In ancient Israel, the people organised their calendar by the appearance of the moon in the sky. When the moon first appears, it is called the ‘new moon’; that was the start of each month.
The new moon was a very happy occasion across Israel (Psalm 81:1-3). Families would gather then for special meals. It was also a sacred occasion. The priests sounded trumpets (loud musical instruments) to announce the new moon (Numbers 10:10); they also offered special gifts to God (Numbers 28:11-15).
Each new moon, Saul organised a special meal for his family and his most important officials. David usually attended for both reasons: he had married the king’s daughter, and he was an important military commander. It was not just an honour for David to be there: it was his duty.
Jonathan could hardly believe that Saul was trying to murder David. So David proposed a test that would prove it. He would not go to the meal that Saul was organising. Instead, he would go to his home in Bethlehem, where he would join his brothers for their special meal. If Saul was not really trying to kill David, he would be happy about that arrangement. However, if Saul was still angry with David, Jonathan would see it. Saul had no reason to be angry about that arrangement unless he wanted another opportunity to kill David.
David would be away for two days. 1 Samuel 20:5 says that he would ‘hide in the field’. The word for ‘field’ means simply the country, away from the town. David was saying that he would not go into Saul’s town, Gibeah. David would be safe in the open country while Jonathan tested Saul’s attitudes towards him.
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© 2014, Keith Simons.