restricted access Political Favoritism in Saul’s Court: חפץ, נעם, and the Relationship between David and Jonathan

Considerable recent debate has surrounded the interpretation of the relationship between David and Jonathan as portrayed in the books of Samuel. Building on the now-classic article by William Moran in which he argues that the term love (אהב) has a specialized political connotation in biblical and ancient Near Eastern treaty relationships, this paper demonstrates that the Hebrew terms חפץ (“delight”) and נעם (“lovely”) in 1 Sam 19:1 and 2 Sam 1:23, 26 should be understood primarily with a political nuance. In particular, חפץ can denote individual favor or preference within an existing political relationship while נעם can indicate divine favor or the beneficence of a royal figure. Supporting evidence for understanding חפץ and נעם with a political nuance is drawn from the Hebrew Bible as well as from Old Aramaic, Phoenician, Assyrian, and Ugaritic texts. Taken together, the terms חפץ ,אהב, and נעם underscore the political aspects of the relationship between David and Jonathan as depicted literarily in the books of Samuel.