And I will shoot three arrows on the side thereof, as though I shot at a mark.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)I will shoot three arrows.—The two friends agree on a sign. It was a very simple one, and seems to speak of very early primitive times. Jonathan slightly varies from his original purpose. In 1Samuel 20:12 it seems as though he meant to have sent a special messenger had the news been good, but now the arrangement is that in either event he should come himself out from the city into the solitary valley where it was agreed David should remain in hiding by the stone “Ezel.” Dean Payne Smith rather strangely conceives that the arrows of the “sign” were to be aimed at the stone Ezel, but the description points to the “mark” as situated on the side of “Ezel,” in or behind which David was to be concealed.
The prince agreed that after the feast he would leave the city, as though about to practise shooting at a mark, and that he would bring with him a servant—probably-one of his young armour-bearers—when, at the spot agreed upon in the neighbourhood of David’s place of concealment near Ezel, he would post his servant in his place as marker, and then would shoot. After shooting, he would call out to his attendant, “the arrows are on this side of thee” (that is, between the mark and Jonathan himself), then David would know all was well; but if he cried “the arrows are beyond thee,” that is, on the further side of the mark, David would understand that all was over, and that he must fly. Jonathan evidently took these precautions not knowing whether or no he would be accompanied by friends of his father from the city, in which case the “sign” agreed upon would be sufficient to tell David what had happened at the feast. As it turned out, Jonathan was able to escape observation, and to go alone with his servant to the place of meeting. He used the sign to attract his friend’s attention, and then followed the last sorrowful parting, told in 1Samuel 20:41-42.1 Samuel 20:41, where see the note.
come to the place where thou didst hide thyself when the business was in hand—Hebrew, "in the day," or "time of the business," when the same matter was under inquiry formerly (1Sa 19:22).
remain by the stone Ezel—Hebrew, "the stone of the way"; a sort of milestone which directed travellers. He was to conceal himself in some cave or hiding-place near that spot.And I will shoot three arrows on the side thereof, as though I shot at a mark.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)20. I will shoot, &c.] This sign was arranged in case Jonathan should be watched by Saul’s spies, and prevented from getting an interview with David without endangering him. No suspicion would be excited by Jonathan’s carrying the bow which was his usual weapon (1 Samuel 18:4).Verses 20-23. - The two friends now agree upon the sign. Jonathan was to shoot three arrows at this stone, Ezel, as his mark, and was then to send his servant to gather them up. When he bad gone some distance Jonathan was to shout to him, loud enough for David to hear. If Jonathan said that the arrows were on that side the mark, i.e. between it and Jonathan, David was to come forth boldly, as all was well. But if Jonathan said that the arrows were further on, then David must understand that he was to seek safety in flight. For there is peace to thee, and no hurt, the Hebrew has "there is peace to thee, and it is nothing," a simpler and more idiomatic rendering. As touching the matter, etc. Rather, "As for the word that we have spoken, I and thou, behold, Jehovah is between me and thee forever." The word was the bond and covenant by which they had pledged their truth to one another. Though separated, their love was to continue, and Jehovah was to be their eternal centre of union, and the witness to their covenant.
1 Samuel 20:12, 1 Samuel 20:13); and then entreated him, with a certain presentiment that David would one day be king, even then to maintain his love towards him and his family for ever (1 Samuel 20:14-16); and lastly, he made David swear again concerning his love (1 Samuel 20:17), and then gave him the sign by which he would communicate the promised information (1 Samuel 20:18-23).
1 Samuel 20:12 and 1 Samuel 20:13 are connected. Jonathan commences with a solemn invocation of God: "Jehovah, God of Israel!" and thus introduces his oath. We have neither to supply "Jehovah is witness," nor "as truly as Jehovah liveth," as some have suggested. "When I inquire of my father about this time to-morrow, the day after to-morrow (a concise mode of saying 'to-morrow or the day after'), and behold it is (stands) well for David, and then I do not send to thee and make it known to thee, Jehovah shall do so to Jonathan," etc. ("The Lord do so," etc., the ordinary formula used in an oath: see 1 Samuel 14:44). The other case is then added without an adversative particle: "If it should please my father evil against thee (lit. as regards evil), "I will make it known to thee, and let thee go, that thou mayest go in peace; and Jehovah be with thee, as He has been with my father." In this wish there is expressed the presentiment that David would one day occupy that place in Israel which Saul occupied then, i.e., the throne. - In 1 Samuel 20:14 and 1 Samuel 20:15 the Masoretic text gives no appropriate meaning. Luther's rendering, in which he follows the Rabbins and takes the first ולא (1 Samuel 20:14) by itself, and then completes the sentence from the context ("but if I do it not, show me no mercy, because I live, not even if I die"), contains indeed a certain permissible sense when considered in itself; but it is hardly reconcilable with what follows, "and do not tear away thy compassion for ever from my house." The request that he would show no compassion to him (Jonathan) even if he died, and yet would not withdraw his compassion from his house for ever, contains an antithesis which would have been expressed most clearly and unambiguously in the words themselves, if this had been really what Jonathan intended to say. De Wette's rendering gives a still more striking contradiction: "But let not (Jehovah be with thee) if I still live, and thou showest not the love of Jehovah to me, that I do not, and thou withdrawest not thy love from my house for ever." There is really no other course open than to follow the Syriac and Arabic, as Maurer, Thenius, and Ewald have done, and change the ולא in the first two clauses in 1 Samuel 20:14 into ולוּ or ולא, according to the analogy of the form לוּא (1 Samuel 14:30), and to render the passage thus: "And mayest thou, if I still live, mayest thou show to me the favour of the Lord, and not if I do, not withdraw thy favour from my house for ever, not even (ולא) when Jehovah shall cut off the enemies of David, every one from the face of the earth!" "The favour of Jehovah" is favour such as Jehovah shall cut off," etc., shows very clearly Jonathan's conviction that Jehovah would give to David a victory over all his enemies.
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