Were David and Jonathan Gay Lovers?

The friendship between David and Jonathan as described in 1 Samuel is probably one of the first examples gay “Christians” claim as proof of a consensual, same-sex relationship in the Bible. The story of David and Jonathan is likewise ubiquitous throughout the secular gay community as an ancient Brokeback Mountain love story; and because it is recorded in the Bible, the very book that is supposed to condemn homosexual behavior, the story is considered even more compelling.

To illustrate how homosexuals capitalize on the story, when I was looking for images to post with this article, just searching “David and Jonathan” brought up a good number of pro-gay websites appealing to the story as a God-ordained homosexual relationship.

There are books written about David and Jonathan, as well as a modern day gay film with the main characters named “David and Jonathan.” The Metropolitan Church, for instance, which is a liberal, pro-gay denomination, has a billboard campaign entitled “Would Jesus Discriminate?” and one of the popular billboards placed along the highways promoting their pro-gay agenda says “David loved Jonathan more than women” with the reference of 2 Samuel 1:26.

As with many of the passages in the Bible condemning homosexuality as a lifestyle, gay apologists misuse the story of David and Jonathan by revising certain aspects of it and reading back into the record of 1 Samuel current views of human relationships. It is presupposed that when the text says in 1 Samuel 18:1-5 how Jonathan loved David, and later in 2 Samuel 1:26 where David says in a psalm lamenting the death of his friend that “Jonathan’s love for David surpassed the love of women” this somehow implies there was a sexual love affair component between the two men.

Nothing in the text suggests this at all. In point of fact, both David and Jonathan were married to women, David having multiple wives. Gay apologists generally claim they were married for convenience sake, or for the purpose of maintaining the family line, but their real, true love was not with their wives, but with each other. However, in order for both David and Jonathan to engage in a sexual love affair implies they both sinned in adultery, a strict violation of the 7th commandment. The question is then begged, “how could David, a man described by the Lord as having a heart after God, involve himself in such a grievous sin?” Gay apologists tend to overlook this detail in their view of the story.

In order to begin answering the gay “Christian” apologist’s interpretation of David and Jonathan’s relationship, it may be good to give a biblical survey of the events and situations leading to their friendship as described in 1 Samuel 18. Once the book of 1 Samuel is placed into context, pretty much the entire gay argument that David and Jonathan were homosexual lovers melts away.

The books of 1 and 2 Samuel are transitional books that form a bridge between the book of Judges when Israel was 12 tribes ruled by theocratically appointed judges and the nation of Israel united under a monarchy. The man Samuel was the last official judge who was used of the Lord to establish the monarchy.

When the book opens, Israel is in a deep, spiritual depression. Eli, the high priest, was a pathetic, ineffective judge.  He did nothing to rebuke and control his wicked sons who ran the tabernacle corrupting it by offering ungodly sacrifices to the Lord (1 Sam 2). Their sinful behavior rubbed off on the people and they in turn were caused to sin against the Lord. God eventually brings judgment against Eli and his house (1 Sam. 4) and Samuel is elevated by God to be the national leader of the people as both a prophet and priest.

However, after a period of revival under Samuel’s ministry (1 Samuel 7), the leaders of Israel ask him to appoint a king over them “like all the other nations” (1 Samuel 8). In spite of their rebellious request, God grants it and has Samuel anoint Saul to be the first king of Israel (1 Sam. 9, 10). Saul’s reign started off slow, but through the act of a national emergency with Nahash and the Ammonites (1 Sam. 11), Saul is affirmed to be the official king of Israel.

But regrettably, he was a king as it were “like all the other nations,” because he began to rebel against God’s commands, as well as make bad choices personally. His reign begins to unravel in 1 Samuel 13 when before meeting the Philistines in battle, he worries about not hearing from Samuel, takes matters into his own hands, and offers up a sacrifice that only Samuel was to offer.  Samuel rebukes his disobedience, and as a result of his rash decision, the situation with the Philistines grows more severe (1 Sam. 13:16-23) as they are able to take control of a large portion of central Israel.

