When your [King David’s] days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I [God] will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, he will be My son. When he commits iniquity, I will chastise him with the rod of men, but I will not take My steadfast love from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before Me, and your throne shall be established forever.
—2nd Samuel 7:12-16
click here for saint’s sermon.
saint is correct in pointing out that the real problem here is the unconditional nature of this promise by God. After all, if there were an “if” involved, it would be easy enough to explain this away as saying “God kept His word, it was the Kings of Israel who fudged up.”
I have five Biblical references that show that this might have been conditional after all.
(Psalm 89:3-4) “You have said, ‘I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to David my servant, “I will established your descendants forever, and build your throne for all generations.” ’ ” This Psalm specifically refers to a “covenant,” though it does not stipulate the conditions of it.
(Psalm 132:11-12) “The Lord swore to David sure oath from which He would not turn back: ‘One of the sons of your body I will set upon your throne. If your sons keep my covenant and my testimonies which I shall teach them, their sons forever shall sit upon your throne.’ ” Here we have God’s promise, but with that all-important if.
(1st Kings 8:25) “Now therefore, O Lord, God of Israel, keep with your servant David my father what you have promised him, saying, ‘There shall never fail you a man before Me to sit upon the throne of Israel, if only your sons take heed to their way, to walk before Me as you have walked before me.’ ” This is from a speech attributed to Solomon at the dedication of the newly-built Temple. You will remember that the main context of the 2nd Samuel promise was God telling David his son shall build Him a Temple, for which he will be rewarded with a house, kingdom, and throne forever. This is Solomon keeping his end of that bargain, and his understanding is that it is conditional.
(1st Kings 9:4-7) “And as for you [Solomon] if you walk before Me [God] as David your father walked before me, with integrity in your heart and uprightness, doing accord to all that I have commanded you, and keeping my statutes and my ordinances, then I will establish your throne over Israel forever, as I David your Father, saying ‘there shall not fail you a man upon the throne of Israel.’ But if you turn aside from following Me, you or your children, and do not keep My commandments and My statutes which I have set before you, but go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land which I have given them, and the house which I have consecrated for My name I will cast out of My site, and Israel will become a proverb and a byword among all peoples.”
(2nd Chronicles 7:17-18) “And as for you [Solomon] if you walk before Me [God] as David your father walked before me, doing according to all that I have commanded you, and keeping my statutes and my ordinances, then I will establish your royal throne, as I covenanted with David your Father, saying ‘there shall not fail you a man to rule Israel.’ But if you [plural!] turn aside and forsake My statutes and My commandments which I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will pluck them up from the land which I have given them, and the house which I have consecrated for My name, I will cast out of My site, and make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples.”
The two Psalms above were not written by David (only 71 of the were) and Kings is also comparatively late. The Chronicles passage is—like the entirety of the Books of Chronicles—a very late redundant rehashing of Samuel and Kings, that alternates plagiarism with nearly absurd . In its defense, though, 1st Chronicles 17:13-14 does give essentially (though not precisely) the same wording as 2nd Samuel 7’s promise, in that there is no condition recorded. saint points out that the 2nd Samuel passage shows signs of being written early compared to the text around it. The early source has no “if” but the later ones do. The 1st Kings 9:4-7 quote above is God Himself restating that promise to Solomon, but with the all-important conditional if/then. It could be argued, I think persuasively, that the five references to this promise cited above were altered to include that all-important “if” precisely to explain why this promise fell through. The Kings of Israel broke the deal.
Of course, if that’s the case, then things should have fallen apart immediately, because the first King to break his end of the bargain was Solomon himself.
For when Solomon was old, his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to The Lord his God as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcolm the abomination of the Ammonites. So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of The Lord, and did not wholly follow The Lord as David his father had done. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem. And so he did for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods.
—1st Kings 11:4-8
Ah, shade, that’s why I love ya: no telling what mischief you can cause with some free time and a concordance.
