Were David and Jonathan homosexual lovers?
That‘s a fair question, though it’s a question that would have been strange to anyone in the biblical world and really would have been strange to almost anyone until a generation or two ago.
The fact of the matter is that homosexual behavior was almost unheard of within Israel and even revisionist scholars have argued that in ancient Judaism and in early Christianity it would have been completely forbidden and not at all even a matter of controversy that homosexual activity was forbidden by Scripture.
So clearly in Leviticus 18 and Leviticus 20 there is already there in the Torah a proscription against a man lying with a man as with a woman. Homosexuality is listed as one of the types of sexual sin there in the holiness code. So it’s really unthinkable that David and Jonathan would have had a homosexual relationship and that there wouldn’t have been the most extreme form of outrage and judgment either upon them or upon the biblical authors for suggesting at such.
It makes more much sense to say the only reason that David and Jonathan can be presented with this intense male friendship is because it was so assumed and so understood that a same-sex intimacy between two men would have been severely frowned upon, to say the least. I think of one anecdote I heard one time that at some point in Abraham Lincoln’s life as a lawyer and traveling around the circuit, he would sleep in the same bed with one of his assistants or one of his male secretaries or companions, which was not at all strange. It’s only because of our position in our culture and the things that we are wrestling with that some of these expressions of male friendship or camaraderie seem unusual.
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But in the context of 1 Samuel, what we see is the fall of Saul’s kingdom and the ascendency of David. And so when it says that Jonathan’s love was greater to him than that of women, it’s making a particular biblical, redemptive point that the house of Saul (and David has married one of Saul’s daughters) is falling and that she was less of a help to David than was Jonathan. So it’s showing in God’s providential care that Jonathan is actually going to be the means of David’s ascendency to the throne through his friendship, which was even more of a loyal friendship than he received from his wife. But that’s not at all to suggest, as no ancient Jew would have even thought to begin to think, that this was somehow marriage covenant or any kind of sexual relationship.
That word is an unusual word. It’s a new word; we don’t know of any other instances of the word until Paul coins the word in 1 Corinthians 6 and 1 Timothy 1.
How to respond biblically to the question of natural-born homosexuality with grace and truth.
The Bible is somewhat ambiguous about orientation as such, only because that language is relatively new language. Here's what the Bible does say clearly.
It's just not accurate to say that what we are seeing now as expressions of homosexuality were completely unknown to the biblical authors.