However, Jonathan, Saul’s son, has a different perspective on the situation. He and his armor bearer seize upon the promises God had made to Israel centuries before that those Jews who are faithful to engage the enemy in the name of the Lord will have God drive them from the land. Jonathan and his armor bearer act upon this promise and defeat a garrison of Philistine soldiers by themselves (1 Sam. 14).

Fast-forward to chapter 16. After disobeying God’s command to utterly destroy the Amalekites in chapter 15, Samuel pronounces final judgment upon Saul and his monarchy. Instead of the house of Saul being established as the royal line, God will chose for Himself a man after His own heart. Chapter 16 introduces us to that man: a teenager by the name of David. Samuel anoints him king, but it is a kingship that will have to wait another 12 years or more before being realized.

By the time we come to chapter 17, Saul had become a more ineffective king. The Philistines had once again entered the land and threatened to enslave Israel. As the Philistines and Israel faced-off for battle, a stalemate of sorts had developed as the Philistines sent out the giant Goliath to challenge any champion of the Jews who would be willing to face him in hand-to-hand combat. No one dared to fight him until David heard Goliath’s challenge as he was visiting his older brothers on the battlefield.

goliathDavid, acting upon the same promises Jonathan had in chapter 14, agreed to fight Goliath. As all Sunday school children know, David prevailed over Goliath and cut his head off with his own sword. This act not only impressed Saul, but also the men of Israel who were looking for a leader they could rally behind.

When we come to 1 Samuel 18:1-5, we are introduced to David and Jonathan’s relationship. One thing I believe needs to be kept in mind is that Jonathan was more than likely anywhere between 10-15 years older than David. The reason I say that is because he had been fighting in the army with his father for several years and the earliest a man could be to serve was 20. David had returned home to be with his father when his older brothers went out to fight with Saul, and if he had been older at the time, David would certainly have been fighting along side of them, yet he was at home tending sheep. So, more than likely, Jonathan’s friendship with David was more along the lines of being a mentor.

After the defeat of Goliath, and with the content of David’s words in defense of the God of Israel on his mind, Jonathan saw in him a person who was uniquely anointed by the Lord. Whether or not Jonathan recognized the theocratic anointing of the Spirit on David’s life, or knew of Samuel’s choosing of him to be the future king, is uncertain (1 Sam. 16), but he certainly knew God’s hand was upon David’s life.

Rather than seeing Jonathan’s giving of his royal robe, armor, and sword to David as tokens of his homosexual love for him, what is at stake is Jonathan’s act of treason against his father. Here we have the prince of Israel, the man who was the heir to the throne of Israel, handing to David those royal items that identifies his right to claim the throne for himself. Jonathan in a symbolic way was abrogating his claim to the throne and giving it to David and affirming his allegiance to him as the rightful king. Even Saul comes to realize the threat David was to him and his lineage on the throne when in 1 Samuel 20, after questioning Jonathan as to David’s whereabouts, he angrily curses Jonathan and proclaims to him “For as long as the son of Jesse lives on the earth, you shall not be established, nor your kingdom” (1 Sam. 20:31).

Now, with that contextual background in mind, gay “Christian” apologists re-read those passages withdavid all sorts of warped, homo-erotic imagery. For example, the Gay Christian 101 website has a collection of articles explaining how David and Jonathan were engaged in a romantic, sexual partnership that demonstrates how extreme the gay agenda is in twisting this story to fit their homosexual worldview.

One odd side note to this revisionist ideology displayed at the Gay Christian 101 website is how the painting, David och Saul, by Swedish painter Julius Kronberg, which depicts an effeminate looking David playing a harp for an effeminate looking king Saul, is deceptively described as David and Jonathan sharing a private moment.  As “gayish” as Kronberg’s painting looks, he meant it to depict David and Saul, not David and Jonathan engaging in foreplay as described at the website.

Gay apologists utterly ignore the vast body of commentary on the David and Jonathan story that clearly explains the relationship between the two men as merely a strong, non-sexual friendship. Instead, they stretch the story by re-interpreting words describing their friendship beyond the breaking point of their definition.

