Summary: David put his covenant friendship with Jonathan to the test. He does so by putting his life in Jonathan's hand. It is the occasion for a confirmation of the covenant between them & also of a very sad parting.
The Life of David: David's Early Years
This is a sad chapter in the lives of Saul, Jonathan and David. David goes to Jonathan convinced that Saul is intent on putting him to death. David is seeking to learn what he has done to cause Saul to feel this way toward him. Jonathan cannot believe his ears. It is simply inconceivable to Jonathan that Saul has actually gone back on his word, after he promised that he would not put David to death (19:6). David is determined to convince Jonathan that his fears are not paranoid delusions, as were Saul's fears. So he takes an oath to assure Jonathan he is telling the truth. The seriousness of the situation finally sinks into Jonathan.
As the Lord works on Jonathan it becomes abundantly clear that Saul is intent on killing David. This intent is so gripping that Saul might even kill his own son if he gets in the way. This acceptance of reality is a significant turning point in the relationship between David and Jonathan and between David and Saul. David put his covenant friendship with Jonathan to the test. He does so by putting his life in Jonathan's hand. It is the occasion for a confirmation of the covenant between David and Jonathan and also of a very sad parting. Yet there are some bright spots in this gloomy chapter, and some very important lessons for Christians today to learn from these inspired words [Deffinbaugh, Bob. Quicknotes. 1 Samuel- 2 Kings. Vol. 3. 2009. Barbour Publ. Uhrichsville, OH. p. 41 & Bob Deffinbaugh. Bible.org].
I. FRIENDSHIP PUT TO THE TEST, 20:1-10.
II. INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE TEST, 11-17.
III. OUTCOME OF THE TEST, 18-24.
Having become persuaded of the deadly nature of Saul's hostility toward him, David sought out Jonathan hoping to learn its reason and to determine if there might be a means of reconciliation in verse 1. "Then David fled from Naioth in Ramah, and came and said to Jonathan, "What have I done? What is my iniquity? And what is my sin before your father, that he is seeking my life?"
[I don't understand why David "fled" from Ramah to find Jonathan at what must have been Saul's palace (verse 1). In Ramah, David is with Samuel the prophet. In Ramah, Saul cannot lay a hand on David. When Saul sends the three parties of men to arrest David, they are all divinely prohibited by the miraculous work of the Spirit of God. This happens to Saul as well (19:18-24). Why then does David "flee" to the place where Saul and Jonathan live? The only explanation that makes any sense to me is that this is where his beloved friend Jonathan can be found. David does not seem to be fleeing from Saul as much as he is fleeing to Jonathan, much like he fled to Ahimelech and Samuel earlier.]
David begins is conversation with Jonathan by humbly asking if he is at fault. He doesn't begin by accusing or attacking Saul. David asks, "What have I done?" Like David, oftentimes we think trouble comes our way because of something we've done. Perhaps God is indeed disciplining, chastening, correcting us. But hard times are not always about punishment. Sometimes they're about preparation. As the story unfolds we see God chipping more rough edges off David as He prepares him for the calling on his life.
The same thing is true for you and me. Tribulation brings about patience and patience brings about maturing (Romans 5:3; James 1:4). [Courson, Jon: Jon Courson's Application Commentary: Vol 1. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2005, S. 870]
Next David focuses on his own sin. Notice the compound reference to "iniquity" and "sin" in verse 1. David seems to be genuinely interested in knowing if he has done something wrong which has brought about the treatment Saul has been stabbing out to him.
In verse 2 Jonathan is confidence that his father would do no such a thing without first telling him. "And he said to him, "Far from it, you shall not die. Behold, my father does nothing either great or small without disclosing it to me. So why should my father hide this thing from me? It is not so!"
Jonathan doesn't quickly accept or grasp what David is saying for he doesn't respond to David's inquiry about iniquity. Instead Jonathan challenges David's assessment that he is in grave danger – from Saul! His father Saul had entered into a solemn oath that he would not harm David (19:6). So Jonathan challenges David's statement that Saul is seeking his life as he knew David's innocence concerning the question of his own sin. Jonathan is nave here, for he assures David that if his father is intent on killing him, he would surely tell him – his son – about it first.