I still stand on my original thesis, however, and here’s why: it doesn’t matter how subsequent generations interpreted the promise, the wording of the promise itself as it was made is what matters. There is no condition in the original promise. God’s restatement of the promise to Solomon in 1st Kings 9:4-7 smacks of being a much later insertion that was thrown in precisely to explain why things went wrong. Verse 8 of it (which you omitted) even mentions “And this house (ie: The Temple) will become a heap of ruins...” which pretty much pinpoints that it was written after the destruction by the Babylonians. It is curious that God would wait so long to invoke this negation of the promise and bring about the destruction threatened, considering that so many of the subsequent Kings strayed from Him—starting, as you pointed out, with Solomon himself in his old age.
Besides, the belief that it was up to subsequent Kings of Israel to uphold their end of this is undone by the wording of the original promise: “When he commits iniquity, I will chastise him with the rod of men, but I will not take My steadfast love from him... and your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever.”
This original passage is a promise, not a covenant. And it is one that fell through.
I just had a chance to look over the passage. It could be God stating that David’s descendant, Jesus, would sit upon the Throne forever. This could be applicable, except for the “When he commits iniquity, I will chastise him with the rod of men...” part. ???
Actually, I think you answered your own objection for me better than I could. But let’s expound...
That this promise/passage is a reference to Jesus would seem to be the most common interpretation among the “Orthodox,” but that angle is fatally flawed for at least two reasons: 1) it means no one was on the “Throne of Heaven” before Jesus, and 2) it seems to preclude any type of Divine plan towards Jesus—or at the very least casts a disturbingly human element onto Jesus that is incompatible with Orthodox views of a Divine Christ.
Let me elaborate that second point. You already point out the question of ‘why would this promise bring up a need to ‘chastise him for iniquity’?’ If Jesus were working in accordance with a Divine Plan, that ‘chastisement clause’ would not be necessary. More to the point, later revisions of this promise, which shade sites above as having the “if/then” condition, would not be necessary as they, too, by their simple inclusion bring up the possibility that something might go wrong with the “Jesus plan.” At the very least, it calls into question God’s omniscience: why would God even include such a negative condition, unless there were the possibility of it being enacted. In much the same way, it calls into question Jesus’s commitment to this Divine Plan—why include a ‘penalty clause’ unless there were the possibility of enacting it?
There is one final problem with viewing this as an extremely early Jesus foreshadowing, though it is actually possible to discount the objection. In the original 2nd Samuel promise wording versus all subsequent interpretations, the number of people being referred to seemingly shifts from singular to multiple. 2nd Samuel refers initially to “offspring” (at best ambiguous, in it could be both one or more people) but then is consistent with singular references to this “offspring”: “he”, “him” etc. The subsequent reworkings of this initial promise are all in the plural: “sons” (Psalm 132 and 1st Kings 8), “children” (1st Kings 9) and a Hebraically plural “you” in 2nd Chronicles 7. shade correctly points out that subsequent interpretations (and such rewritings there-of) added the “if/then” clause, and tinkered with the wording to make it refer to multiple people, specifically any of David’s children occupying the role of King. However, in my rebuttal to shade I rejected subsequent reinterpretations as just that—reinterpretations—and I am most concerned with the original promise. The “he” given as an example in 2nd Samuel could be seen as to referring to either one person (in your case, Jesus), or as a case-by-case example for anyone falling under the “offspring” category. Ambiguous at best, but the context makes me think it is referring to David’s immediate successors. Indeed, if only one person were to be nominated as the “he” it would be Solomon, who did indeed build God a house (The Temple.) Of course, you can reach into metaphor and argue Jesus did the same thing during his ministry, but I think that’s stretching both linguistics and credulity.
Ultimately, it seems wrong to apply the 2nd Samuel promise to just Jesus, and I suspect that the only reason the Orthodox have done so is out of a “sour grapes” mentality: at face value the promise fell through if it is applied to David's immediate descendents, and since such Orthodox are horrified by the idea of God reneging on His word, seek to apply it to something else to force it to fit. And by their own criteria, that is wrong, as it twists the very word of God.