David and Jonathan’s Love
homo love in the Bible
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The Love Story of David and Jonathan from the Holy Bible
Saul Throws Spear at David
A handsome, ruddy-cheeked youth and the youngest son of Jesse, is brought before Saul, the king of Israel, having slain the giant Philistine warrior Goliath with only a stone and sling. (In an alternative version of the first meeting between David and Saul, the king, suffering from "an evil spirit", has the youthful David brought to him to play the lyre and soothe his mind). (1 Sam. 16:14-21).
Jonathan, the eldest son of Saul, is struck with love for David on their first meeting, "And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul." (1 Sam. 18:1). That same day, "Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul" (1 Sam. 18:3). Jonathan removes and offers David the rich garments he is wearing, and shares with him his worldly possessions: "And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle." (1 Sam. 18:4).
The people of Israel openly accept David and sing of his praises, so much so that it draws the jealousy of Saul (1 Sam. 18:5-9). Saul tries repeatedly to kill David, but is each time unsuccessful, and David's reputation only grows with each attempt (1 Sam. 18:24-25). To get rid of David, Saul decides to offer him a daughter in marriage, requesting a hundred enemy foreskins in lieu of a dowry – hoping David will be killed trying. David however returns with a trophy of two hundred foreskins and Saul has to fulfill his end of the bargain.
The Male Anatomy
The foreskin or prepuce (a technically broader term that also includes the clitoral hood, the homologous structure in women) is a retractable double-layered fold of skin and mucous membrane that covers the glans penis and protects the urinary meatus when the penis is not erect.
Learning of one of Saul's murder attempts, Jonathan warns David to hide because he "delighted much in David" (1 Sam. 19:1-2). David is forced to flee more of Saul's attempts to kill him (1 Sam. 19:1-20:1). In a moment when they find themselves alone together, David says to Jonathan, "Thy father certainly knoweth that I have found grace in thine eyes." (1 Sam. 20:3).
"Then said Jonathan unto David, 'Whatsoever thy soul desireth, I will even do it for thee' and Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, 'Let the LORD even require it at the hand of David's enemies.' And Jonathan caused David to swear again, because he loved him: for he loved him as he loved his own soul”
Jonathan embraces David
David agrees to hide, until Jonathan can confront his father and ascertain whether it is safe for David to stay (1 Sam. 20:18-22). Jonathan approaches his father to plead David's cause: "Then Saul's anger was kindled against Jonathan, and he said unto him, 'Thou son of the perverse rebellious woman, do not I know that thou hast chosen the son of Jesse [David] to thine own confusion and unto the confusion of thy mother's nakedness'" (1 Sam. 20:30).
Jonathan is so grieved that he does not eat for days (1 Sam. 20:34). He goes to David at his hiding place to tell him that it is unsafe for him and he must leave. "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. And Jonathan said to David, Go in peace, forasmuch as we have sworn both of us in the name of the LORD, saying, The LORD be between me and thee, and between my seed and thy seed for ever. And he arose and departed: and Jonathan went into the city." (1 Sam. 20:41-42).
Saul continues to pursue David (1 Sam. 21-23:14); David and Jonathan renew their covenant together (1 Sam. 23:15-18); and eventually Saul and David reconcile (1 Sam. 24:16-22). When Jonathan is slain on Mt. Gilboa by the Philistines (1 Sam. 31:2), David laments his death saying, "I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant hast thou been unto me: thy love to me was wonderful, surpassing the love of women." (2 Sam. 1:26).
Some scholars claim that the relationship between David and Jonathan, though strong and close, is ultimately a platonic friendship. This interpretation views the covenant made between the two men as a political, rather than affectionate, commitment. Jonathan and David agree to look out for one another and care for each other's family should one of them perish (a promise which David keeps). Platonic love in its modern popular sense is an affectionate relationship into which the sexual element does not enter, especially in cases where one might easily assume otherwise. … For other uses, see Friends (disambiguation), Friendship (disambiguation), and Best Friend (disambiguation) Friendship is a term used to denote co-operative and supportive behaviour between two or more social entities. …
The books of Samuel document physical intimacy (hugging and kissing) between Jonathan and David, but do not explicitly indicate a sexual component. Kissing is a common social custom between men in the Middle East for greetings or farewells, and does not necessarily indicate a physical relationship. Physical intimacy is informal proximity and/or touching.
In addition, David was not only married, but in fact had multiple wives, one of them being Jonathan's sister Michal. David's relationship with Bathsheba is explicitly more sexual than the one he has with Jonathan.
"Jonathan Lovingly Taketh His Leave of David" by Julius Schnorr von KarolsfeldOther scholars, however, interpret the love between David and Jonathan as more intimate than friendship. This interpretation views the bonds the men shared as romantic love, regardless of whether or not the relationship was physically consummated. Jonathan and David cared deeply about each other in a way that was certainly more tender and intimate than a platonic friendship.
The relationship between the two men is addressed with the same words and emphasis as loving mixed-sex relationships in the Hebrew Testament: e.g. 'ahabah or אהבה (see Strong's Concordance with Hebrew and Greek Lexicon, Hebrew word #160; Gen. 29:20; 2 Sam. 13:15; Pro. 5:19; Sgs. 2:4-7; Sgs. 3:5-10; Sgs. 5:8) When they are alone together, David confides that he has "found grace" in Jonathan's eyes. Throughout the passages, David and Jonathan consistently affirm and reaffirm their love and devotion to each other. Jonathan is willing to betray his father, family, wealth, and traditions for David. However, this may be due to Jonathan's acceptance that David was God's annointed king of Israel.
