May 20, 2015

The Bible and Homosexuality XV: David and Jonathan...Adoration or Admiration?

David and Jonathan’s Love

Were David and Jonathan gay lovers? Is there an Ancient homosexual love story that unfolds in 1 and 2 Samuel?

In a word: No.

This is one of the most tightly held misinterpretations of Scripture by pro-homosexual advocates. The zeal to view this relationship as gay is justified due to the language content / context but not due to the social and historical context. My explanation will be lengthy but critical to a biblical apologetic. 

Belief that David and Jonathan were gay is an example of difficult but poor interpretation that is further exacerbated by a failure to be able to read/interpret the original Hebrew and understand theological principles. Conversely, a mere dismissive sweeping aside of the pro-homosexual argument is dangerous here because as I’ve said, the language in the passage concerning David and Jonathan is precise and context driven. If one does not view all the contexts with the proper presuppositions they will come away with a distorted view of what is going on between the two men.

“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

Pro-homosexual advocates are quick to cite the relationship between David and Jonathan in 1 Samuel 18:1-4 (secondarily 1 Samuel 20:16-17) as probably 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 a physical act of disrobing with symbolic implications.

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 rightful heir to the throne and 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 and hand it to the person they handed 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 himself. By doing these things he was essentially throwing his potential crown he would gain from his father at David’s feet acknowledging David as true king-God's king (Gagnon 150-Homosexual Practice, Merrill 449, Youngblood 707).

Admiration Not Adoration

What we see in this passage is a respect or admiration for David by Jonathan, not a homosexual adoration. This is not imagery of a homosexual tryst. 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 covenant aspect to this also (Youngblood 707). How Jonathan's obedience to God and acknowledgement of David as true king can be interpreted as homosexual encounter is hard to accept. This is especially true when the dominate pattern of the Bible that this passage resides in clearly condemns immoral sexual behavior that includes homosexuality or same-sex intercourse. 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 smear and defame God’s character / name and it betrays a complete lack of understanding of Scriptural principles.

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).

It is clear that David and Jonathan really loved one another. The difficulty and point of contention in this passage is here. 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.

When doing hermeneutics and words studies whether they are Hebrew or Greek, the context of the passage and context of Scripture at large need to be taken into consideration. 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 whom he loved in the same manner that David loved Jonathan. 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 wrong to the point of absurdity.

Again, this understanding totally violates 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. The places where homosexual intercourse are referred to in the Old Testament it is referred to as יָדַע or yada / “to know” as in Genesis 19:5 with Lot in Sodom and Judges 19:22 with the Levite and His Concubine (Block 537). This also seems to show that it isn’t even love related to covenant or loyalty (ἀγάπη / φιλέω) that is being addressed in the strictest sense where יָדַע / yada is being used in these respective passages. It is in reality just a sexual act of lust (ερος).

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 in the Ancient Middle Eastern (AME) 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). This hardly happens in a single romantic evening rendezvous regardless of what people want to read into the text.

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 the context and is also 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). Homosexual presuppositions are clearly being read into the text. John Boswell who speaks from a pro-homosexual viewpoint seems to affirm this sentiment about the stories of David and Jonathan and Ruth and Naomi by only stating that they have erotic overtones but he never insists that they are homosexual (Boswell-Kindle location 2878). It doesn't seem that he was bold or foolish enough to bridge that interpretive chasm and jeopardize his academic credibility.

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