Shmuel 1-Chapter 20: Dovid runs away from Shaul

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Chapter 20: Dovid runs away from Shaul

1. Dovid runs away from Shaul:

  • Dovid ran away from Navos which weas in Rama.

2. Dovid and Yehonason debate the threat from Shaul:

  • He approached Yehonason and told him: What have I done, and what is my sin and iniquity towards your father that he desires to kill me?
  • Yehonason replied: Heaven forefend for him to kill you. My father would not do neither a large or small decision without revealing it to me, and why would my father conceal this matter from me today, and thus it must be incorrect.
  • Dovid replied: I swear that your father knows that I have found favor in your eyes, and he hence refuses to inform you of his decision and desire to kill me, lest you becomes saddened. However, I swear by the life of G-d and by your life that there is only one step between me and death.
  • So Yehonason said to Dovid: Tell me what you desire me to do and I will do so.

3. Dovid comes up with a plan to discover Shaul’s true feelings about him:

  • Dovid asks Yehonason to discover his fathers true feelings of him: Dovid said to Yehonason: “Tomorrow is Rosh Chodesh, and I am accustomed to sit with the king, to eat. You shall send me [i.e. give me permission to not show up to the meal], and I will hide in the field until the evening of the third day. If your father asks of me, tell him that Dovid asked you to run home to Beis Lechem, as they are having their annual family sacrificial feast there at this time. If Shaul says “Good,” then it is a good sign for me your servant [that he does not desire to kill me[1]], however if he becomes angry, then you should know that evil has been decided by him [to kill me[2]]. Do kindness with me your servant, as we have entered a covenant of Hashem together. If I have sinned, then you shall kill me rather than bring me to your father.
  • Yehonason responded: Heaven forefend [for you to suspect me that I would discover my father’s feelings of you and not inform you[3]]. For if I will discover that my father has decided to do evil to you, I will surely tell you.
  • Dovid said to Yehonason: Who will inform me if your father answers harshly [and truly desires my death]?
  • Yehonason responds to Dovid that he will inform him of his father’s feelings: Yehonason responded to Dovid: Let us go out to the field. And so both of them went out to the field. Yehonason said to Dovid: [I swear[4]] by Hashem the G-d of Israel, that I shall inquire from my father at this time on the third day, and if he is good to you Dovid, I will send for you to let you know. Now, so shall do G-d to me and even more if [I discover that] my father is good with you [and I do not tell you through a messenger[5], Hashem shall curse me[6]]. Now, if my father wishes to do to you bad then I shall reveal it to you directly [as it would be dangerous for me to do so through a messenger[7]], and I will send you away, and you will go in peace, and may Hashem be with you [in your reign of the monarchy which I know is destined to you[8]] as He was with my father. I shall not ask of you [for any favors when you become king[9]] while I am still alive, [however] you will do kindness of Hashem with my household  after I die. You shall never cease from doing kindness with my household forever, not even when Hashem cuts off your enemies from upon the face of the earth.
  • A covenant is made between Yehonason and Dovid: So, Yehonason made a covenant with the house of Dovid, and Hashem demanded this covenant from the hands of Dovid [when Dovid broke it and sent Mifiboshes to strike against[10]] the enemies of Dovid [which included descendants of Yehonosaon]. Yehonason continued to make a pact with Dovid out of his love for him, as he loved him with all his soul.
  • The details of the plan: Yehonason said to Dovid: “Tomorrow is Rosh Chodesh, and you will be remembered [by my father], as your [normal] seat [at the meal] will be vacant [and he will notice you]. Hide very well for three days, and [on the third day] you shall come to the place where you hid on the day of the pact, and you shall stay beside the traveler’s stone. [I will arrive to your hiding area on the third day] and I will then shoot three arrows to the side, at a set mark [which is the travelers stone[11]]. 
  • The agreed upon sign that Shaul wishes no harm on Dovid: I will then send my lad and tell him to go, find the arrows. Now, if I tell him “The arrows are in front of you [i.e. closer to us than to you[12]]”, [then you should come out of your hiding place[13] and] take the arrow and come to me then this will be a sign for you that you are in peace [with my father], and there is no [tension between you, and even if there is tension, certainly G-d will save you from him, and thus either way you are safe[14]]. I swear by G-d.
  • The agreed upon sign that Shaul desires to kill Dovid: However, if I say to the lad that the arrows are beyond you, then you shall run away, as [this is a sign that] G-d has sent you away. Now, regarding the matter which we have spoken about [i.e. the pact to not harm his household], Hashem is between me and you forever.
  • Dovid goes into hiding: Dovid [agreed to the conditions and he] went off to hide in the field

