Matthew Poole's Commentary
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?David complaineth to Jonathan of Saul: he comforteth him; can hardly believe what David saith of his father; promiseth to give him notice how his absence was taken: they renew a covenant of friendship, and swear to each other, 1 Samuel 20:1-17. Their sign, 1 Samuel 20:18-23. Saul asketh for David at the feast of the new moon, 1 Samuel 20:24-27. Jonathan execuseth David: Saul incensed hereat, revileth Jonathan, and seeketh to kill him, 1 Samuel 20:28-34. Jonathan advertiseth David, 1 Samuel 20:35-40. They part with tears, 1 Samuel 20:41,42.
David fled, whilst Saul lay in an ecstasy,
from Naioth in Ramah to Gibeah, where Jonathan was, taking the opportunity of Saul’s absence.
What is my sin before thy father? what is it which thus incenseth thy father against me? what crime doth he charge me with?
That he seeketh my life, to wit, to destroy it, as this phrase is oft used, as 1 Samuel 22:23 Psalm 38:12 54:3 63:9.
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.Thou shalt not die; I will secure thee by my interest with my father; nor doth he design to destroy thee; for what he doth in his frantic fits is not to be imputed to him; and when he comes to himself, I doubt not to reconcile thee to him. For Jonathan gave credit to his father’s oath, 1 Samuel 19:6; and the worthiest minds are least suspicious and most charitable in their opinions of others.
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.The matter being of great moment, and Jonathan doubting the truth of it, David confirms his word with an oath, which follows in the end of the verse; only he interposeth a reason why Saul concealed it from Jonathan.
Then said Jonathan unto David, Whatsoever thy soul desireth, I will even do it for thee.To wit, for the discovery of the truth, and for the preservation of thy life.
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.The new moon was a solemn and festival time, as among the Romans and other heathens, so also with the Hebrews, who solemnized it with offering peace-offerings to God, and feasting together upon the remainders of it, after the manner. See Numbers 10:10 28:11 Psalm 81:3.
I should not fail to sit with the king at meat; then he useth to expect my company above other times.
Unto the third day, i.e. unto the next day but one after the new moon; as appears by comparing 1 Samuel 20:19,27,35. His meaning is not that he should hide himself in any certain place all the three days, but that he should secure himself, either at Bethlehem with his friends, or in any other place, till the third day.
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.Quest.
How could David imagine that Saul would expect his company, whom he had once and again endeavoured to kill?
Answ. First, He might suppose that David would ascribe all that to his madness and frantic fits, which being over, he would promise himself safety in the king’s presence. Secondly, David might not think that Saul would indeed expect him to feast with him, considering his late and great danger from Saul; but that Saul would make use of this pretence, and require his presence, that he might lay hold upon him; and therefore he desired to try the experiment.
Asked leave of me, who being the king’s son and deputy, used to give licence to military men to depart for a season upon just occasions.
His city, i.e. the place of his birth and education, John 7:42.
A yearly sacrifice; a sacrifice which was offered up in some high place there yearly, upon some special occasion not mentioned in Scripture, which was accompanied with a feast; or, a yearly feast, as the Hebrew word is sometimes used.
For all the family; wherein all the members of our family used to meet together, when they will earnestly expect me above others, and will charge me with pride and unnaturalness, if I neglect their invitation.
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.Then be sure, Heb. know thou; for indeed David knew well enough that Saul designed to kill him.; but he useth this course for Jonathan’s information and satisfaction, and for his own greater vindication, if he did wholly withdraw himself from Saul, and from his wife; which he foresaw he should be forced to do.
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?Thou shalt deal kindly with thy servant, in giving me timely notice, and a true account of Saul’s disposition and intention towards me.
A covenant of the Lord, i.e. a solemn covenant, not lightly undertaken, but seriously entered into, in the name and fear of God, and in his presence, calling him to be the witness of our sincerity therein, and the avenger of perfidiousness in him that breaks it.
Slay me thyself; I am contented thou shouldst kill me.
Why shouldest thou bring me to thy father? why shouldst thou betray me to thy father, by concealing his evil intentions from me?
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?Far be it from thee; I abhor the thoughts of either killing thee myself, or giving thee up to my father to slay thee.
Then said David to Jonathan, Who shall tell me? or what if thy father answer thee roughly?By what means or messenger shall I understand this? for peradventure thou wilt not be able to come to me thyself.
And Jonathan said unto David, Come, and let us go out into the field. And they went out both of them into the field.Lest they should be overheard.
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;O Lord God of Israel, do thou hear and judge between us. It is an abrupt speech, which is usual in great passions.
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.The Lord give thee that honour and success in all thy affairs which he hath given to my father. Jonathan undoubtedly knew of Samuel’s final and irrevocable sentence of Saul’s rejection from the kingdom, and of the substitution of some other person after God’s own heart in his stead; and that David was this person he might strongly suspect, (that which even Saul suspected,) both from his eminent piety, and wisdom, and valour, and universal worth, and from the great things which God had done, both by him and for him, in preserving and advancing him by such unusual methods; and it is most likely that Jonathan did ask David about it, and that David did faithfully inform him of the whole truth, as may be gathered both from the words here following, and from 1 Samuel 23:17. And that the knowledge hereof did not raise jealousy, and envy, and rage in him, who was the next heir of the crown, as it did in his father, must be ascribed to Jonathan’s piety towards God, to whose disposal he cheerfully submitted himself, and to his sincere friendship to David, in whose happiness he rejoiced as in his own.