The covenant made between the two men strengthens a romantic rather than political or platonic interpretation of their relationship. At their first meeting, Jonathan strips himself before the youth, handing him his clothing, remaining naked before him. When they first make their covenant, not long after their first meeting, the reason supplied is simply because Jonathan "loved [David] as his own soul." (1 Sam. 18:3). Each time they reaffirm the covenant, love is the only justification provided. Additionally, it should be observed that the covenants and affectionate expressions were made in private, rather than publicly as would a political bond.
The fact that David refers to Jonathan as "brother" does not necessarily signify a platonic relationship. "Brother" was often used as a term of romantic, even erotic, affection in ancient Mediterranean societies. For instance, "brother" is used to indicate long-term homosexual relationships in the Satyricon (eg. 9, 10, 11, 13, 24, 25, 79, 80, 91, 97, 101, 127, 130, 133), in the poetry of Catullus (Poem No. 100) and Martial (ie. 2.4, 7.24, 10.65), and in Apuleius' The Golden Ass (8.7). "From the middle of the second millennium B.C.E. … it became usual for commoner husbands [in parts of the Mediterranean] to call their wives 'sister'" when they were in fact not siblings.
Although David was married, David himself articulates a distinction between his relationship with Jonathan and the bonds he shares with women. David is married to many women, one of which is Jonathan's sister Michal, but the Bible does not mention David loving Michal (though it is stated that Michal loves David). He explicitly states, on hearing of Jonathan's death, that his love for Jonathan is greater than any bond he's experienced with women. Furthermore, social customs in the ancient Mediterranean basin, did not preclude extramarital homoerotic relationships.
The Biblical account of David and Jonathan has been read by some as the story of two lovers.
"La Somme le Roy", 1290 AD; French illuminated ms (detail); British MuseumThough sex is never explicitly depicted, much of the Bible's sexual terminology is shrouded in euphemism. Numerous passages allude to a physically intimate relationship between the two men: Jonathan's disrobing, his "delighting much" in David, and the kissing before their departure. Saul accuses Jonathan of "confusing the nakedness of his mother" with David; the nakedness of one's parents is a common Biblical sexual allusion (e.g. Lev. 18:6-19; Lev. 20:11,Lev. 20:17-21; Ezek. 16:36-37; Ezek 23:10; Hab. 2:15; etc.).
Seeing other parts of the bible referring to homosexuality may cast doubt if it concurrently portrayed such an erotic bond between the two men in a positive manner as is suggested by the romantic and erotic theories. However, since textual scholars view the passages mentioning David and Jonathan as having come from a source known as the republican source due to its anti-monarchial spin, it is possible that it was meant to refer to an erotic relationship in order to condemn David. A mediaeval copy of the Bible….
Allusions to Jonathan and David
The homoerotic interpretation can be found in literature. For example, the anonymous Life of Edward II, ca. 1326 AD, has: "Indeed I do remember to have heard that one man so loved another. Jonathan cherished David, Achilles loved Patroclus." We are also told that King Edward II wept for his dead lover Piers Gaveston as:"…David had mourned for Jonathan."
The playwright Oscar Wilde invoked the example of David and Jonathan in his defense of pederastic friendships.
In Renaissance art, the figure of David took on a particular homoerotic charge, as can be seen in the colossal statue by Michelangelo, in Donatello's David. In many other works, such as the paintings of Caravaggio, David is portrayed as a beautiful youth conquering a Goliath whose head is often the self-portrait of the artist, a coded expression of the artist's homoerotic attraction. Raphael was famous for depicting illustrious figures of the Classical past with the features of his Renaissance contemporaries.
The indie rock band Belle & Sebastian's song "Jonathan David" interweaves references to the Biblical friends and/or lovers with what appears to be the "break-up" of two close male friends over a girl, with the strong suggestion that at least one of the two male friends is in love with his chum.
At his 1895 sodomy trial, Oscar Wilde uses the example of David and Jonathan as "the love that dare not speak its name," such a great affection of an elder for a younger man as there was between David and Jonathan, such as Plato made the very basis of his philosophy, and such as you find in the sonnets of Michelangelo and Shakespeare. It is that deep, spiritual affection that is as pure as it is perfect. It dictates and pervades great works of art like those of Shakespeare and Michelangelo, and those two letters of mine, such as they are. It is in this century misunderstood, so much misunderstood that it may be described as the "Love that dare not speak its name," and on account of it I am placed where I am now. It is beautiful, it is fine, it is the noblest form of affection. There is nothing unnatural about it. It is intellectual, and it repeatedly exists between an elder and a younger man, when the elder man has intellect, and the younger man has all the joy, hope and glamour of life before him. That it should be so, the world does not understand. The world mocks at it and sometimes puts one in the pillory for it."
Jonathan Loved David: Homosexuality in Biblical Times (ISBN 0-664-24185-9) by Tom Horner, Ph.D. (pgs 15-39)
What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality (ISBN 1-886360-09-X) by Daniel A. Helminiak, Ph.D. (pgs 123-127)
Lord Given Lovers: The Holy Union of David & Jonathan (ISBN 0-595-29869-9) by Christopher Hubble. (entire)
"The Significance of the Verb Love in the David-Jonathan Narratives in 1 Samuel" by J. A. Thompson from the Vestus Testamentum 24 (pgs 334-338)