March 9, 2014

XOXOXO Part IV: Admiration Not Adoration

Jonathan and David
N.C. Wyeth
David and Jonathan were doing all kinds of hugging and kissing in 1 Samuel. Is it what our society would think it is, or is it something else?

I’ve posted on this before and I will continue to post on this relationship between David and Jonathan because it is still being routinely hijacked from its proper context to reinforce an escalating cultural change that is neither biblical nor accurate. It is being used to push homosexual behavior as not only acceptable but also biblical. This is being done by not only those biblically uneducated but even by deluded theologians trying to stay in step with the surrounding society thinking they can win people…when in reality a diluted Gospel wins no one.

So…were David and Jonathan gay? Is there an Ancient Near East homosexual love story that unfolds in 1 Samuel? In a word: No. This explanation will be rather lengthy but simple to understand. It is example of poor hermeneutics that are further exacerbated by a failure to be able to read/interpret the original Hebrew and theological principles.

“Now it came about when he had finished speaking to Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as himself. Saul took him that day and did not let him return to his father’s house. Then Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, including his sword and his bow and his belt…” 1 Samuel 18:1-4

Many will be quick to cite these actions and the close relationship between David and Jonathan in 1 Samuel 18:1-4 (1 Samuel 20:16-17) as being a homosexual relationship (Helminiak 123-125, White et al-Kindle location 104). This is because of the statement in 1 Samuel 18:1 that says the “soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as himself”, verse 3’s statement that “Jonathan loved him as himself” and verse 4’s, “Jonathan stripped himself…” The wordage that Jonathan stripped himself is often attributed to the fact he was undressing for a sexual act. Jonathan didn’t strip naked here. What happens in this verse is symbolic.

In reality, for Jonathan the heir apparent to the throne to strip of his robe, sword, etc. (royal regalia) and give it to David was an acknowledgement by a King’s son (Saul) that David was indeed the divine elect of God (Youngblood 707). In other words…in the time of David, which was approx. 1000 B.C., for a person of position and power to relinquish their weapon, armor and royal robe was to essentially divest themselves of power (symbolically) and hand it to the person they hand these items to. It was the same as handing someone your royal scepter. In this case it is David. Jonathan knew David was truly God’s chosen, not his father - nor him. By doing these things he was acknowledging David as true king-God's king (Gagnon 150-Homosexual Practice, Merrill 449, Youngblood 707).

It is the passing of a mantle or rightful transfer of political power. Because we are dealing with David who is God’s chosen there is a covenantal aspect (Youngblood 707). Jonathan's obedience to God and acknowledgement of David as true king is then convoluted when made into a homosexual relationship. This is especially true when the dominate pattern of the Bible clearly condemns immoral sexual behavior outside of marriage. To assume one of God’s chosen or a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22) is homosexual is to defame God’s character / name and it betrays a complete lack of understanding of Scriptural principles and archtypes.

The homosexual inference is further compounded with 2 Samuel 1:26’s lament from David over Jonathan’s death when David says, “I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women. It is assumed that the word love here is sexual and above that of women. A gender comparison does not assume a love that is sexual in nature, as this is a fallacy of composition (Jenni et al 48-49). This is a reference again to David and Jonathan’s deep covenant relationship mentioned in 1 Samuel 18:3, 20:8. It is a love of covenant/political loyalty and friendship (Youngblood 816).

David and Jonathan really loved one another, this much is clear. The question is: Does the relationship as described in Scripture warrant seeing them as homosexuals? The Bible makes it abundantly clear that the love between David and Jonathan was deep (real deep). The word love in Hebrew in this and other passages like 1 Samuel is “וַיֶּאֱהָבֵ֥הוּ/aheb” which means to have affection for, sexual or otherwise (Jenni 47). In the political/covenant context of David (God’s true king) and Jonathan (Saul’s heir apparent), this would not make sense (Youngblood 707, 725). What is sad is that this assertion is incongruous to the preponderant pattern of Scripture (Analogy of Scripture) and is totally counter-intuitive in terms of the biblical condemnation of sexual immorality.

