from WL Worcester (H Blackmer, ed.), 
The Sower.  Helps to the Study of the Bible in Home and Sunday School
(Boston: Massachusetts New-Church Union, n.d.)

Table of Contents


Lesson 39

1 Samuel 18; 20: David and Jonathan

The Story


David had come back to Saul after killing the giant Goliath, and "the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul." Do we remember Jonathan, the brave man who with his armor-bearer went across the rough valley and climbed up the steep rocks to the Philistine camp at Michmash and gained a victory for Israel? And Jonathan was Saul's son. As a sign of love, Jonathan gave David his robe and sword and bow and girdle.

But Saul grew jealous of David and hated him. This began when the women came out to meet the soldiers after the war, dancing and singing, "Saul hath slain his thousands and David his ten thousands." They were giving to David more praise than to Saul, and Saul asked what more David could have but the kingdom? (1 Sam. 18:6-9)

Saul's anger broke out at times, especially twice or three times, when David was playing the harp for Saul and Saul threw his spear to kill him. David knew that it was not safe for him to live at Saul's home, but Jonathan was David's friend and tried to make Saul feel kindly toward him. At last they agreed that Jonathan should learn Saul's feeling toward David in this way. David would stay away from Saul's table on the first days of the month when he would be expected to be there. When Saul asked where David was, Jonathan would say that he asked leave to go to his family. If Saul answered kindly, all would be well for David, but if he were angry they would know that David's life was in danger and he must go. Jonathan would come out and meet David in the field and would show him by a sign whether to go or stay. So they agreed, and swore always to be friends.

They carried out the plan. David was absent from the table and when Saul asked the reason and Jonathan made excuse for him, Saul was angry. So Jonathan went to the field where David had promised again to meet him, to let David know that he must go away. This was to be the sign: Jonathan would shoot three arrows and send his boy to pick them up. If he called to the boy that the arrows were nearer, it would mean that David could safely come back. If he called that the arrows were farther off, David must go away. He did as they had agreed, and then he sent home the boy with the bow and arrows, and Jonathan and David talked again together and kissed each other and promised that the Lord should keep peace between them and their children forever.


We must help each other to learn the story of the friendship between David and Jonathan. Who was Jonathan, and what sort of man was he? (1 Sam. 14:4-17) The friendship began when David came back to the camp after killing the giant Goliath. What did Jonathan do to show his love for David? (1 Sam. 18:1-4) Why did Saul soon begin to be jealous of David and try to kill him? (1 Sam. 18:5-9) How did Saul's anger especially show itself? (1 Sam. 18:10-11, and 19:9-10) We find a javelin or spear in Saul's hand at other times (1 Sam. 20:33; 22:6), and it was stuck in the ground at his head as he slept in camp. (1 Sam. 26:7) The spear was a sign of his kingly power. An Arab chief today carries a long spear as he rides on horseback, and sticks it in the ground by his tent door. David knew now that Saul wished to kill him. He fled to the old prophet Samuel at Ramah, but Saul followed him.

Meantime how did the people feel toward David? (1 Sam. 18:14-16) Jonathan still loved David and was still David's friend. We learn from chapter 19 that Jonathan was able for a time to persuade Saul to put away his anger and to be friendly toward David. (1 Sam. 19:1-7)

But David was soon in danger again from Saul. Jonathan and David consulted, and agreed that Jonathan should find out how Saul really felt toward David. How should he do this? (1 Sam. 20:1-10) What would be the sign by which Jonathan would let David know? (Verses 18-22) They carried out the plan, and with what result? Was it safe for David to stay with Saul, or must he go? (Verses 24-34) Jonathan went to the field with his bow and arrows and gave the sign to let David know. (Verses 35-40)

At both times when Jonathan and David were alone together in the field they showed their love for each other and promised to be always friends, and that the Lord should keep peace between them and between their children forever. (Verses 13-17, 41, 42) Notice especially David's promise of kindness to Jonathan's children, for Jonathan knew that David would some day be king. Remember this promise and see by and by how David kept it. David and Jonathan were faithful friends. Read David's lament at the death of Saul and Jonathan. "I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant hast thou been unto me: thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women." (2 Sam. 1:17-27)

1. What song was sung of David that displeased Saul?

2. How did Saul show his anger when David was playing on the harp?

3. How did Jonathan learn surely Saul's feeling toward David?

4. By what sign did he let David know?

Spiritual Study


The story of Saul's anger toward David and his persecution of him pictures the difficulty which we find in changing from a more natural and superficial state of life to one that is deeper and more spiritual; especially the difficulty of advancing from a youthful and self-confident understanding of the Lord's Word and all heavenly truth, to a humble and spiritual understanding, in which pride of intellect gives place to a patient love of use. We may know and acknowledge that such a change must come, and yet be slow to make it. We also feel in our youthful, natural state a kind of irritation and impatience with spiritual things, which perhaps is represented by Saul's hatred of David. Much the same is represented by the mocking of Ishmael at Isaac. David did not try to injure Saul, but fled from him to find safety. So the Lord provides that for the most part things of spiritual life shall remain unknown and hidden to us until we are ready to accept them, so that we may not do them harm. (P. 221; A. 1911, 2654)

Recall a thought which we had a few weeks ago in regard to Jonathan and the friendship between him and David. The kingly power in the soul is the Lord's truth. Saul stands for this truth understood in a natural and external way, as it is found in the letter of the Word. David, who was king after Saul, stands for the Lord's truth understood in a deeper spiritual way, as when we see beneath the letter of the Word its spiritual meaning. Jonathan comes as it were between Saul and David. He was Saul's son, but David's faithful friend. He represents those parts of the letter of the Lord's Word which are in full agreement with the spirit. From such passages doctrine must be drawn, and by them it must be confirmed. These passages teach plainly the things needful for salvation; like the face and hands, they are bare, while the rest of the Word is clothed. Read S. 55.

The going to Bethlehem and to the sacrifice there means a regard for the things of innocence represented by Bethlehem, and for the wisdom which is revealed to babies. (Matt. 11:25) This the natural state represented by Saul does not care for, it is even annoyed and made angry by it. While the mind is still made angry by the mention of Bethlehem, that is, by the innocent, gentle things that Bethlehem represents, the more spiritual life must wait; we are not ready for it. (A. 4594, E. 449)

There is a somewhat similar meaning in Saul's anger when David played upon the harp. His playing represents the happiness of a spiritual understanding, which is annoying to one in a rebellious natural state. (E. 323)

Jonathan gave David a sign by shooting the arrows beyond him. Truths from the Lord's Word which expose and condemn the evil are the weapons that the Lord gives us with which to fight against our spiritual enemies. A bow is like some general principle of truth, and the arrows are its many applications. It is interesting to note that arrows are used as weapons and also as sign boards to point the way. The arrows used by Jonathan as a sign to David would seem to represent truths of the Word which are for guidance, which show the way of safety. Notice the association of the bow, with Saul and Jonathan in David's lament, when Saul and Jonathan and the bow represent truth protecting the church. (2 Sam. 1:17, 18; E. 278; A. 2686)

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