As was explained, out of loyalty to David, Jonathan tells Saul the lie that David put into his friend’s mouth. As we stated, he even added to it in order that Saul might be the more impressed by its validity as an excuse. Once more, these are Jonathan’s words, “David earnestly asked leave of me to go to Bethlehem and he said, Let me go, I pray thee; for our family has a sacrifice in the city; and my brother, he has commanded me to be there; and now, if I have found favor in thine eye’s, let me go I pray thee, and see my brethren. Therefore he cometh not unto the king’s table.” As was said, David’s purpose in putting this lie in his friend’s mouth is to put Saul to a final test. He wants to determine for Himself whether the king is actually purposed to slay him, or whether Saul’s past attempts on his life are to be attributed to the king’s illness. But as was explained, the Lord over and over has made it plain to David that Saul does hate him and that he is indeed determined that he die. What is that madness of the king, by which he periodically is being visited, but hatred, envy and jealousy gone wild and running away with their victim? This is as plain as the day. It is plain also to David, certainly. And how many attempts has Saul already made on David’s life! What can be more evident than that Saul really does want David dead! But David does not want it that way. And the reason is obvious. David at this juncture is unbelieving. And in his unbelief he imagines that with the king against him he actually walks on the brink of death. Does he not say to Jonathan, “There is but one step between me and death.” This of course is not true. It cannot be true, as the Lord has sworn truth to David, so that, if Saul is to succeed in his attempt to slay David, he must first slay God. Thus, how little David really has to fear of Saul! But David can’t see it that way at this time. He stands not in his faith. Accordingly, he flies back to Gibeah. He, himself, will test out the king. And of course he hopes against hope that the test will show that Saul is friendly, really means to do David no hurt; and that, therefore, the king’s past attempts upon his life must be explained from his periodic attacks of madness; which attacks accordingly, would not in that case at all indicate how the king is inwardly disposed to the son of Jesse.
Considered by itself, the test to which David in co-operation with Jonathan puts Saul is clever; it is well calculated to bring into the clear light of day the hidden man in Saul. If the king, despite his periodic attacks of madness, loves David, if he really means to do him no harm, which in view of all that has happened is impossible, the king will not in the least be provoked by his son-in-law’s failure to make his appearance on the feast; and he will hear Jonathan out, and let the matter rest right there and then. But Saul hates David and wants him dead; he wanted him there on the feast in order to be able to slay the son of Jesse, though he knows of course that it is folly to expect his son-in-law. Such being Saul’s plans, when he hears that David has run off to Bethlehem even with Jonathan’s permission, his wrath knows no bounds. Hating David and suspecting Jonathan, he doesn’t believe a thing of what the latter says; he brands the excuse a lie; which indeed it is. David is not in Bethlehem; he is in hiding somewhere in the near vicinity of Gibeah. Saul is certain about this, as appears from the way he replies to Jonathan. His anger is kindled against his son. These are the king’s words to him: “Thou son of the perverse and rebellious, do not I know that thou hast chosen the son of Jesse to thine own confusion, and to the confusion of thine mother’s nakedness? For as long as the son of Jesse liveth upon the ground, thou shalt not be established in thine kingdom. Wherefore now send and fetch him unto me, for he shall surely die.”
“Thou son of the perverse and the rebellious. . . literally, “perverse one of rebellion.” That Jonathan is in the sight of Saul. For he is on the side of David, whom Saul wishes to destroy as an aspirant to the throne, and therefore a rebel. And in the words, “Do not I know,” Saul intimates that he is well aware of the friendship between his son and David, and regards this excuse as confirming his opinion. “Do not I know.” A good paraphrase of these words of the king is this, “Think not that I am misled by this excuse. I want the son of Jesse dead; I intended killing him on the feast. Knowing my mind, thou didst permit him to absent himself; or, as thou sayest, to keep the feast with his kin in Bethlehem, though I doubt that he went hither.” That this is the thrust of Saul’s, “Do not I know,” is proved by his commanding Jonathan to fetch David, that he may be slain.
But Saul knows still more; he knows, too, that Jonathan has chosen the son of Jesse to his own confusion. David, he means to say, aspires after the kingship; he has his heart set on rule. He will be king by means fair or foul. For there is no fear of God before his eyes. Hence with that scheming, plotting upstart around Jonathan will never be established, nor will his kingdom, that is, his throne ever be secure, and the kingdom securely his. So, the thing to do is to rid the earth of the man, the sooner the better. Doesn’t Jonathan understand? Let Jonathan then without delay fetch him to Saul; for, certainly, he must die. There can be no question about that.
But what has David done that gives Saul the right to pass on him a judgment so adverse? Saul does not know of a thing. All he knows is that David has been doing him only good. He killed the Philistine Goliath; and he has been fighting Philistines since then, almost without interruption as officer in Saul’s army. So what is his fault? That precisely is what Jonathan has need of knowing. He puts the question to his father. These are his words to Saul, “Wherefore shall he be slain? what hath he done?” It can’t be held against him, certainly, that the Lord appointed him to rule in Saul’s stead. If Saul could point to but one false move of David! But he can’t. Saul’s inability to name the crime that is calling for David’s death, should bring him to repentance. But instead it only feeds his wrath. In his unbridled rage, he grasps his javelin and casts it at his son to smite him. That is the king’s reply to Jonathan’s question, “Wherefore shall he be slain? What has he done?” Saul is a wicked man.
