Thursday, February 5, 2009

David and Jonathan's Friendship

In David's poetic lament for the deaths of Saul and Jonathan, he eulogizes,

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. (2 Sam 1:26 NIV)

Based on this passage some have ascribed to David and Jonathan a homosexual relationship.

There is no basis for this, and to say, "Doesn't that sound a bit odd for a man to say about another man unless they were homosexual?" doesn't thereby prove the allegation. All it reveals is that the speaker is coming at this from the 21st century American/European mindset.

As I read through Team of Rivals a couple years ago, a book about Lincoln and his cabinet, it was interesting to note the closeness of friendships between men at that time. In their correspondence they wrote in intimate terms, but their relationships were not sexual.

Then I came across an article at The Art of Manliness that further elaborates on 19th century friendships. Close friends often referred to one another affectionately ("My dear boy"), signed off on letters with expressions like "affectionately yours," often embraced one another, and frequently held hands. Daniel Webster and Teddy Roosevelt were men like this. That Lincoln shared a bed with Joshua Speed for some time doesn't evidence his homosexuality (a charge that has been played with in recent years); rather, it evidences that he isn't a product of our age.

I remember visiting the Mickey Tavern somewhere in Virginia. Four or five men would sleep width-wise across the bed. Because they were gay? No, because there were not enough beds.

Misinterpretations of the Scriptures abound because we are so hidebound to our own cultural perspective. Another example: A psychiatrist acquaintance of friends of mine stated unequivocally that Lot's daughters would not have voluntarily slept with their father in order to conceive children (Gen 19:30-38). "Women wouldn't do that," was his flat statement, and therefore he assessed that Scripture to be fabricated.

But my friends know African women who would do almost anything to get pregnant, because in their culture barrenness is lamentable, if not dangerous. This psychiatrist only knows a small sliver of women.

David and Jonathan were not homosexual lovers; they were close friends. Jonathan's love for David was of a different kind than of David's wives' love for him. Jonathan had sworn off the kingdom that was his by birth; he knew God wanted David to king, and Jonathan openly submitted to the divine will and vowed his allegiance to David.

And this wasn't merely a verbal profession, aimed to lull David into a false sense of security. Jonathan meant for God's will to be carried out, for David to be the next king. His actions prove it. Jonathan
  • once reconciled David and Saul (1 Sam 19:1-7),
  • once stood up for David and almost died in the process (1 Sam 20:30-34),
  • once warned David to flee because of Saul's murderous rage (1 Sam 20:35-42),
  • and once encouraged David when he was very low with these words, "Don't be afraid. My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this" (1 Sam 23:17 NIV).

1 comment:

dean said...

It would seem our modern freedoms have in reality locked us away in our separate cells. We have lost the freedom of genuine friendship.