2012 - Vol. 64
House of David
by Jeanne Kun
Reflecting on the
house and your kingdom shall be made sure for ever before me; your throne
shall be established for ever.”
– 2 Samuel 7:16
is the Son of the Most High alone who is the key of David that shuts and
no man opens, and in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and of
Bernard of Clairvaux, In Adventu Domini 1, 1-10
Before God sent Adam and Eve out of the garden of Eden, he intimated
that evil would ultimately be defeated by the seed of the woman (Genesis
3:15). This was the first hint of how God would restore humankind to full
union with him. True to his promise, over time he revealed his plan of
salvation to the people he called his own.
First the Lord made a covenant with the patriarch Abraham and promised
to make him the father of a nation through whom all the earth would be
blessed (Genesis 12:2-3; 15:7-12, 17-19; 17:1-8). This promise extended
beyond Abraham to his offspring “throughout their generations for an everlasting
When Abraham’s descendants had become slaves in Egypt, God delivered
them. Then he made a covenant on Sinai with Moses and the Israelites, bringing
them into a special relationship with him as his chosen people (Exodus
19:5-6; 24:7-8). Later, when they asked for a king to rule them, the Lord
appointed Saul to the task (1 Samuel 9:15-17; 10:1). After Saul’s disobedience
(15:1-23), the shepherd David, the youngest son of Jesse, was anointed
king over Israel (16:1-13).
Anointing with oil—that is, pouring oil from a horn or vessel on the
head of one to be made king—was a symbolic act that consecrated the person
to God’s service. Priests (Exodus 30:30), prophets (1 Kings 19:16), and
even holy objects such as altars, vessels, and lampstands (Exodus 30:26-29)
could also be anointed with oil to indicate that they, too, were consecrated
to God. “Messiah”—mashiach in Hebrew, and christos in Greek—literally
means the “anointed one,” and the title “the Lord’s anointed” originally
referred to the king who ruled over God’s people.
When King David had secured peace within his kingdom and with the surrounding
nations (2 Samuel 7:1), he desired to honor God by building a “house” for
him in Jerusalem. In the ancient world a god was truly established when
he had a fitting home. The temple that David decided to build for the Lord
was to replace the tent that had sheltered the ark of the covenant since
the days at Sinai (7:2, 6); he also intended it to be a place of worship,
where praise and sacrifices would be offered to God.
Instead of affirming David’s plan, God surprised him by revealing a
much grander plan. Through the prophet Nathan, God told King David that
he was not to construct a dwelling place for him. Rather, God intended
to build a “house” for David, that is, a dynasty that would rule over his
people. The Lord declared to David that one of his descendants would always
sit on the throne, thus promising to establish David’s house for all time:
“Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure for ever before me; your
throne shall be established for ever” (2 Samuel 7:16). Notice the word
play and variety of meanings for the word “house” as God spoke to David
through Nathan: palace, (7:1), dwelling (7: 2, 5, 6, 7), temple (7:13),
and royal dynasty (7:11, 16).
This promise to David amplified the covenants with Abraham and with
Israel at Sinai. God did not expect or require anything of David in return
for the promise; it was a grant made freely to King David and his descendants,
not a treaty that stipulated obligations.
Solomon succeeded to his father David’s throne, but soon after his death,
Israel and Judah, which had been united as one kingdom under David, broke
apart. The monarchy was plagued with strife and began to decline under
Solomon’s son, King Rehoboam, and his heirs. Two centuries later (around
722 B.C.) Israel was vanquished by Assyria, and Judah was made Assyria’s
vassal. In 587 the Babylonians wiped out Judah, destroying the temple,
burning Jerusalem, and sending many of the city’s inhabitants into exile.
Yet memories of the brilliant days of David’s reign lived on in God’s chosen
Despite the failings of the kings of Israel, Judah, and his chosen people,
God did not retract his promises to them. Instead, he continued to love
them steadfastly and to unfold his plan for salvation through the prophets
that he sent to them. As Benedictine monk and Scripture scholar Damasus
Winzen noted, “Through all the human confusion of defeat and victory, of
treachery and loyalty, of disappointments and triumph, we can hear—if we
have ears to listen—the quiet steps of God’s fatherly love pursuing the
path of redemption” (Pathways in Scripture).
