David and Jonathan

David and Jonathan is also the name adopted by recording duo Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway.

David and Jonathan were heroic figures of the Kingdom of Israel, whose intimate relationship was recorded favorably in the Old Testament books of Samuel. There is debate amongst religious scholars whether this relationship was platonic, romantic but chaste, or sexual.

Story of David and Jonathan

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 .

Jonathan, the eldest son of Saul, is immediately struck with David on their first meeting: "When David had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was bound to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul." That same day, "Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul" . Jonathan removes and offers David the rich garments he is wearing, and shares with him his worldly possessions: "Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that he was wearing, and gave it to David, and his armour, and even his sword and his bow and his belt."

The people of Israel openly accept David and sing of his praises, so much so that it draws the jealousy of Saul . Saul tries repeatedly to kill David, but is each time unsuccessful, and David's reputation only grows with each attempt . 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 fulfil his end of the bargain.

Learning of one of Saul's murder attempts, Jonathan warns David to hide because he "took great delight in David" . David is forced to flee more of Saul's attempts to kill him . In a moment when they find themselves alone together, David says to Jonathan, "Your father knows well that you like me...."

"Then Jonathan said to David, 'Whatever you say, I will do for you.' [...] ...Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, 'May the LORD seek out the enemies of David.' Jonathan made David swear again by his love for him; for he loved him as he loved his own life." (, )

David agrees to hide, until Jonathan can confront his father and ascertain whether it is safe for David to stay . Jonathan approaches his father to plead David's cause: "Then Saul's anger was kindled against Jonathan. He said to him, 'You son of a perverse, rebellious woman! Do I not know that you have chosen the son of Jesse to your own shame, and to the shame of your mother's nakedness?'"

Jonathan is so grieved that he does not eat for days . He goes to David at his hiding place to tell him that it is unsafe for him and he must leave. "...David rose from beside the stone heap and prostrated himself with his face to the ground. He bowed three times, and they kissed each other, and wept with each other; David wept the more. Then Jonathan said to David, 'Go in peace, since both of us have sworn in the name of the LORD, saying, "The LORD shall be between me and you, and between my descendants and your descendants, for ever."' He got up and left; and Jonathan went into the city." .

Saul continues to pursue David ; David and Jonathan renew their covenant together ; and eventually Saul and David reconcile . When Jonathan is slain on Mt Gilboa by the Philistines, David laments his death saying, "I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; greatly beloved were you to me; your love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women." .

Platonic interpretation

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).

The books of Samuel document physical intimacy (hugging and kissing) between Jonathan and David, but do not explicitly indicate a sexual component. Kissing is, even in modern times, a common social custom between men in the Middle East for greetings or farewells, and does not necessarily indicate a physical relationship.

Romantic interpretation

Other 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 heterosexual relationships in the Hebrew Testament: e.g. 'ahavah or ???? (see ''Strong's Concordance with Hebrew and Greek Lexicon,'' Hebrew word #160; ; ; ; ; ; ) 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.

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." . Each time they reaffirm the covenant, love (though not necessarily sexual in nature) is the only justification provided. Additionally, it should be observed that the covenants and affectionate expressions were made in private, like a personal bond, 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 some ancient Mediterranean societies, and the word "sister" is used many times in the bible to represent a bride or a loved woman. 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 whom 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 Epic of Gilgamesh, which predates the Books of Samuel, depicts a remarkably similar homoerotic relationship between Gilgamesh and Enkidu.

Erotic interpretation

Though 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. ;

The homoerotic interpretation can be found in later 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 defense of pederasty.

In the works of Roger of Hoveden, a twelfth century chronicler, it is described that "The King of France (Philip II Augustus) loved him (Richard the Lionheart) as his own soul." This is an obvious reference to David and Jonathan, and there is substantial evidence to suggest that Richard and Philip were homosexual lovers in the 1180s.

In Renaissance art, the figure of David took on a particular homoerotic charge, as can be seen in the colossal statue of David by Michelangelo and 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.

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."

In his Lambeth essay of December 2007, James Jones the Bishop of Liverpool, drew particular attention to the relationship between David and Jonathan. Describing their friendship as: emotional, spiritual and even physical. There was between them a deep emotional bond that left David grief-stricken when Jonathan died. But not only were they emotionally bound to each other they expressed their love physically. Jonathan stripped off his clothes and dressed David in his own robe and armour. With the candour of the Eastern World that exposes the reserve of Western culture they kissed each other and wept openly with each other. This intimate relationship was sealed before God - it was not just a spiritual bond it became covenantal. He concludes by affirming: Here is the Bible bearing witness to love between two people of the same gender.


Romantic love expositions

See also

Index: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

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