For instance, gay apologists attempt to zero in on the word love and pour into the definition a form of homosexual eroticism. They specifically exaggerate the expression describing Jonathan loving David as “his own soul” thus turning it into homo-erotic imagery. However, Jonathan loving David as his own soul is not his gay oriented feelings, but one of identifying with David as God’s truly anointed king.

A sexual relationship is no more implied between David and Jonathan with the use of the word love, as it is with the people of Israel and Judah having the same love for David when they too saw God’s hand upon him (1 Sam. 18:16). If we accept the gay revisionist understanding of the word love as implying sexual desire and sex in the instance of David and Jonathan’s friendship, are we to conclude the people of the nation also had sexual desires for David as well?

But what about David’s words in 2 Samuel 1:26 where he describes Jonathan’s love for him surpassing the love of women? The first observation is how the eulogy speaks of Jonathan’s devotion to David and never speaks directly of his love to Jonathan. That is not to say David wasn’t as devoted to Jonathan as he was to David, but his expression is one of gratitude for the loyalty Jonathan had shown toward him. Again, nothing in the wider context of David and Jonathan’s relationship even remotely suggests they were engaged in a gay, sexual relationship. Thus, a poetic lament that elevates the purity of these two men’s friendship with each other should not be reinterpreted according to a specific agenda normalizing homosexual sin.

First Samuel 18:7 may be one possible source for David’s words in his soliloquy on behalf of his friend.  That verse records the little song the women made up about David when they would greet him returning from battle by singing how he has slain his ten thousands. David is describing how Jonathan respected him and loved him much more than just a national hero, but as a loyal friend and mentor.

Then one sort of weird argument gay apologists put forth to claim David and Jonathan were homosexual lovers is found in the King James rendering of 1 Sam. 20:41 where the two friends are forced to go their separate ways because of Saul’s hatred of David. When they met for the last time the KJV says, …and they kissed one another, and wept one with another, until David exceeded. I read a convoluted article claiming that the phrase until David exceeded means the two men engaged in one final homosexual sex act in which David climaxed at the end.

The author of the article gives the appearance he has done his “scholarly homework” as it were by citing the LXX and the Latin Vulgate and all these supposed commentaries on 1 Samuel. The crux of his conclusion for the sex act is that the word translated in the KJV as exceeded is used in other OT contexts to speak of growing up, or being enlarged, and in one instance – at least according to this “researcher” – getting an erection and ejaculating. (I apologize for the frank discussion, by the way).

I find that to be a truly amazing attempt at hunting windmills. If anyone were to check any other English translation of the passage, they will see that the text has been more clearly rendered than what is found in the clumsy, old English translation of the KJV. The NKJV, for instance, translates the phrase, and they wept together, but David more so. The ESV has David weeping the most. And the NASB translates, and they kissed each other and wept together, but David the more.

The arguments are utterly contrived, representing a person desperately grasping at any lexical “straw” to justify homosexual perversion. The context drives the understanding of the phrase. They both wept over the separation of their friendship, but David wept even more than Jonathan. This simply speaks to his emotionally sensitive heart, which revealed itself in other times, particularly when he wept for his son Absalom after he was slain during his civil war against his father (2 Sam. 18:33).

Our modern, secular society erroneously equate any affection expressed between two men as being sexually oriented. Much of that wrong thinking about healthy, non-sexual, but intimate friendships between men, is caused by the work of sin and the devil perverting human relationships.

Because of such muddled ideas concerning any genuine closeness between men, there is a hesitancy in our day on the part of grown men to forge strong, inter-personal friendships with each other. They don’t want to be scoffed at as being “gay.” I have been blessed with experiencing a handful of strong, affectionate friendship with other men during my life. Though our relationship was close, never was there any homosexual feelings on the part of myself or my friend. That was something that never crossed our minds once. Yet gay apologists would suggest such a close friendship implies a homosexual eroticism. It doesn’t, and it shouldn’t, and it most certainly doesn’t in the biblical record of David and Jonathan.

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6 thoughts on “Were David and Jonathan Gay Lovers?

