Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible
2 Samuel 7
MESSIAH THE SON OF DAVID PROMISED
"This chapter is a milestone of O.T. revelation." "Nathan's prophecy here (2 Samuel 7:1-17) is in many ways the most important (part) of the books of Samuel." Our own conviction is that there is not a more important prophecy of the Messiah anywhere in the O.T.
There are also two exceedingly important considerations which must be observed if one hopes to understand what is written here. First, the real explanation of what God said here is to be found in the writings of subsequent prophets of the O.T. and especially in the inspired writings of the sacred authors of the N.T. In the second place, those commentators who have attempted to deny the Messianic thrust of this chapter on the basis of certain words or phrases of the O.T. text should not be allowed to challenge what the inspired authors of the N.T. declare to be the truth. As we have often pointed out in our series of writings, one word from the N.T. outweighs a ton of scholarly comments to the contrary!
On the basis of some passages in the O.T., as it has come down to us, some of those denials might appear plausible, but such plausibility is checkmated and denied by the simple fact that, this is by no means a perfect text which has reached us. H. P. Smith referred to a number of passages here as "evidently corrupt"; Caird also labeled a number of verses as "corrupt," "interpolations," "difficult," or disputed. Adam Clarke, one of the great scholars of modern times, also effectively challenged the mistranslation which has clouded the meaning of 2 Samuel 7:14. We have mentioned this as background for our absolute confidence in the N.T. explanations and references to what the Lord says in this chapter. If one really wishes to know what is said here, he will find the sure and certain answer in the N.T.
DAVID PROPOSED TO BUILD THE LORD A HOUSE
"Now when the king dwelt in his house, and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies round about, the king said to Nathan the prophet, `See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells in a tent.' And Nathan said to the king, `Go, do all that is in your heart; for the Lord is with you.'"
"When the king dwelt in his house" (2 Samuel 7:1). This "house" referred to here was that magnificent palace built of the cedars of Lebanon; and we agree with Willis that, "David's conscience began to hurt him," due to the contrast between his own palatial residence and the humble quarters where the ark of God was kept. David is not here quoted as saying that he intended to build a better place for the ark, but Nathan the prophet (mentioned here for the first time in the Bible) properly understood what was on the king's mind.
"Go, do all that is in your heart" (2 Samuel 7:3). It is significant that Nathan did not here speak as God's messenger, but as merely a friend of the king. He did not say, "Thus saith the Lord." Such an omission justifies our rejection of the false notion that this passage shows that, "We are not intended to regard every utterance of a prophet in Scriptures as the infallible Word of God." Such a viewpoint applies only to statements in which the prophet speaks merely as a man and without the formula, "Thus saith the Lord."
GOD VETOED DAVID'S PROPOSAL
"But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, `Go and tell my servant David, "Thus says the Lord: Would you build me a house to live in? I have not dwelt in a house since the day that I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent for my dwelling. In all places where I have moved with all the people of Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, `Why have you not built me a house of cedar'"?"
This passage is God's veto of David's proposal; to build God a house. No capable scholar has ever denied this; but many have overlooked the fact that this passage downgrades the Jewish Temple to the status of an unauthorized innovation and the truth that from the beginning it was never God's will for Israel to possess it. Yes, God accommodated to it, just as he did their evil monarchy; but the Scriptures throughout both the O.T. and the N.T. back up the impression which is so vividly portrayed here.
DID THE JEWISH TEMPLE HAVE GOD'S APPROVAL?
The answer to this question is an unqualified negative. If it had been God's will, He would never have destroyed it twice! Jesus Christ referred to the temple as "A den of thieves and robbers" (Matthew 21:13). It was the temple crowd who engineered the crucifixion of Christ and opposed the preaching of the gospel. They were not merely thieves and robbers but liars and murderers as well. Significantly, the Book of Hebrews bypasses and ignores the Jewish Temple altogether, identifying all of the typical functions mentioned in Exodus, NOT with the temple, but with the tabernacle. Christ himself is the True House (or Temple) of God (John 2:10). (And that means that the Jewish edifice was the False Temple). The true temple of God today is the "spiritual body" of Christ, namely, his holy church (1 Corinthians 6:19).
