King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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1 Samuel 20

David consults Jonathan. (1-10) Jonathan’s covenant with David. (11-23) Saul, missing David, seeks to kill Jonathan. (24-34) Jonathan takes leave of David. (35-42)

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David consults Jonathan

1 And David fled from Naioth in Ramah, and came and said before Jonathan, What have I done? what is mine iniquity? and what is my sin before thy father, that he seeketh my life?

2 And he said unto him, God forbid; thou shalt not die: behold, my father will do nothing either great or small, but that he will shew it me: and why should my father hide this thing from me? it is not so.

3 And David sware moreover, and said, Thy father certainly knoweth that I have found grace in thine eyes; and he saith, Let not Jonathan know this, lest he be grieved: but truly as the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, there is but a step between me and death.

4 Then said Jonathan unto David, Whatsoever thy soul desireth, I will even do it for thee.

5 And David said unto Jonathan, Behold, to morrow is the new moon, and I should not fail to sit with the king at meat: but let me go, that I may hide myself in the field unto the third day at even.

6 If thy father at all miss me, then say, David earnestly asked leave of me that he might run to Bethlehem his city: for there is a yearly sacrifice there for all the family.

7 If he say thus, It is well; thy servant shall have peace: but if he be very wroth, then be sure that evil is determined by him.

8 Therefore thou shalt deal kindly with thy servant; for thou hast brought thy servant into a covenant of the LORD with thee: notwithstanding, if there be in me iniquity, slay me thyself; for why shouldest thou bring me to thy father?

9 And Jonathan said, Far be it from thee: for if I knew certainly that evil were determined by my father to come upon thee, then would not I tell it thee?

10 Then said David to Jonathan, Who shall tell me? or what if thy father answer thee roughly?

Jonathan’s covenant with David

11 And Jonathan said unto David, Come, and let us go out into the field. And they went out both of them into the field.

12 And Jonathan said unto David, O LORD God of Israel, when I have sounded my father about to morrow any time, or the third day, and, behold, if there be good toward David, and I then send not unto thee, and shew it thee;

13 The LORD do so and much more to Jonathan: but if it please my father to do thee evil, then I will shew it thee, and send thee away, that thou mayest go in peace: and the LORD be with thee, as he hath been with my father.

14 And thou shalt not only while yet I live shew me the kindness of the LORD, that I die not:

15 But also thou shalt not cut off thy kindness from my house for ever: no, not when the LORD hath cut off the enemies of David every one from the face of the earth.

16 So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, Let the LORD even require it at the hand of David’s enemies.

17 And Jonathan caused David to swear again, because he loved him: for he loved him as he loved his own soul.

18 Then Jonathan said to David, To morrow is the new moon: and thou shalt be missed, because thy seat will be empty.

19 And when thou hast stayed three days, then thou shalt go down quickly, and come to the place where thou didst hide thyself when the business was in hand, and shalt remain by the stone Ezel.

20 And I will shoot three arrows on the side thereof, as though I shot at a mark.

21 And, behold, I will send a lad, saying, Go, find out the arrows. If I expressly say unto the lad, Behold, the arrows are on this side of thee, take them; then come thou: for there is peace to thee, and no hurt; as the LORD liveth.

22 But if I say thus unto the young man, Behold, the arrows are beyond thee; go thy way: for the LORD hath sent thee away.

23 And as touching the matter which thou and I have spoken of, behold, the LORD be between thee and me for ever.

Saul, missing David, seeks to kill Jonathan

24 So David hid himself in the field: and when the new moon was come, the king sat him down to eat meat.

25 And the king sat upon his seat, as at other times, even upon a seat by the wall: and Jonathan arose, and Abner sat by Saul’s side, and David’s place was empty.

26 Nevertheless Saul spake not any thing that day: for he thought, Something hath befallen him, he is not clean; surely he is not clean.

