Saul now urged his servants and his son Jonathan to assassinate David. But Jonathan, because of his strong affection for David, told him what his father was planning. “Tomorrow morning,” he warned him, “you must find a hiding place out in the fields. I’ll ask my father to go out there with me, and I’ll talk to him about you. Then I’ll tell you everything I can find out.” The next morning Jonathan spoke with his father about David, saying many good things about him. “The king must not sin against his servant David,” Jonathan said. “He’s never done anything to harm you. He has always helped you in any way he could. Have you forgotten about the time he risked his life to kill the Philistine giant and how the Lord brought a great victory to all Israel as a result? You were certainly happy about it then. Why should you murder an innocent man like David? There is no reason for it at all!” So Saul listened to Jonathan and vowed, “As surely as the Lord lives, David will not be killed.” Afterward Jonathan called David and told him what had happened. Then he brought David to Saul, and David served in the court as before. Then Saul sent troops to watch David’s house. They were told to kill David when he came out the next morning. But Michal, David’s wife, warned him, “If you don’t escape tonight, you will be dead by morning.” So she helped him climb out through a window, and he fled and escaped. Then she took an idol and put it in his bed, covered it with blankets, and put a cushion of goat’s hair at its head. When the troops came to arrest David, she told them he was sick and couldn’t get out of bed. But Saul sent the troops back to get David. He ordered, “Bring him to me in his bed so I can kill him!” But when they came to carry David out, they discovered that it was only an idol in the bed with a cushion of goat’s hair at its head. “Why have you betrayed me like this and let my enemy escape?” Saul demanded of Michal. “I had to,” Michal replied. “He threatened to kill me if I didn’t help him.” David now fled from Naioth in Ramah and found Jonathan. “What have I done?” he exclaimed. “What is my crime? How have I offended your father that he is so determined to kill me?” “That’s not true!” Jonathan protested. “You’re not going to die. He always tells me everything he’s going to do, even the little things. I know my father wouldn’t hide something like this from me. It just isn’t so!” Then David took an oath before Jonathan and said, “Your father knows perfectly well about our friendship, so he has said to himself, ‘I won’t tell Jonathan—why should I hurt him?’ But I swear to you that I am only a step away from death! I swear it by the Lord and by your own soul!” “Tell me what I can do to help you,” Jonathan exclaimed. David replied, “Tomorrow we celebrate the new moon festival. I’ve always eaten with the king on this occasion, but tomorrow I’ll hide in the field and stay there until the evening of the third day. If your father asks where I am, tell him I asked permission to go home to Bethlehem for an annual family sacrifice. If he says, ‘Fine!’ you will know all is well. But if he is angry and loses his temper, you will know he is determined to kill me. Show me this loyalty as my sworn friend—for we made a solemn pact before the Lord —or kill me yourself if I have sinned against your father. But please don’t betray me to him!” “Never!” Jonathan exclaimed. “You know that if I had the slightest notion my father was planning to kill you, I would tell you at once.” Then David asked, “How will I know whether or not your father is angry?” “Come out to the field with me,” Jonathan replied. And they went out there together. Then Jonathan told David, “I promise by the Lord, the God of Israel, that by this time tomorrow, or the next day at the latest, I will talk to my father and let you know at once how he feels about you. If he speaks favorably about you, I will let you know. But if he is angry and wants you killed, may the Lord strike me and even kill me if I don’t warn you so you can escape and live. May the Lord be with you as he used to be with my father. And may you treat me with the faithful love of the Lord as long as I live. But if I die, treat my family with this faithful love, even when the Lord destroys all your enemies from the face of the earth.” So Jonathan made a solemn pact with David, saying, “May the Lord destroy all your enemies!” And Jonathan made David reaffirm his vow of friendship again, for Jonathan loved David as he loved himself. Then Jonathan said, “Tomorrow we celebrate the new moon festival. You will be missed when your place at the table is empty. The day after tomorrow, toward evening, go to the place where you hid before, and wait there by the stone pile. I will come out and shoot three arrows to the side of the stone pile as though I were shooting at a target. Then I will send a boy to bring the arrows back. If you hear me tell him, ‘They’re on this side,’ then you will know, as surely as the Lord lives, that all is well, and there