And thou shalt not only while yet I live shew me the kindness of the LORD, that I die not:Or,
And wilt thou not, if I shall then be alive, ( to wit, when the Lord shall be with thee, as he hath been with my father, as he now said, i.e. when God shall have advanced thee to the kingdom, as he did him,) yea, wilt thou not (the same particle twice repeated for asseveration, i.e. I am well assured that thou wilt)
show me the kindness of the Lord; i.e. either such kindness as the Lord hath showed to thee in preserving thy life in the midst of so many and such great dangers; or that kindness to which thou hast engaged thyself; in the covenant sworn between thee and me in God’s presence.
That I die not; that thou do not kill me or mine, as princes of another line use to kill the nearest relations of the former line, from whom the kingdom was translated to them; which they do either by way of revenge, or in policy, and reason of state, to secure the kingdom to themselves.
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.Thy kindness; he saith not, the kindness of the Lord, as before, because the covenant between them seem to have been only personal, and not comprehending their posterity. And therefore as Jonathan speaks confidently of his own preservation by virtue of that covenant; so he here lays this additional obligation upon David, that he would extend his kindness to all his progeny.
When the Lord hath cut off the enemies of David; which he will certainly do without exception of Saul my father, and those of his children who have joined, or shall join, with him in his hostilities and cruelties against David. And by this word
enemies he implies the reasonableness of his request, because Jonathan was none of that number, and therefore not to be treated as such.
So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, Let the LORD even require it at the hand of David's enemies.The covenant which before was personal, he now extends to the whole house of David, expecting a reciprocal enlargement of it on David’s side, which doubtless he obtained.
Let the Lord even require it at the hand of David’s enemies; if either I or any of my house shall break this covenant, and shall prove enemies to David, or to his house, let the Lord, the witness of this covenant, severely punish the violators of it, whoever they are. Others thus, Let the Lord require and punish the breach of this covenant in David, if he break it. But because it was ominous and reproachful to suppose such a thing of David, by a figure called euphemismus, he names David’s enemies for David; as they also expound 1 Samuel 25:22. But the former sense seems more probable, because this verse contains only Jonathan’s stipulation or covenant with David and his house, which being expressed in the former part of it, is in this latter part confirmed by the usual form of imprecation; and the restipulation or covenant of David to Jonathan and his house is mentioned in the next verse. Yet may that other sense stand well enough; taking these words for Jonathan’s adjuration of David to be kind to him, confirmed with an imprecation in case he do otherwise; as if he should say, I adjure thee, as thou hopest to escape such a mischief, (which I had rather might befall thine enemies than thee,) that thou deal not so ungratefully with me or my house: which adjuration of Jonathan David seconds by an oath in the next verse, at the request of Jonathan.
And Jonathan caused David to swear again, because he loved him: for he loved him as he loved his own soul.Heb. And Jonathan added or proceeded to make David swear, i.e. having himself sworn to David, or adjured David, in the foregoing verse, he here requires David’s oath to him, by way of restipulation or confirmation.
Because he loved him; because he had a true friendship for David, he desired that the covenant might be inviolably observed through all their generations.
Then Jonathan said to David, To morrow is the new moon: and thou shalt be missed, because thy seat will be empty.Thy seat, i.e. the place where David used to sit at meals with Saul. See 1 Samuel 20:25.
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.When thou hast stayed three days; either at Bethlehem with thy friends, 1 Samuel 20:6, or elsewhere, as thou shalt see fit.
When the business was in hand, Heb. in the day of business; or, of the business. And these words are to be joined, either,
1. With the words next foregoing; and so they note the time when David hid himself there; which was, when this same business which now they were treating about was in agitation formerly, to wit, to discover Saul’s mind and purpose towards him, 1 Samuel 19:2,3. Or,
2. With the more remote words; and so they note the time when David should come to the place appointed, and formerly used to hide himself in, upon a like occasion, to wit, in the day when the business here spoken of was to be done, i.e. when the discovery of Saul’s mind was to be made.
By the stone Ezel, or, by the stone of going, or travelling, i.e. by that stone which directs travellers in the way, to wit, in some cave, or convenient place, which was near that stone.
And I will shoot three arrows on the side thereof, as though I shot at a mark.He chose this way to avoid Saul’s suspicion, because bows and arrows were the principal arms of those times; and Jonathan, as well as others, did oft go forth to exercise himself with them, both for recreation, and improvement of his skill in that art. Besides, he knew not that he should have any opportunity of private converse with David, by reason of passengers, though the event proved better than he expected.
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.I will send him out before I shoot, to find out and take up the arrows which I shall shoot. And I shall shoot them either short of him, or beyond him, as I shall see occasion.
