David Loved Jonathan and Publicly
Says Jonathan’s Love Was Better
Than The Love Of His Many Wives
David loved Jonathan. God reminds us of this important fact by recording in scripture, David’s moving eulogy for Jonathan. Jonathan, ever the valiant warrior, died in armed combat with the Philistines.
“And the Philistines followed hard upon Saul and upon his sons; and the Philistines slew Jonathan, and Abinadab, and Malchishua, Saul’s sons.” 1 Samuel 31:2.
“Then David took hold on his clothes, and rent them; and likewise all the men that were with him: And they mourned, and wept, and fasted until even, for Saul, and for Jonathan his son, and for the people of the LORD, and for the house of Israel; because they were fallen by the sword.” 2 Samuel 1:11-12.
David loved Jonathan and all of David's mighty men were aware of that fact. For fifteen years they had facilitated David and Jonathan's relationship, enabling them to meet secretly, without King Saul discovering where David was hiding.
Every love story doesn't have a happy ending. When D and J parted for the last time recorded in the Bible, they undoubtedly believed they would see each other again soon, 1 Samuel 23:16-18.
Reconciliation of David and Absalom, by Rembrandt van Rijn, 1642
It is possible Jonathan and David had numerous meetings between the last recorded meeting in I Samuel 23:16-18 and Jonathan’s death fighting the Philistines, I Samuel 31:2. Yet scripture records no further meetings. Jonathan disappears from the narrative until his untimely death in battle.
David has just returned from a military campaign against the Amalekites when he learns, from an Amalekite, of Jonathan’s death, 2 Samuel 1:1-5, 1:13. By the time David hears the awful news, the bodies of Saul and his three sons, have already been defiled and hung from the city wall of Bethshan, 1 Samuel 31:8-13.
Did the Philistines behead Saul as payback because David beheaded the Philistine champion Goliath in 1 Samuel 17:51-54? Probably.
David loved Jonathan. His grief over the death of Saul and Jonathan is voiced in lamentation as David writes and sings his first Psalm recorded in scripture.
“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 Samuel 1:19-27.
Seven Possible Interpretations
Of David’s Words
- David’s lament for Jonathan was a lie, which David stated publicly out of duty but did not really believe in his heart. He was just putting on a show for the sake of funeral etiquette.
Because scripture is so clear that David loved Jonathan, this interpretation does not fit the text.
- David was only speaking in general terms, comparing his feelings for women with whom he was not personally acquainted to his feelings for Jonathan. “Jonathan’s nonsexual love was better to me than the nonsexual love of women with whom I am not personally acquainted.”
David loved Jonathan. This interpretation does not fit the text.
- David was comparing his feelings for all the women with whom he shared, deep, long-term, personal, nonsexual friendships with his feelings of deep, long-term, personal, nonsexual friendship for Jonathan. “Jonathan’s nonsexual, friendship love was better to me than the nonsexual, friendship love of my dearest, closest girlfriends.”
David loved Jonathan. Nothing in the text indicates that David enjoyed deep, long-term, personal, nonsexual friendships with women to whom he was not married.
4. David was comparing the nonsexual, familial love he felt for his mother, aunts, sisters, sisters in law and female cousins with the nonsexual, brotherly love he felt for Jonathan. “Jonathan’s nonsexual brotherly love was better to me than the nonsexual familial love of female family members like my mother, aunts, sisters, sisters in law and female cousins.” This interpretation does not fit the text which places such emphasis on the love between Jonathan and David.
This interpretation does not fit the Hebrew words used to describe Jonathan and David’s relationship. Nor does this interpretation fit King Saul’s statements about Jonathan and David’s relationship. King Saul knew that David loved Jonathan.
5. David was comparing the intimate friendship and sexual love of his girlfriends prior to the time he married his wives, I Samuel 25:5, with the intimate friendship and sexual love he shared with Jonathan. “Jonathan’s intimate friendship and sexual love, was better to me than the intimate friendship and sexual love of my former girlfriends whom I never married.”
This interpretation does not fit the text since David is not described as having girlfriends. Understanding David as sexually active with multiple females whom he did not marry does not fit the text.
6. David was comparing the intimate, sexual friendship he shared with his wives with the intimate, nonsexual friendship he shared with Jonathan. “Jonathan’s intimate, nonsexual friendship was better to me than the intimate, sexual friendship of my wives.”
This is essentially the traditionalist viewpoint and does not fit the text. David loved Jonathan.
7. David was comparing the intimate friendship and sexual love of his wives with the intimate friendship and sexual love he shared with Jonathan. “Jonathan’s intimate friendship and sexual love, was better to me than the intimate friendship and sexual love of my wives.”
Interpretation # 7 best fits the text of scripture.
David describes Jonathan’s love to him as “wonderful, passing the love of women-wives.”
To make David’s statement refer to platonic friendship, ‘I was closer to Jonathan than to any of my close female friends’ is a woefully inadequate understanding of the text.
Because Jewish men in David’s time did not have close, platonic friendships with females to whom they were not related by blood or marriage, it better fits the text to accept David’s statement at face value.
The emotional, romantic, sexual love between Jonathan and David was more wonderful than the romantic, emotional, sexual love between David and his wives.
This understanding in no way denigrates heterosexual relationships. It merely emphasizes the priority and closeness of Jonathan and David’s intimate relationship.
Jonathan was David’s first and best human love. David loved Jonathan.
God has a wise purpose for everything He allows and for everything He included in the Bible. Knowing the controversy homosexuality would cause in the modern church, God inspired Samuel to record David's unambiguous statement about his loving partnership with Jonathan so we would know that God blesses and sanctifies gay relationships and gay marriages which are within the biblical moral framework - committed, faithful, noncultic.
Biblical Analogies for Gay Marriage
More Analogies for Gay Marriage
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David and Jonathan Love Story
Jonathan and David
This page updated January 23, 2017