1 Samuel 18:1–4—Were David and Jonathan homosexuals?
Problem: This Scripture records the intense love David and Jonathan had for each other. Some see this as an indication that they were homosexual. They infer this from the fact that Jonathan “loved” David (18:3); that Jonathan stripped in David’s presence (18:4); that they “kissed” each other with great emotion (1 Sam. 20:41). They point also to David’s lack of successful relations with women as an indication of his homosexual tendencies. Is this a valid conclusion to draw from these texts?
Solution: There is no indication in Scripture that David and Jonathan were homosexual. On the contrary, there is strong evidence that they were not. First of all, David’s attraction to Bathsheba (2 Sam. 11) reveals that his sexual orientation was heterosexual, not homosexual. In fact, judging by the number of wives he had, David seemed to have too much heterosexuality.
Second, David’s “love” for Jonathan was not sexual (erotic) but a friendship (philic) love. It is common in eastern cultures for heterosexual men to express love and affection toward one another.
Third, Jonathan did not strip himself of all his clothes in David’s presence. He only stripped himself of his armor and royal robe (1 Sam. 18:4) as a symbol of his deep respect for David and commitment to him.
Fourth, the “kiss” was a common cultural greeting for men in that day. Furthermore, it did not occur until two and a half chapters after Jonathan gave David his clothes (1 Sam. 20:41).
Finally, the emotion they expressed was weeping, not orgasm. The text says, “they kissed each other and wept together—but David wept the most” (1 Sam. 20:41, niv).
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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.