I grieve for you,
My brother Jonathan,
You were most dear to me.
Your love was wonderful to me
More than the love of women. (2Sam 1:26)
This is a JPS Tanakh translation, the nicest English translation of this verse I could find. But there could hardly be a translation which would do justice to the beauty and gentleness of the original Hebrew poetry. It is a marvelous expression of the grief and deep love of a gay man. How could it be? Was David not a well-known biblical womanizer? Do not forget that the biblical David is a literary figure! As such, the biblical David is composed of many and divergent, often contradictory, strands of oral tradition. The Bible is like a broad mosaic which depicts human experiences in all their complex diversity. This particular part of the biblical mosaic is a beautiful celebration of deep and committed same-gender relationships.
David’s poem is not the only example of same-gender biblical poetry. There is also a well-known description of the relationship of Naomi and Ruth (1:16+17). And this Sunday I would like to take us to the book of Ecclesiastes (4:9-12) for yet another special poetic celebration of the same-gender committed relationships.