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David & Jonathan: Homosexuals?

A  classic case of approaching the Bible with one’s own pre-conceived agenda, searching for some shred of a hint that can then be spun to fit the intended narrative, is the claim that David and Jonathan shared a homosexual relationship.1 The passage used to advance this allegation reads:

How the mighty have fallen in the midst of the battle! Jonathan was slain in your high places. I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; you have been very pleasant to me; your love to me was wonderful, surpassing the love of women (2 Samuel 1:25-26).

The Hebrew word for “love” in verse 26 carries a variety of meanings, but the primary meaning is the care and concern that one has for one’s fellow man (whether male or female). Hence, it is used as the opposite of hate,2 friendship (Proverbs 17:9: 27:5), as well as God’s love for His people (Hosea 11:4; Isaiah 63:9; Jeremiah 31:3; Zephaniah 3:17) and vice-versa (Jeremiah 2:2).3

It is true that the term can be used to refer to sexual lust, as in the case of Amnon. After raping his half-sister, the text informs us: “Then Amnon hated her exceedingly, so that the hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love with which he had loved her” (2 Samuel 13:15). The term “love” in this context refers exclusively to sexual desire—nothing more. The Song of Solomon uses the word to refer to the married love between a man and a woman (2:4,5; 5:8; 8:6,7; cf. Proverbs 5:19).

However, a significant difference exists between the comradery, friendship, and close connection sustained between two men who are lifelong friends, and the sexual relationship shared by two men. The former relationship has no hint whatsoever of sexual attraction, while the latter relationship is largely defined by the sexual connection. Indeed, it is the sexual activity that differentiates the two relationships. It is true that, like heterosexuals, two homosexuals can experience a variety of non-sexual feelings for each other, including friendship or a deep “soul-mate” connection. But this fact must not be allowed to obscure the real issue. The one has nothing to do with the other. The entire question comes down to whether two men have a God-given, God-authorized right to enact a sexual relationship with each other.

In the case of David and Jonathan, the circumstantial evidence suggests that they were simply close friends. They both were heavily involved in heterosexual marriages. They both had children from those marriages who received the priority that is typical of such marriages. For example, Jonathan desired a covenant between himself and David that would ensure the safety of his wife and family:

“And you shall not only show me the kindness of the LORD while I still live, that I may not die; but you shall not cut off your kindness from my house forever, no, not when the LORD has cut off every one of the enemies of David from the face of the earth.” So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, “Let the LORD require it at the hand of David’s enemies” (1 Samuel 20:14-16).

Jonathan’s concern was that the same kindness that David showed to himself be extended to his family. Was Jonathan requesting that David enact the same sexual relationship with Jonathan’s kids that David showed to him? Or, rather, was he referring to the friendship and close-knit care and concern for each other that the two shared? The latter is in keeping with the context. Jonathan later reminded David: “May the LORD be between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants, forever” (1 Samuel 20:42). Jonathan was concerned with sustaining, maintaining, and perpetuating his posterity through his marriage to a woman.

The fact is that no evidence whatsoever exists in the Bible that would lead one to believe that David and Jonathan sustained a sexual relationship with each other. In fact, a sober examination of the evidence leads even the defender of homosexuality to admit the fact, as in the admission made by a lesbian: “While the Bible doesn’t explicitly state that David and Jonathan were lovers, Jesus himself did not say anything directly about homosexuality in the Bible either. Scripture does not condemn loving, responsible homosexual relationships.”4 (For an examination of the validity of the claim regarding Jesus, see AP’s book Homosexuality: Scripture, Society, Science, & Psychology.)

Another factor to consider: The Law of Moses condemned homosexuality in no uncertain terms (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13). Indeed, it was a death-penalty offense. But if God readily condemned David for his violation of another Mosaic law pertaining to sexual contact, specifically, adultery (2 Samuel 11), why would He not have condemned David for homosexual contact as well? In fact, since Jonathan was married, he would have been “cheating” on his wife with David. Do homosexuals today who are in a “committed” relationship consider their partner as committing adultery if he has an “affair” with another man? To ask is to answer.

Endnotes

1 For example, Kittredge Cherry (2020), “David and Jonathan: Same-sex Love Between Men in the Bible,” Q Spirit, December 29, https://qspirit.net/david-jonathan-same-sex-love/.

2 Proverbs 10:12; 15:17; Psalm 109:4,5; Ecclesiastes 9:1,6.

3 Francis Brown, S.R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs (1906), The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2000 reprint), p. 13.

4 Cherry (2020).

Homosexuality: Scripture, Society, Science, & Psychology


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