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Poole on 1 Samuel 20:1-3: David's Appeal to Jonathan

Verse 1:[1] And David fled from Naioth in Ramah, and came and said before Jonathan, What have I done? what is mine iniquity? and what is my sin before thy father, that he seeketh my life?


[He fled from Naioth] That is, while Saul was prophesying (Menochius, Junius).


[And coming] Namely, to Gibeah of Saul, where Jonathan was at that time, as it is evident from verses 5, 35, 40 (Piscator).


David fled, whilst Saul lay in an ecstasy, from Naioth in Ramah to Gibeah, where Jonathan was, taking the opportunity of Saul’s absence. What is my sin before thy father? what is it which thus incenseth thy father against me? what crime doth he charge me with?


[He seeketh my soul] That is, to destroy it. A Synecdoche of genus (Piscator): that is, he wants to kill me (Vatablus).


That he seeketh my life, to wit, to destroy it, as this phrase is oft used, as 1 Samuel 22:23; Psalm 38:12; 54:3; 63:9.


Verse 2:[2] And he said unto him, God forbid; thou shalt not die: behold, my father will do nothing either great or small, but that he will shew it me (Heb. uncover mine ear;[3] 1 Sam. 20:12;[4] 9:15[5]): and why should my father hide this thing from me? it is not so.


[Far be it, חָלִילָה[6]] Understanding, this from thee; that is to say, my father has not determined to kill thee. For he was attributing all that Saul did to David to the malignant spirit (Vatablus). Jonathan was deceived, because it is not likely that Saul indicated to him, that either he was going to send to Naioth to capture David, or was going to proceed there himself (Piscator). For he will not do anything…unless he will have previously shown me: Hebrew, he will not do, and not show it to me;[7] that is, what he will not first declare to me (Glassius, Vatablus). The copulative conjunction sometimes is used in the place of a relative pronoun: Thus in Exodus 10:25, thou art going to relinquish in our hand sacrifices, וְעָשִׂינוּ, and we will make (that is, which we will make) to Jehovah. In Ruth 3:16, and she came to her mother-in-law, וַתֹּאמֶר, and she was saying, in the place of, who was saying. In Psalm 118:27, the mighty God is Jehovah, וַיָּאֶר, and He hath shown us light, in the place of, who hath shown us light (Glassius’ “Grammar” 523. Not does he do and not reveal: that is, he does not do in such a way that he does not reveal: or, when he does something, he reveals it: which sort of conjunction is in that, there are no gods and there is no divination: that is, if there are gods, there is also divination. A copulative proposition consisting of two negations has the force of a conjunctive affirmation (Piscator). [Moreover, in the text is לוֹא־עָשָׂה, not does he do, in the place of which in the margin the Masoretes read יַעֲשֶׂה.] Not shall he do; that is, he is not wont to do (Vatablus, Junius and Tremellius, Mariana). Jonathan was inferring this from the fact that no so long ago his father had entrusted to him his counsel concerning the killing of David (Menochius). He will have shown; Hebrew, and he will not reveal, or uncover mine ear.[8] Concerning which expression, see what things are on Ruth 4:4[9] (Piscator).



Thou shalt not die; I will secure thee by my interest with my father; nor doth he design to destroy thee; for what he doth in his frantic fits is not to be imputed to him; and when he comes to himself, I doubt not to reconcile thee to him. For Jonathan gave credit to his father’s oath, 1 Samuel 19:6; and the worthiest minds are least suspicious and most charitable in their opinions of others.


[This speech] Hebrew: this word.[10] Word in the place of thing or business (Piscator).


Verse 3:[11] And David sware moreover, and said, Thy father certainly knoweth that I have found grace in thine eyes; and he saith, Let not Jonathan know this, lest he be grieved: but truly as the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, there is but a step between me and death.


[And he swore, etc.] That is, he confirmed the same things with oath added (Vatablus); namely, that his father’s resolution stands, that he is going to kill him (Mariana). To sware is used in the place of religiously to affirm, which he does in these following words, as it is certain that Jehovah liveth, as it is certain that thou livest, etc. (Castalio). But this sense differs little from an oath, the form of which is, the Lord liveth, as it is evident from Jeremiah 4:2 and Hosea 4:15; or then David is not to be excused concerning the levity of the oath; or he speaks so, because Jonathan was not believing this [thus it is to be read, not, was believing this, as it is nonsensically set down in the Ultimate Bible[12]], as it is evident from what precedes, God forbid; thou shalt not die (Estius). An oath is usefully made, if one makes it to confirm the mind of his neighbor,[13] or the glory of God (Martyr).


