I Samuel 20: the Best Kind of Friend

We should recall from the end of chapter 19 that King Saul had pursued David to Naioth in Ramah. This pursuit came after King Saul attempted many times to kill David, but David found a way to safety by the grace of God.

In the beginning of this chapter, David goes back to Jonathan (King Saul’s son) and asks him why King Saul is trying to kill him. David and Jonathan share an exchange where David explains that King Saul is hiding the fact that he wants David dead from Jonathan, in order to protect him. Jonathan, a fiercely loyal friend, says to David, “Whatever you yourself desire, I will do it for you.” Jonathan, in a faith and loyalty rare of his age, sides with David due to a combination of David’s leadership, David’s faith, and his father Saul’s erroneous decisions and overt weaknesses.

Jonathan and David make a pact to secure David’s safety and in the course of making these plans, they also renew their friendship covenant of being loyal and caring for one another’s best interests. Their care for one another is reciprocal. For Jonathan’s part, he plans for a way to notify David whether or not Saul still seeks his life. He will watch out for Saul’s reaction when David does not attend an important upcoming feast and will notify David through creative means on whether he needs to stay or flee. For David’s part, he agrees that he will not seek the life of Jonathan should David ever become king. This was at Jonathan’s request and says much about David’s visible leadership, success, and his superiority over King Saul. Jonathan was looking into the future and planning for the probability that David would eventually become king. At this time, it was common for the new king to kill the family members of the old king once he took power.

When Saul notices David’s absence at the feast, he inquires of Jonathan where David is. Jonathan is surprised when his father’s obvious desire to kill David is laid bare. Jonathan is grieved to fasting for David’s sake. But Jonathan also experiences the wrath of his father when Saul hurls a spear at him when he tells the farcical reason for David’s absence. By this act Jonathan is convinced that Saul not only would kill him, but that he is earnest in his desire to kill David as well.

Interestingly, Saul’s throwing the spear is an answer to Jonathan’s question to his father King Saul, “Why should he be killed? What has he done?” From what we know of Saul’s character, it is unsurprising that he does not have even a cursory answer. Saul is simply jealous of, threatened by, and scared of David. What sort of mindset could Saul have had that would have turned his attitude toward David around?

After leaving his father, Jonathan, goes out to notify David that Saul intends to kill him and that David should flee for his life. The chapter ends on a poignant note for the two friends. They love and care for one another, and are grateful for one another’s friendship. Had not Jonathan been there to verify, David likely would have stayed around King Saul and would have been killed. Likewise, without David, Jonathan, would not have an alternative, strong, godly example in David and would have been much more likely to follow in the footsteps of his errant father.

Think about the friendship of David and Jonathan. It is a wholesome and pure thing. The best component of it shines through when Jonathan says to David in verse 42, “May the Lord be between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants, forever.” This godly desire for peace among their families was mutual, well-intentioned, and holy. In the face of the probability of great and bloody conflict, these two young men resolve to support and keep peace between one another. This is a fantastic way to forge relationships early in life that will sustain their faith, their mental health, and their safety.

Do I have the opportunity to create and forge friendships like the one on display in I Samuel 20? It is never too late in life to put people in my life that will help me in my walk with Christ and will help me get to heaven. It does not have to be a dangerous environment to create lasting bonds of mutual faith; I need only to find a like-minded believer that has room for a friend too.

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