Category Archives: David and Jonathan
Mephiboseth was the son of Jonathan.
Jonathan son of Saul had a son who was lame in both feet. He was five years old when the news about Saul and Jonathan came from Jezreel. His nurse picked him up and fled, but as she hurried to leave, he fell and became disabled. His name was Mephibosheth. (2 Samuel 4:4, NIV)
After the turmoil surrounding David’s accession had calmed down, he asked “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” (2 Samuel 9:1). David was able to trace Mephibosheth and summoned him to court.
“Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table.” (2 Samuel 9:7)
David showed kindness to Mephibosheth for Jonathan’s sake. Why would he do this? It was because of the covenant between David and Jonathan, as Jonathan mentioned in 1 Samuel 20:42:
Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the LORD, saying, ‘The LORD is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants forever.’” Then David left, and Jonathan went back to the town.
As I mentioned in my talk, the word “friendship” is one that is introduced by the translators of the NIV.
David and Jonathan’s families were united by the covenant between them. When Jonathan was killed, David took his son under his wing and treated him as his own son. Was this adoption? And did Mephibosheth have two dads?
Not Quite Adoption
No, this is not quite adoption in the sense that we know it in the modern world. By the time Mephibosheth was ‘adopted’ by David, he was old enough to have a son of his own (2 Samuel 9:12), and in the modern Western world by the time someone is old enough to have children of their own they are usually too old to be adopted.
However, David did look after Mephibosheth in a fatherly way, so I think it is safe to say that David was a father to him. Mephibosheth did have two dads.
Definitely Not Political
The real significance of David’s adoption of Mephibosheth, of course, is that it shows that David and Jonathan’s relationship was one based on love and partnership, not politics. Politically it was a foolish idea to have any of Saul’s heirs around, and on one occasion there were rumours that Mephiosheth was trying to usurp David (2 Samuel 16:3).
But if David and Jonathan formed a relationship based on love, a spousal-type relationship, then this makes perfect sense. David looked after Jonathan’s sole surviving heir because Jonathan was his spouse, making Jonathan’s children his step children.
… And he turned out just fine.
There is a phrase that has been doing the rounds in gay Christian circles for a while now: “Jesus had two dads, and he turned out just fine.” Is there any scriptural basis for this? Yes, of course there is. It is right there in Matthew chapter 1. Joseph’s role in Jesus life was so important that his lineage was traced through Joseph, not Mary. Joseph wasn’t merely some human caretaker, he was Jesus’ human father. At the same time, God was Jesus’ father in a much more literal sense than he is our father, so there is no doubt that, for mainstream Christians at least, Jesus did have two dads.
Does this have any relevance to the debate surrounding same-sex couples and adoption? Yes and no. Both of Jesus’ fathers were involved in their own way during his childhood, but it isn’t really a model for a same-sex couple raising a child. It is more like a father, mother, and step father all raising one child together. While that is a laudable thing, and not just because it is a reminder that not all successful families have the same nuclear structure, it isn’t the same as a same-sex couple raising a child.
But I can think of one person in the Bible who definitely had two dads. Can you guess who? Answer will be in the next blog post.
My talk, Jonathan Loved David, has been discussed over on Stafford Carson’s blog. Some of the commenters are concerned about whether or not David and Jonathan actually had sex, or perhaps I should say that some of the commenters are concerned about whether or not I think they had sex. The simple fact of the matter is that it doesn’t matter, and it’s none of our business anyway.
Sex is almost always an immensely private part of a relationship, but for most people it isn’t a defining part of a relationship. Two people can form a couple – a romantic couple, a married couple, etc. – with or without a sexual component to their relationship. If you want proof that David and Jonathan had sex before you acknowledge them as a couple then you should ask yourself if you want proof that David and Michal had sex before you acknowledge them as a couple as well. If not, why not?
All too often, people (both Christian and non-Christian) speak about opposite-sex relationships in terms of love, affection, and commitment, but they speak about same-sex relationships in terms of sex. In another blog post, Stafford talks about the importance of conversation and discussion between gay people and orthodox Christians. I agree that is important, and for that dialog to happen orthodox Christians have got to start acknowledging that, aside from the genders of the people involved, same-sex relationships are the same as opposite-sex relationships. The basic emotions that Stafford feels when he looks at his wife Patricia are the same basic emotions that I feel when I look at my husband Michael.
A few people have suggested to me that I gave my Faith and Pride talk, Jonathan Loved David, to be offensive. Nothing could be further from the truth. I gave that talk because it was what I sincerely believe, and I thought other people would be interested in what I had to say. Faith and Pride isn’t about being argumentative or offensive, it is about putting forward an alternative point of view. It is about saying that you can be gay and Christian.
There are some Christians who find that offensive. Equally well, there are some Christians who find it offensive to say that you can’t be gay and Christian. However, just because one group has beliefs that are offensive to another group, it doesn’t mean that the first group should be afraid to say what it believes.
This isn’t just confined to issues surrounding gay people and Christianity. Roman Catholics believe that the Pope is the head of the Catholic Church. The Westminster Confession of Faith has this to say about the Pope.
There is no other head of the Church but the Lord Jesus Christ: nor can the Pope of Rome in any sense be head thereof; but is that Antichrist, that man of sin and son of perdition, that exalteth himself in the Church against Christ, and all that is called God. Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter XXV, section VI
There can be no doubt that that statement is offensive to Catholics. Does that mean that churches that adhere to the Westminster Confession of Faith, such as the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster, shouldn’t be allowed to express their beliefs? Or maybe Catholics shouldn’t be allowed to express their beliefs because they are offensive to Free Presbyterians?
This even goes beyond issues that only concern Christians. The majority of Jews and Muslims do not believe that Jesus was the son of God, which is a position that is offensive to the majority of Christians. Does that mean that Jews and Muslims should not be able to express their beliefs, lest a Christian is offended? Or maybe it is Christians who should remain silent, for fear of offending people from other faiths. Taking it a step further, many atheists find any expression of a belief in god offensive, and many people of faith find an expression of atheism offensive. Should one group be silenced to avoid offending another?
In Northern Ireland, we understand what it is like to live in a society without religious tolerance. We know how damaging that can be. In Northern Ireland we are learning what it is like to live in a society with religious tolerance, and we are seeing how wonderful that is. Religious tolerance means you can freely believe whatever you want, but that means you must also allow other people to believe what they want. Putting it another way, you have the right to stand up and say what you believe, but you do not have the right to stop someone else standing up and saying what they believe, no matter how much it offends you.
Faith and Pride’s inaugural event kicks off on July 24th with Andrew McFarland setting out to demonstrate that the language used in the Bible to describe the relationship between David and Jonathan is the same as the language used to describe the relationship between husband and wife.
Speaking before the event, Andrew said:
The evidence is compelling. David and Jonathan spoke about each other as if they were spouses, and aspects of their relationship only make sense if you see them as a couple.
The whole context of their relationship – they even had a formal covenant between them because of their love – suggest that they were more than just friends.
Members of the public are very welcome to come to the event which is being held in All Souls’ Church, Elmwood Avenue, Belfast, at 7pm. The second talk of the evening will be by Paula Rita Tabakin who will explore homosexuality from a Jewish reform perspective using texts and traditions.