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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary

1 Samuel 20

 

 

Verse 1

1 Samuel 20:1 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?

Ver. 1. And David fled from Naioth in Ramah.] To Gibeah of Saul, which is twelve miles from Ramah, say some, (a) and where Jonathan was resident and president in his father’s absence. Hither David was hunted "as a partridge in the mountains"; and so hard bestead, that he knew not whither to betake him, unless it were to heaven (as he did, Psalms 11:1-7 throughout), and to his fast friend Jonathan, who did his utmost for him when he was forlorn and forsaken of his hopes: God being now fitting him for the kingdom, by making "his soul even as a weaned child." [Psalms 131:2]

That he seeketh my life.] There could no other reason be given of it, but that Saul was an unreasonable and wicked, or troublesome, man, [2 Thessalonians 3:2] acted and agitated by that old man-slayer, "who worketh effectually in the children of disobedience," [Ephesians 2:2] as a smith worketh in his forge. Poor David found the doing of anything or of nothing dangerous alike; such was the malice of his enemy, who was captain of the devil’s sworn swordmen.


Verse 2

1 Samuel 20:2 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].

Ver. 2. God forbid; thou shalt not die.] Jonathan could not think his father so perfidious and bloody minded; having so lately sworn to the contrary. "Love thinketh not evil, but believeth all things, hopeth all things." [1 Corinthians 13:5] He knew not that Machiavellian maxim, Mercatorum est, non regum, stare iuramentis: It is for tradesmen, and not for kings to keep their oaths.

Behold, my father will do nothing.] Either Jonathan knew not of Saul’s recent attempts against David, or else he looked upon them as fruits of his frenzy, which would be soon over.


Verse 3

1 Samuel 20:3 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.

Ver. 3. And David sware moreover.] Since Jonathan was so hard of belief, and the matter of so great importance, for better assurance David gave him, as he might do, a private oath. Ex animi sui sententia, was instead of such an oath among the heathens.

But truly as the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth,] i.e., By the life of God; that is his oath: and, As sure as thou art alive; that is his asseveration added to his oath. See the like, 1 Samuel 1:26; 1 Samuel 17:55;, 2 Samuel 11:11; 2 Samuel 14:19, Jeremiah 31:3.

There is but a step between me and death.] Praesentissimum est periculum meum in quo versor, (a) As we use to say of seafaring men, that there is but an inch board, or a handbreadth between them and death, and that they have fortunam rudentibus aptam, their estates hanging on ropes; so is it with man in his best estate; o quam exigui sunt mortalium termini! o quam exigui sunt mortalium animi! but especially with such as are proscribed and sought after to be slaughtered. But here David’s faith began to flag, as indeed it is a hard thing for the best faith, after long and sharp trial, not to buckle and hang the wing: Adeo nihil est in nobis magni, quod non queat minui; adeo nihil est ex omni parte beatum.


Verse 4

1 Samuel 20:4 Then said Jonathan unto David, Whatsoever thy soul desireth, I will even do [it] for thee.

Ver. 4. Whatsoever thy soul desireth.] True love is easily persuadable to anything possible and lawful. The heathen promised his friend to stick to him usque ad aras; so far as stood with piety and honesty. The Hebrew here is, Quid dicit anima tua, et faciam tibi.


Verse 5

1 Samuel 20:5 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.

Ver. 5. Behold, tomorrow is the new moon.] The first day of the month - the Hebrews reckoned their months by the moon - the Calends, which was a kind of a holy day, not only among the Jews, but the Greeks and Romans also, (a) in testimony of thankfulness for their time, which is the Lord’s: according to that of David, "The day is thine, the night also is thine: thou hast prepared the light and the sun." [Psalms 74:16]

Let me go, that I may hide myself] From the fury of thy father, whom I have little reason to trust, though I saw him prophesying so lately at Naioth. Vulpes pilum murat, non naturam. Lupus venit fremens, redit tremens: lupus est tamen, et fremens et tremens, (b) So are hypocrites as wicked in their fearful abstaining from sin, as in their furious committing of sin.


