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David’s desire to honor God 7:1-3
It was when God had subdued all of David’s enemies that He gave this covenant to him (2 Samuel 7:1; 2 Samuel 7:9). Those enemies included the Ammonites with whom David was at war when he committed adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband Uriah murdered (ch. 11). Thus it seems clear that God gave the Davidic Covenant to David after he had committed these sins rather than before, as the order of events in the text implies. We have already seen that the order of events in the text is not strictly chronological but primarily theological, to make the spiritual emphases that are traceable through the Books of Samuel. The traditional interpretation is that this chapter is in chronological order and that the rest that David experienced was a result of a lull in fighting.
"The concept of rest or peace from enemies is a Deuteronomistic idea (cf. Deuteronomy 12:10; Deuteronomy 25:19; Joshua 22:4; Joshua 23:1; 1 Kings 5:18 ; 1 Kings 8:56; see also G. von Rad, ’Rest for the People of God,’ The Problem of Hexateuch, 94-102). In this context ’rest’ is security from enemies and peace from wars." [Note: Anderson, p, 116.]
The Israelites had anticipated entering into rest in the Promised Land since their wilderness wanderings (Deuteronomy 12:9). Joshua had given them a measure of rest (Joshua 21:44; Joshua 22:4; Joshua 23:1). Now with David’s victories they enjoyed a larger measure of rest than they had anytime previously in their history (2 Samuel 7:1; cf. 2 Samuel 7:11; 1 Kings 5:4; 1 Chronicles 22:9; 1 Chronicles 22:18; 1 Chronicles 23:25; 2 Chronicles 14:7; 2 Chronicles 15:15; 2 Chronicles 20:30).
"David completed what Joshua had begun: the taking possession of Canaan. It is this completion of Joshua’s work which is reflected in 2 Samuel 7:1; 2 Samuel 7:11. Now David plans to build a temple as the sequel of the LORD’s having granted him rest from his enemies." [Note: Wolfgang Roth, "The Deuteronomic Rest Theology: A Redaction-Critical Study," Biblical Research 21 (1976):8.]
In the ancient Near East, the people did not consider a king’s sovereignty fully established until he had built himself an appropriate palace. [Note: Merrill, Kingdom of . . ., p. 274; A. Leo Oppenheim, Ancient Mesopotamia, pp. 95-98.] The people of ancient Near Eastern countries also regarded the kings as the vice-regents of their gods. Therefore they viewed the temples of the gods as the palaces of the true kings. This view existed in Israel as well. David thought it inappropriate for him as second-in-command to live in such a magnificent palace while his commander-in-chief’s dwelling was only a temporary, much less impressive structure. [Note: See Roland de Vaux, Ancient Israel: Its Life and Institutions, 2:282-83.] The Canaanites often built a temple in honor of a god who gave them victory over their enemies. [Note: Frank M. Cross, Canaanite Myth and the Hebrew Bible, p. 243.]
God’s purpose to honor David 7:4-17
The promises Yahweh made to David here are an important key to understanding God’s program for the future.
God rejected David’s suggestion that he build a temple for the Lord and gave three reasons. First, there was no pressing need to do so since the ark had resided in tents since the Exodus (2 Samuel 7:6). The tent it currently occupied was the one David had pitched for it in Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6:17), not the tabernacle that stood then at Gibeon (1 Chronicles 16:1; 1 Chronicles 16:39; 1 Chronicles 21:28-30). Second, God had not commanded His people to build Him a permanent temple (2 Samuel 7:7). Before God raised up Israel’s kings, He Himself had dealt with the tribes of Israel, during the judges period (2 Samuel 7:7). At that time the leaders of the tribes were responsible to shepherd the Israelites in their areas. [Note: See Patrick V. Reid, "Sbty in 2 Samuel 7:7," Catholic Biblical Quarterly 37:1 (January 1975):17-20; and Donald Murray, "Once Again ’t ’hd Sbty Ysr’l in 2 Samuel 7:7," Revue Biblique 94:3 (July 1987):389-96.] Third, David was an inappropriate person to build a temple since he had shed much blood (2 Samuel 7:5; 1 Chronicles 22:8; 1 Chronicles 28:3). David had become ritually unclean because of all the killing he had been responsible for during his long reign. This was not true of Solomon (cf. 1 Kings 6:1).
"Fine temples both hinder and help the worship of God; it all depends on the worshipper." [Note: Payne, p. 188.]
