This story seems, to me anyway, the most likely of of all of the possibly gay Bible stories. There was a special relationship between Jonathan and David. And it involved a love of one kind or another. But what was the nature of that love? To decide that, we need to go through the relevant material in the Bible.
Knit with the soul of David
This is the first mention of the relationship between David and Jonathan in the Bible. Apparently it was love at first sight.
The soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. 1 Samuel 18:1As a sign of his love, Jonathan took off his robe, garments, and girdle, and gave them to David.
Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments ... and his girdle. 18:3-4Jonathan (obviously) delighted much in David.
Lord Frederick Leighton (Jonathan's Token to David, c.1868)
Jonathan ... delighted much in David. 19:2The special relationship between Jonathan and David continued to grow. Jonathan swore he’d do whatever David wanted him to do, and together they went out into the field, where they pledged, once again, their love for each other.
David sware moreover, and said, Thy father certainly knoweth that I have found grace in thine eyes ... Then said Jonathan unto David, Whatsoever thy soul desireth, I will even do it for thee. 20:3-4
And Jonathan said unto David, Come, and let us go out into the field. And they went out both of them into the field. 20:11
And Jonathan caused David to swear again, because he loved him: for he loved him as he loved his own soul. 20:17
To the confusion of thy mother's nakedness
Saul was angered by his son's relationship with David and said, "do not I know that thou hast chosen the son of Jesse to thine own confusion of thy mother's nakedness?"
Then Saul's anger was kindled against Jonathan, and he said unto him, Thou son of the perverse rebellious woman, do not I know that thou hast chosen the son of Jesse to thine own confusion, and unto the confusion of thy mother's nakedness? 20:30Here is how Jennings in Jacob's Wound makes sense out of the “confusion” and “mother’s nakedness” business.1
David and Jonathan "La Somme le Roy", 1290 AD
[I]n having an erotic/sexual relationship with David, Jonathan has had a relationship with someone who has had sexual relations with his father, and thus he has exposed his father’s nakedness. … Intimacy with David exposes the nakedness of David’s first lover (Saul) and thus of that sexual partner of Saul’s who is also Jonathan’s mother.So Saul and David were lovers.2 Then Saul’s son, Jonathan, fell in love with David, which caused the confusion of Jonathan’s perverse mother’s nakedness. Or something like that.
And they kissed one another until David exceeded
David and Jonathan "kissed one another, and wept with one another" when they parted for, what they thought might be, the last time.
And they kissed one another, and wept one with another, until David exceeded. 20:41And here’s what an article at ReligiousTolerance.org says about the whole David “exceeded” thing.3
The original Hebrew text says that they kissed each other and wept together until David became large. The word which means "became large" in this passage is "gadal" in the original Hebrew. The same word is used elsewhere in the Hebrew Scriptures to refer to King Solomon being greater than all other kings. Some theologians interpret "gadal" in this verse as indicating that David had an erection.
Jonathan Lovingly Taketh His Leave of David by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld
Passing the love of women
David loved Jonathan more than women. (And he loved lots of women!)4
I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant hast thou been unto me: thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women. 2 Samuel 1:26Although conservatives deny that there was a homosexual relationship between Jonathan and David,5 liberals are certain that there was. Here, for example is what Tom Horner says in his book Jonathan Loved David: “There can be little doubt, except on the part of those who absolutely refuse to believe it, that a homosexual relationship existed between David and Jonathan.”6
- Theodore W. Jennings, Jr., Jacob's Wound, p. 17.
- See Possibly Gay Bible Stories: Saul and David
- ReligiousTolerance.org: Same-Sex Relationships in the Bible/David and Jonathan/1 Samuel 20:41
- No one knows how many wives and concubines David had, but he had at least ten of each.
Michal, 1 Samuel 18:27
Abigail, 1 Samuel 25:42
Ahinoam, 1 Samuel 25:43
Maacah, 2 Samuel 3:3
Haggith, 2 Samuel 3:4
Abital, 2:Samuel 3:4
Eglah, 2 Samuel 3:5
“And David took him more concubines and wives.” 2 Samuel 5:13
Bathsheba, 2 Samuel 11:27
“David … took the ten women his concubines….” 2 Samuel 20:3
“None of these texts, taken singly or as a collective whole, provide persuasive support for a homosexual relationship between David and Jonathan.” Robert A. J. Gagnon, The Bible and Homosexual Practice, p. 153.