is no trouble. But if I tell him, ‘Go farther—the arrows are still ahead of you,’ then it will mean that you must leave immediately, for the Lord is sending you away. And may the Lord make us keep our promises to each other, for he has witnessed them.” So David hid himself in the field, and when the new moon festival began, the king sat down to eat. He sat at his usual place against the wall, with Jonathan sitting opposite him and Abner beside him. But David’s place was empty. Saul didn’t say anything about it that day, for he said to himself, “Something must have made David ceremonially unclean.” But when David’s place was empty again the next day, Saul asked Jonathan, “Why hasn’t the son of Jesse been here for the meal either yesterday or today?” Jonathan replied, “David earnestly asked me if he could go to Bethlehem. He said, ‘Please let me go, for we are having a family sacrifice. My brother demanded that I be there. So please let me get away to see my brothers.’ That’s why he isn’t here at the king’s table.” Saul boiled with rage at Jonathan. “You stupid son of a whore!” he swore at him. “Do you think I don’t know that you want him to be king in your place, shaming yourself and your mother? As long as that son of Jesse is alive, you’ll never be king. Now go and get him so I can kill him!” “But why should he be put to death?” Jonathan asked his father. “What has he done?” Then Saul hurled his spear at Jonathan, intending to kill him. So at last Jonathan realized that his father was really determined to kill David. Jonathan left the table in fierce anger and refused to eat on that second day of the festival, for he was crushed by his father’s shameful behavior toward David. The next morning, as agreed, Jonathan went out into the field and took a young boy with him to gather his arrows. “Start running,” he told the boy, “so you can find the arrows as I shoot them.” So the boy ran, and Jonathan shot an arrow beyond him. When the boy had almost reached the arrow, Jonathan shouted, “The arrow is still ahead of you. Hurry, hurry, don’t wait.” So the boy quickly gathered up the arrows and ran back to his master. He, of course, suspected nothing; only Jonathan and David understood the signal. Then Jonathan gave his bow and arrows to the boy and told him to take them back to town. As soon as the boy was gone, David came out from where he had been hiding near the stone pile. Then David bowed three times to Jonathan with his face to the ground. Both of them were in tears as they embraced each other and said good-bye, especially David. At last Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, for we have sworn loyalty to each other in the Lord’s name. The Lord is the witness of a bond between us and our children forever.” Then David left, and Jonathan returned to the town.
1 Samuel 19:1-7,11-17,20:1-42
Dear God, I don’t know if these stories are as much about Saul’s parenting as they are about a deranged king, but Jonathan and Michal has to deal with him as a dad so I guess they are fair game for this little series.
I guess the thing I’ve always admired about Jonathan is that he wasn’t threatened by David. He was okay with not being king. Saul, on the other hand, was consumed with the thought of David replacing his family as king.
I’m sure that at some point after Samuel’s anointing and David’s arrival Saul had dreams of his lineage being the king of Israel forever. He probably looked at his boys and their boys and already had their succession order figured out. It’s part of our vanity. Part of our sinful nature seems to be to want to be known from a fake and power standpoint. If we live a quiet faithful life, we consider it a waste. We must leave our mark!!
I suppose Saul could have responded differently to Samuel’s speech about you taking the kingdom from him (1 Samuel 15:28). He could have submitted to it. He could have asked Samuel, okay, what do I do now? But there’s no way he could voluntarily let go of that power and it poisoned him from then on. Outside of Lyndon Johnson, no president of the United States has ever not run for a second term, and I’m sure some of them considered it.
Then there is how his children were forced to respond to him. They had to lie. They had to hide and scheme. How would their lives have been different, or even better, if they had been able to yield to David’s throne. If David had not been on the run from Saul and living in exile, would Jonathan have lived longer? Would Saul?
Father, as I parent my children, help me to do it in the moment. As I express love and support for them, help me to detach my ego from it. I don’t want anything to get in the way of what you need me to do for them. And I know I’ve failed at this in the past. I’ve felt sorry for myself more times than I can count. I’ve even had bouts of it this weekend. But that does them no good. It does me no good. And it brings you no glory. I am very sorry for the ways in which I am like Saul and look to my children to feed my ego.
In Jesus’s name I pray,