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)

Then David fled from Naioth in Ramah and came and said before Jonathan, "What have I done? What is my guilt? And what is my sin before your father, that he seeks my life?" And he said to him, "Far from it! You shall not die. Behold, my father does nothing either great or small without disclosing it to me. And why should my father hide this from me? It is not so." But David vowed again, saying, "Your father knows well that I have found favor in your eyes, and he thinks, 'Do not let Jonathan know this, lest he be grieved.' But truly, as the LORD lives and as your soul lives, there is but a step between me and death." Then Jonathan said to David, "Whatever you say, I will do for you." David said to Jonathan, "Behold, tomorrow is the new moon, and I should not fail to sit at table with the king. But let me go, that I may hide myself in the field till the third day at evening. If your father misses me at all, then say, 'David earnestly asked leave of me to run to Bethlehem his city, for there is a yearly sacrifice there for all the clan.' If he says, 'Good!' it will be well with your servant, but if he is angry, then know that harm is determined by him. Therefore deal kindly with your servant, for you have brought your servant into a covenant of the LORD with you. But if there is guilt in me, kill me yourself, for why should you bring me to your father?" And Jonathan said, "Far be it from you! If I knew that it was determined by my father that harm should come to you, would I not tell you?" Then David said to Jonathan, "Who will tell me if your father answers you roughly?" And Jonathan said to David, "Come, let us go out into the field." So they both went out into the field. And Jonathan said to David, "The LORD, the God of Israel, be witness! When I have sounded out my father, about this time tomorrow, or the third day, behold, if he is well disposed toward David, shall I not then send and disclose it to you? But should it please my father to do you harm, the LORD do so to Jonathan and more also if I do not disclose it to you and send you away, that you may go in safety. May the LORD be with you, as he has been with my father. If I am still alive, show me the steadfast love of the LORD, that I may not die; and do not cut off your steadfast love from my house forever, when the LORD cuts off every one of the enemies of David from the face of the earth." And Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, "May the LORD take vengeance on David's enemies." And Jonathan made David swear again by his love for him, for he loved him as he loved his own soul. Then Jonathan said to him, "Tomorrow is the new moon, and you will be missed, because your seat will be empty. On the third day go down quickly to the place where you hid yourself when the matter was in hand, and remain beside the stone heap. And I will shoot three arrows to the side of it, as though I shot at a mark. And behold, I will send the young man, saying, 'Go, find the arrows.' If I say to the young man, 'Look, the arrows are on this side of you, take them,' then you are to come, for, as the LORD lives, it is safe for you and there is no danger. But if I say to the youth, 'Look, the arrows are beyond you,' then go, for the LORD has sent you away. And as for the matter of which you and I have spoken, behold, the LORD is between you and me forever."

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