1 Samuel 20:41
And as soon as the lad was gone, David arose out of a place toward the south, and fell on his face to the ground, and bowed himself three times: and they kissed one another, and wept one with another, until David exceeded.
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(41) David arose out of a place toward the south.—If the text be correct here, which is very doubtful, we must understand these words as signifying that as soon as David perceived that Jonathan was alone (as soon as the lad was gone), he rose from the south side of the rock, where he had been lying concealed. [The “arrow” sign would have been enough to have warned David; and had he not seen that Jonathan was alone and waiting for him, David would, from his place of hiding, have made his escape unseen.] The Chaldee here reads, “from the stone of the sign (or the stone Atha) which is on the south;” the LXX. (Vat. MS.), “from the Argab;” Alex. MS., “from sleep.” The different versions, more or less, have repeated the statement in 1Samuel 20:19, failing altogether to understand the two Hebrew words mêêtzel hannegev, translated in our English Version, “out of a place toward the south.”

And fell on his face.—Josephus’ words, in his traditional account of the event, explain David’s reason for this. “He did obeisance, and called him the saviour of his life.”

Until David exceeded.—The expression is a strange one, and apparently signifies either simply that while Jonathan wept bitterly at the parting, David wept still more, or else that “David broke down,” that is, “was completely mastered by his grief.”—Dean Payne Smith. The LXX. translators here are quite unintelligible in their rendering, which represents David as weeping “until a (or the) great consummation.”

1 Samuel 20:41. And fell on his face to the ground, &c. — After three bows, he fell on his face; out of reverence to Jonathan, as the king’s son, and in tenderness to him, as his most generous friend. They kissed one another, and wept one with another — Nothing can be imagined more generous, and, at the same time, more soft and moving, than this meeting of these two friends. Jonathan seems, out of tenderness to David, to have suppressed some part of his grief. But David, who reflected that he was now taking his last leave of a friend who had often saved his life, and was now just come from speaking in his favour, at the imminent hazard of his own life, could not restrain himself. The thought of taking a farewell of so invaluable a friend, and, at the same time, of leaving all his comforts, even those of God’s sanctuary, was so bitter, that he could not bear it with moderation; and therefore is said to have exceeded. Perhaps his temper was more tender, and his passions stronger, than those of Jonathan; who, however, seems evidently to have done great violence to his feelings, and to have had no little difficulty so to restrain his grief as not to sink his friend too much, but to send him away with a calm confidence in God, and religious tranquillity and peace of mind.

20:35-42 The separation of two such faithful friends was grievous to both, but David's case was the more deplorable, for David was leaving all his comforts, even those of God's sanctuary. Christians need not sorrow, as men without hope; but being one with Christ, they are one with each other, and will meet in his presence ere long, to part no more; to meet where all tears shall be wiped from their eyes.A place toward the south - An unintelligible description; one expects a repetition of the description of David's hiding-place in 1 Samuel 20:19. The Septuagint in both places has "argab," a word meaning a "heap of stones." If this be the true reading, David's hiding-place was either a natural cavernous rock which was called "Argab," or some ruin of an ancient building, equally suited for a hiding-place.

Bowed himself three times - In token, doubtless, of his unshaken loyalty to Jonathan as the son of his king, as well as his friend; and in acknowledgment of Jonathan's power to kill him if he saw fit. (Compare Genesis 33:3).

David exceeded - His affection for Jonathan, coupled with his sense of Saul's injustice and his own injured innocence, fully accounts for his strong emotion.

1Sa 20:41, 42. Jonathan and David Lovingly Part.

41, 42. David … fell on his face to the ground, and bowed three times—a token of homage to the prince's rank; but on a close approach, every other consideration was sunk in the full flow of the purest brotherly affection.

Toward the south; in respect of the stone where David by appointment hid himself.

Until David exceeded; as well he might, because he was driven away, not only from his dear friend Jonathan, but also from his wife, and all his relations, and from the commonwealth of israel, and from the service of God; as he complains below, 1 Samuel 26:19.

And as soon as the lad was gone,.... Which David could observe from his lurking place:

David arose out of a place toward the south; to the south of the field in which he was hid, or to the south of the stone Ezel, near which he was; and so the Targum,"and David arose from the side of the stone Atha, which was towards the south;''Jonathan shooting his arrows to the north of it, lest the lad should have discovered David when he ran for them: and fell on his face to the ground; in reverence of Jonathan, as the son of a king, and in respect to him as his friend, who had so faithfully served him, and was so concerned to save his life:

and bowed himself three times: this was before he fell prostrate on the ground. Abarbinel observes, that bowing three; times was fit and proper to be done to a king; once at the place from whence they first see him, the second time in the middle of the way to him, and the third time when come to him; but though this may have been a custom in more modern times, it is a question whether it obtained so early; however it is certain bowing was as ancient, and therefore Xenophon (z) is mistaken in ascribing it to Cyrus as the first introducer of this custom; and be it that he was the first that began it among the Persians, it was in use with others before, as this behaviour of David shows:

and they kissed one another; as friends about to part:

and wept one with another: as not knowing whether they should ever see each other's face any more:

until David exceeded; in weeping more than Jonathan; he having more to part with, not only him his dear friend, but his wife and family, and other dear friends and people of God, and especially the sanctuary and service of God, which of all things lay nearest his heart, and most distressed him; see 1 Samuel 26:19; and many of his psalms on this occasion. Ben Gersom suggests that he wept more than was meet, through too much fear of Saul; but that seems not to be the case.

(z) Cyropaedia, l. 8. c. 23.

And as soon as the lad was gone, David arose out of a place toward the {s} south, and fell on his face to the ground, and bowed himself three times: and they kissed one another, and wept one with another, until David exceeded.

(s) It seems that he shot on the north side of the stone, least the boy should have seen David.

41. out of a place toward the south] Lit. “from the side of the south,” i.e. from a hiding-place to the south of the stone Ezel. But the expression is anomalous, and it is best to adopt the Sept. reading, “from beside the heap of stones,” as in 1 Samuel 20:19.

fell on his face, &c.] As a token of reverence and loyalty to the king’s son. Cp. Genesis 33:3; Genesis 42:6. An Oriental when he meets a superior, kneels down and touches the ground with his forehead.

1 Samuel 20:41When the boy had gone, David rose (from his hiding-place) from the south side, fell down upon his face to the ground, and bowed three times (before Jonathan); they then kissed each other, and wept for one another, "till David wept strongly," i.e., to such a degree that David wept very loud. הנּגב מאצל, "from the side of the south," which is the expression used to describe David's hiding-place, according to its direction in relation to the place where Jonathan was standing, has not been correctly rendered by any of the early translators except Aquila and Jerome. In the Septuagint, the Chaldee, the Syriac, and the Arabic, the statement in 1 Samuel 20:19 is repeated, simply because the translators could not see the force of הנּגב מאצל, although it is intelligible enough in relation to what follows, according to which David fled from thence southwards to Nob.
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