Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Were David and Jonathan Gay Lovers?


The gay marriage debate has brought up this very tired and sordid old lie about David and Johnathan and I feel compelled to respond with an old post of mine from christianforums.net to refute it. We should be past having to deal with this nonsense but alas, we are not. Get ready for a several part article.

This claim pops up from time to time in the forums as homosexual advocates struggle to find anything positive in scripture regarding homosexuality. I wrote a long refutation in a thread which I will repeat here and in the next few entries. The thread itself lived a very short life, probably due to the length of my commentary, and did not produce any tangible counter arguments (it didn't produce any debate at all). I think that means the reasoning was rather sound (*pats self on back*). Never-the-less, I wish to reproduce it now for posterity.

Part I - An overview of the relevant scriptures.

There are many here, including many of the more liberal Christians, that claim that not only is homosexual sex not universally condemned in the bible but that there is a homosexual relationship that is blessed by God. That is the supposed gay love affair of David and Jonathan. They go as far as to claim that David and Jonathan had the equivalence of a "marriage" and that it would be recognized by God as such. Although such speculation has always seemed preposterous to me, I had not ever actually done an exegesis of the associated texts to see if the claim had merit. That is until now. Below I will break down the "proof texts" that are claimed by proponents of this theory and show that there is absolutely no support or justification for their claim.

For reference, the main chapters that relate David and Jonathan's relationship are 1st Samuel 18, 19, and 20, and 2nd Samuel 1.

First let's take a 10,000 foot approach to the text. One of the claims is that God "blessed" this supposed affair and that God recognizes it as a "marriage". Since 1st and 2nd Samuel are books of history, we would need a direct confirmation that God weighed in on the events and relationships at hand. For example, in 1 Samuel 9:17 we have this - "And when Samuel saw Saul, the LORD said unto him, Behold the man whom I spake to thee of! this same shall reign over my people." Although this is a historical account of the ascent of Saul, we also know that God ordained Saul because God said it directly. Later, in 1 Sam 15:11, God says directly to Samuel - "It repenteth me that I have set up Saul [to be] king: for he is turned back from following me, and hath not performed my commandments. And it grieved Samuel; and he cried unto the LORD all night." God is interjecting His opinion into the history. Then God says in 1 Sam 16:1 - "And the LORD said unto Samuel, How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? fill thine horn with oil, and go, I will send thee to Jesse the Bethlehemite: for I have provided me a king among his sons."

In all of these texts, it is clear God is the one doing the blessing and rejecting, ordaining and dethroning. But, when one reads the texts regarding David and Jonathan, God is silent. Nowhere does it say that God blesses, ordains, or institutes their relationship. But God is not completely silent in the entirety of these passages. There is plenty of evidence that God blessed David in his military endeavors. But nowhere is such a blessing given for David's and Jonathan's relationship, per se. David and Jonathan do swear a covenant between them to the Lord. But that is for the prosperity and continued existence of their families in light of the imminent danger posed to David by Saul; kind of a "You watch my back, I'll watch yours" agreement. (We see David later honoring this covenant with Jonathan's son). So, regardless of what kind of relationship it was, the bible is meerly giving a historical account. The claim that God blessed the "love" relationship is without basis and the claim that God recognized it as a "marriage" is pure fantasy.

Now let's look at the specific verses, phrases, and words that are claimed to show that David and Jonathan were homosexual lovers. There is a lot of analysis so I will summarize the findings first. In the second part I will give the detailed analysis of each claim.

Claim: The use of "love" to describe David and Jonathan's relationship points to the romantic aspects of it.
Truth: The Hebrew word is used for all kinds of love - romantic, brotherly, Godly, selfless (agape). Context decides.
Ref: 1 Sam 18:1,3; 1 Sam 20:17 and others

Claim: The phrase "the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David" alludes to the cleaving and oneness of the martial relationship as exemplified in Genesis 2:24.
Truth: The phrase in this form relating to the knitting of two souls is used only one other time and that is for a father son relationship (Jacob/Benjamin). It is never used in scripture to describe romantic or marital relationships. The Hebrew word translated "cleave" in Genesis is a completely unrelated word.
Ref: 1 Sam 18:1

Claim: The phrase "he [Jonathan] loved him [David] as his own soul" is a marital idiom.
Truth: This phrase is never used in OT scripture to describe a marriage relationship and in fact is used only one other time outside of the Jonathan and David narrative. There it actually unequivocally differentiates the love between close friends (the kind Jonathan and David had) from martial love (Deut. 16:6)
Ref: 1 Sam 18:1,3; 1 Sam 20:17

Claim: The phrase "Jonathan...greatly delighted in David" is a sexual innuendo.
Truth: Like "love", the Hebrew word translated "delighted" is a generic term and context determines its use. Significantly, it is also used in the midst of the David/Jonathan narrative for Saul and the people's delight in David (1 Sam 18:22). It is never used in the OT to refer to sexual intimacy (a possible exception may be Esther 2:14), but instead refers to one person’s non-sexual (i.e. relational) satisfaction with another.
Ref: 1 Sam 19:2

Claim: The phrase "Your father [Saul] knows well that I [David] have found favor in your [Jonathan's] sight" is romantic.
Truth: This is typically used as an expression between a subordinate and their superior, as in "let me find favor in your sight, O my lord, the king" (2 Sam 16:4). Saul even says of David in 1 Sam 16:22 that "he has found favor in my sight".
Ref: 1 Sam 20:3

Claim: The phrase "You [Jonathan] have been very pleasant to me [David]" refers to sexual intimacy.
Truth: There is only one instance, in Song of Solomon, (a poetic book with clear sexual context vs. this historic book), that the word translated "pleasant" might be referring to sexual intimacy. Otherwise in scripture, it simply means delightful and is used non-sexually for both people and things. Significantly, in Psalm 113:1, it is used to describe the company of brothers.
Ref: 2 Sam 1:26

Claim: The Phrase "Your [Jonathan's] love to me [David] was more wonderful Than the love of women" is comparing the homosexual relationship to David's heterosexual relationships.
Truth: This occurs in a lament over Jonathan's (and Saul's) death. The verse starts "I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan" clearly establishing that the relationship is brotherly. Rather than compare two types of sexual love, this verse contrasts brotherly love from sexual love.
Ref: 2 Sam 1:26

Claim: Saul was wary of David and first kept him under a watchful eye and then had him removed from the palace because of Saul's displeasure over David and Jonathan's homosexual affair.
Truth: The surrounding verses make it clear that Saul's actions were out of jealousy that David was being so militarily successful and was receiving so many accolades from the people.
Ref: 1 Sam 18:6-13

The next few posts give a detailed breakdown of each of the above claims.

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