"The real issue is that both the initiative to build a temple and the choice of the person for the task must come from God and not from an individual king." [Note: Michiko Ota, "A Note on 2 Samuel 7," in A Light Unto My Path: Old Testament Studies in Honor of Jacob M. Myers, p. 406. Cf. Carlson, p. 109.]
Notice that it was not because God was disciplining David or had rejected him that He prohibited David’s good intention. God was simply redirecting His servant. [Note: Charles R. Swindoll, David: A Man of Passion and Destiny, pp. 162-68.] He was to be a ruler (2 Samuel 7:8), not a temple builder. Similarly, God does not always permit us to carry out our desires to honor Him, such as becoming a pastor or missionary. He sometimes makes this impossible because He wants us to serve Him in other ways. A realization of this fact would relieve many Christians from false guilt and shattered dreams.
"The irony in 2 Samuel 7:6 must not be missed: Although God condescends to accompany his people on their journey with a tent as his dwelling (2 Samuel 7:6 b), a tent carried by them, all along they have in fact been carried by him (2 Samuel 7:6 a)." [Note: Youngblood, p. 887.]
God had blessed David in the past by choosing him as Israel’s shepherd-king, by being with him in blessing, and by cutting off all David’s enemies (2 Samuel 7:8-9 a). There are four promises: a great name or famous reputation for David (2 Samuel 7:9 b), a homeland for Israel (2 Samuel 7:10), undisturbed rest from all Israel’s enemies (2 Samuel 7:10-11 a), and an everlasting royal dynasty and kingdom for David and his heirs (2 Samuel 7:11-16). [Note: For a discussion of illeisms in the Old Testament (the use of third-person self-references), see Andrew S. Malone, "God the Illeist: Third-Person Self-References and Trinitarian Hints in the Old Testament," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 52:3 (September 2009):499-518.] Some of God’s promises to David would find fulfillment during his lifetime (2 Samuel 7:8-11 a), and others would after his death (2 Samuel 7:11-16). [Note: Cf. Bruce K. Waltke, "The Phenomenon of Conditionality Within Unconditional Covenants," in Israel’s Apostasy and Restoration: Essays in Honor of Roland K. Harrison, p. 130.]
"The promise of a ’great name’ is reminiscent of God’s covenant with Abraham (Genesis 12:2), and suggests (though the word ’covenant’ nowhere appears in these verses) that the Davidic kingship is being incorporated into the Abrahamic covenant. This is reinforced by the reference to God’s people Israel dwelling in their own place, undisturbed by enemies (2 Samuel 7:10), a reference to Genesis 15:18-21 and Deuteronomy 11:24. Moreover, the covenant word hesed, God’s ’steadfast love’ (v, 15), ensures the fulfillment of the promises, which are here unconditional, though the need for chastisement is foreseen." [Note: Baldwin, p. 36.]
David would have a seed for whom God would establish a kingdom (2 Samuel 7:12). God repeated to David at this time that his successor would be Solomon (cf. 1 Chronicles 22:9-10). This son would build the temple David wanted to construct (2 Samuel 7:13). His right to rule, symbolized by the throne, would remain forever (2 Samuel 7:13).
"Up to this time, there had been no dynasty in Israel. Saul’s son had generously and spiritually submitted himself to David. Now God promised David an eternal seed and an eternal throne. One of David’s own sons would succeed him to the throne, and his throne, like David’s, would be established forever. Much of the rest of 2 Samuel deals with the identification of that son. . . . God’s sovereign choice of David’s line will never be abrogated even though discipline must come when disobedience takes place. This theme underlies much of the argument of 1 and 2 Kings." [Note: Heater, p. 119.]
Note the development of the similar theme of Abraham’s heir in Genesis 12-22. The importance of this promise of a house (i.e., dynasty) is apparent in that references to it frame the future hope (2 Samuel 7:11 a, 16).
2 Samuel 7:12 poses a chronological problem. It seems to say that Solomon had not been born yet. However, if God gave the Davidic Covenant late in David’s reign, Solomon must have been alive, since he began ruling shortly after this as an adult. The solution lies in the meaning of the Hebrew word zera translated "descendant." This word means seed. Zera and "seed" are both collective singulars in their respective languages and can refer to either one descendant or many descendants (Genesis 13:15; Genesis 17:8; cf. Galatians 3:16). Part of what God promised David here pertained to Solomon, part to all David’s posterity, and part to Jesus Christ (cf. Matthew 3:17). In 2 Samuel 7:12 it seems to be David’s posterity that is in view as coming forth from him. [Note: See Driver, p. 275.]
