A Sworn Friendship – 1 Samuel 20

After evading Saul and his men at Naioth, David returned to Jerusalem to meet Jonathan. He narrated all that he had been through over the last few days and how Saul tried to kill him. While Samuel believed David when he told him the same account, Jonathan found it hard to believe that his father had any intentions to kill David who was now the king’s son-in-law. Jonathan naively assured David that his father would not make a move without his knowledge but David knew what was in Saul’s heart something that his own son was not able to comprehend.

“If I had the least inkling that my father was determined to harm you, wouldn’t I tell you?”

1 Samuel 20:9 (NIV)

Word of Man over God

Jonathan is oblivious to his father’s intentions to kill David, probably because he trusted his father and thought that Saul would honour the vow he had made in the name of the Lord that he will not kill David. He did not expect his father to go back on his word as he was not able to recognise the evil that resided inside Saul. To him, Saul and David are supposed to be on the same team fighting against their enemies who were waiting to capture and invade Israel. He did not realise that one of them had been taken over by an evil spirit while David was following the voice of God. David was listening to God’s instructions as he successfully evaded Saul, while Jonathan was depending on human promises that his father had made.

Jonathan swore to David that he would find out his father’s true intentions and let David know if he needed to run. The pair made promises to each other, Jonathan offered his loyalty to David and in return wanted David’s favour on him and his family after he has been made king of Israel.

But show me unfailing kindness like the LORD’s kindness as long as I live, so that I may not be killed, and do not ever cut off your kindness from my family —not even when the LORD has cut off every one of David’s enemies from the face of the earth.”

1 Samuel 20:14-15 (NIV)

By pledging his loyalty to David and pleading for his mercy on his descendants, in a way, Jonathan has accepted David as the king of Israel. It seems odd to think that a prince would denounce his throne and align with the successor to his father’s throne. Even Saul could not understand Jonathan’s motivation when his son chose to lie for David rather than obey his own father. In supporting David, Jonathan made his intentions known to everyone, that he did not want to be the king as he knew that God planned to work through David during his reign.

A Car Dealership

When we are in the market for a new car, we research all the options available to us at our price point. We compare features, engine displacements, brake horsepower, fuel efficiency and annual maintenance cost when going through our research. If we have an automobile expert with us we will not bother to conduct our lengthy research and simply ask for their advice before making our purchase. Similarly, Jonathan knew the ins and outs of leading his troops into battle as he would have meticulously planned his strategies, before embarking on his missions.

But in David, Jonathan was able to see a person who has a constant advisor by his side, God. David lead the same men into battle with God by his side and the result was for all to see as David would return home victorious. He knows that David is best suited to lead Israel because of the expert that David had chosen to align himself with, the God of Heavens and the Earth. Saul is jealous of David even though he is the king while Jonathan despite not being the successor to his throne has accepted David’s kingship.

At The Dinner

During the new moon feast, Saul noticed David’s absence from his table. When it repeated the next day he questioned Jonathan about David’s whereabouts. When he got to know that it was Jonathan who had allowed David to visit his family, Saul was livid, as he had been planning to kill David during the festival. He lambasted Jonathan and cursed him for being naive and foolish for not helping his father kill the man who was going to replace him as king of Israel.

“Why should he be put to death? What has he done?” Jonathan asked his father. But Saul hurled his spear at him to kill him. Then Jonathan knew that his father intended to kill David.

1 Samuel 20:32-33 (NIV)

Jonathan did not believe David when he told him how his father was plotting to kill him. Jonathan took Saul at his word and almost lost his life in his pursuit of finding out what David already knew through God. This is what happens when we do not want to listen to God’s voice and want to check for ourselves. Despite God revealing something to us or someone’s heart, we try to find proof and end up getting in more trouble. We give more weightage to things that we want to happen in our lives rather than giving importance to the voice of God. If something we want is revealed to us, we accept it wholeheartedly, but if it’s something we did not expect, we seek a second opinion. We believe a doctor and his diagnosis if it is a favourable result but if the news is not good we tend to seek out a second opinion.


After finding out his father’s true intentions, Jonathan got up from the table in anger and did not participate in the feast. He could not believe why his father would want to kill David, a man who had served their family so loyally. The next morning he went up to the field to meet David at the previously agreed meeting place. Through his arrows, Jonathan warned David about Saul’s murderous intent. The two of them met in secret and paid their respects to others as they said their goodbyes.

True friendship and true love can only be in the Lord, otherwise, jealousy and pride are bound to take over and cause a rift. Jonathan loved David perhaps more than he loved himself and was ready to give up his own future as he believed that God had chosen David to lead Israel. The opposite of love is selfishness, if Jonathan would have been selfish, he would have aligned himself with his father’s plans. God knows our hearts and is the one who truly loves us. Our families, friends and acquaintances will come and go, but through it all, God is the one who stands by our side.

Our friendships will be meaningless and will crumble when problems come our way if they are not built on Christ’s foundation. If God is the foundation of our every relationship, we will never fall victim to jealousy and pride and will look for not only our best interests but our friend’s best interest all the while following God’s voice. This is what David did in his life, he loved his family and friends but above all, he kept God and listened to His voice for every decision that he made during his lifetime.

Discussion Questions

V9: Why is Jonathan oblivious to his father’s true intentions?
V15: Seems like Jonathan has accepted David as the new king. What is his motivation for supporting David?
V33: Jonathan almost lost his life in his pursuit of finding out what David already knew from God. What can we learn from this?


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