Verse 6

1 Samuel 20:6 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.

Ver. 6. For there is a yearly sacrifice there.] This might very well be a true excuse; and he might in prudence take the opportunity, for the safeguard of his precious life, so much sought after.


Verse 7

1 Samuel 20:7 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.

Ver. 7. But if he be very wroth.] The Rabbis have a saying, that three ways men discover their dispositions - viz., bekis, bekos, becagnash, in their purses, cups, and passions.


Verse 8

1 Samuel 20:8 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?

Ver. 8. Into a covenant of the Lord.] Who is witness to the bargain, and keepeth the bands.

Slay me thyself.] Let me die by a friendly and merciful hand. Nimis opto amantis immori manibus, said she in Seneca. (a) This David speaketh pathetically, to stir up his friend Jonathan to act vigorously for him.

For why shouldest thou bring me to thy father?] Who will not only slay me, but so torture me, that I may feel myself to die. "The tender mercies of the wicked are cruelties." [Proverbs 12:10]


Verse 9

1 Samuel 20:9 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?

Ver. 9. That evil were determined by my father.] The Vulgate rendereth it, completam esse malitiam patris mei contra re, that my father were so malicious as to murder thee.


Verse 10

1 Samuel 20:10 Then said David to Jonathan, Who shall tell me? or what [if] thy father answer thee roughly?

Ver. 10. Who shall tell me?] Since thou canst neither come, nor send to me with any safety.

If thy father answer thee roughly.] As indeed he did, Et tristoribus dictis atrocia facta coniungebat, as Tacitus saith of Tiberius; he spake stones, and threw daggers. [1 Samuel 20:30; 1 Samuel 20:33]


Verse 11

1 Samuel 20:11 And Jonathan said unto David, Come, and let us go out into the field. And they went out both of them into the field.

Ver. 11. Come, and let us go out into the field.] Where we may be private, and consider of some means of intercourse.


Verse 12

1 Samuel 20:12 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;

Ver. 12. O Lord God of Israel, when I have sounded, &c.] Broken language from a troubled spirit. Love will creep where it cannot go, and shine as a candle through the chinkers.


Verse 13

1 Samuel 20:13 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.

Ver. 13. And the Lord be with thee, as he hath been with my father.] Much joy mayest thou have of the kingdom after him; and the will of the Lord be done, whatever becometh of me. See 1 Samuel 23:17. Pellican therefore was mistaken in thinking that Jonathan’s affection was somewhat abated toward David while he thought of the succession of the kingdom; and that therefore he was so hard of belief that his father intended mischief toward him.


Verse 14

1 Samuel 20:14 And thou shalt not only while yet I live shew me the kindness of the LORD, that I die not:

Ver. 14. Show me the kindness of the Lord.] Such as he showeth to his people; and such as they that have their thoughts steeped in the kindness of the Lord to themselves, do show one to another, loving mutually, "out of a pure heart fervently." [1 Peter 1:22]

That I die not.] As justly perhaps I might do, for my father’s hatred to thee, and persecution of thee. That was a cruel custom of Ulades, prince of Walachia, together with the offender, to execute the whole family; yea, sometimes the whole kindred. (a)


Verse 15

1 Samuel 20:15 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.

Ver. 15. No, not when the Lord hath cut off,] i.e., When thou art in thy greatest power, and hast none to oppose thee. Jonathan looked upon David as his greatest under, - as king of Israel; so did the penitent thief upon Christ. [Luke 23:42]


Verse 16

1 Samuel 20:16 So Jonathan made [a covenant] with the house of David, [saying], Let the LORD even require [it] at the hand of David’s enemies.

Ver. 16. Let the Lord even require it at the hands of David’s enemies.] And more especially at my hands, if I keep not touch with thee, and do all the offices of a faithful friend towards thee.


Verse 17

1 Samuel 20:17 And Jonathan caused David to swear again, because he loved him: for he loved him as he loved his own soul.

Ver. 17. And Jonathan caused David to swear again,] i.e., He required the like oath of him which he had made, that there might be a sure and steadfast league with him whom he so dearly loved. (a)


Verse 18

1 Samuel 20:18 Then Jonathan said to David, To morrow [is] the new moon: and thou shalt be missed, because thy seat will be empty.

