1 David ran from Naioth in Ramah to Jonathan and asked him, “What have I done? What is my wrong have I done? What terrible thing have I done to your father that he wants to kill me?”
2 “Nothing!” Jonathan replied. “You're not going to die! Listen! My father tells me everything he's planning, whatever it is. Why would my father keep something like this from me? It's not true!”
3 But David swore an oath again, saying, “Your father knows very well that I'm your friend, and so he's told himself, ‘Jonathan can't find out about this, otherwise he'll be really upset.’ I swear on the life of the Lord, and on your own life, my life is hanging by a thread.”* “My life is hanging by a thread”: literally, “there's just a step between me and death.”
4 “Tell me what you want me to do for you and I'll do it,” Jonathan told David.
5 “Well, the New Moon festival is tomorrow, and I'm meant to sit down and eat with the king. But if it's alright with you, I plan to go and hide in the field until the evening three days from now. 6 If your father does indeed miss me, tell him, ‘David had to urgently ask my permission to hurry down to Bethlehem, his hometown, because of a yearly sacrifice there for his whole family group.’ 7 If he says, ‘That's fine,’ then there's no problem for me, your servant, but if he gets mad, you'll know he intends to do me harm. 8 So please treat me well, as you promised when you made a agreement with me before the Lord. If I've done wrong, then kill me yourself! Why take me to your father for him to do it?”
9 “Absolutely not!” Jonathan replied. “If I knew for certain that if my father had plans to harm you, don't you think I'd tell you?”
10 “So who's going to let me know if your father gives you a nasty answer?” David asked.
11 “Come on, let's go out into the countryside,” Jonathan said. So they both of them went out into the countryside.
12 Jonathan said to David, “I promise by the Lord, the God of Israel, that I will question my father by this time tomorrow or the day after. If things look good for you, I'll send a message to you and let you know. 13 But if my father plans to do you harm, then may the Lord punish me very severely, if I don't let you know by sending you a message so you can get away safely. May the Lord be with you, just as he was with my father. 14 While I live, please show me trustworthy love like that of the Lord so I don't die, 15 and please don't ever remove your trustworthy love for my family, even when the Lord has removed every one of your enemies from the earth.”
16 Jonathan made a solemn agreement with the family of David, saying, “May the Lord impose retribution on David's enemies.”† This and the previous verses have a number of problems in translation. 17 Jonathan made David swear this once more by making an oath based on David's love for him, for Jonathan already loved David as he loved himself.
18 Then Jonathan said to David, “The New Moon festival is tomorrow. You'll be missed, because your place will be empty. 19 In three days time, go quickly to where you hid when all this started, and stay there beside the pile of stones. 20 I'll shoot three arrows to the side of it as if I were shooting at a target. 21 Then I'll send a boy and tell him, ‘Go and find the arrows!’ Now, if I say to him specifically, ‘Look, the arrows are this side of you; bring them over here,’ then I swear on the life of the Lord it's safe for you to come out—there's no danger. 22 But if I tell the boy, ‘Look, the arrows are way past you,’ then you'll have to leave, for the Lord wants you to go away. 23 As for what you and I talked about, remember that the Lord is a witness between you and me forever.”
24 So David hid himself in the field. When the New Moon festival arrived, the king sat down to eat. 25 He sat in his usual place by the wall opposite Jonathan. Abner sat next to Saul, but David's place was empty. 26 Saul didn't say anything that day because he thought, “Something has probably happened to David to make him ceremonially unclean—yes, he must be unclean.”
27 But the second day, the day after the New Moon, David's place was still empty. Saul asked his son Jonathan, “Why hasn't the son of Jesse come to dinner either yesterday or today?”
28 Jonathan answered, “David had to urgently ask my permission to go to Bethlehem. 29 He told me, ‘Please let me go, because our family is having a sacrifice in the town and my brother told me I had to be there. If you think well of me, please let me go and see my brothers.’ That's why he's absent from the king's table.”
30 Saul got very angry with Jonathan and said, “You rebellious son of a whore! Don't you think I know that you prefer the son of Jesse? Shame on you! You're a disgrace to the mother who bore you! 31 While the son of Jesse remains alive, you and your kingship are not secure. Now go and bring him here to me, for he has to die!”
32 “Why does he have to be put to death?” Jonathan asked. “What has he done?”
33 Saul threw his spear at Jonathan, trying to kill him, so he knew that his father definitely wanted David dead. 34 Jonathan left the table absolutely furious. He would not eat anything on the second day of the festival, for he was so upset by the shameful way his father had treated David.
35 In the morning Jonathan went to the field to the place he had agreed with David, and a young boy was with him. 36 He told the boy, “Run and find the arrows that I shoot.” The boy started running and Jonathan shot an arrow past him. 37 When the boy got to the place where Jonathan's arrow had landed, Jonathan shouted to him, “Isn't the arrow farther past you? 38 Hurry up! Do it quickly! Don't wait!” The boy picked up the arrows and took them back to his master. 39 The boy didn't suspect anything—only Jonathan and David knew what it meant. 40 Jonathan gave his bow and arrows to the boy and said, “Take these back to town.”
41 After the boy had gone, David got up from beside the pile of stones, fell facedown to the ground, and bowed three times. Then he and Jonathan kissed each other and cried together as friends, though David cried the hardest.
42 Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, for the two of us have sworn a solemn oath in the name of the Lord. We said, ‘The Lord will be a witness between me and you, and between my descendants and your descendants forever.’ ” Then David left, and Jonathan went back to town.
*20:3 “My life is hanging by a thread”: literally, “there's just a step between me and death.”
†20:16 This and the previous verses have a number of problems in translation.