4. The Rosh Chodesh feast by Shaul and the confrontation between Shaul and his son:

  • The meal on the day of Rosh Chodesh: On Rosh Chodesh, the king [Shaul] sat down to eat the meal. The king sat by his usual seat [at the head of the table[15]] near the wall, and Yehonason got up [and waited for Avner to sit next to his father so he can sit beside him and not lean in front of him[16]], and Avner sat next to Saul, and Dovid’s seat was empty. Shaul did not say anything on that day [regarding Dovid], as he thought that Dovid did not come that day due to an impurity of Keri, [and he had yet to immerse for his state of Keri[17]].
  • The meal of the second day of the month: On the next day, on the second day of the month, Shaul made notice of Dovid’s vacant seat and said to Yehonason, his son: Why has the son of Yishai not come to the meal neither yesterday or today? Yehonason answered Shaul: Dovid asked of me if he can go to Beis Lechem. He asked if he can be sent away to his family for the [annual] family sacrifice in the city, as his brother [Eliav[18]] had asked him to come. “Now, if I have found favor in your eyes, let me be excused from attending the meal, and go see my brothers.” Yehonason concluded to his father that it is for this reason that he did not come to the king’s table for the meal. 
  • Shaul is furious at Yehonason and asks for Dovid to be brought to him to be killed: Shaul was furious against his son Yehonason and said to him: “You are the son of a unruly woman who is deserving of disciplinary action [as Shaul’s wife initiated the meeting for their marriage, as Shaul was shy, and she chased after him[19]]! I know that you have chosen the son of Yishaiy [for the monarchy], to your shame and to the shame of your mother’s nakedness. For all the days that the son of Yishaiy will be living on the earth, you and your kingdom will not be established. Now, send someone to bring him to me, as he is liable for capital punishment.
  • Yehonason defends Dovid and receives the wrath of his father: Yehonason said to his father Shaul: Why should he be put to death what has he done? Shaul [in his anger] picked up the spear to strike his son [Yehonason], and so Yehonason now knew that his father has decided to kill Dovid. Yehonason arose from the table in fierce anger; and he did not eat any food on the second day of Rosh Chodesh, as he was very upset at what his father said concerning Dovid, [and that[20]] his father had shamed him as a result of Dovid. 

5. Yehonason meets Dovid in the field:

  • In the morning [of the third day], Yehonason went out into the field at the appointed time to meet with Dovid, and a young boy was with him. Yehonason said to the boy, “Go run and find the arrows which I will shoot.” So, the boy ran and Yehonason shot the arrow past the boy [as was the sign made with Dovid to show him that his father had indeed decided to kill and that he should run away].  The lad arrived to the area of the arrow that Yehonason had shot. Yehonason called after the lad, and told him “Was the arrow not shot past you?” Yehonason then said to the lad, “Go quickly and [gather the arrows and] don’t just stand there!” So the lack of Yehonason gathered up the arrows, and came back to his master. The lad had no idea of the meaning behind all of this, although Yehonason and Dovid knew exactly what they will communicating. Yehonason gave his weapons to the lad that was with him, and told him to go bring it to the city. After the lad left, Dovid came out of his hiding place in the south. Dovid fell on his face to the ground three times, and prostrated himself three times. Dovid and Yehonason kissed one another, and wept together, although Dovid wept more than Yehonason. Yehonason said to Dovid that he should go to peace [i.e. go on with his travels with the help of G-d]. They had both sworn by the name of Hashem saying, “May Hashem be between me and you, and between my descendants and your descendants forever.”


[1] Rashi 20:7

[2] Rashi 20:7

[3] Rashi 20:9

[4] Rashi 20:12

[5] See Rashi 20:13 and Pirush Mahariy Karo and Rabbeinu Yeshaya 20:12 and 20:13

[6] Pirush Mahariy Karo 20:13 and Rabbeinu Yeshaya 20:12

[7] Rashi and all Mefarshim 20:13

[8] Metzudos Dovid 20:14

[9] See Rashi 20:14; and Metzudos David ibid

[10] See Rashi 20:16

[11] Pirush Rabbeinu Yeshaya 20:21

[12] Metzudas Dovid 20:21

[13] Rashi 20:21

[14] Rashi 20:21

[15] Rashi 20:25

[16] Rashi 20:25

[17] Rashi 20:26

[18] Rashi 20:29

[19] Rashi 20:30

[20] Ralbag 20:34

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