The Promise in 2 Samuel, Chap. vii.
The Messianic prophecy, as we have seen, began at a time long anterior to that of David. Even in Genesis, we perceived [Pg 131] it, increasing more and more in distinctness. There is at first only the general promise that the seed of the woman should obtain the victory over the kingdom of the evil one; -- then, that the salvation should come through the descendants of Shem; -- then, from among them Abraham is marked out, -- of his sons, Isaac, -- from among his sons, Jacob, -- and from among the twelve sons of Jacob, Judah is singled out as the bearer of dominion, and marked out as the person from whom, at length, should proceed the glorious King whose peaceful dominion is destined to extend over all the nations of the earth.

Whilst, hitherto, the tribe only had been pointed out, in the midst of which an imperishable dominion should be established, and out of which the Saviour was at last to come, -- under David another feature was added by the determination of the family. This was done in the prophetic announcement which the Lord, by the prophet Nathan, addressed in 2 Sam. vii. to David, when he had adopted the resolution of building to the Lord a fixed temple, instead of the moveable tabernacle which had hitherto been used.

Ver.1. "And it happened when the king sat in his house, and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies round about. Ver.2. And the king said unto Nathan the prophet, See, now, I dwell in a house of cedar, and the ark of God dwelleth within curtains."

The question here is: -- To what time is the occurrence to be assigned? The answer is: -- To the time not long after David had obtained the dominion over all Israel. To this opinion we are led by the position which the report occupies in the Books both of Chronicles and of Samuel. The supposition is so very probable, that nothing short of very cogent reasons could induce us to abandon it. A narrative, in which David's accession to the throne is followed by the conquest of Jerusalem, and this by the building of his palace, -- and this again by the bringing up of the ark of the covenant, -- and this, still further, by David's anxiety for a fixed sanctuary, evidently agrees with the order in which these events followed each other. We can the less entertain any doubt concerning it, because we are expressly told, that the wars and victories of David reported in chap. viii. were subsequent to what is reported in chap. vii.; compare viii.1. That the conquest of Jerusalem and the [Pg 132] building of his palace belong to the period soon after his accession to the throne, is both evident, and generally acknowledged; but that David's anxiety for a fixed sanctuary was awakened in him soon after the completion of his palace, is expressly stated in 1 Chron. xvii.1. Instead of [Hebrew: ki iwb] in ver.1 of our passage, we find there [Hebrew: kawr iwb], "when," or "as soon as" he dwelt. We cannot well think of any later period, as David's zeal for the building of the house of the Lord was closely connected with the question regarding the duration of his own family, which was so readily suggested by the fate of Saul, and which must necessarily have engaged his attention at a very early period. If he obtained the divine sanction for the building of the temple, that question also was thereby answered. Further, -- It appears from ver.12, that Solomon was not yet born at the time when David received the promise. The circumstance, too, that there are so many allusions to it in the Psalms of David, proves that this promise had been already given to him at the beginning of his reign. -- One circumstance only has been adduced against assigning to it so early a period, viz., that the event is here placed within the time when the Lord had given David rest from all his enemies round about. But there is not one word which affirms that this rest was a definitive one; while, on the other hand, the contrary is alluded to by the circumstance that the Books of Chronicles make no mention at all of David's rest from his enemies, and is distinctly indicated by viii.1. In 1 Chron. xiv.17 it is said, after the account of David's victory over the Philistines (on which event the Books of Samuel report previous to chap. vii., viz. in v.17-25): "And the name of David went out into all lands, and the Lord gave his fear upon all the heathen." This previous result was so much the more important, as the Philistines had been, for a long time, the most dangerous enemies of Israel, and David himself may have considered it as a definitive one, -- may have imagined this truce to be a peace, -- may not have been aware that he had yet to bear the burden of the most trying wars. Looking, then, to the passage in Deut. xii.10, 11 -- in which the choice of a place where the Lord will cause His name to dwell, is connected with the giving of rest from all enemies round about -- he might think that the present circumstance formed a call upon him to erect a sanctuary to [Pg 133] the Lord.[1] But the issue (compare viii.1) soon made it manifest to him, that the supposition on which he proceeded was an erroneous one. We have a tacit correction of David's mistake in 1 Kings v.17, 18: "Thou knowest how that David my father could not build an house unto the name of the Lord his God, for the wars with which they surrounded him, until the Lord put them under the soles of his feet. And now the Lord my God hath given me rest on every side, and there is neither adversary nor evil occurrence." It was only under Solomon that the period provided for by Deut. xii. really arrived. (Compare 1 Chron. xxii.19.)

Ver.3. "And Nathan said to the king, Go, do all that is in thine heart, for the Lord is with thee. Ver.4. And it came to pass that night that the word of the Lord came unto Nathan, saying: Ver.5. Go and tell My servant David, Thus saith the Lord, Shalt thou build Me a house to dwell in?"

In ver.5 the question is stated, the answer to which is the point at issue. In ver.6, the exposition begins with [Hebrew: ki], which refers to the whole of it, and not merely to the clause which immediately follows. Hitherto, the Lord has not had a fixed temple (ver.6), nor has any such been wished for or desired by Him (ver.7). By the grace of God, David has been raised to be ruler over the people (ver.8), and the Lord has helped him gloriously (ver.9), and, through him, His people (ver.10). This mercy the Lord had already bestowed upon him, that, since the beginning of the period of the Judges, it was through him, first of all, that the people had obtained rest from all their enemies round about; but to this favour the Lord is now adding another, by announcing to him that He would make him an house (ver.11). When David dies, his seed shall occupy the throne, and be established in the kingdom (ver.12). It is he who shall build an house for the Lord who will establish for ever the throne of his kingdom, vers.13-16.