27 And it came to pass on the morrow, which was the second day of the month, that David’s place was empty: and Saul said unto Jonathan his son, Wherefore cometh not the son of Jesse to meat, neither yesterday, nor to day?

28 And Jonathan answered Saul, David earnestly asked leave of me to go to Bethlehem:

29 And he said, Let me go, I pray thee; for our family hath a sacrifice in the city; and my brother, he hath commanded me to be there: and now, if I have found favour in thine eyes, let me get away, I pray thee, and see my brethren. Therefore he cometh not unto the king’s table.

30 Then Saul’s anger was kindled against Jonathan, and he said unto him, Thou son of the perverse rebellious woman, do not I know that thou hast chosen the son of Jesse to thine own confusion, and unto the confusion of thy mother’s nakedness?

31 For as long as the son of Jesse liveth upon the ground, thou shalt not be established, nor thy kingdom. Wherefore now send and fetch him unto me, for he shall surely die.

32 And Jonathan answered Saul his father, and said unto him, Wherefore shall he be slain? what hath he done?

33 And Saul cast a javelin at him to smite him: whereby Jonathan knew that it was determined of his father to slay David.

34 So Jonathan arose from the table in fierce anger, and did eat no meat the second day of the month: for he was grieved for David, because his father had done him shame.

Jonathan takes leave of David

35 And it came to pass in the morning, that Jonathan went out into the field at the time appointed with David, and a little lad with him.

36 And he said unto his lad, Run, find out now the arrows which I shoot. And as the lad ran, he shot an arrow beyond him.

37 And when the lad was come to the place of the arrow which Jonathan had shot, Jonathan cried after the lad, and said, Is not the arrow beyond thee?

38 And Jonathan cried after the lad, Make speed, haste, stay not. And Jonathan’s lad gathered up the arrows, and came to his master.

39 But the lad knew not any thing: only Jonathan and David knew the matter.

40 And Jonathan gave his artillery unto his lad, and said unto him, Go, carry them to the city.

41 And as soon as the lad was gone, David arose out of a place toward the south, and fell on his face to the ground, and bowed himself three times: and they kissed one another, and wept one with another, until David exceeded.

42 And Jonathan said to David, Go in peace, forasmuch as we have sworn both of us in the name of the LORD, saying, The LORD be between me and thee, and between my seed and thy seed for ever. And he arose and departed: and Jonathan went into the city.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. To Jonathan, at Gabaa. He thought it no longer safe to remain at Najoth.

Ver. 2. Be. The recent machinations and orders of Saul had been concealed from his son, with whom he used to consult on all important matters. C. — Perceiving, however, that Jonathan was unwilling to come into his measures, Saul, in his phrenzy, tried to destroy David. H. — But Jonathan, forming his judgment of others by his own upright heart, relied on the oath of his father, (C.) and on the information he had lately communicated to him, when he desired David to be slain. M. — Abulensis believes that the particulars of a preceding reconciliation have been lost, which Salien supplies, A. 2973.

Ver. 3. As I may say, is not in Heb. Sept. “the space between me and thy father is filled up, unto death.” We can never more have any union, nor dwell together in safety. H.

Ver. 4. Soul, is often put for desire. Ps. xxvi. 12. C.

