Was David Gay and/or Bisexual?

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Was David Gay?

Some have argued King David engaged in a same-sex relationship with Jonathan due to some of the words used to describe his friendship with him in the Bible. Is this an accurate interpretation?

Let’s begin with a look at some of the key biblical passages used in this controversy. 1 Samuel 18:1-4 states:

After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself. From that day Saul kept David with him and did not let him return home to his family. And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt.

Aspects noted about David and Jonathan’s relationship included love, living close to one another, sharing a covenant, and the giving of gifts. These were all aspects of loyal friendship common in Jewish culture. Any attempt to interpret this passage as a sexual relationship are forced beyond the normal understanding of the text.

The second passage often used in this debate is found in 2 Samuel 1:26. After learning of Jonathan’s death, he laments, “I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women.” Was David inferring a sexual relationship in these words? Advocates suggesting David was gay would argue this was the case.

However, a few details stand against this claim. First, David states Jonathan was “dear” to him, using a Hebrew word that can be translated as “important.” It did not indicate sexual love, but rather a relationship of great importance.

Second, the phrase that Jonathan’s love was “more wonderful than that of a woman” uses metaphorical language to highlight the importance of their friendship. From David’s perspective, he cared more about his friendship with David than the sexual love he had experienced with women. The contrast was not same-sex love versus heterosexual love, but the loyal “hesed” love highlighted in Jewish culture as being more important than sexual intimacy.

Wrap Up on Was David Gay

Finally, it should also be noted that the Torah (the Law of Moses under which Israel was ruled during David’s life) held strong consequences for homosexual acts. Both Leviticus 18 and 20 commanded those involved in same-sex activity to be put to death. David could not have openly shared a gay relationship without severe consequences to his own life and to Jonathan. Yet Scripture calls David a man after God’s own heart, indicating the general pattern of his life was devoted to the Lord and to the teachings of the Torah.

Those who claim David and Jonathan had a gay relationship generally do not base their decision on the historical facts of the Bible, but rather on feelings that cloud their interpretation of Scripture in this area. While same-sex attraction and relationships are important issues discussed elsewhere in Scripture, the Bible clearly does not indicate a same-sex relationship between David and Jonathan.

Go Deeper

2 Comments

  1. Joy Mapp-Jobity on February 9, 2019 at 1:23 pm

    Thank you for your article. It is truly sad that Western society is so quick to label close, family-level friendship between two men as gay. There are people who even believe this about Jesus and His disciples. Yet Jesus never contravened any of God’s law. So He would not have disobeyed God’s laws related to human relationships either, otherwise He could not have been the spotless Lamb of God needed for our redemption! These arguments just highlight the unfortunate state of Western culture. That’s why we who believe in Jesus need to represent our Jesus properly in our words, actions and lives. We need to stand for Truth and do so in Love and let’s God’s light in us shine forth His amazing character! Amen!

  2. Julieta Jones on June 22, 2022 at 6:23 pm

    You have missed some things: 1 Samuel 20:30 – over the years, Saul must have sensed something, let’s say “off” about his son and in anger rebuked Jonathan saying “do not I know that thou hast chosen the son of Jesse to thine own confusion and unto the confusion of thy mother’s nakedness?” . How else would a father express that his son was not on the same sexual team as other men than the word “confusion”? And the confusion of a woman’s nakedness? That phrase is more of a mystery to me, but it does seem like a jab, like the pointed and intimate kind of criticism a non-accepting father might sling at a son to remind him that he is not “normal”.
    As to your comment about an “openly gay” relationship, that’s not likely; any intimate relationship between David and Jonathan would have to have been expressed in secret, thus Jonathan suggesting they go to the fields (vs. 11). They probably had various hidden places to be with each other in whatever way that was.
    Though this could have just been, as you say, a very close friendship that was in keeping with Jewish custom of the time, please share with your readers any other examples of the same male-male friendship expressed in like terms in the Bible.
    Plus David was regarded as highly attractive to men and women (1 Sam 16:12). Why would writers bring up that point?
    Explain why it’s not possible for David to have had a bi-sexual nature and still be “beloved of God” and fully devoted to Him.

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