(1035 - 960 BC) Israel
David, King of Israel, was bisexual, one of the oldest known documented gay love stories is found in the Old Testament passages about David and Jonathan.
David and Jonathan were the Biblical pair. The Star of David is named after this particular David. Even in those days they had some troubles with others meddling in their relationships. That being, in this case, primarily Jonathan's father, King Saul, who is portrayed as a scoundrel most of the time. I asked Professor Hickman, from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, during the Midwest BLG College Conference (1995) what his scholarly opinion on the story was. He said the most definitive answer was that the story is ambiguous and that the interpretation(s) the reader derives from it make up its essential value. I believe most gay, at least male, persons will recognize parallels with their own lives. During the debates on Gays in the Military in the Israeli Parliament, that David and Jonathan were probably homosexuals was brought up.
To frame the context of the citations below, these books of the Bible are called the First and Second Books of Samuel in Protestant (and most "generic") versions, while they are called the First and Second Books of Kings in the Catholic Bible. (They are called books because the Bible is considered a library as opposed to a "book.") The two versions are given so that differences in translation can be discerned. The version found on the left is the from Good News Bible whereas the version on the right is from the Catholic Bible.
Samuel was a prophet who had been told by the Lord to anoint as king one known as Saul. Jonathan, a young soldier, was the son of Saul; he was born in circa 1046 B.C. David was also a young soldier and a musician whom Saul called to his court after David had slain Goliath. Below are passages that begin when David and Jonathan had met.
| 1 Saul and David finished their conversation. After that, Saul's son Jonathan was deeply attracted to David and came to love him as much as he loved himself.
2 Saul kept David with him from that day on and did not let him go back home.
3 Jonathan swore eternal friendship with David because of his deep affection for him.
4 He took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, together with his armor and also his sword, bow, and belt.
(1 Samuel 18:1-4)
| 1 And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.
2 And Saul took him that day, and would not let him return to his father's house.
3 And David and Jonathan made a covenant, for he loved him as his own soul.
4 And Jonathan stripped himself of the coat with which he was clothed, and gave it to David, and the rest of his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle.
(1 Kings 18:1-4)
Meanwhile Saul made David a leader in the army. In this David was too successful because he became more highly admired that Saul was, which incited jealousy in Saul. Jonathan attempted to mediate between the two, and he was at times able to calm Saul's rancor -- but only temporarily. Saul soon became resentful of Jonathan's
loyalties to David, and he admonishes Jonathan for his relationship with David:
| 30 Saul became furious with Jonathan and said to him, "How rebellious and faithless your mother was! Now I know you are taking sides with David and are disgracing yourself and that mother of yours!
31 Don't you realize that as long as David is alive, you will never be king of this country? Now go and bring him here--he must die!" ...
34 Jonathan got up from the table in a rage and ate nothing that day--the second day of the New Moon Festival. He was deeply distressed about David, because Saul had insulted him.
(1 Samuel 20:30-1, 34)
| 30 Then Saul being angry against Jonathan said to him: Thou son of a woman that is the ravisher of a man, do I not know that thou lovest the son of Isai to thy own confusion and to the confusion of thy shameless mother?
31 For as long as the son of Isai liveth upon earth, thou shalt not be established, nor thy kingdom. Therefore now presently send, and fetch him to me: for he is the son of death....
34 So Jonathan rose from the table in great anger, and did not eat bread on the second day after the new moon. For he was grieved for David, because his father had put him into confusion.
(1 Kings 20:30-1, 34)
Jonathan and David had conferred with each other before this and planned to secretly rendezvous outside of town in order that Jonathan could inform him of Saul's attitude toward David. Jonathan, accompanied by a young assistant, went to the designated field:
| 41 After the boy had left, David got up from behind the pile of stones, fell upon his knees and bowed with his face to the ground three times. Both he and Jonathan were crying as they kissed each other; David's grief was even greater than Jonathan's.
(1 Samuel 20:41)
| 41 And when the boy was gone, David rose out of his place, which was towards the south, and falling on his face to the ground, adored thrice: and kissing one another, they wept together, but David more.
(1 Kings 20:41)
After that, as one might surmise, David was no longer a part of Saul's court. Jonathan and David continued to confer with one another at remote places, while Saul swung back and forth repeatedly between plotting to kill David and reconciling with him. In the end King Saul and Jonathan were killed as the result of a battle. David mourned their passing -- especially, of course, that of Jonathan:
| 25 The brave soldiers have fallen, they were killed in battle. Jonathan lies dead in the hills.
26 I grieve for you, my brother Jonathan; how dear you were to me! How wonderful was your love for me, better even than the love of women.
27 The brave soldiers have fallen,their weapons abandoned and useless.
(2 Samuel 1:25-7)
| 25 How are the valiant fallen in battle? Jonathan slain in the high places?
26 I grieve for thee my brother Jonathan: exceedingly beautiful and amiable to me above the love of women. As the mother loveth her only son, so did I love thee.
27 How are the valiant fallen, and the weapons of war perished?
(2 Kings 1:25-7)
David went on to become the king. Actually he had been anointed by Samuel while Saul was still alive. David also had, at one time, two wives. He at one point was soiled by the sin of adultery, but he earnestly repented and was forgiven. His relationship with Jonathan, on the other hand, had never been regarded as sinful in any way.
The difference between the two versions of the Bible are quite illustrative. The passage "...Saul's son was deeply attracted to David..." is a far cry from "the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David..." Likewise, "...how dear your were to me!" is of different import than "... exceedingly beautiful and amiable to me..." Typical are such translation problems. The many different impressions one may get are at least as varied as the many versions of the Bible that exist. Who knows how the original language read? One thing is clear. David and Jonathan could scarcely do such things today without being branded gay, homosexual, bisexual, or what have you.
Some of the so-called modern language Bibles have translations that reflect more the agendas of their promulgators than the meanings conveyed by the original wording. This especially true of the passages used in attempts to condemn homosexuality.
The above sculpture was created by artist Malcolm Lidbury for 2016 LGBT History & Art Project Cornwall UK.