The killing of friendship

In his lament for Saul and Jonathan, David says of his friend:

“How I weep for you, my brother Jonathan!  Oh, how much I loved you! And your love for me was deep, deeper than the love of women!”[1]

Some people have picked up on this verse and the other accounts of David and Jonathan to argue that this is an example of and a Biblical argument for homosexuality.

I want to make two points about this.

  1. That there is nothing in the text to suggest that David and Jonathan’s relationship was homo-erotic.  Rather what we have here is the obvious literally use of a superlative. Jonathan’s love for David is compared to that of a woman not in the sense of “it is like/similar/replicating.  No, there is the sense that if you think of the affection and loyalty that a wife shows to her husband, well, there was an intensiveness and faithfulness to Jonathan’s love for David that compared favourably with that.

Here is OT scholar David Firth on this point:

“In spite of the reference to the love of women, Jonathan’s love for David was not homoerotic… but Jonathan had absolute political commitment to him, demonstrated through his enabling David to escape in 1 Samuel 20 and the constant covenant making between them (1 Sam 18:3; 20:8; 23:20). Jonathan’s love for David was deep and abiding of a different type to that of women.”[2]

  1. That sadly this is an example of what happens when society obsessively focuses on the erotic and sexual love to the exclusion of all other aspects of love, faithfulness and friendship. It is no longer possible for two men to be close friends without being seen as homosexuals. It isn’t possible for two women to share deep affection without being labelled as lesbian. I can’t help feeling that this pushes people into being identified both with a sexual orientation and with an associated, intensely tribal culture. The big loser in all of this is friendship.

We have a real need for loyal friendship man to man and woman to woman. When those relationship are sexualised then not only is something of the significance and value of marriage but we also lose the rich variety of relationships that are intrinsic to the building of a healthy community.


[1] 2 Samuel 1:26.

[2] Firth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 326.