David's zeal for the house of the Lord is thus acknowledged (compare Ps. cxxxii.1), and so also is the correctness of his supposition, that the building of the fixed temple is intimately [Pg 134] connected with his being raised to be ruler over Israel. The first answer of Nathan remains correct; it is only more distinctly and closely defined and modified. David is to build the house, -- not, however, in his own person, but in his seed, and after the Lord has begun to fulfil His promise, that He would make him an house.

But why was it that David himself was not permitted to build the house to the Lord? In this passage we obtain no answer. In Solomon's message to Hiram (1 Kings v.17) an external reason only is stated -- viz., that, by his numerous wars, David had been prevented from building a house to the Lord. There was a deeper reason than this; but the heathen could not comprehend it. It is contained in the words which, according to 1 Chron. xxviii.3, David spoke to the people: "And God said unto me, Thou shalt not build an house for My name, because thou hast been a man of war, and hast shed blood;" and in the words of the Lord which, according to 1 Chron. xxii.8, David repeated to Solomon: "Thou hast shed blood abundantly, and hast made great wars; thou shalt not build an house unto My name, because thou hast shed much blood upon the earth in My sight," -- a disclosure which David could have obtained only at a later period, and as a supplement to the divine communication which had been made to him through Nathan. For it is only after the revelation in 2 Sam. vii. that David had to carry on his most bloody wars. We must not, by any means, entertain the idea that these words express anything blameworthy in David, and that the permission to build the temple was refused to him on account of his personal unworthiness. David stood in a closer relation to God than did Solomon. His wars were wars of the Lord, 1 Sam. xxv.28. It is in this light that David himself regarded them; and that he was conscious of his being divinely commissioned for them, is seen, e.g., from Ps. xviii.: it was the Lord who taught his hands to war (ver.35) and who gave him vengeance, and subdued the people unto him, ver.48. The passages 1 Chron. xxii.8, xxvii.3, do not, in themselves, contain one reproachful word against David. On the contrary, the words, in My sight, in the former of these passages, rather lead us to suppose that David is, in his wars, to be considered only as a servant of the Lord (Michaelis: "In My sight -- i.e., who am, as it were, the [Pg 135] highest judge, and the commander"). The reason is rather of a symbolical character. How necessary soever, under certain conditions, war may be for the kingdom of God, -- as indeed the Saviour also says that (in the first instance) He had not come to send peace, but a sword, -- it is after all only something accidental, and rendered needful by human corruption. The real nature of the kingdom of God is peace. Even in the Old Testament, the Lord of the Church appears as the Prince of Peace, Is. ix.5. According to Luke ix.56, the Son of Man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them. In order to impress upon the mind this view of the nature and aim of the Church, the Temple -- the symbol of the Church -- must not be built by David the man of war, but by Solomon, the peaceful, the man of rest, 1 Chron. xxii.9.

Ver.6. "For I have not dwelt in any house from the day that I brought up the children of Israel out of Egypt even to this day, and have walked in a tent and in a tabernacle. Ver.7. In all that I have walked among the children of Israel, have I spoken one word with any of the tribes of Israel whom I commanded to feed My people Israel, saying. Why build ye Me not a house of cedar?"

According to several interpreters, these words are intended as a consolation to David for the delay in building the temple, and convey this sense: that God did not require the temple, that the building of it was of no consequence, -- as sufficiently appears from the circumstance of His not having hitherto urged it. But such a view would ill agree with the great importance which David continues, even afterwards, to ascribe to the building of the temple, -- with the grand efforts of Solomon towards it, -- and with the exulting words which are uttered by the latter, in 1 Kings viii.13, after the work has been accomplished: "I have built Thee an house to dwell in, a settled place for Thee to abide in for ever." A comparison of 1 Kings viii.16-20 furnishes us with a clue to the right interpretation. In that passage, the period before David is contrasted with that during which David lived. (Compare the [Hebrew: eth], now, in ver.8.) Hitherto, everything in the government had borne a provisional character, and, hence, the sanctuary also. But now that, after the unsettled state of things under [Pg 136] the Judges and Saul, the definitive government has been called into existence with David, to whom the Lord will make an house, the definitive sanctuary also shall be built, -- only, that it shall not be founded by David, but by his seed.[2] The words, I have walked -- literally, I have been walking, I have continued walking -- in a tent and in a tabernacle, indicate not only that the Lord dwelt in a portable sanctuary, but also, that the place of this sanctuary was oftentimes changed, from one station to another in the wilderness, then to Gilgal, Shiloh, Nob and Gibeon. This changing of the place of the tabernacle is still more distinctly pointed out, in the parallel passage in 1 Chron. xvii.5: "And I have been from tent to tent, from tabernacle to tabernacle;" i.e., I went from one tent into the other, e.g., from the dwelling-place of Shiloh into that of Nob, -- a mode of expression which pays no attention to the circumstance whether or not the tent was materially the same. Instead of, "With any of the tribes of Israel," we find in 1 Chron. xvii.6, "With any of the judges of Israel," -- a parallel passage which very well explains the main text. The tribes come into consideration through their judges, who, in the Book of Judges, always appear as judges in Israel, and procured a temporary [Pg 137] superiority to the tribe from which they proceeded.[3] The [Hebrew: wbTi], which has been doubted, is rendered certain by 1 Kings viii.16. (Compare, moreover, Ps. lxxviii.67, 68.) -- The reason why no such word came to any one of these tribes is, that the superiority of none of them was permanent; the election of all of them was merely temporary. The continuance of the tent-temple was intended to indicate that the state of things was, in general, provisional only, and that a new order of things was at hand. The creation of a settled sanctuary was to be coincident with the establishment of an abiding kingdom, to which the grace of God was vouchsafed. It was an evil omen for Saul that the erection of a fixed sanctuary was not even mooted under him. The close of Ps. lxxviii. likewise points out the intimate connection of the kingdom and the sanctuary.

