First Samuel 20

(message twenty-three)  -  David Becomes a Fugitive; Covenant Love


An emotionally charged chapter with strong emotional language.



David asks “What have I done?”

Sometimes following God becomes very confusing


20:2 and 5

Jonathan and  David are trying to convince each other of their perspectives.

a)      Jonathan says, “Look, my father. . .”

b)      David says, “Look, tomorrow. . .”


20:5-23 A three Act Drama

a)      David’s plan to convince Jonathan of Saul’s intent

b)      David and Jonathan’s covenant

c)      Jonathan’s plan to tell David what he discovered

These three parts are built around 10 “if – then” statements:

            20:6, 7a, 7b, 8, 9, 10, 12, 13, 21, 22


20:5  The Plan

If Saul accepts David’s excuse things are OK.  If Saul reacts negatively then there are problems.


David is to wait three days and two nights.

            TODAY. . . . .night. . . .TOMORROW. . . .night. . .DAY AFTER. . X. . . night


New Moon Festival

a)      a monthly burnt offering accompanied with celebration and rejoicing

b)      Celebrated a new month

c)      Both a religious and civil holiday

d)      Numbers 28:14; 10:10


David’s use of  “. . .and I am supposed to dine with the king?!!” is emphatic meaning:

a)      surprise

b)      obvious death wish if David where to attend the meal

c)      ridiculous for Saul to expect David would come after 4 attempts on his life in chapter 4


Annual sacrifices took place at the tabernacle but since it had been destroyed the families did them in their hometowns.







Covenant Terminology used here:

  • “show kindness” 8, 14
  • “brought him into a covenant” 8
  • “do not ever cut off your kindness” 15
  • “made covenant” 16
  • “reaffirm his oath” 17
  • “love” and “loved” 17


“Kindness” is the Hebrew word for “Hesed”

a)      Hesed means “covenant loyalty, covenant term of commitment”

b)      Hesed refers to God’s covenant love with Israel, Jesus and believers

c)      Hesed is the conduct required in a relationship between parties or allies in the covenant.

d)      Hesed refers to both:   -Rights of the Covenant   -Duties of the Covenant



Jonathan ends up asking David to help him. 

The one pursued (David) is seen by Jonathan as the victor in the end because of God’s plan.


This covenant meant that when David becomes king he can not kill Jonathan or Jonathan’s descendents. 
This was common at this time by new kings.


When David’s enemies (including King Saul) are cut off, Jonathan asks for a covenant.

When Saul’s family is eliminated by God because of rebellion, Jonathan and his family will be in a covenant of kindness with David.

The same is true for all of mankind in their relationship to God.  God is going to judge the rebellion and
wickedness of men.  But, if we enter into the covenant with God through Jesus we will not be destroyed but instead delivered and brought into his kingdom.


A covenant has two sides and both sides have to confirm the covenant.



David would hide in a field instead of go home to Bethlehem or somewhere else because:

a)      David did not know who to trust

b)      Saul would look for him in Bethlehem and other known places

c)      People would report his whereabouts since he had been portrayed as a fugitive.


David used lies & trickery along with trust in Yahweh during his early days as a fugitive.

But as time went on David resorted less and less on deception and learned to trust Yahweh more and more.

James 1 tells us that trials helps produce pure faith.




If Saul is against David then Jonathan says:
            “The Lord has sent you away.”




First half of chapter ends with a reminder from Jonathan  to David that this is a covenant that lasts forever.


Interestingly, David is on the run but Jonathan is seeking protection from David.



“By the wall” would have secured Saul from a surprise attack.

This is another indication Saul was paranoid about his position and did not know who to trust.


Abner is Saul’s general and cousin.


Ceremonially unclean Lev. 15:16-18;  Numbers 9:6



Because Jonathan didn’t tell Saul earlier about David’s family offering Saul believes Jonathan is hiding something.

Jonathan let Saul assume David was unclean.


“Son of Jesse”

a)      mild insult

b)      insult to David’s heritage

c)      would not use David’s name


Saul explodes in foul language:

·        Today’s English Version says: “You bastard”

·        New Jerusalem Bible: “You son of a rebellious slut”

·        New English Translation: “You stupid son of a bitch”


Shame of the “mother who bore you” is literally “nakedness of your mother” referring to the point of conception and birth. 
Saul was telling Jonathan here that his conception and birth where now useless.  Jonathan was a failure because of his decision to side with David.


“Side with” is literally “chosen”


Saul was continuing to live in an attempt to thwart the words of the prophet Samuel.

Saul was trying to prevent God’s promise that Saul’s kingdom would not endure from coming to pass. 




Saul says David must die.

Jonathan asks “Why?” and “What has he done?” in an attempt to remind Saul of their discussion in Chapter 19.


Jonathan’s rage is Hebrew “fierce rage” is a word used to describe the highest levels of human disappointment.

Jonathan’s rage is justified.



“small boy” because he would be less likely to analyze the strange behavior and would not ask question.



David showed honor and respect to the crown prince.

They planned never to see each other again for protection (but, 23:16-18)


David was to be a fugitive from Saul.

It was obviously part of God’s plan in preparing David


Jonathan put God’s will first and knowingly saved the man who would replace him

1 Peter 2:13-17


Saul was trying to prevent God’s will and God’s word from coming to pass.


Psalm 26 is a claim of covenant deliverance after a confession of sin in Psalm 25