1 Samuel Chapter 20  PDF  MSWord

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Go to Bible: 1 Samuel 20
1Sm 20:1

“David fled from Naioth in Ramah.” For the details of David’s journeys once he started running from Saul, see commentary on 1 Samuel 19:18.

“said to Jonathan.” The Hebrew is literally, “said before Jonathan,” and that probably was to make it clear that David was in the presence of Jonathan and had not gotten a message to him through an intermediary.

1Sm 20:2(top)
1Sm 20:3

“swore again.” David apparently had sworn earlier, it may be part of the covenant of 1 Samuel 18:1-3.

1Sm 20:4

“desires.” The Hebrew verb is “says,” but it is sometimes used for desire.

1Sm 20:5

“the new moon.” Each new moon, the start of each month, was dedicated to God by special sacrifices and blowing of trumpets (see commentary on Num. 28:11).

1Sm 20:6

“notices, yes, notices” The verb “notices” is doubled in the Hebrew text for emphasis. It is the figure of speech polyptoton (see Gen. 2:16).

1Sm 20:7

“that evil has been decided by him.” In the Hebrew text, “evil” is the subject of the verb, so it is more like “evil has decided from (within) him.” Saul had decided upon an evil path so often that now the evil in him guides him in his decision.

1Sm 20:8

“So deal faithfully.” David refers back to the covenant between him and Jonathan and asks him to deal faithfully, according to the covenant.

1Sm 20:9

“Heaven forbid.” The Hebrew is an idiom, “Far be it from you,” that is, “This is far from you.”

1Sm 20:10(top)
1Sm 20:11(top)
1Sm 20:12

“make it known to you.” The Hebrew is an idiom: “uncover your ear.”

1Sm 20:13(top)
1Sm 20:14(top)
1Sm 20:15(top)
1Sm 20:16

“the house of David.” If David becomes king, “the house of David” will become enemies with “the house of Saul,” and so it seems that Jonathan did not want to be caught up in that clan conflict but wanted to clearly side with the house of David because he knew David was Yahweh’s choice for being king (see commentary on 1 Sam. 20:17).

“seek it from the hand of David’s enemies.” The Hebrew is obscure and idiomatic: “seek it from the hand.” The idea seems to be that Jonathan is making a covenant with David, knowing that David will be king because Saul has rejected Yahweh and thus become one of “David’s enemies.” David has not sought the kingdom for himself, but Yahweh has sought it from the hand of Saul to give it to David.

1Sm 20:17

“And Jonathan made David swear an oath.” The versions are divided as to whether David or Jonathan was the one to swear. However, it seems that Jonathan made David swear an oath. Jonathan knew that David was Yahweh’s choice to be king, and that Jonathan was not going to succeed his father Saul as king (1 Sam. 23:17). He also knew that once David was king there would be a lot of pressure on David to put his own people from the tribe of Judah into the important positions in the kingdom. Having David swear an oath was a way of cementing his relationship with David.

“the love that he had for him.” That is, the love that Jonathan had for David.

1Sm 20:18

“you will be noticed.” David will not be there, so it is actually his absence that will be noticed, and his place will be seen to be empty. There is no indication that people ate at tables and had “seats,” that is, chairs. But they did have “places” because the kingdom was very hierarchical. The king would be the center of attention, and then people would sit closer to him or further away depending on their position in the kingdom. David would have a set place and position at meals and festive gatherings, and if he was gone his “place” would be empty.

1Sm 20:19(top)
1Sm 20:20(top)
1Sm 20:21(top)
1Sm 20:22(top)
1Sm 20:23

“Yahweh is between you and me.” Their relationship with Yahweh was the foundation for their relationship with each other.

1Sm 20:24

“at the feast to eat.” The Hebrew is more literally, “to the bread to eat,” with “bread” put by the figure of speech metonymy for the feast. The new moon (when the moon is not visible in the sky) ended the month and the first sighting of the sliver of the moon as it’s crescent shape began to become more and more visible in the sky started the next month. There was a Sabbath and feast at the New Moon (Num. 10:10).

1Sm 20:25

“and Jonathan stood up.” This is the reading of the Hebrew text. Some scholars have taken “stood” to mean something like “stood still,” in other words, sat still at his place. Other readings have also been suggested, for example, based on the Septuagint the reading “sat opposite him” has been suggested. However, the reading “stood up” may have a basis in Jonathan showing respect for Saul, and he likely sat down later in the meal.

1Sm 20:26

“It is an accident.” The wording of the Hebrew text indicates that Saul thought what likely happened to David was accidental ritual uncleanness, which would usually involve not being able to join the congregation for that day. The wording “Something has happened to him” may suggest to some readers that David may have come to some kind of harm, which is not indicated in the Hebrew text.

1Sm 20:27

“empty.” This is the word “noticed,” but it was noticed as being empty.

“feast.” The Hebrew is more literally, “to the bread” (see commentary on 1 Sam. 20:24).

1Sm 20:28

“asked, yes, asked.” The Hebrew doubles the verb for emphasis, using the figure of speech polyptoton (see commentary on Gen. 2:16).

“to.” The Hebrew is “as far as.” This may be an attempt on Jonathan’s part to let Saul know that David did not have blanket permission to go anywhere and do anything, but he could go “as far as” Bethlehem.

1Sm 20:29(top)
1Sm 20:30

“You son of a perverse rebellion!” In this statement, the word “son” is idiomatic and communicates character. Saul is saying that a “perverse rebellion” would produce a rebellious son like Jonathan. Although many English versions read “son of a perverse and rebellious woman,” the idea of “woman” is imported into the text in many English translations primarily because the nouns are feminine, but there is no necessary reason to import “woman” and the word “woman” does not occur in the Hebrew text. Saul was saying Jonathan was a son of a perverse rebellion, meaning the rebellion against Saul that his paranoia had made up in his mind; there was no such rebellion. Also, it does not seem like Saul would slander his wife here, when he seems to honor her later in the same verse.

“to the shame of your mother’s nakedness.” The meaning is, “to the shame of your mother who gave birth to you.”

1Sm 20:31

“for he must die!” The literal Hebrew reads, “for he is a son of death,” and it refers to having the character of death, which in this case, meant he would die.

1Sm 20:32(top)
1Sm 20:33

“Then Saul hurled his spear at him to strike him down.” By this time the demon or demons inside Saul had driven him to the point of irrational anger and irrational behavior. Saul had allowed himself to think thoughts that were more and more evil, and now was out of control. God tells us to control our thoughts (2 Cor. 10:5), and engage in behavior such as forgiveness (Eph. 4:32) so that our thoughts do not spiral downward until we almost cannot stop from doing evil. 2 Timothy 3:13 warns us that people doing evil go from bad to worse.

1Sm 20:34(top)
1Sm 20:35(top)
1Sm 20:36(top)
1Sm 20:37(top)
1Sm 20:38(top)
1Sm 20:39(top)
1Sm 20:40(top)
1Sm 20:41

of the stone Ezel.” The stone is mentioned in 1 Samuel 20:19.

“face to the ground.” The Hebrew is literally, “nose to the ground.”

“bowed down.” The common biblical way of bowing down before people or God was to fall to one’s knees and bow the upper body to the earth. It is the same Hebrew word as “worship.”

[For more on bowing down, see commentary on 1 Chronicles 29:20.]

1Sm 20:42(top)

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