Ver.8. "And now, thus shalt thou say unto David My servant: Thus saith the Lord, of hosts, I took thee from the sheep-cote,[4] from behind the sheep, to be ruler over My people, over Israel. Ver.9. And I was with thee whithersoever thou wentest, and have cut off all thine enemies from before thee, and have made thee a great name like unto the name of the great men that are upon the earth. Ver.10. And I gave room unto My people Israel, and planted them, and they dwell in their place, and they shall no more be frightened, and the sons of wickedness shall afflict them no more as heretofore."

Seven divine benefits are here enumerated, -- one in ver.8, which forms the foundation of all the others, and three in each of the two following verses, -- in ver.9, what the Lord has given to David, -- in ver.10, what, through him, He has given to Israel. These benefits are so many symptoms that a definitive order of things has now taken the place of the provisional one, and that, hence, the moveable sanctuary will now be soon followed by the settled one. In the first member of ver.10, there is an enumeration of the benefits which the [Pg 138] people have already received through David; in the second and third members, an enumeration of the benefits to be constantly bestowed upon them through him. A commentary upon it is formed by Ps. lxxxix.22-24, in which it is said of David: "With whom My hand shall be continually. Mine arm also shall strengthen him. The enemy shall not exact upon him, nor the son of wickedness afflict him. And I crush his enemies before him, and will smite those who hate him."

Ver.11. "And since the day that I commanded judges over My people Israel, I have given thee rest from all thine enemies. And the Lord telleth thee, that the Lord will make thee an house."

The first part of this verse comprehends all the benefits formerly enumerated; -- the second adds another, which, however, is closely connected with the previous ones. The circumstance that the Lord first gave rest to David, and, in him, to the people, was a sign of his election which could not but manifest itself afterwards in the care for his house. The promise, "The Lord will make thee an house," was to David an answer to prayer, as is shown by Ps. xxi.3, 5, lxi.6, cxxxviii.3. Even the thought of building the temple was a question put to the Lord, as to whether He would, in harmony with His past conduct, give a duration to his house, different from that of the house of Saul.

Ver.12. "And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I shall cause thy seed to rise up after thee which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom."

The [Hebrew: hqiM] does not signify the beginning of existence, but the elevation to the royal dignity. [Hebrew: zre], seed, denotes the posterity, which, however, may consist of one only, or be represented by a single individual. In the parallel passage, 1 Chron. xvii.11, the words run thus: "Thy seed which shall be of thy sons," i.e., who shall be one of thy sons (Luther). The truth of the promise, "I shall establish his kingdom," became manifest, e.g., in the vain machinations of Adonijah. That the fulfilment of this promise must be sought in the history of Solomon, in whom the difference between the house of David and that of Saul first became evident (instead of, "I establish," in ver.12, we find, in the second member of ver.13, "I establish for ever"), is seen from 1 Kings viii.20, where Solomon says, "And the Lord hath performed His word which [Pg 139] He spake; for I am risen up in the room of David my father, and sit on the throne of Israel, as the Lord promised." (Compare 1 Kings ii.12: "And Solomon sat upon the throne of David his father, and his kingdom was established greatly.")

Ver.13. "He shall build an house for My name, and I establish the throne of his kingdom for ever."

The general establishment which was spoken of in ver.12 precedes the building of the temple; the eternal establishment mentioned in ver.13 follows the building of the temple, or is coincident with it. It is evident, that the first clause of the verse refers, in the first instance, to the building of the temple which was undertaken by Solomon. (Compare 1 Kings v.19, where Solomon says, "Behold, I purpose to build an house unto the name of the Lord my God, as the Lord spake unto David my father, saying. Thy son whom I will set upon thy throne in thy stead, he shall build the house unto My name.") We shall not, however, be at liberty to confine ourselves to what Solomon, as an individual, did for the house of the Lord. The building of the house here goes hand in hand with the eternity of the kingdom. We expect, therefore, that the question is not about a building of limited duration. If a building of only a limited duration were meant, such, surely, might have been erected long ago, even in the period of the Judges. The contrary, however, is quite distinctly brought out in 1 Kings viii.13, where, at the dedication of the temple, Solomon says, "I have built Thee an house to dwell in, a fixed place for Thee to abide in for ever." If, then, with the eternity of the kingdom of David's house the eternity of the temple to be built by him be closely bound up, the destruction of the latter can be only temporary, and the consequence of the apostasy and punishment of the Davidic race, -- of which vers.14 and 15 treat. Or, if it be definitive, it can concern the form only. If the building of the temple fall into ruins, it is only the Davidic race from which its restoration can proceed; the local relation of the royal palace to the temple prefigured their close union. Hence, the building of the temple by Zerubbabel was likewise comprehended in the words, "He shall build an house for My name." It was impossible that the second temple could be reared otherwise than under the direction of David's family. But we must go still farther. The essence of the temple consists in its being a symbol, an outward [Pg 140] representation of the kingdom of God under Israel. The real import of our passage then is, -- that henceforth the kingdom of David and the kingdom of God should be closely and inseparably linked together. As the third phase, therefore, in the fulfilment of our prophecy, John ii.19 must come under consideration: [Greek: lusate ton naon touton, kai en trisin hemerais egero auton]. (Regarding the sense of this passage, and the symbolical meaning of the tabernacle and temple, compare "Dissertations on the Genuineness of the Pent." vol. ii. p.514 ff.) "House of God" is, in ver.14 of the parallel text, used of the Church, and in parallelism with "kingdom of God," -- a sense in which it occurs as early as in Num. xii.7.[5] This usus loquendi is quite common in the New Testament; compare 1 Tim. iii.15; 2 Cor. vi.16; Heb. iii.6. In the first two phases of the temple of Solomon, the house consists in the first instance of ordinary stones, -- although, even at that time, the spiritual is concealed behind the material; but in its third phase, the material is altogether thrown off, and the house is entirely spiritual -- consisting of living stones, 1 Pet. ii.5. -- That the expression, "for ever," in the second clause of the verse, is to be taken in its strict and full sense, is proved not only by the threefold repetition, but also by a comparison with the numerous secondary passages, in which the duration of the Davidic dominion appears as absolutely unlimited. In Ps. lxxxix., for example, where the promise is repeated, "for ever" corresponds with, "as the days of heaven" in ver.30, -- with "as the sun" in ver.37, -- and with "as the moon" in ver.38. The final fulfilment of this promise is pointed out by the words of the angel to Mary, in Luke i.32, 33: [Greek: houtos estai megas] (compare ver.9 here), [Greek: kai huios hupsistou klethesetai] (compare ver.14), [Greek: kai dosei auto kurios ho Theos ton thronon Dauid tou patros autou. Kai basileusei epi ton oikon Iakob eis tous aionas, kai tes basileias autou ouk estai telos.]

