he did not tell Jonathan (he’d learned his lesson the first time), but David was able to escape anyway.
The author of 1 Samuel tells of a man named Saul, who became king over Israel and fathered a son named Jonathan. David, who was a shepherd from the smallest of the tribes of Israel, came to the attention of Saul and Jonathan when he volunteered to fight a giant who was troubling their nation. The text tells us David was not afraid because he believed God was on the side of the Israelites. In a show of courage, David fought the giant with only a sling shot and a handful of pebbles. Miraculously, he was victorious. Saul was intrigued by this courageous young man, and so he called David to come talk to him, which brings us to Exhibit A. The text says:
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This was the last time they would ever see each other. David went into hiding, and Jonathan was eventually killed in battle, alongside his father. Perhaps they had some idea this was the end. They certainly knew their love was doomed. And Jonathan reminded David of their covenant with each other. He reminded him that even if they could not be together, they had made a pledge and the bond between them would last through all generations. All their children and grandchildren would be like one family, bound by their love for each other. Later, after taking the throne, David would remember this covenant and adopt Jonathan’s only son as his own — something completely unheard of in a time when kings were expected to kill anyone with any connection to a previous, rival king. (See note 2.)
Now, imagine if this story had been about Jonathan and a woman. Suppose the author had written that “Jonathan’s soul was bound to Mirriam, and Jonathan loved her as his own soul.” And suppose that upon meeting Mirriam for the first time, Jonathan immediately gave her all his most precious possessions. (The armor and weapons of a prince were important symbols of his power and status.) If 1 Samuel 18:1-4 were about Jonathan’s first encounter with a woman, theologians everywhere would be writing about this as one of the greatest love stories of all time. The story of Jonathan and his love would be the source of dozens of Hollywood films. But because the object of Jonathan’s affection is a man, our cultural prejudice kicks in and we insist (notwithstanding the biblical evidence) that this could not have been more than deep friendship.
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“David rose from beside the stone heap and prostrated himself with his face to the ground. He bowed three times and they kissed each other and wept with each other; David wept the more. Then Jonathan said to David, ‘Go in peace, since both of us have sworn in the name of the Lord, saying, “The Lord shall be between me and you, and between my descendants and your descendants, forever.” ’ He got up and left; and Jonathan went into the city.” (1 Samuel 20:41-42)
“When David had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was bound to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. Saul took him that day and would not let him return to his father’s house. Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that he was wearing, and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt.” (1 Samuel 18:1-4)