2 Samuel 7:1-162017-03-22T04:46:11+00:00

Biblical Commentary

2 Samuel 7:1-16

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2 Samuel 7:1-16

COMMENTARY:

THE CONTEXT:

Second Samuel begins with David mourning the death of Saul and Jonathan (chapter 1) and being anointed king of Judah (2:1-7). Abner, the commander of Saul’s army, made Ishbaal, Saul’s son, king of Israel—resulting in warfare between Israel and Judah (2:8-32). However, David became stronger, and Abner eventually defected to David (31-21). Without David’s permission, Joab killed Abner to revenge the death of Asahel, Joab’s brother. Then Rechab and his brother Baanah killed Ishbaal (Saul’s son) without David’s permission (chapter 4). David mourned the death of Abner (3:31-39) and had Rechab and Baanah killed because of their treachery against Saul’s son (4:9-12). However, the deaths of Abner and Ishbaal led to David becoming king over Israel as well as Judah (5:1-5)—and Jerusalem becoming the capital of his kingdom (5:6-10). With the help of King Hiram of Tyre, David built himself a “house” (Hebrew: ba·yit—a word that we will see again).

The Philistines initiated hostilities against David, but he defeated them with God’s help (5:17-25). Then David brought the ark from Israel to Jerusalem to prevent the Philistines from capturing it (chapter 6). He brought it from Baalejudah (6:2)—although we heard earlier that it was in the temple at Shiloh (1 Samuel 1:3, 9, 24, 3:3, 21; 4:3-4; Psalm 78:60).

Our text appears at first glance to be just a story about God denying David the privilege of building a temple and promising that David’s son, Solomon will build it. However, that is just the introduction to the story—not its main point.

This is one of the most consequential stories of the Old Testament—on a par with God establishing a covenant with Abram or calling Moses from a burning bush. In this story, God promises David a dynasty—a line of kings descended from David. God says, “I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (7:13). This story, then, is like the story of God’s covenant with Abram (Genesis 12:1-3), because God promises David that God has chosen him to receive a “forever” promise.

However, after Solomon’s death, the kingdom will split into the Northern and Southern Kingdoms. The Northern Kingdom (Israel) will come to an end when Assyria defeats Israel and deports its people. The Southern Kingdom will come to an end with the Babylonian Exile. “Forever” will turn out to be not very long.

But what appears on the surface to be a simple promise of a dynasty for David will turn out to be something far more significant. This and other promises made by God to David will ultimately be fulfilled by Jesus, the Son of David—the Messiah. The early church will see this story and the promises made to David as foundational for the church—the new people of God—the New Israel.

2 SAMUEL 7:1-3. THE ARK OF GOD DWELLS WITHIN CURTAINS

1 It happened, when the king lived in his house, and Yahweh had given him rest from all his enemies all around, 2that the king said to Nathan the prophet, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells within curtains.” 3Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that is in your heart; for Yahweh is with you.”

It happened, when the king lived in his house (v. 1a). This is the house of cedar that Hiram, King of Tyre, built for David—a house fit for a king—a palace (5:11).

and Yahweh had given him rest from all his enemies all around (v. 1b). God earlier promised Israel “rest and to the inheritance, which Yahweh your God gives you” (Deuteronomy 12:9). Now that promise is fulfilled.

David has been a warrior all his life—from his youth, when he would strike down lions and bears that were threatening his flock (1 Samuel 17:34-35) to his most recent victory over the Philistines (5:17-25).

But now he is enjoying a period of peace—a breather—a time when he can reflect on the ways that he might improve life for the people of Israel—on the ways that he might better serve God. This time of peace will prove to be only a temporary respite, because David will fight many wars in the future.

that the king said to Nathan the prophet (v. 2a). This is the first mention of Nathan. We have no idea how he came into David’s life, but the text identifies him as a prophet, and it is clear that David regards him as such. Nathan will turn out to be an important person in David’s life. He will confront David with his sin when David commits adultery with Bathsheba and arranges for Uriah’s murder to cover up his sin (12:1-15). He will also play an important role when David is near death and Adonijah determines to usurp the throne (1 Kings 1).

See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells within curtains (v. 2b). David contrasts his own palatial house with the more modest tent in which God dwells. He does not say that he intends to build a temple for God, but his words imply as much. He has only recently (chapter 6) brought the ark to Jerusalem. David intends Jerusalem to be the ark’s permanent home, so he wants to build a suitable permanent dwelling place for it. “He has established his place in Jerusalem; now he will establishGod’s place” (Peterson, 167).

It would appear that David’s only agenda here is correcting the deficiency of God dwelling in an inferior dwelling. However, kings in that time and place often built temples for their gods as a way of securing God’s favor. It is quite possible that this is part of David’s thinking—and part of the reason that God will deny him the privilege of building the temple.

