David — National Hero

But Saul had never forgotten Samuel's last words to him. Everything pointed to David as his successor to the throne. An incident served to arouse Saul's jealousy and distrust of David. Following the pursuit and slaughter of the Philistines both returned together to Gibeah. The women came forth out of their tents to meet the conquerors, dancing with tambourine, harps and cymbals. They played and sang to one another, "Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands." Saul did not conceal his feelings and several times, during fits of extreme jealousy, even attempted to take David's life. One day when David was playing before the king as usual, Saul threw his javelin at his head, intending to kill him. David happily eluded the thrust of the weapon twice, and hastened out of the king's presence. Afraid of the young warrior, and yet not daring to attack his life again, because he saw that G‑d's favor was with him, Saul removed him from his household, and made him captain over a thousand men, in the hope that the dangers of war would accomplish what he desired.

Saul's Jealousy Grows

But Saul's fears grew as David's military triumphs became more numerous and more brilliant, and at length his jealousy was fanned into hatred. It became so violent and unrestrained that he once more resolved to kill David, and it was only on the earnest entreaties of Jonathan that he desisted from his purpose and even became reconciled to the youthful hero. But the friendly relationship did not last long. Another war broke out against the Philistines. David was as courageous and successful as ever. This roused Saul's envy to such a degree that again, in a fit of ungovernable passion, he attempted to slay David with his javelin. David was alarmed and sought refuge in his own house. There, however, he was followed by the king's messengers, who were ordered to prevent his flight. Michal, justly fearing for the life of her husband, helped him to escape through a window and thus to elude his pursuers. David fled to Samuel in Naioth. There he stayed but a short time.

David's and Jonathan's Secret Pact

David secretly returned to Gibeah and came to Jonathan with a tone of deep despair in his cry: "What have I done, what is my iniquity, and what is my sin before thy father, that he seeks my life?" Jonathan endeavored to comfort him, but it was in vain, for David knew full well that Saul would leave nothing untried to take his life. Jonathan resolved to ascertain his father's intentions. On the morrow, which was the first day of the new-moon, the king was, according to custom, to feast with his court. David was expected to take part in the banquet, as usual, but he determined to remain away, on the plea that he had gone to Beth-Lehem to be present at the yearly sacrifice of his family. Should this reason satisfy Saul, it would be considered a favorable sign for David; but should he be angry, then he would know that his life was in danger. Jonathan bade David hide himself in the fields near the Stone of Ezel. Thither he would return to him after the feast, and there he would let him know by a pre-arranged sign whether to approach Saul or to flee. In this time of harassing anxiety, the two friends renewed their vows of attachment.

The New-Moon Banquet

At the banquet, at which, besides Jonathan, Abner, the captain of the host, and other chiefs were also present, David's place was unoccupied. The king thought he might have been detained by some chance or unavoidable accident. But when the seat remained empty on the following day also, he asked Jonathan, "Why did the son of Jesse not come to the meal, neither yesterday nor today?" Jonathan mentioned the annual sacrifice which was being solemnized by Jesse's house at Beth-Lehem. Then Saul's wrath was suddenly roused; he burst into uncontrollable rage, both at the innocent Jonathan and at his friend. He commanded his son to bring David at once before him to be put to death. Jonathan rose from the table in sorrow and shame.

David and Jonathan

On the following morning, Jonathan, followed by a servant who carried his arrows, for the ostensible purpose of shooting at a target, went out into the field where David was hidden. Advancing to the Stone of Ezel, where David lay concealed, he bade the servant stand and observe on which side of the stone the shafts would fall as he shot them. As the missile sprang from the bow, Jonathan exclaimed, "Is not the arrow beyond thee?" To the ears of David, these words, according to his agreement with Jonathan, conveyed this meaning--"Your life is in danger." The servant picked up the arrow for his master and was then sent back to the city. When he was out of sight, David issued from his hiding place, and the two friends met. For a long time they remained silent; they wept bitterly in each other's arms; but their grief was too deep for words. At length Jonathan spoke: "Go in peace," said he, "and it remains as we have sworn both of us in the name of the L-rd, saying, The L-rd be between me and thee, and between my seed and thy seed for ever!" So they parted —David to flee and wander homelessly, Jonathan to return to the royal town and to his father's palace, feeling as though it were he who was going into banishment.