2 Samuel 1:26, Was King David Gay?

I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women.

//This is a long-standing debate, and while I don’t pretend to have the answer, I will weigh in with my guess after presenting some of the verses Bible readers point to.

1 Samuel 18:1, After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself. (NIV)

1 Samuel 19:1, And Saul spoke to Jonathan his son and to all his servants, that they should kill David. But Jonathan, Saul’s son, delighted much in David. (RSV)

1 Samuel 20:30, Then Saul’s anger was kindled against Jonathan, and he said to him, “You son of a perverse, rebellious woman, do I not know that you have chosen the son of Jesse to your own shame, and to the shame of your mother’s nakedness? (RSV)

The ambiguity of these passages is evident. The problem, of course, is that homosexuality is a sin in the Bible. Leviticus 20:13 states this plainly: If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death. This new law was recorded hundreds of years after David lived, and as such, the law could not have impacted its past, but it could have impacted the time in which the scriptures were written down! At the time the stories of David were collated into scripture, a definite anti-gay bias existed, and this may have affected how the stories were presented. The language may have been purposefully toned down.

I promised my own guess, and it’s this: David should not be called gay. As best I can tell, there simply was no clear distinction at the time he lived; no designation of gays or straights, simply a sliding scale of preference, and everybody fell somewhere on that scale. How gay sex grew into such an abomination in the eyes of Israel’s later lawmakers, I don’t know.

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14 Comments

  1. mike hernandez

    It today’s world, David would have been called Gay. Yes or No?

    • David was not gay. He was a Holy King, and would not have been chosen as the apple of God’s eye if he were gay. Homosexuality always was and always will be an abomination to God. Homosexualtiy was first mentioned in the book of Genesis, when the men of the city of Sodom preferred to have sex with the male angels than over Lots daughters. It was a sin then, a sin in David and Jonathan’s time, and a sin now. God has never chosen abominable leaders, and never will. David was NOT gay. Jonathan and David were best friends. They shared a deep brotherly love for one another. Nobody on earth had David’s back the way Jonathan did. Jonathan betrayed his own father to help protect David. David appreciated and cherished this in Jonathan. This friendship had no jealousy, no fight for the throne, no selfish love. It was genuine, and for people to use this to say Homosexuality is okay because David was gay is beyond a misinterpretation of scripture. It is ridiculous.

      • Lee Harmon

        Mary, thanks for contributing! While there are two places in scripture that teach against homosexuality, Genesis is not one of them. That is a fallacy that we all need to discard. Here is the Biblical reason Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed:

        http://www.dubiousdisciple.com/2013/04/ezekiel-1649-what-was-the-sin-of-sodom-and-gomorrah.html

        • If you mean because they didn’t help the poor or whatever you are only a little right. Not helping the poor isn’t considered a sin that God calls “very grave” in Genesis 18:20. To say those two cities didn’t have homosexuals in it is blind. That wanted to know the men (angles) carnally. Something similar is mentioned in judges too. It is condemned plain and simple in the bible.

          • Lee Harmon

            Of course the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah had homosexuals in them. What city doesn’t? I’m merely pointing out that that wasn’t why God destroyed them in the Bible. BTW, helping the poor was a major focus of Jesus’ ministry, whereas correcting sexual preferences held no interest for him, so let’s get our priorities right…ignoring the needy is a much graver sin than loving someone.

  2. Lee Harmon

    Your opinion is a good as mine, Mike! The text is pretty ambiguous, at least for me.

  3. The biblical word wor sexual union is “knowing” , why misconstrue. It never says David knew jonathon, people in this modern era are sick.you confuse your readers with trash.

    • Know refers to sex between a man and a woman. It doesn’t doesn’t use that term for other sexual activities.

    • Your right. People think intimacy equals sexuality. They had a deep friendship, brotherly love. This sex crazed society sees even the most innocent thing as sexually. Their minds are the problem.

