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I Samuel 18:1-4

When David had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was bound to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. Saul took him that day and would not let him return to his father’s house. Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that he was wearing, and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt.

(The Children are Free by Rev. Jeff Miner and John Tyler Connoley is heavily quoted in the following.)

The author of I and II Samuel is thought to have been a member of King David’s court, and so he seems to know many intimate details of David’s life and reign, and of his predecessor King Saul.

The preceding passage was the result of Saul being intrigued by David’s courage in defeating Goliath, and so he called for David to talk with him. By the conclusion of this meeting, Jonathan apparently fell in love with David! If a female name had replaced that of David’s and his gender reference from ‘he’ and ‘him’ to ‘her’ and ‘she’ in this description of their first encounter, there would be no doubt universally as to the passionate and romantic love which Jonathan had demonstrated. But because the object of Jonathan’s affection is a man, cultural prejudice insists (notwithstanding the biblical evidence) that this could not have been more than a deep friendship.

But the author of I Samuel seems to have described a love-at-first-sight encounter that happened to involve two men.

As David’s popularity grew, Saul became jealous and wanted to kill David, but Jonathan warned David, and he fled the palace before Saul could act. Jonathan convinced his father to allow David back, but Saul soon planned again to kill David, so he fled again. Jonathan and David met in secret. Jonathan begged David to come back to the palace, but David was afraid for his life, so together they made a plan: Jonathan would go home and try to find out what his father was thinking. If his father had cooled down, he would let David know it was safe. One night, at the royal table, the subject of David came up, and Jonathan spoke on his behalf. This was Saul’s reaction:

I Samuel 20:30
“You son of a perverse, rebellious woman! Do I not know that you have chosen the son of Jesse to your own shame and to the shame of your mother’s nakedness? For as long as the son of Jesse lives upon the earth, neither you nor your kingdom shall be established.”

Many gay men have experienced dinner conversations that sounded very similar to this one. They made the mistake of talking about their lover at the table, and their father became furious. More often than not, the blame goes first to the mother. Then turning his anger toward the son, talking about the shame he’s bringing upon the family, and dashing hopes of any sort of career unless he gives up such foolishness.

Further, Saul’s reference to uncovering the nakedness of a family member was a euphemism for incest in the holiness codes of the Old Testament, so the implication is that Jonathan was bringing sexual shame on his family. Jonathan ran from the table, and that night, he went to tell David the news. This was the result:

I Samuel 20:41,42
David rose from beside the stone heap and prostrated himself with his face to the ground. He bowed three times and they kissed each other and wept with each other; David wept the more. Then Jonathan said to David, ‘Go in peace, since both of us have sworn in the name of the Lord, saying, “The Lord shall be between me and you, and between my descendants and your descendants, forever.”’ He got up and left, and Jonathan went into the city.

Perhaps they knew this was the end. They certainly knew their love was doomed. Jonathan reminded David that even if they could not be together, they had made a pledge and the bond between them would last through all generations. All their children and grandchildren would be like one family, bound by their love for each other.

Later, after Jonathan had been killed and David had become king, he remembered the covenant, and though he was expected to kill anyone with any connection to the previous rival king, he adopted Jonathan’s only son as his own.

In II Samuel, the author tells us that after Saul and Jonathan were killed in battle, David tore his clothes and fasted. He wept and wrote a song, which he ordered all the people of Judah to sing. A portion of the song is:

II Samuel 1:23,26-27
Saul and Jonathan, beloved and lovely!
In life and in death they were not divided;
they were swifter than eagles,
they were stronger than lions.

How the mighty have fallen in the midst of battle!
Jonathan lies slain upon your high places
I am distressed for you my brother Jonathan;

Greatly beloved were you to me;
your love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.

Further, we know of David that he is called “a man after God’s own heart.” (I Samuel 13:14) He is one of Israel’s best-loved kings, he is one of the most prolific writers of Scripture, he is in the lineage of Jesus. And he loved Jonathan.