Ver.14. "And I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to Me. If he commit sin, I will chastise him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men. Ver.15. And My mercy shall not depart away from him, as I caused it to depart away from Saul, whom I put away before thee."

[Pg 141]

Wheresoever God is, in the Old Testament, designated as Father, there is a reference to the deepest intensity of His love, -- a love which is similar to that of a father towards his son. (Compare remarks on Ps. ii.7.) Sonship to God has this significancy here also, as is shown by what immediately follows, where, in explanation of it, the promise of indestructible love is connected with it. But this relationship, in its highest and closest form, cannot exist betwixt God and a mere man. It is only when the Davidic family is viewed as centring in Christ, that the words can acquire their full truth. To this, the quotation in Heb. i.5 points: [Greek: Tini gar eipe pote ton angelon, hUios mou ei su, ego semeron gegenneka se; Kai palin. Ego esomai auto eis patera, kai autos estai moi eis huion]; The depth of meaning which is contained in these words appears plainly from their expansion in Ps. lxxxix.26: "And I place his hand on the sea, and his right hand on the rivers. He shall call Me thus: Thou art my Father, my God, and the rock of my salvation. And I will also make him My first-born, the highest of the kings of the earth." The sonship accordingly implies the dominion over the world, which in Ps. ii.7-9 appears, indeed, as inseparably connected with it. -- If the race of David commit sin, it shall be chastened with the rods of men, and with the stripes of the children of men. Ps. xvii.4 distinctly and unambiguously designates corrupt actions -- walking in the ways of transgressors -- as "the works of men." (Compare 1 Sam. xxiv.10; Hos. vi.7; Job xxxi.33, xxiii.12.) Hence, the rods of men, and the stripes of the children of men, are punishments to which all men are subject, because they are sinners, and at which no man needs to be surprised. Grace is not to free the Davidic family from this common lot of mankind, is not to afford to them the privilege of sinning. The mitigation only follows in ver.15, in which the close resumes the beginning: "I will be a father to him." But this mitigation must not be misunderstood by being conceived of as referring to the individuals. Such a conception of it would be opposed to the nature of the thing itself, would be in opposition to 1 Chron. xxviii.9, where David says to Solomon, "If thou seek Him, He will be found of thee; and if thou forsake Him, He will cast thee off for ever:" and would be against history, which shows that the rebellious members of the Davidic dynasty were visited with destroying [Pg 142] judgments. The contrast is rather thus to be understood: sin is to be visited upon the individuals, while the grace abides continually upon the race, -- so that the divine promise is raised to an absolute one. The commentary on it is furnished by Ps. lxxxix.31 seq.: "If his children forsake My law, and walk not in My judgments ... then I will visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. But My loving-kindness will I not withdraw from him, nor will I break My faithfulness." -- The words from "if he commit sin" to "children of men" are awanting in the parallel passage. This omission is intended to make the continuance of the mercy appear the more distinctly, and to show, as indeed is the case, that the main stress is to be laid upon it. We cannot for a moment conceive that any unworthy motive prompted this omission; for the Chronicles were written at a time when the chastening rod of the Lord had already fallen heavily upon the Davidic race. There would have been stronger reasons for adding the words than for omitting them, inasmuch as, under these circumstances, they were full of consolation. It is just upon these words that the penman of Ps. lxxiv. dwells at particular length.

Ver.16. "And thine house and thy kingdom shall be sure for ever before thee, thy throne shall be firm for ever."

The extent to which this prophecy of Nathan bears the character of a fundamental one, appears from the circumstance that almost every word of the verse under review has called forth an echo in later times. [Hebrew: namN] sure, certain, constant, occurs again in Ps. lxxxix.29, compared with ver.38, and in Is. lv.3. The sure (constant) mercies of David, spoken of in the last of these passages, shall be bestowed upon the people of the covenant, in the coming of Christ, by which the perpetuity of the house of David was most fully manifested. The [Hebrew: nkvN], constant, firm, occurs in Mic. iv.1, and the [Hebrew: levlM], for ever, in Ps. lxxii.17, lxxxix.37, xlv.7, and cx.4. The saying of the people in John xii.34, [Greek: hemeis ekousamen ek tou nomou hoti ho Christos menei eis ton aiona], refers, in the first instance, to our passage, and all the other texts quoted may be considered as a commentary.