Nathan said to the king, ‘Go, do all that is in your heart; for Yahweh is with you‘” (v. 3). Nathan infers that David intends to build a temple. His initial response is positive—but this is just his personal response. He had not consulted God on the matter.

2 SAMUEL 7:4-7. BUT THE WORD OF YAHWEH CAME TO NATHAN

4 It happened the same night, that the word of Yahweh came to Nathan, saying, 5“Go and tell my servant David, ‘Thus says Yahweh, “Shall you build me a house for me to dwell in? 6For I have not lived in a house since the day that I brought up the children of Israel out of Egypt, even to this day, but have moved around in a tent and in a tabernacle. 7In all places in which I have walked with all the children of Israel, did I say a word to any of the tribes of Israel, whom I commanded to be shepherd of my people Israel, saying, ‘Why have you not built me a house of cedar?'”‘

It happened the same night, that the word of Yahweh came to Nathan (v. 4). “The word of Yahweh came to” is a standard introduction to a prophetic utterance.

Go and tell my servant David (v. 5a). God labels David his servant. “Although Israel as a nation is described as God’s servant, the ascription is rarely given to individuals” (Evans, 168). For God to speak of David as his servant, then, is to render him high honor.

However, the word “servant” also serves to remind David that, while he is a king to the people, he is a servant to God.

Isaiah will point to the messiah as God’s servant (Isaiah 42:1), and Matthew will apply that prophecy to Jesus (Matthew 12:15-18). Jesus will tell his disciples that he expects them to be servants too (Matthew 20:26; 23:11; Mark 9:35; 10:43).

Thus says Yahweh, ‘Shall you build me a house for me to dwell in?’ (v. 5b). The implication is that David is not worthy to build a house for God. First Chronicles says that God refused to allow David the privilege of building the temple because David had shed so much blood. But God promised, “Behold, a son shall be born to you, who shall be a man of rest…He shall build a house for my name” (1 Chronicles 22:7-10).

For I have not lived in a house since the day that I brought up the children of Israel out of Egypt, even to this day, but have moved around in a tent and in a tabernacle (v. 6). In our comments on verse 5, we addressed the issue of David’s worthiness to build God a temple. The issue that God raises now, however, is more fundamental. Does God need a temple? Will a temple (a permanent building) do something for God that the tabernacle (a tent) is failing to do?

The tent afforded God mobility. During Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness, they were able to pack up the tent and its furnishings and take it with them. The ark (the key furnishing of the tabernacle—symbolizing the very presence of God) moved at the head of the procession, symbolizing God’s leadership of Israel. To place the ark in a permanent building would be confining—would appear to limit God’s mobility.

There are issues here that we cannot fully resolve. If a temple would limit God’s mobility, why would he authorize Solomon to build a temple?

Also, there are earlier accounts of a temple at Shiloh (Judges 18:31; 1 Samuel 1:9; 3:3). However, that might have been the tabernacle instead of a permanent building.

In all places in which I have walked with all the children of Israel, did I say a word to any of the tribes of Israel, whom I commanded to be shepherd of my people Israel, saying, ‘Why have you not built me a house of cedar?‘” (v. 7). God raises the issue of authority. Who gave David the authority to build a temple?

Earlier, God gave quite explicit instructions with regard to the construction of the tabernacle and its furnishings (Exodus 25-31). He never told Israel to build a permanent dwelling for the ark once they entered the Promised Land. He never suggested that the tabernacle was temporary or inferior.

So why does David suddenly (and on his own initiative) think that he should replace the God-ordained tabernacle with a human-inspired temple in Jerusalem? Why doesn’t David allow God to tell him what God wants?

2 SAMUEL 7:8-11ab. I WILL MAKE FOR YOU A GREAT NAME

8“Now therefore you shall tell my servant David this, ‘Thus says Yahweh of Armies, “I took you from the sheep pen, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people, over Israel. 9 I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you. I will make you a great name, like the name of the great ones who are in the earth. 10 I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in their own place, and be moved no more; neither shall the children of wickedness afflict them any more, as at the first, 11and as from the day that I commanded judges to be over my people Israel. I will cause you to rest from all your enemies.“‘”

God bestowed three blessings on David in the past. He has:

• Taken David from pasture to palace (v. 8).
• Been with David wherever he went (v. 9a).
• Cut off all his enemies (v. 9a).

God outlines three great promises for David’s future. He will:

• Make for David a great name (v. 9b).
• Appoint a place for Israel and will plant them (v. 10).
• Give you rest from all your enemies (v. 11b).

The prophets will later look back to these foundational promises to give Israel hope (Isaiah 9:1-7; 11:1-16; 16:5; 55:3; Jeremiah 23:5-6; 30:8; 33:15-26; Hosea 3:5; Amos 9:11; Zechariah 12:7-8) (Bergen, 337).

