JONATHAN AND DAVID

A Biblical Account of Same Gender Love


A Sermon Delivered by Jagannath Prakash at Lavender Road Metropolitan Community Church in Santa Cruz, California.

Through Scriptures, synagogues, churches, mosques, books and movies the fame of King David has been widely proclaimed. And rightly so; David was a passionate and powerful person whose zeal for life was only surpassed by his devotion to God. Because of his love for God and country David boldly slew the giant Philistine Goliath and performed many other herculean acts. He spared the life of King Saul, despite Saul's intent to destroy him. He valiantly led the armies of Israel against all her enemies.

David was also the most famous ancestor of Jesus the Christ. Our Saviour isn't called the Child of Abraham nor Child of Jacob, but is universally celebrated as the Son or Child of David.

More than any other Biblical character, David fully typifies the extremes of human nature and divine potential. II Sam. 11:1-15 tells us that in order to marry Uriah the Hittite's wife Bathsheba, David had Uriah sent to the front lines to die! Such unscrupulous actions stand in sharp contrast to his beautiful Psalms by which one's soul is lifted into the ecstasies of pure love of God. Through his varied and colorful experiences Jews, Christians and Muslims all find in David a macho image of what a man should be. He was, in modern parlance, a man's man, a true macho man.

But, how about us? Is there anything in this powerful servant of God's varied experiences that would recommend him to lesbian and gay Christians? What would you say if I told you that David was, at the very least, bisexual? What if the man traditional Judio/Christian/Islamic religion promotes as the epitome of godliness, the standard to be emulated by all godly people, was among the five to ten percent of any given population whose sexual orientation is not heterosexual? Absurd? Blasphemous? Well, lets see.

If you would like to follow along in your Bibles, please turn to the Book of I Samuel. After killing Goliath, the Gath Philistine, David went to King Saul for an honorific ceremony. Following that meeting, it appears, David met Saul's gay son Jonathan. It was, if we take the Scripture literally, love at first sight. I Samuel 18:1, in the Authorized King James Version, tells us that: ... the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him [David] as his own soul.

At Saul's insistence, David moved into the royal household and things quickly heated up between Jonathan and David. I Samuel 18:3,4, in the Byington Translation, says that they: pledged themselves to each other, in the love that he had for him ... and Jonathan stripped off the robe he had on and gave it to David... This ritualistically represented the establishment of a covenant relationship between the two: What's mine is yours, what's yours is mine. At this point, we might say, they committed themselves to going steady.

Shortly after Jonathan and David consummated their love, Jonathan's father Saul arranged for David to marry his daughter (Jonathan's sister) Merab. Could it be that Saul knew about their love and was trying to intervene by offering David his daughter instead? The Jewish people, at this time, were still as homophobic as anyone else (though it was due to their desire for offspring, not over any aledged moral concerns). The only condition Saul set was that David be valiant for him (I Samuel 18:17).

The idea here in the Hebrew is two-fold. First, to be valiant David was to be bn, (father to children); and secondly, he must be chayil (a good fighter). Now, one might expect the condition of loyalty to the king as a good soldier, but why would Saul also make David promise to father children? The obvious contextual answer, in light of the preceding verses, is that that was Saul's way of saying: Hey look, your a good fighter, the people love and respect you, but this thing with my son has got to stop. You just need a good woman (which is still a common misconception by those who view homosexuality as anything other than a natural orientation).

Granted, of themselves these verses are insufficient to establish that Jonathan and David were lovers. A more orthodox assessment of the situation might be that Jonathan accepted David as a compatriot and that the act of exchanging clothing with him would indicate Jonathan's bestowal of his royalty on David as a political commitment. After all, these texts do not specifically state that they were lovers.

This however is only the beginning.