It is certainly not the result of mere accident, that the twelve verses of Nathan's prophecy are divided into two sections of seven and of five verses respectively, and that the former again is subdivided into sections of three and four verses. Its closing [Pg 143] words, "The Lord will make thee an house," are farther expanded in vers.12-16.

We subjoin to the exposition of Nathan's prophecy, that of David's prayer of thanks, because, by means of the thanks, the promise itself is more clearly brought out.

The Lord has done great things for His servant in his low estate, and has promised things still more glorious, vers.18-21. By doing such glorious things to His servant, He has manifested Himself as a faithful God, in harmony with His revelations in ancient times, vers.22-24. The thanksgivings for the promise are followed in vers.25-29 by a prayer for its fulfilment, intermingled with expressions of hope.

As the promise was expressed in twelve verses, so are the thanks. These twelve verses are again divided into seven and five, and the seven into four and three.

The name of Jehovah occurs twelve times. Ten times is the address directed to Jehovah. Once He is addressed by the simple name of Jehovah, six times by that of Adonai Jehovah, twice by that of Jehovah Elohim, and once by that of Jehovah Zebaoth. The address, Adonai Jehovah, occurs at the beginning and the close. The third division first takes up the name of God which is used in the second, and returns, at the close, to that which is used in the first division. In the parallel passage in Chronicles, Jehovah occurs seven times, and Elohim three times. -- Ten times the servant of the Lord is mentioned in David's prayer, and seven times, the house of David. The servant of the Lord occurs three times in vers.18-21, and seven times in vers.25-29; the house of David twice in 18-21, and five times in vers.25-29. In vers.22-24, where the manifestation of the mercies to David are brought into connection with the glorious revelations of God in ancient times, neither the servant nor the house is mentioned.

Ver.18. "And King David came and sat before the Lord, and said: Who am I, Lord Jehovah, and what my house (literally, who my house, -- the house being conceived of as an ideal person), that Thou hast brought me hitherto?"

Moses also was sitting in long-continued prayer, Exod. xvii.12. David, as a true descendant of Jacob (Gen. xxxii.10), acknowledges his unworthiness of the great mercies bestowed upon him. The comparison of Ps. cxliv.3 is still more striking [Pg 144] than that of Ps. viii.5; for, in the former, the words, "Lord, what is man, that Thou takest knowledge of him; the son of mortal man, that Thou hast regard to him?" were uttered in praise of the adorable mercy which the Lord had shown to his house.

Ver.19. "And this is yet too little in Thy sight, Lord Jehovah; and Thou speakest also to the house of Thy servant of things far distant; and this is the law of man, Lord Jehovah."

The word [Hebrew: tvrh] has only the signification of law. Gesenius, in assigning to it the signification of mos, consuetudo, has no other warrant for it than our passage. The law of any one is the law which has been given for him, or which concerns him; compare Lev. vi.2 (9): "This is the law of the burnt-offering;" Lev. xiii.7: "This is the law for her that hath born;" Lev. xiv.2: "This shall be the law of the leper," etc. Hence the law of man can only be the law regulating the conduct of man. Man is commanded in the law: "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself;" compare Mic. vi.8: "He hath showed, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly before thy God?" The fact that God should, in His conduct towards poor mortals, follow the rule which He hath given to men for their conduct towards one another, and that He shows Himself to be full of mercy and love, cannot but fill him who knows God and himself with adoring wonder. The words in Ps. xviii.36 are parallel: "Thou givest me the shield of Thy salvation, and Thy right hand holdeth me up, and Thy meekness (the parallel passage in 2 Sam. has: 'Thy being low') maketh me great." In the parallel passage in Chronicles the words are these: "And Thou hast regarded me according to the law of man (concerning [Hebrew: tvr] = [Hebrew: tvrh] compare remarks on Song of Sol. i.10), Thou height, Jehovah God." The essential agreement of the sense of the parallel passage with that of the fundamental passage, may be applied as a test to prove the correctness of our exposition. "To regard some one" is used for "to visit some one," "to have intercourse with some one;" compare 2 Sam. iii.13, xiii.5, xiv.24, 28; 2 Kings viii.29. The words, "Thou height" (God is represented as personified height in Ps. xcii.9: "And Thou art a height for evermore, O Lord"), bring out still more prominently the contrast with human lowness, which was already implied in the names of [Pg 145] God, Adonai Jehovah, and Jehovah Elohim, and serves therefore to show still more distinctly the condescension of God, whose revelation on this occasion was a prelude to [Greek: ho logos sarx egeneto]. Luther has introduced into the main text a direct allusion to the incarnation of God in Christ. He translates, "This is the manner of a man who is God the Lord;" and adds, in a marginal note, the following remark: "This means, Thou speakest to me of such an eternal kingdom, in which no one can be king unless he be God and man at the same time, because he is to be my son and yet a king for evermore -- which belongs to God alone." But this single circumstance is sufficient to overthrow this view: -- that in the preceding, as well as in the subsequent context, Adonai Jehovah is always used in the vocative sense.

Ver.20. "And what shall David say more unto Thee? (In the parallel passage: 'As regards the honour for Thy servant.') And Thou knowest Thy servant, Lord Jehovah."

It is not necessary that David should make many words, in order to express his thanks, as his thankful heart lies open before God. In Ps. xl.10, David also appeals to the testimony of the Omniscient as regards his thankful heart: "I preach righteousness in the great congregation; lo, I will not refrain my lips, O Lord, Thou knowest," -- knowest how with my whole heart I am thankful for Thy great mercy. It is, in general, David's practice to appeal to God, the Searcher of hearts; compare, e.g., Ps. xvii.3.

