What was the nature of the love between David and Jonathan in 1 Samuel?   By Jack Kettler


“And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” (1 Samuel 18:1)


Based upon 1 Samuel 18:1, were David and Jonathan homosexuals?


As will be seen, this passage does not teach David or Jonathan to be homosexuals.




David had multiple wives and concubines (2 Samuel 5:13) and lusted for Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11). Additionally, Jonathan was married to a woman, as seen in (2 Samuel 9).


Strong's Hebrew 157:


“aheb: to love

Original Word: אָהַב

Part of Speech: Verb

Transliteration: aheb

Phonetic Spelling: (aw-hab')

Definition: to love”


It is impossible to reach a conclusion that David was a homosexual based on Strong’s Lexicon. To do so is viewing the text with prejudice.   


Unencumbered by today’s sexually deviant propaganda, Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers explicates: 


“(1) The soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David. — We have in this and the following chapters somewhat of a detailed account of David at the Court of Saul. In 1 Samuel 16 this Court life of the future king has been already touched upon, notably in 1Samuel 18:21-23, where the affection of Saul for David was mentioned, where also the appointing of the young shepherd to a post about the king’s person is recorded. But this mention in 1 Samuel 16 considerably anticipated the course of events. In relating the results of this affection of Saul for David, the writer of what we may term the episode treating of the influence of music and poetry passed over, so to speak, the story of several years, in the course of which took place the single combat of David with the Philistine giant, and the victorious campaign in which the young hero took so distinguished a part. The history here takes up the thread of the future king’s life, after the campaigns which immediately followed the discomfiture of the Philistine champion (1Samuel 18:6 and following). 1Samuel 18:1-4 simply relate the beginning of the world-famous friendship between Prince Jonathan and David.”


“The Hebrew is rendered “was knit,” or better, was bound up. This is a strong term, and is used in Genesis 44:30 of Jacob’s love to Benjamin: “seeing that his life is bound up in the lad’s life.” Aristotle, Nicom. ix. 8, has noted that friends are called one soul.”


“Jonathan loved him as his own soul. — As has been before remarked, the character of the princely son of Saul is one of the most beautiful in the Old Testament story. He was the type of a true warrior of those wild, half-barbarous times—among brave men seemingly the bravest—a perfect soldier, whether fighting as a simple man-at-arms or as the general of an army—chivalrous and generous—utterly free from jealousy—a fervid believer in the God of Israel—a devoted and loyal son—a true patriot in the highest sense of the word, who sealed a devoted life by a noble death, dying as he did fighting for his king and his people. The long and steady friendship of Jonathan no doubt had a powerful and enduring influence on the after life of the greatest of the Hebrew sovereigns. The words, the unselfish, beautiful love, and, above all, the splendid example of the ill-fated son of Saul, have no doubt given their colouring to many of the noblest utterances in David’s Psalms and to not a few of the most heroic deeds in David’s life.”


“We read of this friendship as dating from the morrow of the first striking deed of arms performed by David when he slew the giant. It is clear, however, that it was not the personal bravery of the boy hero, or the rare skill he showed in the encounter, which so singularly attracted Prince Jonathan. These things no one would have admired and honoured more than the son of Saul, but it needed more than splendid gallantry and rare skill to attract that great love of which we read. What won Jonathan’s heart was the shepherd boy’s sublime faith, his perfect childlike trust in the “Glorious Arm” of the Lord. Jonathan and David possessed one thing in common—an intense, unswerving belief in the power of Jehovah of Israel to keep and to save all who trusted in Him.”


“The two were typical Israelites, both possessing in a very high degree that intense confidence in the Mighty One of Israel which was the mainspring of the people’s glory and success, and which, in the seemingly interminable days of their punishment and degradation, has been the power which has kept them still together—a people distinct, reserved yet for some mighty destiny in the unknown future.” (1)




The above commentary entry is similar to all commentaries of the time period. It would have been unthinkable that the question of David and Jonathan being homosexuals could be supported by this text. 


Jacob's love for Benjamin is similar to David and Jonathan. For example, Jacob did not send Benjamin with his brethren; “for he said, lest peradventure mischief befall him.” (Genesis 42:4)


Those individuals using 1 Samuel 18:1 as a proof text are reading into the passage something that is not there and is inexcusable. It is similar to the Critical Race Theory advocates who use the same tactics, reading into the Scriptures things that are not in the text. Searching the Scriptures to find a proof text is a pretext.