  4. Kevin King

    Hi, Lee. I certainly concur with your view that David and Jonathan were not gay. But my take on the issue is that the real problem is not that there was no clear distinction in David’s day: but there has been a widespread confusion between sex and love in our own. The result is that nowadays we suggest that people are ‘gay’ or effeminate simply for having deep affectionate relationships with someone of the same sex or for having no desire to climb into bed with the opposite sex.

    But your argument that ‘there simply was no clear distinction at the time he lived; no designation of gays or straights,’ is ill-founded.

    In your response to one of my comments on your series on Homosexuality and the Bible you say that ‘critical Bible scholars recognize that the “Mosaic Law” was actually written hundreds of years after D&J lived, probably in the time of exile, and then attributed back to Moses as an authority figure.’ The definition of ‘critical’ is critical here.

    It is perfectly true that the books of Moses were edited into their present form after the time of Moses. The editors made no attempt to disguise this; with a whole chapter describing Moses’ death (Deut 34:1-12) and numerous references to Moses in the third person.

    But with regard to the Levitical prohibition of homosexuality they explicitly state:
    ‘And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,..

    If a man also lies with mankind, as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be on them.’
    (Lev 18:1,13)

    But the Bible also provides us with far more concrete historical evidence to confirm that the Levitical laws were not the invention of later scribes.

    Deuteronomy 31:24-26 tells us:
    ‘So it was, when Moses had completed writing the words of this law in a book, when they were finished, that Moses commanded the Levites, who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD, saying: “Take this Book of the Law, and put it beside the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there as a witness against you;”’

    Now it is not clear exactly what form the ‘Book of the Law’ was in at this time, but we are at the very least talking about some of Deuteronomy, which, according to its prologue, was a re-statement of the law and the people’s covenant with God presented by Moses shortly before his death; whereas the laws of Leviticus are attributed to a period early on in the wilderness wanderings. So did this book really exist?

    Following the death of David the Israelites fell into rapid moral decline, with Judah not far behind. There were only brief periods of national renewal, during which some efforts were made to renew the people’s covenant with God. There was certainly no period during which it could be considered likely that any efforts would have been made to write a newer, stricter version of the law. Yet, at the beginning the last of these revivals, prior to which the temple had been desecrated by idols and fallen into disrepair, King Josiah gave orders for its restoration.

    And during this work we read that:
    Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the scribe, I have found the book of the law in the house of the LORD. And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it.’ (2 Kings 22:8. A similar account appears in 2 Chronicles 34:15.)

    At this point ‘critical’ scholars jump in and say, ‘Hah! This must be the point at which the Law was written!’ They further conclude that, somehow, the traditions concerning the Exodus, the wilderness wanderings, the importance of worshipping Yahweh alone, etc., actually had their origins in the northern kingdom. This is amazing, considering the fact that the northern kingdom of Israel had been the first to fall into idolatry and been destroyed about 90 years previously; whilst the focus of temple worship had been Jerusalem, in the southern kingdom of Judah, ever since the time of David. So how is this conclusion justified? ‘Well,’ they say, ‘Isaiah, in the southern kingdom, doesn’t mention these things whereas Hosea, his northern contemporary, does.’ But for most of Isaiah’s time Judah was till nominally monotheistic: the big issues there were nominalism, hypocrisy and social injustice: whereas betrayal of God’s covenant was about to bring the northern kingdom to an end.. So what else would they talk about? (Note that this view is also authenticated by the prophecies of Jeremiah, a contemporary of Josiah – e.g. Jer 3:6-17).

    We cannot be sure that this was the original ‘Book of the Law’ that had been deposited next to the ark. It would by this time have been about 900 years old: so it is perhaps more likely that this was a copy, possibly incorporating, or stored alongside, the additional materials that formed the Torah we know today.

    But the fact remains that the textual record is fully in harmony with the known history of the period: whereas the ‘critical’ theory is not. So, on these grounds, the most reasonable conclusion is that the available evidence points to Leviticus 18:13 being an authentic early rendering of the Law as given to Moses. This has been the opinion of both secular and religious scholars for over 2,000 years: and the only grounds I can see for ‘criticising’ that conclusion is that some people today don’t like what it says.