"In the Old Testament the relation between father and son denotes the deepest intimacy of love; and love is perfected in unity of nature, in the communication to the son of all that the father hath. The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into His hand (John iii. 35). Sonship therefore includes the government of the world. This not only applied to Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, but also to the seed of David generally, so far as they truly attained to the relation of children of God." [Note: Keil and Delitzsch, pp. 348-49.]
One writer concluded that God only spoke of the king as His son in an adoptive sense. [Note: Gerald Cooke, "The Israelite King as Son of God," Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 73:2 (June 1961):202-25.] This was true of Israel’s kings who preceded Messiah, but God spoke of Messiah as His Son in a real sense (Matthew 3:17). Another writer noted that the sonship of the Davidic king was apparently linked with three overlapping concepts: adoption, covenant, and royal grant. [Note: Anderson, p. 122.]
If David’s son sinned, God would discipline him, but He would never remove the right to rule from him (2 Samuel 7:14-15; cf. Hebrews 12:5-11). Thus David’s house (dynasty), his kingdom (the people of Israel and their land), and his throne (the right to rule) would remain forever. These three promises constitute the Davidic Covenant: a house for David, a kingdom for David, and a throne for David-and all these would remain forever. Walter Kaiser Jr. described these promises a bit differently as a house for David, a seed for David, a kingdom for David, and a Son of God for David. [Note: Walter C. Kaiser Jr., Toward an Old Testament Theology, pp. 149-52.] It seems to me that the Son of God promise was really part of the seed promise.
"In general terms the line would not fail. Yet in particular terms, benefits might be withdrawn from individuals." [Note: William J. Dumbrell, Covenants and Creation, p. 150.]
"YHWH irrecoverably committed himself to the house of David, but rewarded or disciplined individual kings by extending or withholding the benefits of the grant according to their loyalty or disloyalty to His treaty [i.e., the Mosaic Covenant]." [Note: Waltke, p. 135. Cf. Gordon, p. 240.]
"The failure of the kings generally leads not to disillusion with kingship but to the hope of a future king who will fulfill the kingship ideal-a hope which provides the most familiar way of understanding the significance of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ coming in his kingdom." [Note: John Goldingay, Theological Diversity and the Authority of the Old Testament, p. 70.]
Note that God did not promise that the rule of David’s descendants would be without interruption. The Babylonian captivity and the present dispersion of the Jews are interruptions (cf. Romans 9-11). Indeed, Jesus taught that the Jews would experience domination by Gentile powers during "the times of the Gentiles" (Luke 21:24), namely, from the time Gentiles assumed sovereignty over Israel’s affairs (i.e., Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.) until Jesus Christ restored sovereignty to Israel (i.e., when He returns to rule at His second advent). Even though the present State of Israel enjoys a limited measure of sovereignty, Gentiles still dominate its affairs, and a Davidic king is not leading it. However, the privilege of ruling over Israel as king would always belong to David’s descendants.
"This promise, generally described as the Davidic covenant, is technically in the form of a royal grant by which a sovereign graciously bestowed a blessing, usually in the form of land or a fiefdom, upon a vassal. This may have been in return for some act performed by the vassal in behalf of his lord, or it may have been simply a beneficence derived from the sheer love and kindness of the king. [Note: Weinfeld, pp. 184-203, esp. 185-86.] The latter clearly is the case here, for the promise of eternal kingship through David had been articulated long before the birth of David himself. From the beginning it was the purpose of God to channel his sovereignty over his own people (and, indeed, over all the earth) through a line of kings that would eventuate in the divine Son of God himself. That line, David now came to understand, would begin with him." [Note: Merrill, Kingdom of . . ., p. 275. Cf. Psalms 2:2, 7-9; 18:43, 50; 45:7; 72:8-11, 17; 101:5-8; 110:1-2, 4-7. See also Matitiahu Tsevat, "The House of David in Nathan’s Prophecy," Biblica 46 (1965):353-56.]