Ver. 5. To-morrow is the new moon. The neomenia, or first day of the moon, kept according to the law, as a festival; and therefore Saul feasted on that day; and expected the attendance of his family. Ch. Num. x. 10. — Moon. Lit. “calends,” a Greek word, intimating that the people were informed, or “called” together, on that occasion; as many nations follow the lunar system in the regulation of the year. H. — The Rabbins say that people were stationed on the highest hills to observe the first appearance of the moon, and to give notice of it. But for fear of a mistake, two days were observed, as here we see that Saul gave a feast for such a length of time. This, however, is very uncertain. David speaks without any reference to the watchmen, as of a thing well known to all. The reason of Saul’s feasting two days, was because one of them was the sabbath. The following work-day David came to Nobe, (v. 19,) and partook of the loaves which had been changed on the sabbath day. C. xxi. 6. Lev. xxiv. 8. — Sit. The custom of sitting at table seems to have been more ancient than that of lying. The Persians chiefly introduced the latter. They had very low tables, so that one of them placed under the feet of Alexander, when he sat upon the throne of Darius, which was too high for him. Curt. v. Both customs frequently prevailed at the same time. Eccli. ix. 12. and xxxi. 12. Women probably always sat, as the Chaldee says Esther did. Est. vii. 8. See Athen. i. 14. V. Max. ii. 1. — Day. The second of the month, after the sabbath was ended. C. — Pezron thinks that both the last and first days of the month were festivals. D.

Ver. 6. Tribe. It might seem an effect of pride, not to accept of such invitations of the king, without some good excuse. Ovid speaks of feasts instituted for relations alone. Fast. ii.

Proxima cognati dixere Charistia cari

Et venit ad socios turba propinqua Deos. M.

— Saul might pretend that his throwing his spear at David, was an effect of his distemper; and as the latter had returned to his palace after the first attempt, he might judge that he would do the like now, though he had so lately sought his life. David probably retired to Bethlehem, and returned the third day, when he bid adieu to Jonathan and to the court of Saul for ever, (v. 21. C.) though he saw Jonathan once more at Ziph. C. xxiii. 16.

Ver. 7. Height. Heb. “the evil is completed (or resolved upon) by him.” H.

Ver. 8. Lord, the most durable and sacred, confirmed by the name of God. C. — Kill. So Moses besought God to take away his life. A friend would put him to as little torture as possible. M. — But David only means strongly to assert his own innocence. H.

Ver. 9. Thee. Heb. “then, should I not tell thee?” C. — Sept. “and if it reach not thy cities, I will inform thee.”

Ver. 12. After. Sept. “The Lord…has known that I will sift my father, as opportunity shall serve, thrice,” or repeatedly. H.

Ver. 13. Father, at the beginning of his reign. Jonathan foresees that David will be his father’s successor. C. — Hence he commends himself and family to his protection. M.

Ver. 14. Die. Heb. lit. “If I live, thou shalt not shew me, &c…and if I die, (15) thou shalt not,” &c. It seems there is a negation too much. Jonathan requests that David would shew mercy to him and to his family; or he is willing that neither should partake of his kindness, if he prove a traitor to his friend. C. — Prot. “And thou shalt not only, while yet I live, shew me the kindness of the Lord, that I die not: (15) But also thou shalt not cut off they kindness from my house for ever, no not when the Lord hath cut off,” &c. H.

Ver. 15. May he. It is a curse upon himself, if he should not be faithful to his promise. — It. That is, revenge it upon David’s enemies, and upon me, if I shall fail of my word given to him. Ch. — The Heb. and several Latin MSS. stop at earth; and what follows, is not found in some Greek and Latin editions. C. — Enemies. May God punish David’s enemies, and me among the rest. M.

Ver. 16. Enemies. This seems to be a second translation of the former sentence, with a small variation. — Required may be expressed in the future, as an imprecation made by the two friends against those who should attempt to break the covenant, or to oppose David’s reign. Sept. omit this verse entirely, and translate the following, (17) “and Jonathan continued to swear to David, inasmuch as he loved him, because he loved the soul of the man who loved him.” He had such an affection for David, that he extended his love to all his friends. Prot. “so Jonathan made a covenant with…David, saying: Let the Lord even require it at,” &c. H. — He did so in due time, and the covenant between these two had its effect. C.