    • Lee Harmon

      Very nice post, Kevin. Before I reply, could you give me an idea of where you stand on the Documentary Hypothesis? Do you see it as valid in any form? We might be missing each other in the dark, here, so far apart are our presumptions.

  5. Kevin King

    Hi, Lee! I take it you mean the Graf-Wellhausen hypothesis and variants thereof. We were taught the rudiments of the theory in RE at school. It was a few years before I became a Christian and, looking only at the first few chapters of Genesis, it seemed to make sense. Subsequent study of the Bible, and reading more into the assumptions and methods employed has made me very sceptical of most of its claims.
    It is not difficult to see that some of the earliest chapters of Genesis have been collated from more than one source: but the further one progresses into the Pentateuch, the more speculative the divisions become; being based on assumptions about style, vocabulary and theological leanings of the supposed authors. And the more intimately the text is dissected, the more suspect these divisions become; often being based upon portions of text so small that meaningful analysis is impracticable.
    Wellhausen begins with the assumption that the Deuteronomic passages were not found, so much as written, in the time of Josiah. In effect, they were forgeries. A dating at least this late was necessary for his hypothesis. He then proceeded to date the other presumed sources relative to this; not based upon solid historical evidence, but rather upon the prevailing sociological theories about the development of religious ideas and practices.
    There are now numerous alternative theories; all of them essentially speculative in nature. But actual archaeological research has repeatedly demonstrated that passages relating to life, history and culture, even as far back as the patriarchal period, have the ring of authenticity. Very strange, if these were indeed later fabrications.
    I would contend that the simplest and most plausible theory is the one in plain view. The bulk of the text comes from earlier documents or oral traditions compiled at or near the time, and these have subsequently been collated, and sometimes commented on, by editors who made no attempt to disguise their work.
    As to whether or not Moses is the primary author of these books (or editor, in the case of Genesis), Jesus himself indicates that he was. In Luke 24:44: he speaks of ‘the Law of Moses‘, the Prophets and the Psalms.’ In John 7:19 he challenges the Pharisees, ‘Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keeps the law?’ In Mark 7:10 he attributes the 10 Commandments to Moses; in Matt. 8:4, he cites him as the author of Leviticus 14. And in the discussion on divorce in Mark 10:3-8 he first explicitly acknowledges the Pharisees citation of Deut. 24:1 (D) as being from Moses. but then cites Gen. 2:24 as having even more weight.
    Was he suggesting that Moses even wrote Genesis? In John 7:22 he says, ‘Moses therefore gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers)’ There is only one passing reference to the ritual of circumcision in the Pentateuch, except in Genesis 17:10-14. But this is a description of God’s command to Abraham: so Jesus does not say Moses was the originator of this command: but rather that he passed it on to the people.
    So do we have enough in common to debate the matter further? I think it depends where you are really coming from and what you are trying to achieve. If your view of the Bible is that it is essentially a religion that evolved over time as man saw fit and that Jesus was likewise just a child of his time – albeit a great one – then, no. I would wonder why you bothered with it at all, except as a historical curiosity. But if you take seriously the claim that the Bible is about God revealing himself to man, and coming to earth as the man Jesus, then I would suggest that you rethink your thinking about the message it contains. Because Jesus’ message of acceptance, repentance and transformation – addressed to everyone, not just gays or other supposed ‘big sinners’ – has far more power to bring true freedom than you seem to think.

    • Lee Harmon

      I agree with you that early oral tradition is well-represented in the Torah. And I agree that by the time of Jesus, the “law” tradition was ascribed to Moses, perhaps even assuming that Moses was its sole author. I also agree that the deeper you read in the Torah, the more difficult it is to date and separate authorship; it’s no longer a simple matter of splicing apart the Yahwist from the Elohist.