Now therefore you shall tell my servant David this (v. 8a). “It turns out that the question of the temple is in fact of no special interest for this narrative, but is only a preliminary device with which to surface the real subject” (Brueggemann, Texts for Preaching, 32)—the real subject being these promises concerning the establishment of David’s house, from which the messiah will come.

Thus says Yahweh of Armies, ‘I took you from the sheep pen, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people, over Israel‘” (v. 8b). God reminds David of his humble origins and God’s decision to elevate David to the throne. David did nothing to deserve this honor. The initiative was God’s. The action was God’s.

I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you (v. 9a). God reminds David that it was God who gave David the victory over his enemies. Those victories extend back to the lions and bears that David killed as a boy (1 Samuel 17:36) and his victory over the giant, Goliath (1 Samuel 17). They include David’s success in evading the murderous Saul (1 Samuel 18:10-16; 19:8-17). They include his victories over the Philistines (1 Samuel 23:1-14) and Amalekites (1 Samuel 30). They include his victory over Abner, and Ishbosheth, the son of Saul (2 Samuel 2-4).

I will make you a great name, like the name of the great ones who are in the earth (v. 9b). Note the parallel with Philippians 2:9-11, where God exalts Christ and gives him “the name which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, those on earth, and those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” This parallel is not accidental. Jesus is the son of David and the son of God.

The word “covenant” is not used here, but “it is used in later references to David’s dynasty (2 Sa. 23:5; Pss. 89:3, 28, 34; 132:12), and confirms that it was regarded as an enduring, unconditional promise, sworn on divine oath” (Baldwin, 213).

I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in their own place, and be moved no more; neither shall the children of wickedness afflict them any more, as at the first, and as from the day that I commanded judges to be over my people Israel (v. 10-11a). God has not only elevated David to a place of greatness, but will also establish Israel as a secure nation, with no reason to be afraid of its foes.

However, “These promises were not fulfilled in David’s lifetime; later prophets understood them to refer to a future period (cf. Isa 9:7; 16:5; Jer 23:5-6; 33:15-16)” (Bergen, 339). Their true fulfillment will be with the messiah.

God refers to the time of the judges—a turbulent period between the initial conquest of the Promised Land to the establishment of the monarchy. The judges were, for the most part, military leaders called by God to deliver Israel from its enemies. Their exploits are cataloged in the book of Judges.

I will cause you to rest from all your enemies (v. 11b). See the notes on verse 1b above.

2 SAMUEL 7:11c-14. YAHWEH WILL MAKE YOU A HOUSE

11c“Moreover Yahweh tells you that Yahweh will make you a house (Hebrew: ba·yit). 12When your days are fulfilled, and you shall sleep with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who shall proceed out of your bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. 13He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men;”

“Three lines of fulfillment of these promises have been identified. First is the offspring who will be permitted to build a house for God…. Second, a Davidic dynasty will be established, and third, a messianic king is promised” (Evans, 168).

Moreover Yahweh tells you that Yahweh will make you a house (Hebrew: ba·yit) (v. 11c). Until now, this word ba·yit has been used for a dwelling place—in David’s case, a palace; in God’s case, a temple. God now uses ba·yit in accord with its other meaning—a household or family or dynasty.

When your days are fulfilled, and you shall sleep with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who shall proceed out of your bowels, and I will establish his kingdom (v. 12). The obvious fulfillment of this promise is David’s son, Solomon, on his throne. However, the more significant fulfillment of this promise will be Jesus, who is also the son of David (Matthew 1:1, 20; Acts 13:22-23; Romans 1:3; 2 Timothy 2:8; Revelation 22:16).

He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever (v. 13). This verse “uses the typical deuteronomistic idea that it is God’s name and not God’s own self that dwells in the temple (see Deut 12:11; 14:23; 26:2)” (Birch).

Again, the obvious fulfillment of this promise is David’s son, Solomon, who will build a temple in Jerusalem. However, the more significant fulfillment of this promise will await Jesus, who will build an everlasting house for God (Matthew 26:61; 27:40; Mark 14:58; 15:29; John 2:19-22; Hebrews 3:3-4). It will be Jesus who be reign over an eternal kingdom (Luke 22:29-30; John 18:36; 1 Corinthians 15:24-25; Hebrews 1:8; 2 Peter 1:11).

I will be his father, and he shall be my son (v. 14a). The concept here is adoption. God said, “Israel is my son, my firstborn” (Exodus 4:22)—and “You are my son.

Today I have become your father” (Psalm 2:7).

The early Christians adopted this concept of adoption. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are children of God” (Romans 8:14). “For you are all children of God, through faith in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26). “He who overcomes, I will give him these things. I will be his God, and he will be my son” (Rev. 21:7). We are permitted to pray, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:5).