Ver.21. "For Thy word's sake, and according to Thine own heart, hast Thou done all these great things to make Thy servant know them."

In 1 Chron. xvii.19, the words run thus: "Lord, on account of Thy servant, and according to Thine own heart, hast Thou done all these great things, to make known all the glorious things." Hence, by the "word," a promise given to David can alone be intended, -- a word formerly spoken to David, which contained the germ of the present one. There is, no doubt, a special allusion to the word in 1 Sam. xvi.12: "And the Lord said. Arise and anoint him, for this is he." (Compare 2 Sam. xii.7; Ps. lxxxix.21; Acts xiii.22.) According to Thine heart: "The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and [Pg 146] plenteous in mercy," Ps. ciii.8. All these great things, -- i.e. the promise of the eternal dominion of his house. [Hebrew: gdlh] and [Hebrew: gdilh] -- words in which David takes special delight -- never mean "greatness," but always "great things." (Compare remarks on Ps. lxxi.21, cxlv.3.) The words, "To make know," etc., indicate that the making refers, in the meantime, only to the divine decree.

Ver.22. "Wherefore Thou art great, Lord God: for there is none like Thee, neither is there any God besides Thee, according to all that we have heard with our ears."

Wherefore -- in the first instance, on account of the great things which Thou hast done unto me. According to all, etc., i.e., as this is confirmed by all, etc. Of this David has been reminded anew by his personal experience. Just as he does here, David, in Ps. xl.6, rises from his personal experience to the whole series of God's glorious manifestations in the history of His people. As to the words, "There is none like Thee, neither is there any God besides Thee," compare the fundamental passages Exod. xv.11; Deut. iii.24, iv.35.

Ver.23. "And where is there a nation on earth like Thy people Israel, for whose sake God went to redeem them for a people to Himself, and make Him a name, and to do for you great things, and terrible things for Thy land, putting away from before Thy people, whom Thou redeemedst to Thee out of Egypt, heathen and their gods?"

We must here compare the fundamental passages, Deut. iv.7, 34, xxxiii.29, in which that which Israel has received from his God is praised, as being without precedent and parallel. In [Hebrew: lkM] and [Hebrew: larcK] the address is, with poetical liveliness, directed to Israel. For you great things -- instead of, To do for them great things, as the Lord has done for you. The phrase [Hebrew: mpni emK] means, literally, only, "away from before Thy people;" "putting" must be supplied from the preceding [Hebrew: lewit], and from a comparison of the fundamental passages, Exod. xxiii.28, 29, xxxiv.11; Deut. xxxiii.27, to which the concise expression refers. The text in Chronicles, which expressly adds what we have here to supply, [Hebrew: lgrw mpni], "to drive out before," is, in this case also, merely a parallel passage which, by the addition of a word, serves as a commentary.

Ver.24. "And Thou hast confirmed to Thyself Thy people [Pg 147] Israel to be a people for ever, and Thou, Lord, art become their God."

Ver.25. "And now, Jehovah God, the word that Thou hast spoken concerning Thy servant, and concerning his house, establish it for ever, and do as Thou hast said."

Praise and thanks for the promise are followed by the prayer for its fulfilment.

Ver.26. "And let Thy name be magnified for ever, so that it may be said, Jehovah Zebaoth (is) God over Israel. And the house of Thy servant shall be firm before Thee."

Let Thy name be magnified, instead of, Give cause for its being glorified; compare Ps. xxxv.27, xl.17. -- Is God over Israel, i.e., proves Himself to be such, by protecting the house of the king, on whom the salvation of Israel depends. In Chronicles it is thus expressed: "Jehovah Zebaoth, the God of Israel, is God for Israel," i.e.. He fulfils to Israel what He promised (Jarchi). The prayer for the establishment of David's house is expressed in the form of confidence, in the conviction based upon the word of God, that such is according to the will of God.

Ver.27. "For Thou, Jehovah Zebaoth, God of Israel, hast opened the ear of Thy servant, saying, I will build thee an house. Therefore Thy servant found (in) his heart to pray this prayer unto Thee." (Otherwise, his heart would have failed him; he would have had neither the desire nor the courage.) Ver.28. "And now, Lord Jehovah, Thou art God, and Thy words are truth, and Thou hast promised unto Thy servant these good things. Ver.29. And now let it please Thee to bless the house of Thy servant, that it may continue for ever before Thee; for Thou, Lord Jehovah, hast spoken, and, by Thy blessing, the house of Thy servant shall be blessed for ever."

* * * * *

To whom does this promise refer, which David received through Nathan? Some Rabbins, and Grotius, would fain restrict it to Solomon and his more immediate posterity. This opinion, however, is refuted by the single circumstance, that they are compelled to assume merely a long duration of time, instead of the eternity which is here promised to the house of David. And that such cannot be the meaning of the words "for ever," is abundantly confirmed by a comparison with [Pg 148] Ps. lxxxix.30, "And I place his seed for ever, and his throne as the days of heaven." In these words of the Psalm there is a reference to Deut. xi.21, where the people of the Lord are promised a duration "as the days of heaven and of earth." An absolute perpetuity is everywhere ascribed to the people of God. If, then, the house of David is placed on the same level as they, its perpetuity must likewise be absolute. Further, -- with such a view, it is impossible to comprehend what David here says in his prayer, regarding the greatness of the promise, and also what he says in Ps. cxxxviii.2: "For Thou hast magnified Thy word above all Thy name." The giving of the promise is there placed on a loftier elevation than all the former deeds of the Lord.