      But we have a problem. In my mind, the Bible simply CANNOT be what you say it is. A mass exodus from Egypt simply didn’t happen–not in the magnitude described by the Bible–so if it was written about at the time, it was greatly exaggerated. We know for a fact that a couple million people didn’t go traipsing through the desert. Likewise for the conquest of Canaan. It’s terribly difficult to piece together anything before the time of David into Chronological sense, and reasonable archaeologists and historians have given up trying to fit the Bible story of the exodus and the conquest neatly into history.

      Moreover, the earlier stories are clearly myths, not meant to be read literally. I think anyone but a predisposed believer would agree; the flood did not happen (or if there was a regional flood, it was mythologized into a worldwide event where all life on earth dies and must be preserved in an ark). But did it come from prior written documents? Yep; the Epic of Gilgamesh provides evidence of this, as it predates even the Hebrew language.

      Does all this mean Jesus (or rather the New Testament writers) believed that the Torah was literally authored by God, or dictated by God to Moses? I don’t know, it’s possible, and actually harder to tell than one would think. Of course, Jesus probably also believed in a flat earth. We can’t hold that against him too, can we?

      Re: a “ring of authenticity” regarding stories clear back to the Patriarchs, I definitely disagree. Reading many of these stories in Hebrew betrays their mythical nature; surely no early storyteller of these stories would have imagined that he was retelling history.

      Given, then, that we know what the Pentateuch is NOT … it is not a historical record of actual events … we must choose the most logical explanation. The Documentary Hypothesis, in some form, is what fits all the facts.

      So there you have my opinion, lol. We’re probably too far apart for meaningful discussion. But I do enjoy the discussions anyway! I’d be happy to share my latest book with you (The River of Life) if you’d like a personal peek into Liberal Christianity and why the Bible and Jesus mean so much to me even though I don’t share your beliefs. It’s short ans simple … just drop me an address sometime if interested.

  6. Kevin King

    Lee, your comments on the Exodus are understandable, given that the generally-accepted Egyptian chronology is extremely difficult to reconcile with the biblical account. However, many specialists on ancient Egypt are prepared to admit that there are serious weaknesses in that chronology: and several alternatives have been proposed which potentially offer a very high degree of correspondence with the biblical narratives: not only of the Exodus, but even dating as far back as Abraham. Take, for example, the New Chronology proposed by David Rohl. You can read a very interesting Wikipedia article on this here.

    Perhaps I should confess at this point that I have been a closet ‘intelligent design’ evolutionist for most of my Christian life (having previously been an agnostic evolutionist). I came to an understanding of Genesis and a literal Adam and Eve – as confirmed by Jesus – that seemed to me to be perfectly reasonable both scientifically and scripturally. Unfortunately, a few years ago, God told me, “I don’t agree with your theories.” Annoyingly, He didn’t tell me which ones… I’m still seeking further elucidation: but in the meantime I’m taking a fresh look at more literal interpretations that I would once have been inclined to discard without serious thought.

    But my point here is that I found God extremely tolerant of my views. I continued to grow in my relationship with Him as long as I was prepared to place the things He said in his word above my own opinions; and modify my thinking and behaviour accordingly. Having unresolved questions is not a problem as far as God is concerned: but attempting to alter what he says about himself to fit one’s own preconceptions is a big mistake.

    So, if you have a problem with the number of people in the desert – ok. Others have explained this to their satisfaction in terms of fairly simple scribal misunderstandings. If you think the flood wasn’t worldwide in the sense we think of it today, fair do’s. It’s pretty certain the writer hadn’t the faintest idea how big the world was. And Gilgamesh and the other flood stories from all around the world do provide some interesting food for thought, don’t they? Likewise, there are a number of less conventional theories as to the precise meaning of the opening chapters of Genesis: and there are passages in there that can lead to some very interesting speculations.

    But, none of this necessitates a rewriting of the history of the Jewish people. whereas, as I have previously pointed out, the Documentary Hypothesis does not fit all the facts. It rewrites the facts to fit its own presuppositions.

    Re. your book, I could be interested to read it sometime, as I would like to understand you better. But, realistically, I’m unlikely to be able to find time in the foreseeable future.

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