It is no contradiction of this truth that God's Spirit did indeed, for a time dwell within the temple of Solomon, but Ezekiel gives the dramatic account of how that Spirit left it with the sound of a mighty rushing wind (Ezekiel 11:22,23). Also God's command through the prophets for the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple in the times of Ezra and Nehemiah cannot be interpreted as God's approval of the temple. That command to rebuild the temple is in the same category as Christ's command to Judas Iscariot to "get on with the betrayal" (John 13:27) or the holy angel's command for Baalam to, "Go with the men" (Numbers 22:35). It was far too late in Israel's history to change their infatuation with an earthly temple.
The prophet Amos, long after the glory of Solomon's Temple had so enamoured the children of Israel, prophesied that, "In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up its ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old" (Amos 9:11). Amos here plainly, spoke of the temple of Solomon as a condition "fallen" from the tabernacle of David. He also viewed the temple of Solomon as "the ruins" of that tabernacle, and he included a promise that "in that day," that is, in the times of the Messiah, the tabernacle would be rebuilt. Amos wrote these words in the eighth century, and yet at that time when Solomon's temple had been standing more than a century, he said, "The tabernacle of David is fallen." That cannot mean that God had replaced it with Solomon's temple.
This glorious promise in Amos was, of course, fulfilled, as indicated by the words of James:
After these things, I will return;
And I will build again the tabernacle of David which is fallen;
And I will build again the ruins thereof,
And I will set it up:
That the residue of men may seek the Lord,
And all the Gentiles upon whom my name is called,
Saith the Lord, who maketh these things known from of old (Acts 15:16-18).
Thus, the witness of the O.T. prophets and the inspired writers of the N.T. alike bypassed and ignored both the Solomonic and the Herodian Temples of the Jews, stressing the truth that God's Church would be a rebuilding, not of any temple, but of the tabernacle of David. Note that James quoted Amos here, but he also indicated "the prophets" (plural) had also taught the same thing.
Added to all of this are the sarcastic words of Stephen the Martyr who rehearsed all of the glorious victories that Israel had achieved during the times of the tabernacle, and then declared that, "Solomon built him a house! Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made with hands." (Acts 7:47).
As Caird stated it, "The temple may have had its place in unifying national Israel, but it stood in the way of a more lofty and universal faith in God who dwells with the humble and contrite and is in their midst wherever they are gathered together." Bennett also spoke of, "The O.T. view that the Temple of Solomon was a mistaken innovation." "It is against the idea of the temple as an earthly dwelling place of God that the author (of Samuel) is writing." The great disaster in any theory of God's dwelling in some earthly temple lies in the limitation in such a conception, effectively restricting the presence of the all-wise, omnipotent, and omniscient God to some given location.
We conclude our answer to the question which stands at the head of this little essay with the dramatic words of 1 Chronicles 17:4, in which God, through Nathan, said to David, "You shall not build me a house to live in." Of course, that is exactly the same meaning which we have in the text here.
"Would you build me a house to live in?" (2 Samuel 7:4). This, of course, is a negative (1 Chronicles 17:4); and a number of reasons lay behind the prohibition. Willis cited three: (1) "It would leave the impression that God was limited to a certain location; (2) David was a man of war and guilty of much bloodshed; and (3) David did not have time to build the temple (1 Kings 5:3-4)." To this writer, it appears that the one and sufficient reason why God forbade David to build a temple was merely that God did not want it nor did He ever want it.
GOD'S PROMISE TO BUILD DAVID A HOUSE (ROYAL LINEAGE)
"Now therefore thus shall you say to my servant David, `Thus says the Lord of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel; and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house.'"
