Therefore you shall deal kindly with your servant; for you have brought your servant into a covenant of the LORD with you: notwithstanding, if there be in me iniquity, slay me yourself; for why should you bring me to your father?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)A covenant of the Lord with thee.—It may at first sight seem strange that we have these last meetings of David and Jonathan told us in such detail—the speaker’s very words quoted, and so many apparently trivial circumstances related.
The question, too, might be asked: Whence did the compiler of the book derive his intimate acquaintance with what took place at these meetings, when David was alone with Jonathan? But the difficulties are only surface ones, for we must never forget how intensely interesting to the chosen people were all the circumstances connected with their loved king’s life—never lose sight of the deathless interest with which they would hear and read the particulars of David’s rise through great suffering and long trial to the throne; and this period here related in such detail was the turning-point of a grand career. From this moment, David’s way diverged from the every-day life of ordinary duty and prosperity, and became, during a long and weary period, for him the way of almost uninterrupted suffering. The way of suffering and of trial is in all ages the royal road to true greatness. As to the source whence the compiler of the book derived his knowledge of what passed at these last meetings of the two friends, Ewald suggests that when in after years David drew to his Court the posterity of Jonathan, he often told them himself of these last events before their separation (events with which no one but the two friends could be acquainted).
Slay me thyself.—“This supposes that Jonathan had the right to inflict capital punishment for crimes against his father as king.”—Lange. This was David’s last earnest request to the prince. If Jonathan felt there was any truth in the charges brought against him by Saul—if he deemed his friend a traitor to the reigning dynasty—let him slay the betrayer himself there and then.1 Samuel 20:8. Thou shalt deal kindly with thy servant — In giving me timely notice, and a true account of Saul’s disposition and intention toward me. A covenant of the Lord — That is, a solemn covenant, not lightly undertaken, but seriously entered into, in the name and fear of God, and in his presence, calling him to be the witness of our sincerity therein, and the avenger of perfidiousness in him that breaks it. Slay me — I am contented thou shouldest kill me. For why — Why shouldest thou betray me to thy father, by concealing his evil intentions from me?Thou shalt deal kindly with thy servant, in giving me timely notice, and a true account of Saul’s disposition and intention towards me.
A covenant of the Lord, i.e. a solemn covenant, not lightly undertaken, but seriously entered into, in the name and fear of God, and in his presence, calling him to be the witness of our sincerity therein, and the avenger of perfidiousness in him that breaks it.
Slay me thyself; I am contented thou shouldst kill me.
Why shouldest thou bring me to thy father? why shouldst thou betray me to thy father, by concealing his evil intentions from me?
for thou hast brought thy servant into a covenant of the Lord with thee; a covenant of friendship between Jonathan and David, of which Jonathan was the first mover, and so is said to bring or persuade him into it; called the covenant of the Lord, because made in his name and fear, and before him as a witness of it; and this David pleads as an argument with Jonathan, to deal kindly and faithfully by him in the present case:
notwithstanding, if there be in me iniquity, slay me thyself: or pass sentence upon him to be slain; which, if guilty, he might have power to do in his father's absence, and which David desires might be done, notwithstanding the covenant of friendship between them, should he appear to deserve it by any action of his, of which he was not conscious; this expresses the strong sense he had of his own integrity, and served to confirm Jonathan in his opinion of it:Therefore thou shalt deal kindly with thy servant; for thou hast brought thy servant into a covenant of the LORD with thee: notwithstanding, if there be in me iniquity, slay me thyself; for why shouldest thou bring me to thy father?
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)8. thou hast brought, &c.] The initiative had been on Jonathan’s side (1 Samuel 18:3). David calls their league of friendship “a covenant of Jehovah” as being ratified in His name by solemn oath. See 1 Samuel 20:12 ff.Verse 8. - Thou hast brought thy servant into a covenant of Jehovah with thee. As the friendship between Jonathan and David had been cemented by the invocation of the name of Jehovah, it was one firm and assured, and David might look not merely for one act of kindness, but for constant truth and help. It was, moreover, Jonathan's own doing; and yet, if there be in me, David says, iniquity, i.e. treason against Saul, if I have not been a faithful and true servant to him, but, on the contrary, have plotted evil against him, or now entertain any evil designs, then let the covenant be abrogated. David refuses to shelter himself under it if he has incurred guilt, and only asks that Jonathan, by the authority which he exercised as the king's son, should himself put him to death, and not deliver him up to Saul 1 Samuel 25:36 and Numbers 22:18) that he does not reveal to me; why should my father hide this thing from me? It is not so." The לו after הנּה stands for לא: the Chethibh עשׂה is probably to be preferred to the Keri יעשׂה, and to be understood in this sense: "My father has (hitherto) done nothing at all, which he has not told to me." This answer of Jonathan does not presuppose that he knew nothing of the occurrences described in 1 Samuel 19:9-24, although it is possible enough that he might not have been with his father just at that time; but it is easily explained from the fact that Saul had made the fresh attack upon David's life in a state of madness, in which he was no longer master of himself; so that it could not be inferred with certainty from this that he would still plot against David's life in a state of clear consciousness. Hitherto Saul had no doubt talked over all his plans and undertakings with Jonathan, but he had not uttered a single word to him about his deadly hatred, or his intention of killing David; so that Jonathan might really have regarded his previous attacks upon David's life as nothing more than symptoms of temporary aberration of mind.
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