When I think of loyalty I think of pets.  In particular I think of a dog that faithfully collects his master’s slippers each night and lies by his feet by the fire.  I struggle with thinking that people are loyal.  I think that I have been let down enough in some friendships and see my own disloyalty and I am skeptical.  However, the story of David and Jonathan in the Bible highlights some genuine loyalty between  two close friends.

Jonathan had to be faithful to David to help him survive the attempts on his life by Saul.  Later we see that David was faithful to Jonathan by protecting the royal line.  It is a challenge to me to remain faithful to both friends and God.  Loyalty is a virtue that we should cultivate more intentionally in a world that scatters friends and family around the globe.

1 Samuel 20

1Then David fled from Naioth at Ramah and went to Jonathan and asked, “What have I done? What is my crime? How have I wronged your father, that he is trying to kill me?”

 2“Never!” Jonathan replied. “You are not going to die! Look, my father doesn’t do anything, great or small, without letting me know. Why would he hide this from me? It isn’t so!”

 3But David took an oath and said, “Your father knows very well that I have found favor in your eyes, and he has said to himself, ‘Jonathan must not know this or he will be grieved.’ Yet as surely as the LORD lives and as you live, there is only a step between me and death.”

 4Jonathan said to David, “Whatever you want me to do, I’ll do for you.”

 5 So David said, “Look, tomorrow is the New Moon feast, and I am supposed to dine with the king; but let me go and hide in the field until the evening of the day after tomorrow. 6 If your father misses me at all, tell him, ‘David earnestly asked my permission to hurry to Bethlehem, his hometown, because an annual sacrifice is being made there for his whole clan.’ 7 If he says, ‘Very well,’ then your servant is safe. But if he loses his temper, you can be sure that he is determined to harm me. 8As for you, show kindness to your servant, for you have brought him into a covenant with you before the LORD. If I am guilty, then kill me yourself! Why hand me over to your father?”

 9“Never!” Jonathan said. “If I had the least inkling that my father was determined to harm you, wouldn’t I tell you?”

 10David asked, “Who will tell me if your father answers you harshly?”

 11“Come,” Jonathan said, “let’s go out into the field.” So they went there together.

 12 Then Jonathan said to David, “I swear by the LORD, the God of Israel, that I will surely sound out my father by this time the day after tomorrow! If he is favorably disposed toward you, will I not send you word and let you know? 13 But if my father intends to harm you, may the LORD deal with Jonathan, be it ever so severely, if I do not let you know and send you away in peace. May the LORD be with you as he has been with my father. 14 But show me unfailing kindness like the LORD’s kindness as long as I live, so that I may not be killed, 15and do not ever cut off your kindness from my family—not even when the LORD has cut off every one of David’s enemies from the face of the earth.”

 16 So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, “May the LORD call David’s enemies to account.” 17And Jonathan had David reaffirm his oath out of love for him, because he loved him as he loved himself.

 18 Then Jonathan said to David, “Tomorrow is the New Moon feast. You will be missed, because your seat will be empty. 19 The day after tomorrow, toward evening, go to the place where you hid when this trouble began, and wait by the stone Ezel. 20 I will shoot three arrows to the side of it, as though I were shooting at a target. 21 Then I will send a boy and say, ‘Go, find the arrows.’ If I say to him, ‘Look, the arrows are on this side of you; bring them here,’ then come, because, as surely as the LORD lives, you are safe; there is no danger. 22 But if I say to the boy, ‘Look, the arrows are beyond you,’ then you must go, because the LORD has sent you away. 23And about the matter you and I discussed—remember, the LORD is witness between you and me forever.”

 24 So David hid in the field, and when the New Moon feast came, the king sat down to eat. 25 He sat in his customary place by the wall, opposite Jonathan,[a] and Abner sat next to Saul, but David’s place was empty. 26 Saul said nothing that day, for he thought, “Something must have happened to David to make him ceremonially unclean—surely he is unclean.” 27But the next day, the second day of the month, David’s place was empty again. Then Saul said to his son Jonathan, “Why hasn’t the son of Jesse come to the meal, either yesterday or today?”