"I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep" (2 Samuel 7:8). The true greatness of David did not derive from his magnificent house of cedar, nor from the glories that accrued to him as the King of Israel, but from his character, his integrity, his humility and his unwavering trust in God. This verse suggests to David that his mind was running too much in the direction of those accouterments of worldly success such as palatial buildings, etc.
"I ... have cut off all your enemies from before you ... I will give you rest from all your enemies" (2 Samuel 7:9,11). Is this a contradiction? Certainly not! 2 Samuel 7:9 refers to the enemies God had already cut off; and 2 Samuel 7:11 refers to the future enemies of David from whom God would also give him rest.
"And I will appoint a place for my people Israel ... they may dwell in their own place ... and be disturbed no more ... as formerly" (2 Samuel 7:10). This was not a promise that Israel would never be disturbed again; but that their disturbances and afflictions would not be of the intensity and frequency as formerly.
"The Lord will make you a house" (2 Samuel 7:11). The "house" which the Lord here promised to make for David has no reference whatever to a palace or to any kind of a physical residence. It is a promise that God would establish his dynasty as a ruling family in Israel, and that God would give David a great name among all the distinguished rulers over the kingdoms of men. It is an indisputable fact that God did exactly what He here promised to do for David.
Significantly, this was not a conditional promise; God's promise to accomplish this was in no sense dependent upon the merit or the righteousness of those persons who would compose that dynasty.
THE GLORIOUS PROMISE OF THE MESSIAH
"When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son. When he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men; but I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever.'" In accordance with all these words, and in accordance with all this vision, Nathan spoke to David."
Not one word of this paragraph applies to Solomon. It is immaterial that David probably misunderstood it (at first) and that many so-called "great" Bible scholars find Solomon in every other word of it. Note the following:
"I will raise up your offspring after you" (2 Samuel 7:17). Solomon was not "raised up" after David, but during David's reign, the authority of David himself being the key factor in the enthronement of Solomon.
"I will be his father, and he shall be my son" (2 Samuel 7:14). Not even an angel of heaven deserved such a line as this, much less the reprobate Solomon with his seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines! The inspired author of Hebrews makes that fact absolutely indisputable. "To what angel did God ever say, "I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son."? (Hebrews 1:5-7).
Psalms 2:7; 89:26-27; Acts 13:33 and other passages in the Bible make it clear that only of Jesus Christ was it ever said that God was his father and that He was God's son. Any notion that this refers to Solomon is ridiculous. "There is neither proof nor evidence that Solomon was a saved person," much less that God was his father and that he was God's son in any sense whatever.
"When he commits iniquity" (2 Samuel 7:14). These are the words, seized upon by many who wish to apply these words to Solomon; but they don't fit Solomon at all. When did God ever punish Solomon with the rod of men, or inflict upon him the stripes of the sons of men? On the other hand, the inspired Isaiah, using these very words, said, "The chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by his stripes we are healed." (Isaiah 53:5). Such glaring facts which are totally at variance with any intelligent application to Solomon are the background of this writer's total distrust of the translation which we find here in many of the current versions. We cannot accept this translation as valid, because it contradicts the rest of the passage.
We are happy indeed that the noted Adam Clarke, one of the truly great scholars of the past couple of centuries, gives us the correct translation, as follows:
EVEN IN HIS SUFFERING FOR INIQUITY; I SHALL CHASTEN HIM WITH THE ROD OF MEN (WITH THE ROD DUE TO MEN) AND WITH THE STRIPES (DUE TO) THE CHILDREN OF MEN.
Yes indeed, Christ suffered "for iniquity," but not for iniquity committed by Him. As stated in that verse already cited from Isaiah, "He was wounded for our transgressions; he was bruised for our iniquities." Clarke has several pages regarding this true rendition of the passage here, backed by Lowth's Commentary on Isaiah (p. 187), Lowth, being one of the outstanding scholars of the 18th century.