Ver. 18. Tomorrow is the new moon.] {See Trapp on "1 Samuel 20:5"}


Verse 19

1 Samuel 20:19 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.

Ver. 19. When the business was in hand.] When I advertised thee of my father’s intent to kill thee, [1 Samuel 19:2] and when I made intercession for thee to my father, being hard wrought about it.

By the stone Ezel.] That is, By the stone of walking, saith Lyra; because Jonathan and David used there to walk and talk of private businesses: as a certain hill near Cambridge was commonly called Heretics’ Hill, because thither Bilney and Latimer used to resort for holy conference. Lapidem Mercurialem intelligit, saith Vatablus here, i.e., He meaneth a stone that set travellers their right way.


Verse 20

1 Samuel 20:20 And I will shoot three arrows on the side [thereof], as though I shot at a mark.

Ver. 20. And I will shoot three arrows.] Which shall be as so many επεα πτεροεντα, a sure token between us, if we cannot conveniently come together for discourse but we shall be discovered.


Verse 21

1 Samuel 20:21 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.

Ver. 21. Then come thou.] Along with the lad, as if thou camest thither by chance; and hold on thy course to the court without fear of evil.


Verse 22

1 Samuel 20:22 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.

Ver. 22. Go thy way.] Fuge, fuge, cito, citius, citissime, flee, flee, quickly, more quickly, most quickly, shift for thyself, and so serve God’s providence in such a way as he shall direct thee.


Verse 23

1 Samuel 20:23 And [as touching] the matter which thou and I have spoken of, behold, the LORD [be] between thee and me for ever.

Ver. 23. And as touching the matter.] The mutual covenant, see that it be kept inviolable, or the Lord will require it.


Verse 24

1 Samuel 20:24 So David hid himself in the field: and when the new moon was come, the king sat him down to eat meat.

Ver. 24. The king sat him down to eat meat.] At the feast of the new moon, which Saul, as bad as he was, yet was careful to keep, and to have his chief princes keep it with him.


Verse 25

1 Samuel 20:25 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.

Ver. 25. And Jonathan arose,] viz., To sit down at the table by his father; or perhaps in honour of Abner, and to give him place; as not willing to sit so near his father, but pretending some other thing to avoid the danger which be feared.


Verse 26

1 Samuel 20:26 Nevertheless Saul spake not any thing that day: for he thought, Something hath befallen him, he [is] not clean; surely he [is] not clean.

Ver. 26. Something hath befallen him.] Casus est, it is some of those chances wherewith men are defiled and unfitted for holy services; such as were the touching of dead bodies, nocturnal pollutions, &c. [Leviticus 7:19-20]

He is not clean.] Himself, then, surely was clean, sc., from those legal pollutions; but his heart was full of filth, and his hands of blood. This is the guise of hypocrites.


Verse 27

1 Samuel 20:27 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?

Ver. 27. Wherefore cometh not the son of Jesse to meat?] Wherefore should he, say, unless he were weary of his life, which was so lately sought for? But Saul thought, belike, that David would forget old injuries, and make as small account of them as himself who had done them. But what is the old saying in this case?

Pulvere, qui laedit, scribit; sed marmore, laesus.


Verse 28

1 Samuel 20:28 And Jonathan answered Saul, David earnestly asked [leave] of me [to go] to Bethlehem:

Ver. 28. To go to Bethlehem.] {See Trapp on "1 Samuel 20:6"}


Verse 29

1 Samuel 20:29 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.

Ver. 29. And my brother, he hath commanded me to be there.] This, some think, Jonathan added of his own; and Josephus addeth, that Jonathan said he was also invited. It is ordinary with some people, in relating a business, to add here and there something, the better to set off the tale, and to make it run the more roundly.


