What about David and Jonathan?

The relationship between David and Jonathan (I Samuel 17-23) was obviously something very special – and there are some people who believe that it was actually a sexual relationship. This, they say, is implicit Scriptural endorsement for loving, consensual homosexual relationships.

What is the evidence for this? The main ‘clue’, they say, is in David’s lament for Jonathan:
“I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother;
you were very dear to me.
Your love for me was wonderful,
more wonderful than that of women.” (II Samuel 1:26)
What made Jonathan’s love ‘more wonderful than that of women’? Was it homosexual love? Or was it the deep non-sexual love of a close friend, a soul-mate?

Another so-called ‘clue’ is in Saul’s angry outburst against Jonathan, when he accuses him of shaming himself and his mother by ‘choosing’ David (I Samuel 20:30). Again, this can be interpreted in more than one way. Even if Saul’s words do have sexual connotations, when one angry person is deliberately insulting another, the accusations they fling are not necessarily true – would you take a word such as ‘bastard’, for example, literally in such a context?

There are also references to David and Jonathan kissing each other (e.g. I Samuel 20:41), but this is nothing unusual (in many Asian cultures heterosexual male friends will not only kiss but also hold hands in public) and should not be interpreted in any erotic sense.

We also have very strong Biblical evidence that David had a powerful heterosexual sex drive – otherwise he would not have been tempted to commit adultery with Bathsheba (II Samuel 11:2-4).

In summary, the ‘evidence’ seems to fall far short of proof. And even if they were lovers and not just friends, that would not imply God’s approval of such a relationship. Just because David did something, that doesn’t make it automatically ‘OK’. He did many things that we would consider to be major sins (including adultery, murder, and war crimes); we don’t have a licence to copy him!


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