The ultimate fulfillment of this promise is through. He is the son of David (Matthew 1:1, 20) and the son of God (Mark 1:1; Luke 1:32; 22:70; John 20:31; Acts 9:20; Hebrews 4:14; Revelation 2:18).

If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men (v. 14b). David’s son will also be God’s son. Fathers chasten errant sons, but they do so to correct rather than to destroy. God will allow Israel’s enemies to chasten David’s son, but will not allow them to destroy him.

This verse suggests that David’s son will have clay feet, and that will prove true. We remember Solomon for his wisdom and wealth, but in his later years he built high places for the gods of his wives. He also worshiped at those places (1 Kings 11:1-8). As a result, God raised up Hadad and Rezon to chasten Solomon (1 Kings 11:14-25).

2 SAMUEL 7:15-16. YOUR KINGDOM SHALL BE ESTABLISHED FOREVER

15“but my loving kindness shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before you.16Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever.”

“but my loving kindness shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before you” (v. 15). When Saul was disobedient (1 Samuel 15:1-9) God told Samuel, “It grieves me that I have set up Saul to be king; for he is turned back from following me, and has not performed my commandments” (1 Samuel 15:11). Samuel told Saul, “Yahweh has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this day, and has given it to a neighbor of yours who is better than you” (1 Samuel 15:28). The Philistines killed both Saul and Saul’s sons, thus preventing any possibility of dynasty (1 Samuel 31).

But God promises not to take that kind of action against David’s son. He will allow Solomon’s enemies to chastise David’s son, but not to kill him.

Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever (v. 16). As noted above, this promise will appear to be unfulfilled. After Solomon’s death, the kingdom will split into the Northern and Southern Kingdoms. The Northern Kingdom (Israel) will come to an end when Assyria defeats Israel and deports its people. The Southern Kingdom will come to an end with the Babylonian Exile. “Forever” will turn out to be not very long.

But what appears on the surface to be a simple promise of a dynasty for David will turn out to be something far more significant. This and other promises made by God to David will ultimately be fulfilled by Jesus, the Son of David—the Messiah. The early church will see this story and the promises made to David as foundational for the church—the new people of God—the New Israel.

 

SCRIPTURE QUOTATIONS are from the World English Bible (WEB), a public domain (no copyright) modern English translation of the Holy Bible. The World English Bible is based on the American Standard Version (ASV) of the Bible, the Biblia Hebraica Stutgartensa Old Testament, and the Greek Majority Text New Testament. The ASV, which is also in the public domain due to expired copyrights, was a very good translation, but included many archaic words (hast, shineth, etc.), which the WEB has updated.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Anderson, A.A., Word Biblical Commentary: 2 Samuel, Vol. 11 (Dallas, Word Books, 1989)

Baldwin, Joyce G., Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries:1 & 2 Samuel, Vol. 8 (Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter-Varsity Press, 1988)

Bergin, Robert D., The New American Commentary: 1, 2 Samuel, Vol. 7 (Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996)

Birch, Bruce C., The New Interpreter’s Bible: Numbers- Samuel, Vol. II (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1998)

Brueggemann, Walter, Interpretation Commentary: I and II Samuel (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1973)

Brueggemann, Walter, in Brueggemann, Walter; Cousar, Charles B.; Gaventa, Beverly R.; and Newsome, James D., Texts for Preaching: A Lectionary Commentary Based on the NRSV—Year B (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1993)

Cartledge, Tony W., Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary: 1 & 2 Samuel (Macon, Georgia: Smyth & Helwys, 2001)

Craddock, Fred B.; Hayes, John H.; Holladay, Carl R.; Tucker, Gene M., Preaching Through the Christian Year, B (Valley Forge: Trinity Press International, 1993)

Dutcher-Walls, Patricia, in Van Harn, Roger (ed.), The Lectionary Commentary: Theological Exegesis for Sunday’s Text. The First Readings: The Old Testament and Acts (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2001)

Evans, Mary J., New International Biblical Commentary: 1 and 2 Samuel (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 2000)

Gehrke, Ralph David, Concordia Commentary: 1 and 2 Samuel (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1968)

Newsome, James D., in Brueggemann, Walter; Cousar, Charles B.; Gaventa, Beverly R.; and Newsome, James D., Texts for Preaching: A Lectionary Commentary Based on the NRSV—Year B (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1993)

Olson, Dennis T., in Van Harn, Roger (ed.), The Lectionary Commentary: Theological Exegesis for Sunday’s Text. The First Readings: The Old Testament and Acts (GrandRapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2001)

Peterson, Eugene H., Westminster Bible Companion: First and Second Samuel (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1999)

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