And David sware, etc.: The matter being of great moment, and Jonathan doubting the truth of it, David confirms his word with an oath, which follows in the end of the verse; only he interposeth a reason why Saul concealed it from Jonathan.


[By one step only are death and I divided, כְפֶשַׂע וגו״] It is written with a Smol [that is, with a left point ( ׂ)[14]] (Munster). They translate it, there is a step, as it were (understanding, one [Pagnine]), between me and death (Junius and Tremellius, Pagnine, similarly all interpreters). There are two thousand such steps in a Sabbath’s Day journey (Grotius). That is to say, Death rushes upon with with precipitous speed, and is separated from me by hardly one step (Menochius). Thus those navigating on the sea, as the poet says,[15] are only four fingers from death[16] (Lapide). I am not far from being killed (Vatablus).

[1] Hebrew: וַיִּבְרַ֣ח דָּוִ֔ד מִנָּו֖וֹת בָּרָמָ֑ה וַיָּבֹ֞א וַיֹּ֣אמֶר׀ לִפְנֵ֣י יְהוֹנָתָ֗ן מֶ֤ה עָשִׂ֙יתִי֙ מֶֽה־עֲוֹנִ֤י וּמֶֽה־חַטָּאתִי֙ לִפְנֵ֣י אָבִ֔יךָ כִּ֥י מְבַקֵּ֖שׁ אֶת־נַפְשִֽׁי׃ [2] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֙אמֶר ל֣וֹ חָלִילָה֮ לֹ֣א תָמוּת֒ הִנֵּ֡ה לוֹ־עָשָׂ֙ה אָבִ֜י דָּבָ֣ר גָּד֗וֹל א֚וֹ דָּבָ֣ר קָטֹ֔ן וְלֹ֥א יִגְלֶ֖ה אֶת־אָזְנִ֑י וּמַדּוּעַ֩ יַסְתִּ֙יר אָבִ֥י מִמֶּ֛נִּי אֶת־הַדָּבָ֥ר הַזֶּ֖ה אֵ֥ין זֹֽאת׃ [3] Hebrew: יִגְלֶ֖ה אֶת־אָזְנִ֑י. [4] 1 Samuel 20:12: “And Jonathan said unto David, O Lord God of Israel, when I have sounded my father about to morrow any time, or the third day, and, behold, if there be good toward David, and I then send not unto thee, and shew it thee (וְגָלִ֖יתִי אֶת־אָזְנֶֽךָ׃, and uncover thine ear)…” [5] 1 Samuel 9:15: “Now the Lord had told Samuel in his ear (גָּלָ֖ה אֶת־אֹ֣זֶן שְׁמוּאֵ֑ל, had told in the ear of Samuel) a day before Saul came, saying…” [6]חָלַל signifies to pollute or profane. [7] Hebrew: לוֹ־עָשָׂ֙ה אָבִ֜י—וְלֹ֥א יִגְלֶ֖ה אֶת־אָזְנִ֑י. [8] Hebrew: וְלֹ֥א יִגְלֶ֖ה אֶת־אָזְנִ֑י. [9] Ruth 4:4a: “And I thought to advertise thee (אֶגְלֶ֧ה אָזְנְךָ֣), saying, Buy it before the inhabitants, and before the elders of my people….” [10] 1 Samuel 20:2b: “…and why should my father hide this thing (אֶת־הַדָּבָ֥ר הַזֶּ֖ה) from me? it is not so.” [11] Hebrew: וַיִּשָּׁבַ֙ע ע֜וֹד דָּוִ֗ד וַ֙יֹּאמֶר֙ יָדֹ֙עַ יָדַ֜ע אָבִ֗יךָ כִּֽי־מָצָ֤אתִי חֵן֙ בְּעֵינֶ֔יךָ וַיֹּ֛אמֶר אַל־יֵֽדַע־זֹ֥את יְהוֹנָתָ֖ן פֶּן־יֵֽעָצֵ֑ב וְאוּלָ֗ם חַי־יְהוָה֙ וְחֵ֣י נַפְשֶׁ֔ךָ כִּ֣י כְפֶ֔שַׂע בֵּינִ֖י וּבֵ֥ין הַמָּֽוֶת׃ [12]Biblia Maxima. [13] See Hebrews 6:16. [14]פֶּשַׂע signifies step; פֶּשַׁע, transgression. [15] Juvenal’s Satire 12. [16] That is, the thickness of a plank.

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