The Jewish people recalled the promises God had made to King David,
promises of an eternal dynasty and of a kingdom that would last forever.
Faced with the disasters and sins of the monarchy that unfolded after the
reign of David, they came to hope that these promises would be fulfilled
by a future “hero-king.” This anointed leader or “Messiah” would be descended
from David, a conqueror who would throw off the oppressor’s yoke, restore
the kingdom, and establish perfect justice. Jewish expectations were focused
on the “David” of the future—a figure who would revive and carry on the
glorious reign of David forever.
Many of the Old Testament psalms—among them, Psalms 2, 45, 89, 100,
and 110—have royal and messianic overtones. Several are quoted in the New
Testament as prophecies about Jesus, who fulfilled Israel’s hopes and yearnings
for the rule of one who would truly be God’s anointed king and Messiah.
Psalm 89 in particular recounts God’s dealings with Israel and joyously
celebrates the absolute and unconditional promise that God made to establish
David’s dynasty. Although David and his descendants failed to keep God’s
commands and were to be justly punished as a consequence (Psalm 89:31-33),
God nevertheless declared,
I will not violate my covenant,
or alter the word that went forth
from my lips.
Once for all I have sworn by my
I will not lie to David. His line
shall endure for ever.
However, in events that seemed to belie God’s word, Israel fell into
disgrace at the hands of a foreign nation; her king was brought down, and
it appeared that David’s line had been cut off (Psalm 89:38-45). How could
Israel reconcile this destruction with God’s promises? The situation required
that God’s promise to David be understood in a new sense—as a description
of an ideal king who would one day inherit David’s throne.
Psalm 89 ends with a great cry wrenched from the heart of a disappointed
yet hopeful people (89:46-52). In anguish, the psalmist implores God to
remember his promise and restore his people by sending a righteous king
to reign over them again:
Lord, where is your steadfast love of old,
which by your faithfulness you
did swear to David?
The people of Israel were mistaken in their understanding and expectation
of a political ruler, yet their faith would finally be vindicated: God
would answer their pleas not by restoring the ancient monarchy but by raising
up, in the words of one hymn writer, “great David’s greater son.” A descendant
of David would in the end rule as king over all.
When the prophet Samuel anointed David as king of Israel, the Spirit
of God “came mightily” upon him (1 Samuel 16:13). This is a prefigurement
of the baptism of Jesus, the “Christ,” God’s anointed one (Matthew 3:16).
The Jerusalem Catecheses, a catechetical work of the early church, explains,
Christ bathed in the river Jordan, imparting to its waters the fragrance
of his divinity, and when he came up from them the Holy Spirit descended
upon him.. . . Christ’s anointing was not by human hands, nor was it with
ordinary oil. On the contrary, having destined him to be the Savior of
the whole world, the Father himself anointed him with the Holy Spirit.
Immediately following his account of Jesus’ baptism, John the Evangelist
records the first proclamation of Jesus’ messianic identity: “[Andrew]
first found his brother Simon, and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’
(which means Christ)” (John 1:41). Ultimately, God’s promise to David and
Israel’s hopes would be fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ.
of the Shepherds by El Greco (1603)
young David, Jesse’s son,
sheep in the rock-strewn fields
Bethlehem (city of his birth)
did he dream
be king one day
shepherd of God’s people Israel.
still less did lowly herdsmen
dream they’d see
David’s greater son
in a manger,
bright angelic hosts above those same fields
this strange, glad news
they watched o’er their flocks.
baby born in Bethlehem
now quietly upon the straw
golden cradle for this humble heir of royal David).
he’s dreaming of the day
gather his sheep to himself
shall be one flock, one shepherd then)
none shall snatch them from his hand.
and Nathan, by Rembrandt
2 Samuel 7:1-22,
when the king [David] dwelt in his house, and the LORD
had given him rest from all his enemies round about, 2the king said to
Nathan the prophet, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark
of God dwells in a tent.” 3And Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that
is in your heart; for the LORD
is with you.”
that same night the word of the LORD
came to Nathan, 5“Go and tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD:
Would you build me a house to dwell in? 6I have not dwelt in a house since
the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I
have been moving about in a tent for my dwelling. 7In 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?”’ 8Now therefore thus
you shall 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; 9and 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.