Saul has again revealed his disposition toward David, yet, certainly, no more fully than on previous occasions, as when he spake to Jonathan and to all his servants that they should kill David, 19:1. Shortly thereafter he sought to smite David to the wall with his javelin. David slipped away; and Saul sent messengers to his house to watch him and to slay him in the morning. David escaped; Saul pursued him to Naioth; and David would have died right there and then, had not the Lord rescued him out of the king’s hand. What more could Saul do or say that would indicate that he is actually bent on David’s destruction ? Nothing at all. Hence, there was really no need of putting Saul to this test. David could just as well have saved himself and Jonathan the trouble. Had he done so, those lies would not have been told, and Jonathan would not have nearly paid with his life.
Jonathan’s reactions to the king’s assault and revelation of his disposition toward David must be noticed. Jonathan rises from the table in a fierce anger and eats no meat on this second day of the month. It is strange that he was not actually killed. Perhaps Saul had not actually hurled the spear, but only brandished it. The reason of Jonathan’s great anger and of his not eating is the wrong done not to himself but to David, “because his father had done him—David—shame.” Saul had called David a rebel, and on the ground of this charge—unproved not only but proved to be terribly false—wants him destroyed.
The following morning Jonathan goes out into the field at the time appointed with David. The lad is with him. He is instructed to run and retrieve the arrows that Jonathan will be shooting. The lad is off and Jonathan shoots the arrows further than the boy has run. According to the agreement with
David he cries to the boy, “Is not the arrow beyond thee? ’ It is a question that Jonathan uses in order to make it more certainly seem to tire servant that he was practicing at a mark. And by three commands: “Make haste, stay not” uttered m rapid succession, he keeps the boy occupied with the business of finding the arrows, in order that he may not perchance see David, who is in hiding nearby. The boy takes up the arrows, brings them to his master, and is none the wiser. Jonathan gives the lad his artillery, and dismisses him with the command, “Go, carry them to the city.”
As soon as the lad is gone, David leaves his hiding- place. Meeting up with Jonathan, he bows low three times. They kiss each other and weep, the one with the other. David’s grief is more excessive than that of his friend, Strong men weeping. And there is reason. A wicked king seeks the life of a man blameless and just. Still David does not keep his grief within bounds. Saul’s treatment of him should not be the disturbing element in his life that he has allowed it to become. He morbidly broods over it to the exclusion from his mind of God’s constant care over him. His grief springs largely from unbelief; and in so far it is sheer despair that leads him into ways of reckless deceit bearing the most fearful consequences. David is fundamentally a truly good man; he is one of the most lovable saints of all the scriptures. But like all God’s people, he has his faults, the most serious of which is his readiness to take recourse to lying and deceit to bring relief to himself in difficult situations. Believers have only a beginning, and a small beginning at that, of true obedience. (How true this is) ! And David is no exception. If his conversation during those trying days, be compared with that of his anti-type—the Lord Jesus Christ—during the years of His trial, how evident that David was only a shadow, a type, a pre-indication of the Christ and not the very Christ. The sacred writer, of course, does not gloss over David’s sins; he brings them, one and all, into the clear light of day on the pages of his narrative. It only proves that God wrote the Bible and not men. Men are not honest. And therefore they can’t write history. And they don’t either. History will have to be written all over again. And it will be, too, by God Himself. And that will be history, good, reliable history! For God is absolutely honest. With Him there is no respect of persons. And therefore all truly honest men—honest by His mercy—love Him as they do—love Him in the love that He sheds abroad in their hearts.
David, to return to him, is overcome with grief. The text here reads, “And they kissed one another, and wept with one another, until David exceeded This last clause, the one in italics, must be rendered, “David did greatly,”—namely, wept violently aloud. Of the two, he perhaps was capable of the stronger, the more violent, more vehement emotion. His great agitation of soul can, of course, be explained. It is indeed a terrible thing for a blameless and just man, such as David was, to be chased from one end of the land to another, as David now will be, by a godless and envious king, determined to destroy that man, if and when he once gets him in hand. And all that David may do, to prevent himself from being destroyed, is to continue placing himself beyond Saul’s reach. He may not bring relief to himself in his trying situation by laying his hand on Saul. He must wait upon the Lord to remove Saul; in the meantime he must endure being persecuted. And he must believe that the crucible of affliction in which he finds himself, has been prepared for him by the Lord in His great love of His servant. And how good it was for David to be afflicted. How could the Lord through him have given to the church those psalms that form a part of our Bible had David not had that experience?
Jonathan must take leave of his weeping friend to avoid further exposing him to the danger of being seen. It is not unlikely that their parting ends another conversation between them of which the following words of Jonathan are only the conclusion, “Go in peace, forasmuch as we have sworn both of us in the name of the Lord, saying, The Lord be between me and thee, and between my seed and thy seed forever.” “Go in peace. . . .” As coming from Jonathan the expression is meaningful. It means: Let God’s peace fill thy heart, namely the peace that rises from the assurance within thee, put there by Him, that He is for thee in His love and will keep thee in thy way, so that thou wilt not perish by the hand of thy adversaries but wilt overcome. Jonathan, too, is deeply moved. This is indicated by the way the text of his last words reads in the original, “And of that which the both of us swore, we, in the name of the Lord, saying, The Lord be between me and between thee, and between my seed and between thy seed forever. . . Jonathan does not complete his sentence, he being too deeply moved. But he rises and departs, and goes into the city. And David abides solitary. And upon him rests the ban of the king. Where will he go? To whom will he turn? He takes his journey and comes to Nob to Ahimelech the priest.