Ver. 19. Morrow. Heb. “and after three days (H. or, on the third day) thou shalt,” &c. Syr. and Arab. “Thou wilt be called for at table, at the third hour.” C. — Sept. use the same word, trisseuseis, as in the following verse: “I will shoot thrice at wild beasts, with arrows, sending as far as Laarmattarai,” so here they may insinuate that David must “wait three days,” (H.) or come on each of these days, that he may not slip an opportunity. Cajet. — Work. Le Clerc translates, “in the day of the business.” Prot. “where thou didst hide thyself when the business was in hand, and shalt remain by the stone Ezel.” Sept. Alex. “by this affair.” Vat. “Ergab,” a word which Grabe admits instead of ergon, in his edition. H. — Other copies, with the Syr. and Arab. have simply, “near this stone,” which Junius styles speculam, as if it were a butt or landmark, (C.) or a stone to shew the road, (Lyran) or mile-stone, (T.) which latter supposition is not probable, as David desired to be concealed. M. — He would therefore choose some cavern, so as to be able to hear what Jonathan said, without being seen. H. — This precaution was necessary for the safety of both. M.

Ver. 23. Ever. Let us always inviolably adhere to our covenant. H.

Ver. 24. Field, on the third day, having gone in the mean time to Bethlehem, v. 6.

Ver. 25. Arose, out of respect. Sept. “he had the precedence over Jonathan” alone, as the latter sat “on the king’s right hand, and Abner on the left.” Arab. C. — David’s place was after Abner. M.

Ver. 26. Purified, having perhaps touched some dead body, &c. Lev. xi. 24.

Ver. 27. To-day, which was the sabbath. C. — On the new moons people did not travel far. M.

Ver. 29. Sacrifice. Heb. “my family hath a sacrifice,” &c. v. 5. H.

Ver. 30. A man. Heb. “of an unjust revolt.” Thou hast taken part against thy father. C. — Prot. “son of the perverse rebellious woman.“ Sept. “of the fugitive, (H.) or of those girls who go in quest of men.” We must not suppose that Jonathan’s mother was really of this description. Saul, in rage, wishes to affront his son, (C.) as some frantic parents call their children bastards, not reflecting that the reproach would fall upon themselves. — Isai, as he styles him out of contempt, v. 27. — Mother. Heb. &c. “of thy mother’s nakedness or shame.” M. — Instead of a crown, thou must expect ot be reduced to a private station, to the disgrace of my family. H.

Ver. 31. The son of death. That is, one that deserveth death, and shall surely be put to death. Ch. — So people are often styled sons of perdition, of hell, of light, &c. (C.) when they are worthy of such things. H. — All the crime of David, was his too exalted merit, which, under a jealous prince, is often fatal. Nec minus periculum ex magna fama, quam ex mala. Tacit. Agricola.

Ver. 34. Great. Lit. “in the anger of fury.” H. — Him, either David or Jonathan. C. — Indeed the crime of rebellion had been imputed to both. H. — Jonathan was grieved on account of the affront and danger (M.) to which he had been publicly exposed, as well as for his friend, upon whose destruction he perceived that his father was now deliberately bent, and not merely during his fits of madness. — Confusion. Sept. “because his father had completed his malice against him;” (H.) or, “had resolved to make an end of him.” C.

Ver. 36. Another. The Heb. &c. do not express this distinctly; (C.) but we find, v. 38, “the lad gathered up the arrows.”

Ver. 40. Arms. Prot. “artillery:” but the bow and arrow, &c. are meant. The boy was sent away under this pretext.

Ver. 41. Place. Prot. “out of a place towards,” &c. H. — Chal. “from the side of the rock Asha;” (or Ezel, v. 19,) though the name is written rather differently in Hebrew. But this was the place appointed. C. — Sept. “from sleep,…and adored him,…and each bewailed his neighbour, to great perfection.” H. — More. Jonathan strove to comfort him, as he was leaving wife, friends, and all. M.

Ver. 42. Stand. This is not expressed in the text, which is left imperfect, (H.) to denote the anguish of the parting friends, (M.) very beautifully. Salien. — David did not exactly comply with this covenant, and his grandson lost half the kingdom. 2 K. xix. T.