Others -- as Calovius -- would refer the promise to Christ alone. But vers.14, 15 are decisive against this view; for, according to them, God will not, by a total rejection, punish the posterity of David, if they commit sin, -- from which the reference is evident to a posterity merely human, and hence sinful. According to ver.13, David's posterity is to build a temple to the Lord, -- a declaration which, with reference to David's plan of building a temple to the Lord, can, in the first instance, be understood in no other way than as relating to the earthly temple to be built by Solomon. To this consideration it may be added, that, in 1 Chron. xxii.9 seqq., David himself refers this announcement primarily to Solomon, and that Solomon, in 1 Kings v.5 seqq., and in 2 Chron. vi.7 seqq., refers it to himself.

Nor is there entire soundness in the view of those who, following Augustine (de Civitate Dei xvii.8, 9), assume the existence of a double reference, -- to Solomon and his earthly successors on the one hand, and to Christ on the other. Thus Brentius: "Solomon is not altogether excluded, but Christ is chiefly intended." It is true that these interpreters are substantially right in their view; but they err as to the manner in which they give expression to it. The promise has not a reference to two subjects simultaneously.[6] It views David's house as an ideal unity.

[Pg 149]

The promise is given to the house of David, vers.11, 16, 19, 25, 26, 27, 29; to his seed, ver.12. It is to the house of David that the absolute perpetuity of existence, the unchangeable possession of the grace of God -- a relation to God similar to that of a son to his father -- and the inseparable connection of their dominion with the kingdom of God in Israel, are guaranteed.

There is no direct mention of the person of the Messiah; and yet the words, when considered in their full import, point, indirectly, to Him. The absolute perpetuity of the race can be conceived of, only when at last it centres in some superhuman person. But still more decisive is the connection in which this promise stands to Gen. xlix. The dominion which is there promised to Judah is here transferred to David. It is then to David's race that the exalted individual must belong, in whom, according to Gen. xlix.10, Judah's dominion is to centre at some future period. That David really connected the promise which he received with Gen. xlix.10, is shown by 1 Chron. xxviii.4 (compare p.91), and also by the name, Solomon, which he gave to his son; compare ibid. That Solomon also founded his hopes regarding the future upon a combination of Gen. xlix. and 2 Sam. vii., is shown by Ps. lxxii., which was composed by him; compare pp.91, 92.

But, as respects this combination, David was not left to himself. He received further light from the source from which the promise had come to him. Although his mission was not properly a prophetic one, -- although, in the main, it belonged to him to describe poetically what had come to him through prophetic inspiration, yet prophetic inspiration and sacred lyric are frequently commingled in him. The man who is "the sweet psalmist of Israel" claims a [Hebrew: naM] in 2 Sam. xxiii.1, and, in ver.2, says that the Spirit of God spake by him, and His word was upon his tongue. In Acts ii.30, 31, Peter declares that, by the divine promise, David received, first the impulse, and afterwards further illumination, by the prophetic spirit dwelling in him. The latter declaration, moreover, rests on the testimony of the Lord Himself, in Matt. xxii.43, where He says that in Ps. cx., David had spoken [Greek: en pneumati] i.e., seized with the Holy Spirit.

Footnote 1: Seb. Schmid says: "He thought that this duty was imposed upon him by the Word of God. For, as the state enjoyed peace, the royal palace was finished, and his family established, there seemed to be nothing wanting but to build a temple to the Lord."

Footnote 2: In 1 Kings viii.16, Solomon thus reports what, in 2 Sam. vii., had been spoken to David, in reference to the house of the Lord: "Since the day that I brought up My people Israel out of Egypt, I chose no city out of all the tribes of Israel to build an house that My name might be in it; and I chose David to be over My people Israel." The comment on this passage is given by the parallel one, 2 Chron. vi.5, 6: "I did not choose any man to be a ruler over My people Israel. And I have chosen Jerusalem that My name might be there, and I have chosen David to be over My people Israel." Since David resided in Jerusalem, the election of David, announced in 2 Sam. vii., implies also the choice of Jerusalem as the place of the sanctuary. Hence, we must add to 1 Kings viii.16, the supplement: "And in connection with this choice, David (the Davidic dynasty) is to build Me an house at the place of his residence." The Vulgate translates very correctly: Sed elegi. Solomon then continues, Ver. 17: "And it was in the heart of David my father (namely, before he received this divine revelation) to build an house for the name of the Lord, the God of Israel. Ver. 18. And the Lord said unto David my father, Whereas it was in thine heart to build an house unto My name, thou didst well that it was in thine heart. Ver. 19. And thou shalt not build the house; but thy son that shall come forth out of thy loins, he shall build the house unto My name."

Footnote 3: Seb. Schmid says: "He rightly considers the tribes and the judges as one. For the tribes are viewed in the judges who had sprung from them, and vice versa, the judge, in his paternal tribe. And that the matter is thus to be understood, is clear, because, in Chronicles, where the judge is spoken of, he is introduced in the plural: 'Why have ye not built Me an house,' etc.? viz., thou, judge, with thy tribe."

Footnote 4: That [Hebrew: nvh], properly "habitation," "abode," is used here, as frequently, of the sheep-cote, is shown by Ps. lxxxviii.70, which is based upon our passage.

Footnote 5: Michaelis says: "Just as in the preceding verses also, the house of David did not mean a heap of stones and wood brought together, but a congregation of people."

Footnote 6: This mistake was corrected by Seb. Schmid. He says: "The promises here given to David have, of course, a reference to Solomon; but not such as if they were to be fulfilled only in the person of Solomon, and not also in his posterity, and, most of all, in the Messiah to be descended from David and Solomon."