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.Take this for an intimation of God’s providence, that thou shouldst keep away from the court.
And as touching the matter which thou and I have spoken of, behold, the LORD be between thee and me for ever.No text from Poole on this verse.
So David hid himself in the field: and when the new moon was come, the king sat him down to eat meat.David hid himself, to wit, at the time appointed; for it seems probable that he went first to Bethlehem, as he bade Jonathan tell his father, 1 Samuel 20:6, and thence returned to the field, when the occasion required; else we must charge him with a downright lie, which ought not to be imagined (without any apparent cause) concerning so good a man, especially in so distressed and dangerous a condition. And why should he hide himself there so long before the time when Jonathan was to come thither to inform him? Nor were there any need of appointing a certain time to meet, if David were there all the while.
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.Jonathan arose, to wit, from his seat where he was sat next to the king, whence he arose, and stood up at Abner’s coming, to do honour to him, who was his father’s cousin, and the general of the army. David’s place seems to have been next to Abner, on the same side with him.
Nevertheless Saul spake not any thing that day: for he thought, Something hath befallen him, he is not clean; surely he is not clean.Something hath befallen; some accident which hath rendered him unclean, and so unfit to partake of this feast, which consisted in part of the remainders of these peace-offerings, according to the law, Leviticus 7:20; unfit also to come into any company, much more into the king’s company, lest he should pollute them also. See Poole "1 Samuel 20:5". See also Le 11 Le 15.
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?Which was the second day of the month, or, on the morrow of the new moon, being the second day; either,
1. Of the three days appointed, 1 Samuel 20:5,19. Or,
2. Of the feast. Or,
3. Of the month. Saul said unto Jonathan, who was David’s friend, and best knew his mind and his ways. He calls him the son of Jesse, in scorn and contempt, to note the meanness of his original; and as not deigning to call him by his proper name: see below, 1 Samuel 22:9 25:10.
Neither yesterday, nor to-day; for the uncleanness which came by some chance usually lasted but for one day. See Le 11.
And Jonathan answered Saul, David earnestly asked leave of me to go to Bethlehem:No text from Poole on this verse.
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.He hath commanded me to be there; either in his father’s name, or in the right of the first-born; one branch of which was authority over his brethren in all the concerns of the family; whereof this was one.
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?Thou son of the perverse rebellious woman; this base temper of thine thou hast not from me, but from thy mother; of whose perverseness I have had so much experience. Or,
thou son of perverse rebellion, i.e. thou perverse and rebellious son. Or, thou most perverse rebel; for in the Hebrew language, the word
son thus used, is an aggravation of a man’s crime, and notes one who is extraordinarily addicted to it. Thus he calls him, because he hid and preserved that man whom the king had commanded to be brought forth, that he might be slain.
To thine own confusion; for it will be a horrible shame and reproach unto thee, that David by his crafty insinuations, and fair pretences, should cheat thee of thy kingdom. To the confusion of thy mother’s nakedness; men will conclude, that thy mother was a whore, and thou a bastard; and that thou hast no royal blood in thy veins, that canst so tamely give up thy crown to so contemptible a person.
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.Thus he grossly mistakes the cause of Jonathan’s loss of the kingdom, which was not David’s art, but Saul’s sin; and vainly endeavours to prevent God’s irrevocable sentence.
And Jonathan answered Saul his father, and said unto him, Wherefore shall he be slain? what hath he done?No text from Poole on this verse.
And Saul cast a javelin at him to smite him: whereby Jonathan knew that it was determined of his father to slay David.To smite him, i. e. to wound him, though not to smite him even to the wall, as he designed to do to David, 1 Samuel 19:10.
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.Or, and because; for this is a second cause of his grief. The conjunction and is ofttimes omitted, and to be supplied; as Psalm 33:2 144:9 Habakkuk 3:11.
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.In the morning, to wit, of the third day, appointed, for this work, 1 Samuel 20:5.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
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?To the place, i.e. near to the place. Or, and the lad went, or was going on to the place; for the words following show the he was not yet come thither. The Hebrew verb bo, which properly signifies to come, sometimes signifies to go; as here, and Ruth 3:7 Jonah 1:3.
And Jonathan cried after the lad, Make speed, haste, stay not. And Jonathan's lad gathered up the arrows, and came to his master.Haste, stay not; so he bids him, because finding the coast clear, he made haste to take the opportunity-to speak with his dearly beloved David.
But the lad knew not any thing: only Jonathan and David knew the matter.No text from Poole on this verse.
And Jonathan gave his artillery unto his lad, and said unto him, Go, carry them to the city.His artillery; his bow, and arrows, and quiver.
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.Toward the south; in respect of the stone where David by appointment hid himself.
Until David exceeded; as well he might, because he was driven away, not only from his dear friend Jonathan, but also from his wife, and all his relations, and from the commonwealth of israel, and from the service of God; as he complains below, 1 Samuel 26:19.
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.We have sworn both of us; therefore doubt not but I will ever love thee, and faithfully serve thee; and the like I assure myself from thee; and this must be our comfort in our state of separation.