The Davidic Covenant is an outgrowth of the Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 12:1-3; Genesis 12:7). [Note: For an excellent discussion of the Davidic Covenant, see J. Dwight Pentecost, Thy Kingdom Come, pp. 140-55. See also Cleon L. Rogers Jr., "The Promises to David in Early Judaism," Bibliotheca Sacra 150:599 (July-September 1993:285-302; and idem, "The Davidic Covenant in the New Testament," Bibliotheca Sacra 150:600 (October-December 1993):458-78; and 150:601 (January-March 1994):71-84. See also Robert L. Saucy, The Case for Progressive Dispensationalism, pp. 59-80.] There God promised a land, seed, and blessing to the patriarch. In time God gave further revelation regarding each of these promised blessings (cf. Deuteronomy 30:1-10; 2 Samuel 7:5-16; Jeremiah 31:31-34). The Davidic Covenant deals with Abraham’s descendants primarily and God’s provision of leadership for them specifically. In Deuteronomy 30 God explained the land aspects of His promise more fully, and in Jeremiah 31 He expounded the blessing promise. These are the major revelations that clarify God’s promises to Abraham, but they are not the only ones.
"The Davidic Covenant is the centerpiece of Samuel and Kings. David, as a type of the ideal king (both in position and often in practice), appears ’between the lines’ in chapters 1-15 and dominates the lines in chapters 16-31. Seeing the centrality of the Davidic Covenant enables the reader to pick up the argument of 1 Samuel and to see how it moves inexorably toward 2 Samuel 7." [Note: Heater, p. 120.]
"After the conquest of Canaan when Israel’s loyalty to YHWH lapsed, YHWH’s protection of his people also lapsed. By the time of Samuel and Saul, the Philistines threatened the very existence of Israel. The institution of the Davidic covenant, vested in a vassal [the Davidic king] loyal to the suzerain [Yahweh], constituted an earnest of protection, vouchsafed but virtually impossible to realize in the Sinaitic covenant. The suzerain-vassal model as a legal framework for both the Sinaitic and Davidic covenants validated the basis on which YHWH’s protection was to be obtained. There now existed no provision for national protection other than within the framework of a suzerain-vassal type of relationship with YHWH. But the Davidic covenant did away with the necessity that all Israel-to a man-maintain loyalty to YHWH in order to merit his protection. In the analogy of suzerain-vassal relationships, David’s designation as YHWH’s ’son’ and ’firstborn’ (2 Samuel 7:14; Psalms 2:6-7; Psalms 89:27) legitimized him as Israel’s representative-as the embodiment of YHWH’s covenant people, also called his ’son’ and ’firstborn’ (Exodus 4:22). With regard to Israel’s protection, the Davidic covenant superseded the Sinaitic covenant, but only because of Israel’s regression in her loyalty toward YHWH (compare 1 Samuel 8:7). Henceforth, the king stood as proxy between YHWH and his people." [Note: Avraham Gileadi, "The Davidic Covenant: A Theological Basis for Corporate Protection," in Israel’s Apostasy and Restoration, p. 160. For similarities between the Davidic Covenant and Hittite and Neo-Assyrian suzerain-vassal agreements, see Weinfeld; Philip J. Calderone, Dynastic Oracles and Suzerainty Treaty; and F. Charles Fensham, "Clauses of Protection in Hittite Vassal-Treaties and the Old Testament," Vetus Testamentum 13:(1963):133-43.]
The descendant of David through whom God will fulfill His promises completely is Jesus Christ. [Note: For the Jewish view that the nation of Israel, not a personal Messiah, would fulfill these promises, see Matitiahu Tsevat, "Studies in the Book of Samuel," Hebrew Union College Annual 34 (1963):71-82.] In view of what God said of Him in Luke 1:32-33, there are five major implications of the Davidic Covenant for the future. God must preserve Israel as a nation. He must bring her back into her land. Jesus Christ must rule over her in the land. His kingdom must be earthly, and it must be everlasting. [Note: J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come, pp. 114-15.]
"All conservative [Christian] interpreters of the Bible recognize that the promise has its ultimate fulfillment in Christ. Again the amillennial and premillennial differences in explaining eschatology come to the fore, however. The amillennial position is that Christ is now on the throne of David in heaven, equating the heavenly throne with the earthly throne of David, whereas the traditional premillennial view is that the Davidic throne will be occupied at the second coming of Christ when Christ assumes his rule in Jerusalem." [Note: John F. Walvoord, "The New Covenant," in Integrity of Heart, Skillfulness of Hands, pp. 192-93.]