However, since there are those who pervert the Word of God, it would seem prudent to examine some examples of the misuse of Scripture. Leviticus chapter 18 is a good place to start.


It will be profitable to examine some of Greg Bahnsen’s work “Homosexuality a biblical view:.”


“The list of injunctions in Leviticus 18 is introduced with emphatic divine authority: “You are to perform my judgments and keep my statutes, to walk in them; I am the Lord your God; [40] it ends, “Thus you are to keep my charge. ... I am the Lord your God.” [41] The next chapter  contains further laws, introduced with these words: “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy”;[42] it ends, “You shall thus observe all my statutes, and all my ordinances, and do them: I am the Lord.”[43] Chapter 20 is a continuation of such injunctions: “Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘You shall also say to the sons of Israel…’”;[44] it similarly ends, “Thus you are to be holy to me, for I the Lord am holy.”[45] In contrast to such ethical requirements reflecting the lordship and holiness of God, chapter 21 begins a new section dealing with requirements for priests and their cultic service. The preceding passage [46] contains some requirements that are no longer observed in their Jewish form, e.g., those which symbolize the separation of Israel from the abominations committed by her pagan neighbors [47] and a few ceremonial instructions. [48] But the predominant character of its commandments is moral, and their content is generally recognized as binding today (e.g., prohibiting incest, adultery, child sacrifice, idolatry, oppression of the poor, slander, hatred, unjust weights and measures). Christ Himself appealed to them as summarizing all the law and the prophets. [49] Therefore, the context does not support the automatic dismissal of the prohibitions against homosexuality as ceremonial. The defender of homosexuality must produce a viable criterion for distinguishing between moral and ceremonial laws, or else consistently reject them all (contrary to the emphatic word of Christ). We have New Testament warrant for discontinuing obedience to the sacrificial system, [50] and the failure to observe the symbols of separation from the Gentile no longer displeases God. [51] However, the Scriptures never alter God’s revealed law regarding homosexuality, but leave us under its full requirement. [52] Indeed, the Bible repeatedly condemns homosexuality, the New Testament itself stressing that it is contrary to God’s law, [53] bringing God’s judgment and exclusion from the kingdom. [54] Therefore, the prohibition against homosexuality cannot be viewed as part of the ceremonial system prefiguring Christ or as temporary in its obligation.” (2)


Romans Chapter One, the subject of homosexuality, is another text that is relevant.


It would be wise to continue with Dr. Bahnsen’s analysis:


Romans 1


“Identical principles are authoritatively revealed in the first chapter of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, thus providing explicit New Testament confirmation of the Old Testament ethic regarding homosexuality. For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire towards one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.... And although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things [the sins listed in verses 28-31] are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them. [70] In this context Paul was teaching that the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against those who turn from their proper relationship to the Creator; suppressing the truth of God, they resort to various forms of idolatry, serving the creature with darkened minds and foolish reasoning. In response, God gives them over to impure lusts and the dishonoring of their bodies—specifically, to homosexuality, which in turn stimulates further depravities. Men who give up God and His law are eventually given up by God to wander in morally polluted practices that become a way of life. Specifically, the penalty for man’s rebellion against the true service to God is homosexuality, which Paul described with reinforcing disapprobation as “impurity,” “dishonoring of the body,” [71] “degrading passions,” [72] “indecent acts” (or “shameless deeds”), “error,” [73] the “improper” activity of a “depraved mind.” [74] Homosexuality exchanges the natural use of sex for unnatural sexual practices, [75] thereby evidencing immoral perversion in the most intimate of human relations and being “worthy of death.” [76] The best commentary on this teaching is found in the Old Testament, upon which Paul drew heavily. Scripture’s most obvious condemnation of homosexuality as intrinsically immoral is found in this Romans passage. Nevertheless, there are those who seek to evade its straightforward indictment. In the first place there are those who maintain that Paul did not single out homosexuality as especially offensive among sins; it is not taken up as a subject in its own right but merely dealt with incidentally among the results of a perverted relationship to God—presented simply as part of a broader pattern of pagan excesses. Such a response to Paul’s words is plainly wrong. After all, homosexuality is presented precisely as an appropriate illustration of sinful depravity. Indeed, it is Paul’s key illustration of the perversion that results from rebellion against God, a conspicuous symptom of such rebellion. The subject is discussed, to be sure, in relation to its roots and effects, but the moral character of homosexuality is nonetheless discussed in its own right as well. Its vile character clinches Paul’s argument concerning the consequences of suppressing the knowledge of God, and thus what Paul said in describing it cannot be minimized. To contend that homosexuality in Romans 1 is portrayed merely as a punishment for sin and not as a sin itself is to forget that God often punishes sin by turning men over to that sin and its effects completely. [77] This is exactly what Paul said about homosexuality: it is both sin and punishment for sin. [78] Second, there are supporters of homosexuality who claim that Paul is condemning lust and promiscuity, not homosexual love and devotion; the assumption is that the moral quality of homosexuality cannot be judged in isolation from the attitude and context in which one exercises it, the interpersonal support it supplies, and the personal fulfillment it offers. Supposedly there are distinctions to be drawn, with the result that we should recognize a commendable Christian practice of homosexuality in contrast to depraved versions of it. But such a suggestion is mere wishful thinking without biblical support. Paul was quite adept at drawing careful moral distinctions. He recognized pertinent qualifications that had to be made and gave his readers details of intricate ethical problems (such as those regarding meats offered to idols, marriage and divorce, spiritual gifts, exhortations and rebukes, uses and abuses of the law). If homosexuality could gain divine approval in any sense, Paul would have indicated as much and drawn the distinctions which men now wish to impose upon his text.” (3)