If the current translations represent the true teaching of this passage, it is simply incredible that the inspired N.T. authors would have unequivocally applied the passage to Jesus Christ. To suppose that they actually did such a thing is not merely a reflection upon their inspiration, but likewise upon their common intelligence as well.
"I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from Saul" (2 Samuel 7:15). The word "Saul" simply does not belong in this verse at all. We usually reject the notion of scholars that this or that verse is an interpolation; but we heartily agree with H. P. Smith that such is the case here. The reference to Saul crept into the text here evidently through the opinion of some scribe who erroneously read the passage as applicable to Solomon.
"Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure before me; your throne shall be established forever" (2 Samuel 7:16). This great prophecy was doubtless misunderstood by those who first heard it; but there is no excuse for misunderstanding now, that the long centuries intervening have revealed the exalted meaning of the promise. We are not left in doubt as to what that meaning is. Inspired writers of the N.T., moved by the Holy Spirit, tell us exactly what the passage means.
DAVID'S INTERPRETATION OF THIS PROMISE
The apostle Peter tells us that "David says concerning Christ, `Thou wilt not abandon my soul to Hades, nor let thy Holy One see Corruption'" (Psalms 16:10). David being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants upon his throne, he foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption." (Acts 2:25-31). This passage applies this prophecy of 2 Samuel 7 to Jesus Christ, as the One who would sit upon David's throne, not to Solomon; and as noted in our chapter introduction, one word from the apostle Peter is worth a ton of opinions to the contrary!
"Your throne shall be established forever" (2 Samuel 7:16). This did not mean that the earthly dynasty of David over Israel would be continued forever. As a matter of fact, the throne of David over "all Israel" lasted only until the death of Solomon, when ten of the twelve tribes of Israel rejected that authority. The conceit of racial Israel being as intense as it was, the vast majority of the people most certainly accepted the promise as a guarantee of the perpetual continuity of the earthly dynasty of David. God's removal of the whole nation to Babylon was designed to enlighten Israel on that very point.
But what does it mean? that David's throne shall continue forever? The Davidic Psalms 89 gives the full explanation of this:
I (GOD) WILL NOT LIE UNTO DAVID. HIS SEED SHALL ENDURE FOREVER; AND HIS THRONE AS THE SUN BEFORE ME. IT SHALL BE ESTABLISHED FOREVER AS THE MOON AND AS A FAITHFUL WITNESS IN HEAVEN (2 Samuel 7:35-37).
None of the writings of David in the Psalms should be understood as contradicting the misunderstanding which he probably had about the application of this passage. Peter himself tells us that the prophets frequently were not able to understand the meaning of their own prophecies (1 Peter 1:10-12); and it is not unlikely that David construed much of this passage as applicable to Solomon, as did the vast majority of his contemporaries. People are still misunderstanding the passage.
By way of summary, what the Lord promised here was that a spiritual reality, "the throne of David" would have a perpetual and eternal existence, it would not be located in Jerusalem, but in heaven. Note the underlined phrase from Psalms 89:37, above. The enthronement of "the Son of David" upon that throne is a reference to the resurrection of Christ and to his being seated at the Right Hand of the Majesty on High. There is no reference whatever to any earthly continuity forever of the fleshly descendants of David as rulers over Israel. Those descendants appear in the passage only in that line where God promised to "build David a house" (2 Samuel 7:11).
This passage, along with other related passages throughout the Bible, is one of the most important prophecies of the Messiah to be found in Holy Writ; and the N.T. honors it with the very first verse, "Jesus Christ the Son of David the son of Abraham" (Matthew 1:1).
