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1 Samuel 18:1-4 – David and Jonathan

Summary

David's friendship with Jonathan results in Jonathan symbolically granting David the right of succession.

Analysis

Much of David's success can be attributed to his charismatic charm. People simply liked him. While Saul was handsome, tall, and a prodigious warrior, yet essentially not liked by those around him, David seems to have won over all with whom he came in contact. This is especially true of Saul's son, Jonathan, the heir apparent to the throne, who pledges his undying love to David.

Recently, this classic tale of friendship has been interpreted as a same-sex relationship between David and Jonathan. The primary evidence for such readings interprets Jonathan's "love" (Hebrew root: ahev) for David as homosexual (see 1 Samuel 20:17; 2 Samuel 1:26). But other alleged homoerotic passages (such as Genesis 19:5 or Judges 19:22) employ the verb yada ("to know") not ahev. Ahev does suggest strong affection in the Bible; it does not seem to unambiguously imply affection for a member of one's own gender. For example, Saul is said to "love" (ahev) David, as well (1 Samuel 16:21).

Closer to the mark are those interpretations that see political overtones to the charged word "love." Thus, Jonathan's love for David points to his loyalty and devotion. This covenantal aspect of the relationship is further indicated by the appearance of "covenant" (berit) in verse 3. David's covenantal relationship with King Hiram of Tyre will also be described as "love" (same Hebrew root) in 1 Kings 5:1.

The greater importance of this passage lies in the heir apparent renouncing his right to the throne by placing his royal robes upon David (v. 4); an auspicious act that Jonathan will reaffirm in their last meeting (23:16-18). David's earlier refusal to wear Saul's armor means he will not usurp the throne (17:38-39).

1 Samuel 18:1-4

Jonathan’s Covenant with David

18When 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. 2Saul took him that day and would not let him return to his father’s house. 3Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. 4Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that he was wearing, and gave it to David, and his armour, and even his sword and his bow and his belt.

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