Another relevant text:


From Matthew Poole's Commentary on 1 Timothy 1:10, the reader learns:


“The two next terms express violaters of the seventh commandment, whether by fornication, adultery, incest, sodomy, or any beastly lusts.”


“Men-stealers; the word signifieth such as carry men into captivity, or make slaves of them in the first place; it signifies also any stealing of men. It is probable the first of these is the man-stealing principally intended, being the most common sin by pirates at sea, and soldiers at land; yet not excluding any other stealing of men from their relations, which he instanceth in, as one of the highest violations of the eighth commandment. By liars, he meaneth such as knowingly speak what is false, especially to the prejudice of others.”


“By perjured persons he means such as swear falsely. And cause it would be too long to reckon up all kinds of sinners, he comprehends them all in a general phrase, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, that is, the holy and pure truth of God, that is not corrupted, but judges aright of good and evil:”


“for these he saith the law is made, that is, to deter from such crimes, or to condemn for them; but not to terrify such who either never were guilty of such flagitious crimes, or if they have been guilty, yet are now washed, and sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of God, as the apostle speaks, 1Corinthians 6:11. The law (as the apostle here saith) was never made to terrify, or to condemn and affright, these, for, Romans 8:1: There is no condemnation to those that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (4)


Jude, the brother of James, declares:


“Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” (Jude 1:7)


In closing:


Jesus never directly addressed the subject of homosexuality. To use this silence as an argument in support of homosexuality is to use a fallacious argument, namely, an argument from silence.


Jesus did speak to a topic that has implications on a relevant lifestyle question, that of marriage:


“And he answered and said unto them, have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, for this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?” (Matthew 19:4-5)


It should be noted that in Matthew 19:4-5 Jesus is quoting from Genesis 1:27; 2:24.


In 1 Corinthians 6:9, Paul mentions, “the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality” will inherit the kingdom of God.


Then Paul says:


“And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:11)


In the above passage, the Apostle provides hope for those struggling with sexual sins.


“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)




1.      Charles John Ellicott, Bible Commentary for English Readers, 1 Samuel, Vol.2, (London, England, Cassell and Company), p. 370.

2.      Greg Bahnsen, Homosexuality: A Biblical view (Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing Company, Phillipsburg, New Jersey), pp. 39-41.

3.      Greg Bahnsen, Homosexuality: A Biblical view (Phillipsburg, New Jersey, Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing Company), pp. 47-50.

4.      Matthew Poole's Commentary on the Holy Bible, (Peabody, Massachusetts Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing Co., Hendrickson Publishers, 1985) p. 774-775.


Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of books defending the Reformed Faith. Books can be ordered online at: https://www.amazon.com/Books-Jack-Kettler/s?rh=n%3A283155%2Cp_27%3AJack+Kettler