 28 Jonathan answered, “David earnestly asked me for permission to go to Bethlehem. 29He said, ‘Let me go, because our family is observing a sacrifice in the town and my brother has ordered me to be there. If I have found favor in your eyes, let me get away to see my brothers.’ That is why he has not come to the king’s table.”

 30 Saul’s anger flared up at Jonathan and he said to him, “You son of a perverse and rebellious woman! Don’t I know that you have sided with the son of Jesse to your own shame and to the shame of the mother who bore you? 31As long as the son of Jesse lives on this earth, neither you nor your kingdom will be established. Now send someone to bring him to me, for he must die!”

 32 “Why should he be put to death? What has he done?” Jonathan asked his father. 33But Saul hurled his spear at him to kill him. Then Jonathan knew that his father intended to kill David.

 34Jonathan got up from the table in fierce anger; on that second day of the feast he did not eat, because he was grieved at his father’s shameful treatment of David.

 35 In the morning Jonathan went out to the field for his meeting with David. He had a small boy with him, 36 and he said to the boy, “Run and find the arrows I shoot.” As the boy ran, he shot an arrow beyond him. 37 When the boy came to the place where Jonathan’s arrow had fallen, Jonathan called out after him, “Isn’t the arrow beyond you?” 38 Then he shouted, “Hurry! Go quickly! Don’t stop!” The boy picked up the arrow and returned to his master. 39 (The boy knew nothing about all this; only Jonathan and David knew.) 40Then Jonathan gave his weapons to the boy and said, “Go, carry them back to town.”

 41After the boy had gone, David got up from the south side of the stone and bowed down before Jonathan three times, with his face to the ground. Then they kissed each other and wept together—but David wept the most.

 42 Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the LORD, saying, ‘The LORD is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants forever.’” Then David left, and Jonathan went back to the town.


  1. In what ways was David threatened?
  2. Why do you think that Saul kept his son in the dark?
  3. How was David a real threat to Jonathan?
  4. When has your loyalty been tested?
  5. How could you develop more loyal relationships?

About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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10 Responses to Loyalty

  1. Rebecca Langer says:

    1.In what ways was David threatened?
    David was threatened physically, emotionally; he was in quite a lot of danger.
    2.Why do you think that Saul kept his son in the dark?
    I think that Saul realized that Jonathan loved David more than he loved Saul.
    3.How was David a real threat to Jonathan?
    When David took the throne, it would have been totallly normal for him to kill Saul and everyone else that was a threat to his reign.
    4.When has your loyalty been tested?
    My loyalty has been tested when I have to give up personal comfort for a friendship. When it hurts to keep your word.
    5.How could you develop more loyal relationships?
    I could say “no” to myself more and give more to my friendships.

  2. Grace Yoo says:

    1. David has been threatened in many ways. He has been threatened mostly physically. Saul tries to kill him numerous times.

    2. Saul kept Jonathan in the dark because he knows that Jonathan and David are very close.

    3. David was a threat to Jonathan because their relationship might ruin the family relationship between Jonathan and Saul.

    4. My loyalty has been tested many times when I was tested on my faithfulness and commitment to my friends.

    5. I could develop more loyal friendships by starting with myself and being loyal.

  3. Melisa Guiles says:

    1. Saul was trying to kill him.
    2. He knew that Jonathan’s loyalty was with David and not with him. He knew that Jonathan would do anything in his power to keep David safe.
    3. David was going to take over the throne that should belong to Jonathan as the son of Saul.
    4. My loyalty has been tested when I have made a promise and must keep it eventhough it is hard. It has also been tested when someone holds something against a friend of mine and I had to chose whether to stand by my friend or not.
    5. I need to put others before myself and stick with them even when it would be easier not to.

