1 Samuel 20:1–10, After witnessing four attempts on his life in one day, David certainly knew of Saul’s determination to kill him. Yet to escape the king’s attacks, David would have to abandon the two most significant people in his life, his best friend Jonathan and the wife of his youth, Michal. You have to be curious, even if he were to escape and live, would life be worth living under those circumstances?
Hoping he was wrong but fearing he was right, David “fled from Naioth at Ramah and went to Jonathan” (1 Samuel 20:1) to discuss the matter. If he had done something wrong against Saul, he could repent and make amends. Maybe then Saul would end the attacks on his life and his life with Michal friendship with Jonathan could remain intact.
David’s fears seemed like nonsense to Jonathan. If anyone should know his father’s thoughts, it was Jonathan. He said, “No, you won’t die. Listen, my father doesn’t do anything, great or small, without telling me” (1 Samuel 20:2).
But David, saw what Jonathan could not. The cold hard facts of the situation pointed to only one conclusion: Saul was passionately determined to kill David. In fact, at that moment David was “only a step” ahead of “death.” Yet Saul had insulated Jonathan from the deadly scheme so his son would not “be grieved” (1 Samuel 20:3; 1 Samuel 20:34).
Jonathan, like David, had much to lose if the accusations against Saul were proved true. He would lose the companionship of his best friend and experience certain alienation from his father. In an effort to put the matter to rest, he agreed to cooperate with David in the investigation. Whatever plan David might put forth, Jonathan would follow it.
David had an ingenious plan to force Saul to reveal his true intentions toward David. The plan was simple yet effective. The plan safeguarded David by secluding him, and it avoided any use of force. Curiously, Jonathan would have to tell his father a lie, but not one that would violate either the letter or spirit of the Torah, since its purpose was to preserve innocent life. In this plan, David would be absent from the sacrificial meals associated with an ordinary new moon festival (Numbers 10:10).
Jonathan’s role in the plan would be more complicated. Most of the time during the next two days he would just observe his father. However, when Saul commented on David’s absence, Jonathan was to convey a respectable excuse to account for David’s absence. After that he was to remember Saul’s reaction. A positive response to Jonathan’s words would mean that David “is safe” (1 Samuel 20:7). A hostile response to David’s absence would mean that Saul was “determined to harm” David.
Apart from that plan, however, David had another proposal—one that could eliminate the need for the previous one. David asked Jonathan himself to kill him before Saul could—if Jonathan was aware of any “transgression in” David’s life. Reminding Jonathan that he had established a solemn “covenant of Yahweh” with David, he asked his friend to “deal faithfully” with him in this matter.
Jonathan reacted strongly against David’s second proposal: “No! If I ever find out my father has evil intentions against you, wouldn’t I tell you about it?” (1 Samuel 12:9) would he himself take David’s life. So strongly did Jonathan value his friend’s life that he would immediately let David know.
Now that David had been exonerated by Jonathan, the pair could work out the remaining details associated with David’s first plan. The final issue was figuring out the particulars of how David would be warned secretly in the event Saul still intended to kill him.