The context of the passage is critical to its interpretation. This is not being done with this passage if people believe this relationship speaks of homosexuality. One needs only look at Genesis 22:2 to see the exact same word (love) being used between two other males in the Old Testament…and they are clearly not homosexual (Jenni 48). It is God speaking to Abraham about his son Isaac whom he loved in the same manner David loved Jonathan. It is a familial love with an overlay of covenant relation. We also see it in Leviticus 19:18 when we read that God said, "…you shall love/ahab/ בְּאַהֲבָת֥וֹ your neighbor as yourself” (Jenni 50). If this is homosexual love, this means God is telling the Israelites to love everyone in a homosexual manner. This is a logic fallacy.

Pro-homosexual understandings of these passages totally violate the premise of God’s natural order and God’s premise for sexual relationships or any normal heterosexual relationships for that matter because we are called to love all our neighbors. We even see the same word in the Shema of Deuteronomy 6:4 where believers are called to, “love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Jenni 53). God is not calling us to love Him in a homosexual manner. This was it an intense pure covenant love, not homosexual lust.

In 1 Samuel 20:41 we also see, “After the boy had gone, David got up from the south side of the stone and bowed down before Jonathan three times, with his face to the ground. Then they kissed each other and wept together—but David wept the most.”

When viewed from a presupposition that assumes homosexuality, it is easy to see how these passages can be misinterpreted. The homosexual view of this is that it is a “homosexual kiss.” Again we revisit context, this time in a cultural manner. Men in the time of David greeting other men Ancient Near Eastern culture is much the same as it is now. This should be especially evident as all the other actions involved in this passage are in a formal greeting (the acts of bowing). It was and is a common cultural greeting for men in that day to greet one another by bowing/bending and with a kiss. Furthermore, it did not occur until two and a half chapters after Jonathan gave David his clothes (1 Samuel 18 thru 1 Samuel 20).

The truth is there is no suggestion in the Bible that David and Jonathan were homosexual. This is misinterpretation of the Hebrew or Septuagint Greek based on speculative revisionism. In the larger context of Scripture and David’s life in general, the issue for David does not appear to be an issue of homosexuality; it appears to be an overabundance of heterosexuality. David, like his son Solomon was a heterosexual polygamist based on the evidences of Scripture (DeYoung 290).  David indeed had a problem with sexual immorality but it had to do with quantities, not types.

It seems that this love between Jonathan and David is a covenant love that finds God in the center as witness to it and ironically as the binding agent too (Youngblood 707). It therefore is not surprising that the powers of this world would focus so intently on undermining the Bible at this point. To undermine it here is to destroy the pattern of Scripture and diminish the aspect of covenant love so evident in God’s character. As stated before…to defame what God approves of is to attack God directly and this…is a lost cause.

In the end what we see is an example of admiration, not a homosexual adoration. It is an example of covenant and fellowship love, not homosexual love. This is philos and/or pathos, not eros.


DeYoung, James B. Homosexuality: Contemporary Claims Examined in Light of the Bible and Other Ancient Literature and Law. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2000. Print.

Gagnon, Robert. "Sexuality." Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible. Ed. Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Daniel J. Treier, N. T. Wright, and Craig G. Bartholomew. London: SPCK , 2005. Print.

Helminiak, Daniel A. What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality. Millennium ed. Tajique, NM: Alamo Square Press, 2000. Print.

Jenni, Ernst, and Claus Westermann. Theological Lexicon of the Old Testament. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1997. Print.

Merrill, Eugene H. "1 Samuel." The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures. Ed. John Walvoord, Roy Zuck. Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1985. 431-455. Print.

White, James; Niell, Jeff. Same Sex Controversy, The: Defending and Clarifying the Bible's Message About Homosexuality. Baker Publishing Group, 2002. Kindle Edition.

Youngblood, Ronald F. "1 & 2 Samuel." The Expositor's Bible Commentary: Deuteronomy-2 Samuel. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1992. 553-1104. Print.

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