  4. Sokloon Dy says:

    1. David’s life and reputation was threatened.
    2. Saul kept his son in the dark because he knew that his son and david were close friends and that jonathan would do anything to save david.
    3. Jonathan was supposed to be the heir, but david was anointed by Samuel to be king.
    4. keeping all the secrets that my best friend told me not to tell anyone.
    5. Being open to my friends and be there for them whenever they need me.

  5. Moon Jung Kim[ED 2203;Mon 6:00pm class] says:

    1.In what ways was David threatened? Saul was trying to kill David
    2.Why do you think that Saul kept his son in the dark? Saul knew David and his son were close friends
    3.How was David a real threat to Jonathan? Even though Jonathan was Saul’s son, David was a chosen one as a king by God.
    4.When has your loyalty been tested? when being apart with my friends
    5.How could you develop more loyal relationships? to realize the person is valuable because God treats her valuable. I think, if I could find the value of the person of God, the relationship can be more loyal since I know it is such a blessing from God and precious.

  6. HeeJin,Choi says:

    1.In what ways was David threatened?
    – I think the fear from the threat he was getting was from both from physical and mental facets but I think mental threat could make David more fearful and stressful than physical threat itself (from the fact that Saul’s going to kill him.)
    2.Why do you think that Saul kept his son in the dark?
    – Saul was surely knew that Jonathan would do something to save David’s life since Jonathan’s love for David is bigger than the one for his own life.
    3.How was David a real threat to Jonathan?
    – David was a threat to Saul and his throne as a promised king after Saul chosen by God. David was the pain in the neck to Saul.
    4.When has your loyalty been tested?
    – be the need when my friend got in need. (eg. when one was ill.)
    5.How could you develop more loyal relationships?
    – build the sound relatinoship based upon trust, not demanding certain things to do to satisfy individual’s feeling, taste or calculating each other’s benefit.

  7. Kristin Goffinet says:

    1. Saul was trying to take his life, and his relationship with Jonathon was threatened as a result.
    2. I don’t think he wanted Jonathon to know about his plot against David because he knew how much Jonathon loved David.
    3. By being friends with David, Jonathon knew that he could lose respect from his father.
    4. Right now, it seems like my little sis from Cabrini no longer wants to hang out with me, and I am tempted to quit trying to spend time with her, but I know that I need to be loyal to her.
    5. By being more loyal to my friends.

  8. [ED2203-01] HyeJin Lee says:

    1.In what ways was David threatened?
    His life was threatened, and so was his friendship with Jonathan.
    2.Why do you think that Saul kept his son in the dark?
    Because Saul knew that Jonathan was a good friend of David and did not want him to know the plan of killing David.
    3.How was David a real threat to Jonathan?
    Jonathan was also threatened by Saul because he realized that Jonathan was in favor of David.
    4.When has your loyalty been tested?
    When I struggle with worldly problems, God always tests if I trust him fully or not.
    5.How could you develop more loyal relationships?
    To develop more loyal relationship with God, I would pray more and discipline myself to be able to stand firmly in Jesus Christ regardless of any circumstances.

  9. Sandra Tindle says:

    1. David was threatened by Saul, who wanted to kill him.
    2. Saul kept his son in the dark because he knew that Jonathan and David were friends, and he knew that because of this Jonathan would tell David if Saul told Jonathan that he was planning on killing David.
    3. David was a real threat to Jonathan because Jonathan was the one that should have become king, and David was taking his kingship from him.
    4. My loyalty to my friends and to keeping true to my word has been tested.
    5. I could develop more loyal relationships by making sure that I do what I say I’ll do and that I don’t do what I say I won’t do.

  10. aaron wright says:

    1. he was about to be killleddddddd
    2. he knew that Jonathan was David’s closest friend and he loved him
    3. it would have been tradition for Jonathan to take over.
    4 when i need to get something done, but my good friend needs me for something. that takes a lack of selfishness
    5. spend more time with them. simple, but its easy to get caught up in school and forget about important relationships

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