Lectionary Calendar
Friday, May 24th, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Bible Commentaries
2 Samuel 7

Layman's Bible CommentaryLayman's Bible Commentary

Verses 1-17

The Hopes of David and Nathan’s Prophecy (7:1-17)

Most commentators regard this section as generally late. It was certainly not in the "court history," from which most of II Samuel was taken, but it does embody early material, as we shall see.

David has built himself a house of cedar and has become conscience-stricken because the Ark of the Lord is still housed only in a tent. He consults his prophet Nathan, who at first declares that the Lord is behind David’s desire to build a temple. Then the prophet has a change of mind and advises against it. The implication of this change of mind is that Nathan had at first misunderstood God’s will, an interesting insight into the nature of prophetic inspiration.

Nathan’s speech, which follows, has two elements in it. The first is the declaration that God needs no house to dwell in, but rather sets his presence in the midst of his people wherever they are. The implication is that God’s true dwelling place is the people he is shaping for himself, a teaching brought out fully in the New Testament and fulfilled in the Person of our Lord and in his Church. The second element is the promise that David’s seed shall be assured of his throne forever. In these words an eternal Covenant is declared between the Lord and the house of David, whereby God’s steadfast love will not be withdrawn from David’s descendants, even though some will be chastened for their iniquity. David’s throne shall be established forever. In verse 11 the writer plays on the double meaning of the word "house," which can mean "dynasty" as well as "dwelling place." It is not for David to build a dwelling place for God but to let God build a dynasty for him. The theme of the eternal Covenant with David is developed in Psalms 89, which many hold to be related in some way to the passage under discussion. It is in this promise of an eternal Covenant with David’s seed that the Messianic hope is grounded. Running throughout Old Testament prophecy, the hope is seen in the New Testament to be fulfilled in the eternal King, Jesus, great David’s greater Son.

We may assume that, in its root, the prophecy of an eternal Covenant with the house of David goes back to an early time, and this may be borne out by the fact that parts of verses 8, 9, 10, 12, 14-16 are poetic in form, whereas the rest of Nathan’s prophecy is in late and inferior prose. The poetic parts of the speech may go back to some original prophetic oracle about David’s house, which was utilized by the writer of chapter 7.

Into the theme so far developed verse 13 introduces a different note, for the God who declares that he does not and will not five in the earthly house here promises that David’s son shall build a house for his name. This verse may be the work of the Deuteronomic editor, who was especially concerned with the centrality of the Temple in Hebrew life, as the place where God had chosen to put his name (Deuteronomy 12:5). By this interpretation he endeavored to take the sting out of the attack on the idea of the Temple with which Nathan’s prophecy begins. The best commentary on this interpretation and one in keeping with the general spirit of this speech, as outlined earlier, is contained in Acts 7:47-48:"But it was Solomon who built a house for him. Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made with hands."

Verses 18-29

David’s Prayer (7:18-29)

We come now to a kind of prose psalm. David went in and "sat before the Lord"; that is, he went into the Tent and presumably knelt before the Ark on which God’s Presence was enthroned. The prayer plays upon the key theme already introduced in Nathan’s speech — the dual meaning of "house," taking it in its second sense of "dynasty." It is interesting to note a parallel to this usage in Exodus 1:21, where God rewards the faithful midwives as he "built them houses" — the literal meaning of "gave them families" — in which their name should live on. The prayer celebrates the Lord’s greatness and uniqueness. Israel, too, is unique, like no other nation, for God has freely chosen it, binding it to himself by moral ties and performing his mighty acts on its behalf. Other nations may be bound to their gods by quasi-physical ties which make them mutually necessary to one another, but God and Israel have no such bond (vs. 23). The key to Israel’s existence as a nation was not that it was in some mythical way physically descended from a god, but that it had been elected, delivered from Egypt, and brought into Canaan by the Lord’s free activity. The prayer describes this election of Israel as God’s "making himself a name." Israel has no merit in itself by which to lay claim on God’s choice. The whole matter lies in the inscrutability of God’s purpose and manifests his grace and glory. Before the greatness of such a God, shown in this final act of grace, Israel must walk humbly, and if Israel, then David too, who likewise owes all he is and has to God and to no virtue he himself possesses. The Lord has freely established Israel to be his people forever (vs. 24), and now he has promised to establish David and his seed forever on the throne of Israel. David prays that God, whose words are faithful, will fulfill his promise. What God has commenced, he will carry through. He cannot belie himself.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on 2 Samuel 7". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/2-samuel-7.html.
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