David and Jonathan’s Covenant to each other

One example of friendship remains with me as vividly as the moment I first heard of it as a boy. In his first seasons with the Brooklyn Dodgers, Jackie Robinson, the first black man to play Major League baseball, faced venom nearly everywhere he traveled; fast balls at his head, … More


Here is the story of a friendship that transcends personal ambition, family differences and even the circumstances of war. After leaving Ramah, David returned to Jonathan, his closest friend and brother-in-law, for help and advice (vv. 1-4). Knowing of Saul’s hostility toward him, David sought to learn from Jonathan what the real problem was and if there might be a reconciliation. The test would be David’s absence from the New Moon feast (v.5) which was soon to be held. If Saul became upset about David’s absence, then David would know that there was no hope of patching things up. If the king was not angry then there was hope for reconciliation (vv.6-8). It was worked out that Jonathan would approach his father on the matter and communicate the results to David by signaling with arrows (vv. 9-13). The next morning Jonathan went to the field for target practice and signaled to David that Saul was angry.

The Feast of the New Moon was held at the beginning of each month. While this was primarily a time of enjoyment, it was also a way to dedicate the next month to God. In this agreement between Jonathan and David, it was promised that David would treat Jonathan’s children kindly in the future (vv. 14-17). As a result, David took great pains years later to fulfill this promise as he invited Mephibosheth into his palace to live (II Sam.9).

Jonathan will give David notice how his father feels towards him. He will notify David if he is missed the first day, or at least the second day, of the new moon, and is enquired after (v. 18). On the third day when David returns from Bethlehem, he will be at such a place (v. 19), and Jonathan will come towards that place with his bow and arrows to shoot for information (v. 20). He will send a lad to fetch his arrows, and, if they are shot short of the lad, David must take it for a signal of safety, and not be afraid to show his head (v. 21); but, if he shoots beyond the lad, it will be a signal of danger, and he must run for his safety, v. 22. This will take place if he does not have the opportunity of talking with David, and making the report by word of mouth. Jonathan says this is a covenant that you and I are making that will be in effect between us all of our days (v. 23).


Friendship is a two way street. “A man that has friends must show himself friendly.” (Prov. 18:24)  Lord help me to be more friendly to people and not just interested in my thing.

I Samuel 20:1-23 (English Standard Version)

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