DAVID'S PRAYER OF GRATITUDE TO GOD
"Then King David went in and sat before the Lord, and said, "Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that thou hast brought me thus far? And yet this was a small thing in thy eyes, O Lord God; thou hast spoken also of thy servant's house for a great while to come, and hast shown me future generations, O Lord God. And what more can David say to thee? For thou knowest thy servant, O Lord God! Because of thy promise, and according to thine own heart, thou hast wrought all this greatness to make thy servant know it. Therefore thou art great, O Lord God; for there is none like thee, and there is no God besides thee, according to all that we have heard with our ears. What other nation on earth is like thy people Israel, whom God went to redeem to be his people, making himself a name, and doing for them great and terrible things, by driving out before his people a nation and its gods? And thou didst establish for thyself thy people Israel to be thy people forever; and thou, O Lord, didst become their God. And now, O Lord God, confirm forever the word which thou hast spoken concerning thy servant and concerning his house, and do as thou hast spoken; and thy name will be magnified forever, saying, `The Lord of Hosts is God over Israel,' and the house of thy servant David will be established before thee. For thou, O Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, hast made this revelation to thy servant David, saying, `I will build you a house'; therefore thy servant has found courage to pray this prayer to thee. And now, O Lord God, thou art God, and thy words are true, and thou hast promised this good thing to thy servant; now therefore may it please thee to bless the house of thy servant, that it may continue forever before thee; for thou, O Lord God, hast spoken, and with thy blessing shall the house of thy servant be blessed forever."
This remarkable prayer has a number of very interesting features.
"David went in and sat before the Lord" (2 Samuel 7:18). This is an unusual posture for prayer; and a number of scholars interpret it to mean that he knelt down and leaned back on his heels, looking upward, similar to what Moslems do today.
"O Lord God" (2 Samuel 7:19,20,22,24,25,28,29). Two different words for God are used in these verses, as well as several other names such as "Lord of Hosts," and "God of Israel," another example among hundreds of others that multiple names for God never meant either "various sources" or multiple authors.
"Thou hast shown me future generations" (2 Samuel 7:19). It was indeed many generations later when Jeconiah, the last of David's earthly house to sit on his throne, lived out his days in Babylon.
"Driving out before his people a nation and its gods" (2 Samuel 7:23). This word in David's prayer indicates his understanding of why God had replaced the Canaanites with Israel. It was all because of the idolatry of the Canaanites.
"Thou didst establish for thyself thy people Israel to be thy people forever" (2 Samuel 7:24). There is hardly any way that David could have understood that such a truth as this had no reference whatever to any mere race of people; but that God's Israel in future times would be defined solely and exclusively as the servants and followers of that Greater Son of David, not any of Israel's wicked monarchs, but the Christ of Glory.
"May it please thee that the house of thy servant may continue forever before thee" (2 Samuel 7:29). There can be little doubt that David's prayer here was a plea upon behalf of his physical posterity, but God's answer of such a prayer uttered by a faithful and loving parent must always depend to a great extent upon the descendants of such a parent. When the physical descendants of David became wicked and reprobate, they, along with all of the apostate nation, were displaced and punished by their exile in Babylon. However, there were two very significant ways in which God answered this prayer.
(1) The descendants of David were indeed continued upon the earth "before the Lord" until, in the fullness of time, the terminal heir to David's throne, namely, Joseph the son of Jacob, was able to pass it on to Christ the Messiah, who was the legal heir of Joseph, but not his literal son (Matthew 1:16).
(2) The other way consisted in the continuity of David's personal descendants through his son Nathan, until Jesus Christ was born miraculously of the Virgin Mary (whose husband Joseph was the son-in-law of Heli, Mary's father. See Luke 3:23) the daughter of Heli, directly descended from David through Nathan. Thus in this manner, David's house was continued "forever" before the Lord, especially in consequence of the fact that Christ himself and the total of that Israel (of all races and kindreds of men) which constitutes his "spiritual body" are also reckoned in the "house of David" (Matthew 1:1).
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Proverbs: Biblia Hebraica Quinta - Slightly Imperfect