Jonathan pledged his love to David once again, for he loved David as he loved himself…
…David got up from the side of the mound and prostrated himself on the ground three times before Jonathan. Then they kissed each other and cried together until David’s grief exceeded Jonathan’s. Then Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace; the two of us have pledged ourselves to one another in the name of Adonai. May Adonai be between you and me, and between your descendants and mine forever”…
David took up his lament for Saul and Jonathan…
“How the mighty have fallen!
In the heat of battle Jonathan lies slain on our heights!
I grieve for you, my brother, my Jonathan; you were my delight, my sweet!
Your love was marvelous to me, more wonderful than the love of a woman!
1 Samuel 20:17, 41-42; 2 Samuel 1:17, 25-26
Upon reading these verses it seems we have a love relationship between two males - one the son of the king, the other the usurper of the king. Gay and lesbian thinkers have seized upon Jonathan and David’s love as a celebration of homosexuality in the bible.
Yet, David tends to slip through our gay fingers. In rushing to portray him and Jonathan as the patron saints of gay love, we lose sight of David’s other sexual intrigues. There are of course his many wives – including Michal, Jonathan’s sister, and the infamous seduction of Bathsheba.
David’s story draws us beyond the parameters of dualistic thinking of straight and gay. If we honestly celebrate his sexuality, David appears bisexual or omnisexual. He seemed to love people for their personality, their way of leaning into life, and no doubt some for the power and prestige they brought into his sphere of influence. Regardless of the motivation, David claims his own erotic authority and moves in relation to people as he deems appropriate.
At the end of David’s story (2 Kings 1:1-4) we find him an old man who cannot stay warm. David’s advisors go out and find him a young, nubile female to “lay” with him. David, however, is not interested in the girl and neither is “little David.” It is a compelling passage leading to all sorts of jock jokes from the pulpit.
I think we have missed what David needed. We have missed it because either David is straight and impotent, or David is gay and not interested. Both understandings lead to the same conclusion – David sees the girl Abishag as a sex object.
But maybe, just maybe, we need to fathom an imponderable – that what David really wants is not sex, but relationship. It seems to me that the failure with the girl is not one of the penis, but rather of the heart. The closing scene of David’s life is tragic – a shivering old man, a bewildered adolescent Abishag. How different it would have been had the king’s advisor not usurped his erotic authority.