It is true that, in a series of Psalms, David is not any more [Pg 150] explicit and definite than the fundamental prophecy, but speaks only of the grace which the Lord had conferred upon the Davidic race by the promise of a dominion which should outlast all earthly things. Thus it is in Ps. xviii., where, in the presence of the congregation, he offers those thanks which previously he had, as it were, privately expressed, for the glorious promise made to him; -- in Ps. xi., where, in the name of the people, he expresses thankful joy for this same promise; -- in Ps. lxi. and in the cycle of Psalms from Ps. cxxxviii. to cxlv. -- the prophetic legacy of David -- in which, at the beginning, in Ps. cxxxviii., he praises the Lord for His promise of eternal mercy given to him, and then, with the torch of promise, lightens up the darkness of the sufferings that are to fall upon this house, -- Psalms with which Ps. lxxxix. and cxxxix., which were composed at a later period, and by other writers, are closely connected.

But there are other Psalms (ii. and cx.) in which David, with a distinctness which can be accounted for only by divine revelation, beholds the Messiah in whose coming the promise in 2 Sam. vii. should find its final and complete fulfilment. Whilst David, in these Psalms, represents the Messiah as his antitype, as the mighty conqueror, who will not rest until He shall have subjected the whole earth to His sway, Solomon, in Ps. lxxii., represents Him as the true Prince of Peace, and His dominion, as a just and peaceful rule. The circumstances of the time of Solomon form, in a similar way, the foundation for the description of the Messiah in Ps. xlv., which was written by the sons of Korah.

A personal Messianic element is contained in some of those Davidic Psalms also which refer to the ideal person of the righteous one, whose image we at last find fully portrayed in the Book of Wisdom. In these the sufferings of the righteous one in a world of sin are described, as well as the glorious issue to which he attains by the help of the Lord. After his own experience, David could not have doubted that, notwithstanding the glorious promise of the Lord, severe sufferings were impending over his family, and over Him in whom that family was, at some future time, to centre. But his own experience likewise promised a glorious issue to these sufferings. The Psalms in which, besides the reference to the righteous one, and to the [Pg 151] people, the allusion to the afflictions of the Davidic race, and to the suffering Messiah, most plainly appear, are the xxii., the cii., and the cix.

There cannot be any doubt that the Messianic promise made considerable progress in the time of David. It is, in itself, a circumstance of great importance that the eyes of the people were henceforth directed to a definite family; for, thereby, their hopes acquired greater consistency. Further, -- The former prophecies were, all of them, much shorter, and more in the shape of hints; but, now, their hopes could become detailed descriptions, because a substratum was given to them in the present. The Messiah had been foretold to David as a successor to his throne, -- as a King. Hence it was, that, in the view of David himself and of the other psalmists, the earthly head of the Congregation of the Lord formed the substratum for the future Saviour. The naked thought now clothed itself with flesh and blood. The hope gained thereby in clearness and distinctness, as well as in practical significance.

The slight hint of a higher nature of the Messiah, given in Gen. xlix.8, forms the main ground for the advancing and more definite knowledge, which we find in the days of David and Solomon. Grand and lofty expectations could, henceforth, not fail to be connected with the promise in 2 Sam. vii.14, "I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to Me," and with the prophecy of the absolute perpetuity of dominion, in the same passage. In Ps. ii.12, the Messiah appears as the Son of God [Greek: kat' exochen], -- as He, in whom to trust is to be saved, and whose anger brings destruction. In Ps. cx.1, He appears as the Lord of the Congregation and of David himself, -- as sitting at the right hand of omnipotence, and as invested with a full participation in the divine power over heaven and earth. In Ps. lxxi. eternity of dominion is ascribed to Him. In Ps. xlv.7, 8, He is called God, Elohim.

Among the offices of Christ, it is especially the Regal office on which a clear light has been shed. The Messiah appears prominently as He "who has dominion from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth," Ps. lxxii.8. In Ps. cx., however, the office of the Messiah as the eternal High Priest is first revealed to the congregation. He appears as the person who atones for whatever sins cleave to His people, as their Intercessor [Pg 152] and Advocate with God, and as the Mediator of the closest communion with God. We have here the outlines, for the filling up of which Isaiah was, at a later period, called. The Prophetic office of the Saviour does not distinctly appear in the Psalms. It was reserved for Isaiah to bring out into a clearer light the allusion given, on this subject, by Moses, after it had been taken up again, for the first time since Moses' day, by the prophet Joel.

It was quite natural that David, who himself was exercised and proved by the cross, should be the first to introduce to the knowledge of the Church a suffering Messiah. But the doctrine has with him still the character of a germ; he still mixes up the references to the Messiah with the allusions to His types. It was from these that David rose to Him; it was from their destiny that David, by the Holy Spirit, inferred what would befall Him. Nowhere, however, has David directly and exclusively to do with a suffering Messiah, as had, afterwards, the prophet Isaiah.

In all that respects the Psalms, we must content ourselves with merely a passing glance, lest we encroach too much upon the territory which belongs to the Commentary on the Psalms. But "the last words of David," preserved to us in the Books of Samuel, we shall make the subject of a more minute consideration, inasmuch as they form a connecting link between the two classes of Psalms which rest on the promise in 2 Sam. vii., viz., those referring to David's house and family, and those relating to the personal Messiah. The "ruler among men" whom we meet in these "last words," is, in the first instance, an ideal person, -- viz., the Davidic race conceived of as a person; but the ideal points to the real person, in whom all that had been foretold of the Davidic family should, at some future period, find its full realization. It is with a view to this person, that the personification has been employed.

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