"The difficult questions that separate dispensational and non-dispensational interpreters relate to how many of the covenant promises have been fulfilled in Christ’s first coming and present ministry and how many remain for the future. Two key elements of the covenant promise stand at the center of the controversy: (1) a royal dynasty or house, and (2) a kingdom with universal blessing." [Note: Saucy, p. 66. ]
Dispensationalists believe that these two things will be fulfilled in the future through Israel, whereas non-dispensationalists believe they are being fulfilled in the present through the church. David and Solomon both understood the promise of a kingdom to refer to a literal earthly kingdom for Israel (2 Samuel 7:18-29; 2 Chronicles 6:14-16). Therefore we (dispensationalists) look for the fulfillment to be a literal earthly kingdom for Israel.
God did not condition His promises to David here on anything. Therefore we can count on their complete fulfillment.
"The overriding theological principle is that Yahweh’s word is infallible." [Note: Dennis J. McCarthy, "2 Samuel 7 and the Structure of the Deuteronomic History," Journal of Biblical Literature 84 (1965):136.]
"Sometimes life’s greatest blessings flow out of its profoundest disappointments. . . . Our willingness to do what little we can for Him will be repaid many times over by the outpouring of His lavish and surprising acts of grace both now and in the ages to come." [Note: Eugene H. Merrill, "2 Samuel," in The Old Testament Explorer, p. 233.]
David’s prayer of thanksgiving 7:18-29
"The heartfelt response of King David to the oracle of the prophet Nathan is one of the most moving prayers in Scripture . . ." [Note: Youngblood, p. 896.]
Structurally the prayer moves from thanksgiving for the present favor (2 Samuel 7:18-21), to praise for what God had done in the past (2 Samuel 7:22-24), to petition for future fulfillment of God’s promises (2 Samuel 7:25-29). David included humility (2 Samuel 7:18), gratitude (2 Samuel 7:19), praise (2 Samuel 7:22), remembrance (2 Samuel 7:23-24), and acknowledgment (2 Samuel 7:25-29), as ingredients in this prayer. Normally Israelites stood or kneeled to pray. Perhaps David "sat" back on his heels to pray in a kneeling position because he was a king. [Note: Gordon, p. 241; Anderson, p. 126.]
In this prayer David revealed a proper attitude toward himself, toward Yahweh, and toward their relationship. Ten times he referred to himself as Yahweh’s servant, and eight times he called God his Master (Heb. Adonai). David saw his own role in the larger context of God’s purpose for Israel. In all these particulars David contrasts with Saul. We also see why God blessed him personally and used him as a channel of blessing to others.
"Thus it came about that David gave up his intention of building the Temple. Though he was king of Israel, he accepted that he had to defer to a higher authority, that of the God of Israel, to whom he owed his calling through the prophet Samuel, his preservation in mortal danger at the hand of Saul, and his accession to the throne by common consent of the people. Recognition on the part of the king that he owed the throne of his kingdom to the sovereign Lord God involved humble acceptance of the role of servant, thy servant, as David calls himself ten times over in this prayer. David was far from perfect, as the subsequent narrative is to demonstrate, but he had grasped this all-important truth about himself, and it was because he valued so highly his call to serve the Lord God that he was sensitive to rebuke and repented when he stepped out of line. For this reason, he knew forgiveness and restoration of fellowship, both of which had eluded Saul because he could never bring himself to take his hands off the reins of government, or readily admit to being in the wrong. Saul, by clinging tenaciously to what he regarded as his kingly prerogative, lost the kingdom; David, more concerned about honouring the Lord than guarding his own reputation, had his kingdom made sure for ever." [Note: Baldwin, pp. 218-219.]
Chapter 7 is a high point in the fertility motif that runs through 1 and 2 Samuel. Here the ultimate in blessing came to David. If the giving of this covenant followed David’s sins with Bathsheba and Uriah, as I believe it did, we have extraordinary evidence of God’s grace. God chose to bless David in spite of his sins because, overall, David was a man who sought to glorify God and to serve Him acceptably with his life. The covenant came in response to David’s desire to honor God in Israel by helping the people perceive His true position as head of the nation (ch. 6).
We should probably date God’s giving of this covenant after David completed his own palace and the new tent for the ark in Jerusalem. It also probably took place after David moved the ark to Jerusalem, recovered from Absalom and Sheba’s rebellions, took the ill-fated census of the people, and purchased the site of the temple. This seems most likely in view of textual references that make it clear that these events took place in this order. Probably David received the Davidic Covenant about 973 B.C. [Note: See the "Chronology of David’s Life" in my notes on 1 Samuel 16.]
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 7". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/
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