At 19:2 the plot thickens. Due at least in part to political jealousies, Saul decided to kill David. While the text, as it has come down to us, does not specifically say so, it is quite feasible that David and Jonathan's continuing relationship may have been largely responsible for Saul's determination to do away with David. Saul obviously intended for Jonathan to succeed him to the throne. In such a homophobic culture, an openly gay king would have been unheard of. Jonathan's homosexuality, in Saul's mind, would have constituted a threat to Saul's continuing lineage. Nothing in the text contradicts this idea and it would explain the passion with which Saul sought David's death.

When Jonathan heard about Saul's plans to kill David he quickly warned him, as a lover would. The reason for this warning is quite interesting. The Authorized King James Version, the Masoretic Text (the Hebrew Bible), and The Revised Standard Version all agree that Jonathan quote, delighted much in David. The Byington Translation says that Jonathan liked David very much, The Jerusalem Bible says Jonathan held David in great affection, while the NIV says but Jonathan was very fond of David, and so sought to divert Saul's wrath.

Was Jonathan's fondness for David simply platonic? The Hebrew text says literally that Jonathan desired (chphts) David. This is the same word used in verses such as Genesis 34:19 where Sh'chem sexually desired Dinah. Interesting, but again not completely conclusive.

At I Samuel 20:24-30 the homosexual aspect of their relationship becomes undeniable. Here Jonathan desperately attempts to defend David from his father's wrath. Saul's response is unmistakable, and for too many of us quite familiar! The Authorized King James Version is surprisingly candid here. In The New King James Version Saul becomes angry with Jonathan for lying to him about David's whereabouts, and so shouts: You son of a perverse, rebellious woman! Do I not know that you have chosen the son of Jesse [David] to your own shame, and to the shame of your mother's nakedness?

What could be more clear? Saul here calls Jonathan a shameful pervert ('vh). Depending on where the comma is placed, before or after the words perverse and woman, he may even be calling his son a perverse woman, in other words, a homosexual, directly. Different versions handle it variously. But regardless, Saul here accuses Jonathan directly. He charges: I know about you and David, you're a couple of sexual perverts who shame both me and your mother!

After this event, Jonathan and David met secretly in the woods. The Biblical record of their randevou, at 20:41, is charged with love and sexual passion as they intimately kiss and embrace one another. After this touching scene, David fled from Saul's wrath.

At 23:16-18 Jonathan again meets David in the woods and the two re-swear their undying love and devotion. If this were a straight couple there would be no doubt about how the episode should be understood: David was living in the forest and Jonathan went into his house. They again made love, this time in David's house in the woods.

II Samuel 1:26 tells us that after Saul and Jonathan's death, David remembered his lover fondly and lamented: I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan; very pleasant hast thou been unto me. Thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.

With the exception of his Psalms to God, one seeks in vain for any description of love more profound or heartfelt from David than this. He had sex with women, many of them, but these relationships seem to be little more than sexual conquests or political expediency, with the possible exception of his relationship with Bathsheba. But clearly Jonathan was the love of David's life.

Such a profound love is a wonderful example for all gay and lesbian people. Despite what we are told by the homophobic culture in which live, and as many of us have discovered on our own, like David and Jonathan, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people can indeed find lasting love, both with God and with one another.

David and Jonathan are not alone in the Biblical record. The potential depths of lavender love was perhaps never expressed more beautifully than as the Bible presents the commitment of two great Biblical lesbians, Naomi and Ruth:

Whereever you go, I will go;
And wherever you lodge, I will lodge;
Your people shall be my people,
And your God, my God.
Where you die, I will die,
And there will I be buried.
Yahveh do so to me, and more also,
If anything but death parts you and me.

Rejoice in the Love of God and the sexual orientation you have been given by our Creator! May the endless and matchless blessings of our Heavenly Lover and God be with you all.

Good night.

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BIBLICAL VERSIONS EMPLOYED


Hebrew Translations from: Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible: A Concise Dictionary of the Hebrew Bible, James Strong, S.T.D.,LL.D., MacDonald Publishing Co. McLean Virginia, no date given.