10And 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, 11from 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
house. 12When 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, and I will establish his kingdom. 13He shall build a house for my
name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever. 14I 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; 15but
I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from Saul, whom
I put away from before you. 16And your house and your kingdom shall be
made sure for ever before me; your throne shall be established for ever.’”
17In accordance with all these words, and in accordance with all this vision,
Nathan spoke to David.
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? 19And 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!
20And what more can David say to thee? For thou knowest thy servant, O
Lord GOD! 21Because of thy promise,
and according to thy own heart, thou hast wrought all this greatness, to
make thy servant know it. 22Therefore 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. . . . 28And now, O Lord GOD,
thou art God, and thy words are true, and thou hast promised this good
thing to thy servant; 29now therefore may it please thee to bless the house
of thy servant, that it may continue for ever before thee; for thou, O
Lord GOD, hast spoken, and with
thy blessing shall the house of thy servant be blessed for ever.”
Of old you did speak in a vision
to your faithful one, and say:
have set the crown upon one who is mighty,
I have exalted one chosen from the people.
I have found David, my servant;
with my holy oil I have anointed him;
so that my hand shall ever abide with him,
my arm also shall strengthen him.
And I will make him the first-born,
the highest of the kings of the earth.
My steadfast love I will keep for him for ever,
and my covenant will stand firm for him.
I will establish his line for ever
and his throne as the days of the heavens.
If his children forsake my law
and do not walk according to my ordinances,
if they violate my statutes
and do not keep my commandments,
then I will punish their transgression with the rod
and their iniquity with scourges;
but I will not remove from him my steadfast love,
or be false to my faithfulness.
I will not violate my covenant,
or alter the word that went forth from my lips.
Once for all I have sworn by my holiness;
I will not lie to David.
His line shall endure for ever,
his throne as long as the sun before me.
Like the moon it shall be established for ever;
it shall stand firm while the skies endure.”
Pondering the Word
1. List the phrases in Nathan’s prophecy that
detail specific aspects of God’s promises to David. What predominant themes
run through these promises?
2. What does God’s covenant with David indicate
about God’s nature and character?
3. Identify the verses in Nathan’s prophecy and
in the selection from Psalm 89 that express the absolute nature of God’s
covenant with David and his descendants. Why, in your opinion, did God
make his promises unconditional?
4. Read 2 Samuel 7:18-22, 28-29, David’s response
after he had received God’s word through Nathan. What does this prayer
suggest about David’s relationship with the Lord? About David’s character
and how he perceived himself?
5. With what titles and attributes is the king
described in Psalm 89:19-21, 27-37?
6. Which of God’s promises to David were literally
fulfilled in him and his descendants? Which would only be fulfilled in
Living the Word
1. God chose
David, Jesse’s youngest son and thus an improbable candidate, to be king.
Recall some of the surprising ways in which God has called you to serve
him. Do you find it difficult to accept God’s right to call you and use
you in whatever way he chooses? If so, why?
2. By promising
to build a “house” for David—a dynasty that would rule over his people—God
blessed David in a way that far exceeded his expectations. How have you
seen God bless and honor you in undeserved and unexpected ways?
3. When your
experience and circumstances seem to contradict the promises of God, how
do you respond? What might you do to grow in a deeper trust in God and
a clearer understanding of his word?
4. God used
the prophet Nathan to speak to David. Whom has God used to speak his word
to you? What impact did this have on you? Have you ever felt called to
speak God’s word to another person? What happened when you obeyed God?
5. In what
ways do you experience Jesus’ kingship and authority over your life? How
do you express honor for him as your king?
6. Write a
prayer to praise God and acknowledge some of the ways that he has shown
his faithfulness and steadfast love to you. You may find it helpful to
model your prayer on David’s (2 Samuel 7:18-22, 28-29).