1 Samuel 20:25
And the king sat upon his seat, as at other times, even upon a seat by the wall: and Jonathan arose, and Abner sat by Saul's side, and David's place was empty.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(25) David’s place was empty.—All took place as the two friends had calculated. Saul’s seat was by the wall—then, as now, in the East the highest place of honour was opposite the door. The exact meaning of the phrase, “and Jonathan arose,” has been disputed. The LXX. translate here from a different text thus: “He (Saul) went before Jonathan.” Keil speaks of this, however, as “the senseless rendering of the Greek Version.” The sense in which this difficult passage is understood by Abarbanel and Rashi seems on the whole the best. Understanding that Jonathan had already seated himself after Saul, and that David’s absence was observed, “he (Jonathan) arose and seated Abner at Saul’s side,” that is, in the place left vacant by David’s absence, in order that the seat next to Saul might not be empty, he himself having taken the seat on the other side of Saul. This rendering considers vayêshev as causative, a verb in the Hipnil conjugation, written defectively, as in 2Chronicles 10:2; so Lange, who also quotes Kitto as suggesting an explanation of Saul’s expecting David’s presence at all at the new moon feast. David, after the strange events at Naioth by Ramah, would suppose (so the king thought) that Saul’s feelings towards him had undergone a complete change, and that now, after the ecstasy into which Saul had fallen, he would be once more friendly with him as aforetime.

20:24-34 None were more constant than David in attending holy duties; nor had he been absent, but self-preservation obliged him to withdraw. In great peril present opportunities for Divine ordinances may be waved. But it is bad for us, except in case of necessity, to omit any opportunity of statedly attending on them. Jonathan did wisely and well for himself and family, to secure an interest in David, yet for this he is blamed. It is good to take God's people for our people. It will prove to our advantage at last, however it may now be thought against our interest. Saul was outrageous. What savage beasts, and worse, does anger make men!The stone Ezel - It is not mentioned elsewhere, except possibly in 1 Samuel 20:41, where see the note. 25. the king sat upon his seat, as at other times … by the wall—The left-hand corner at the upper end of a room was and still is in the East, the most honorable place. The person seated there has his left arm confined by the wall, but his right hand is at full liberty. From Abner's position next the king, and David's seat being left empty, it would seem that a state etiquette was observed at the royal table, each of the courtiers and ministers having places assigned them according to their respective gradations of rank.

Jonathan arose—either as a mark of respect on the entrance of the king, or in conformity with the usual Oriental custom for a son to stand in presence of his father.

Jonathan arose, to wit, from his seat where he was sat next to the king, whence he arose, and stood up at Abner’s coming, to do honour to him, who was his father’s cousin, and the general of the army. David’s place seems to have been next to Abner, on the same side with him.

And the king sat upon his seat as at other times,.... Upon the seat he usually sat on:

even upon a seat by the wall; on a couch by the side of the wall; or, as Jarchi and R. Isaiah say, at the head of the couch by the wall, which was the most honourable place; and Kimchi observes, it was the custom in those days to eat meat sitting on beds or couches, see 1 Samuel 28:23,

and Jonathan arose; either in reverence to his father, when he came in and took his seat, or in respect to Abner upon his coming in, being the son of Saul's uncle, and general of the army; for though he arose, he did not depart, it is plain he sat down again, 1 Samuel 20:34. Kimchi thinks, that after Jonathan had sat down at the side of his father, he arose and placed Abner there, because he would not be near his father, that if he should be wroth with him on account of David, he might not be near him to smite him:

and Abner sat by Saul's side; according to Josephus (c) Jonathan sat at his right hand and Abner on the left, and it was usual for the master, or principal person, to sit in the middle; so Dido in Virgil (d). Abarbinel places them thus, Saul was at the head of the table, and David was used to sit by him, and Jonathan by David, and Abner by Jonathan; and now the king sat in his place, and Jonathan in his place, and Abner after him; and David's place being empty, Jonathan was left next to his father, without any between; wherefore he now arose from his place, and Abner sat on that side where Saul was, so that Abner was between Jonathan and Saul:

and David's place was empty; where he used to sit at table, he not being there, and no one taking it.

(c) Antiqu. l. 6. c. 11. sect. 9. (d) "----- mediamque locavit". Aeneid. 1. prope finem. Vid. Servium in ib.

And the king sat upon his seat, as at other times, even upon a seat by the wall: and Jonathan arose, and Abner sat by Saul's side, and David's place was empty.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
25. upon a seat by the wall] Saul occupied the place of honour at the top or the centre of the table opposite the entrance.

and Jonathan arose] This appears to mean that Jonathan first occupied his usual seat by Saul’s side, but when Abner entered resigned the place to him, probably not wishing to sit next his father in David’s absence. The Sept. has a different reading, “And he preceded Jonathan,” which is equally obscure. Josephus says, “When they had sat down beside Saul, Jonathan on the right, and Abner on the left.”

1 Samuel 20:25David thereupon concealed himself in the field, whilst Jonathan, as agreed upon, endeavoured to apologize for his absence from the king's table.

1 Samuel 20:24-25

On the new moon's day Saul sat at table, and as always, at his seat by the wall, i.e., at the top, just as, in eastern lands at the present day, the place of honour is the seat in the corner (see Harmar Beobachtungen ii. pp. 66ff.). "And Jonathan rose up, and Abner seated himself by the side of Saul, and David's place remained empty." The difficult passage, "And Jonathan rose up," etc., can hardly be understood in any other way than as signifying that, when Abner entered, Jonathan rose from his seat by the side of Saul, and gave up the place to Abner, in which case all that is wanting is an account of the place to which Jonathan moved. Every other attempted explanation is exposed to much graver difficulties. The suggestion made by Gesenius, that the cop. ו should be supplied before אבנר, and ויּשׁב referred to Jonathan ("and Jonathan rose up and sat down, and Abner [sat down] by the side of Saul"), as in the Syriac, is open to this objection, that in addition to the necessity of supplying ו, it is impossible to see why Jonathan should have risen up for the purpose of sitting down again. The rendering "and Jonathan came," which is the one adopted by Maurer and De Wette, cannot be philologically sustained; inasmuch as, although קוּם is used to signify rise up, in the sense of the occurrence of important events, or the appearance of celebrated of persons, it never means simply "to come." And lastly, the conjecture of Thenius, that ויּקם should be altered into ויקדּם, according to the senseless rendering of the lxx, προέφθασε τὸν Ἰονάθαν, is overthrown by the fact, that whilst קדּם does indeed mean to anticipate or come to meet, it never means to sit in front of, i.e., opposite to a person.

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