  1. Thank you for this labor of Love Fred. With the topic of homosexuality becoming more and more important, I imagine this essay will only be more and more important for belivers to find online and be equipped. Appreciate your effort to bring the contextual flow of the book of 1-2 Samuel into the picture.

  2. Brother Fred,
    When you quoted the part in a article on one of the “gay” websites about the imagery of David and Jonathan in foreplay it made me want to expel the contents of my stomach. According to the Bible every human has the knowledge of God in their heart. The gay “gay” is really one of the most miserable, unhappy persons in the world. That is because they don’t have the peace that comes from a relationship with Jesus. They know that they live in prevision and they are trying to gain acceptance to feel normal.

    Our great God is not the author of confusion. If one believes the Bible is the Word of God and God specifically condemns homosexually in the Old and New Testaments.To the true believer there is no question about what He says. Homosexuals can make themselves feel better by twisting the Scriptures to suit their prevision but that has no effect on our Holy God. If they don’t turn from their ways and repent they face a certain judgement of eternal punishment in the eternal hell fire.

  3. Hi Fred,

    Certainly you are aware that David, though being described as a “man after God’s own heart”, did in fact commit adultery and murder. In that light, I’m confused as to why you included this in your analysis:

    “However, in order for both David and Jonathan to engage in a sexual love affair implies they both sinned in adultery, a strict violation of the 7th commandment. The question is then begged, “how could David, a man described by the Lord as having a heart after God, involve himself in such a grievous sin?” Gay apologists tend to overlook this detail in their view of the story.”

    The simple answer to your question is “David was a sinner”. Of course we also know that David was a repentant sinner.

  4. Yes, you are correct. But the accusation of “adultery” against David was specifically with Bathsheba. The Bible is explicit that he was arrested in his sin and we have Psalm 51 to record his confession of sin and thus his title as a “man after God’s heart.”

    In this instance, if he was involved in a romantic, sexual affair with Jonathan, the Bible remains silent as to his adulterous sin. It remains silent even in regards to Jonathan. No prophet confronts either man for their elicit sexual sin. Hence, the men were not homosexuals in a secret love affair with each other because if they were, the Bible would have hardly remained silent on the matter.

  5. Hi Fred,

    Thanks for the response. I see the distinction that you are making. It seems you are concentrating more on the fact that the Bible does not condemn their relationship, which it would have (regardless of the sinfulness or lack thereof of homosex) because it would have been adultery, since both were married.

    I was reading that you were more concentrating of the question of “how could David have sinned like that?”.

    Allow me to play devil’s advocate for a moment, if you will. Couldn’t the respondent reply that there are times when the Bible simply is descriptive and does not pass judgment on the actions one way or another? There are certainly instances where the Bible simply describes the actions without commentary on its sinfulness. So, does it necessarily stand that it could not have been a sexual relationship because it was not recorded as being confronted and repented of?

    Don’t read me as disagreeing with your overall analysis, just probing this particular part of your argument.

    What seems odd to me is the question of why it would be so masked in the Bible if it was truly a sexual relationship. If it was a sexual relationship and that is sinful, the Bible never shies away from making that clear (as with Bathsheba – we don’t have to guess if he slept with her). If it was a sexual relationship and that was morally neutral or good, then why would the author obscure that element of the relationship? I suppose the gay respondent might answer that it was because it was socially unacceptable or that the great Constantine edited it out of the Bible because he was homophobic.

    Additionally I wonder why David would have sung the praises of God’s Law in the Psalms if he was in disagreement with God’s moral law regarding homosex.

    And lastly, I think the principle of using the clear pronouncements of the Bible to help us sort out the perceived or real ambiguities is applicable here. The OT and NT speak to the issue of homosexuality in clear language, and thus seemed to provide us no license to read either a sexual relationship or the approval of a sexual relationship into a passage that at most has language that is uncommon in our day in referring to male-male relationships because our culture has overtly sexualized all love.

    Thanks for the dialogue.

  6. Pingback: 7 Truths LGBT Kids Need to Hear from Homeschooling Parents | hipandthigh

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