Verse 30

1 Samuel 20:30 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?

Ver. 30. Thou son of the perverse rebellious woman.] Or, O thou son of perverse rebellion. He calleth good Jonathan all that is naught, and holdeth the worst word in his belly, as they say, too good for him. Nihil tam volucre quam maledictum, saith Cicero, nihil facilius emittitur. If passionate people be but crossed of their wills, oh the tragedies, the blusters, the thunder cracks of fierce and furious language that they presently vent and utter, railing with as much bitterness as if they went as far as hell for every word that comes from them! How basely doth this tyrant revile both his wife as perverse and rebellious, who perhaps was neither; and his son as a bastard, and so like the mother, that he was the worse again!

And unto the confusion of thy mother’s nakedness.] As if she were a harlot, and thou illegitimate; and so not fit to inherit the kingdom.


Verse 31

1 Samuel 20:31 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.

Ver. 31. For he shall surely die.] Yea, but stay: "Unto God the Lord belong the issues of death"; [Psalms 68:20] and "My times are in thine hand," saith David, not in Saul’s, whatever he may think of the matter: "the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand."


Verse 32

1 Samuel 20:32 And Jonathan answered Saul his father, and said unto him, Wherefore shall he be slain? what hath he done?

Ver. 32. Wherefore shall he be slain?] Good blood will not belie itself. Nicodemus, faint hearted at first, yet when Christ was likely to be apprehended, stickled for him, and to very good purpose. [John 7:50-53]


Verse 33

1 Samuel 20:33 And Saul cast a javelin at him to smite him: whereby Jonathan knew that it was determined of his father to slay David.

Ver. 33. And Saul cast a javelin at him to smite him.] Which, if it had hit him, and killed him, Saul would have had as small joy of it as Alexander when he had killed Clitus in his passion, whom he would have revived, but could not, with his own heart’s blood.

Qui non moderabitur irae, &c.


Verse 34

1 Samuel 20:34 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.

Ver. 34. Because his father had done him shame.] Traducing him for a rebel and a traitor on so public a theatre. This went to good Jonathan’s heart, which bled in David’s wounds, and ached for his miseries.


Verse 35

1 Samuel 20:35 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.

Ver. 35. And a little lad with him.] He went no better attended, because to shoot only for his recreation: but indeed that he might get an opportunity, if possible, of communing with David.


Verse 36

1 Samuel 20:36 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.

Ver. 36. He shot an arrow beyond him.] God also shoots sometimes sharp arrows at his children, yet not to wound them, but to warn them that the will of Saul - the devil - is their utter destruction.


Verse 37

1 Samuel 20:37 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?

Ver. 37. Is not the arrow beyond thee?] This was an item to David to be packing. See 1 Samuel 20:22.


Verse 38

1 Samuel 20:38 And Jonathan cried after the lad, Make speed, haste, stay not. And Jonathan’s lad gathered up the arrows, and came to his master.

Ver. 38. Make speed, haste, stay not.] Habent Aulae suum Cito, Cito. Sic et Amicitia. See 1 Samuel 20:37.


Verse 39

1 Samuel 20:39 But the lad knew not any thing: only Jonathan and David knew the matter.

Ver. 39. But the lad knew not anything.] What a sweet saying is that of our Saviour: "Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his Lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you." [John 15:15]


Verse 40

1 Samuel 20:40 And Jonathan gave his artillery unto his lad, and said unto him, Go, carry [them] to the city.

Ver. 40. Go, carry them to the city.] The lad he sent away, that David and he might talk together the more freely; for he knew that little pitchers also have ears.


Verse 41

1 Samuel 20:41 [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.

Ver. 41. David arose out of a place.] When now they saw the coast was clear, these two famous friends met and melted one over another.

Until David exceeded.] Aγαθοι δ αριδακρυες ανδρες -

Et faciles motus mens generosa capit.

The better any one is, the more apt to weep. But David indeed had the greater reason in many regards.


Verse 42

1 Samuel 20:42 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.

Ver. 42. Forasmuch as we have sworn both of us.] Some read it, What things soever we have sworn, &c., making it to be an elliptical broken speech: as it is usual with those that are in heaviness to utter half sentences, &c.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on 1 Samuel 20:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/1-samuel-20.html. 1865-1868.

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