2 Samuel 7:8–17, 22–24comment (0)
July 4, 2013
By jeffery M. Leonard
Related Scripture: 2 Samuel 7:8–17, 22–24
Bible Studies for Life
Assistant Professor of Religion, Samford University
God Establishes a Kingdom for His People
2 Samuel 7:8–17, 22–24
Establishing a Place (8–11a)
The road that led from Israel’s earliest days to the great kingship of David was a rocky one. The historical traditions preserved in the Bible suggest rule by kings was a concept alien to ancient Israelite society. Like the patriarchs who went before them, Moses and then Joshua served the Israelites as charismatic leaders more on a par with Scottish chieftains than with Oriental dynasts. This tradition persisted in the time of the judges as individuals rose to meet specific challenges, leading the people as first among equals not as kings.
As the Book of Judges outlines the tenures of the leaders raised up during this period, though, it also reveals the growing inadequacy of this form of leadership for a developing nation. Unable to unite the warring tribes in support of their own defense, the judges were largely ineffective in repelling the military assaults of their neighbors. Lacking the bully pulpit of the throne, judges could only watch as the nation slid into the religious and moral anarchy (Judg. 19–21). Even the great judge Samuel could not rein in the wayward sons who were to succeed him (1 Sam. 8:1–5). The stage was set for Israel’s first king, Saul.
Tall enough to look the Philistines in the eye, handsome enough to win the hearts of the people, the scion of a notable family, Saul seemed well-suited to be king. Unfortunately, the Bible records that Saul never lived up to the great promise he once held for leading the people. Failing to deliver the people from their enemies, Saul finds his popularity undermined and slowly descends from jealousy into madness. His end is as tragic as his reign as he dies next to his son Jonathan in a battle on Mount Gilboa.
Establishing an Eternal Kingdom (11b–17)
The deaths of Saul and Jonathan catapult David to the throne. The unlikelihood of this ascent to power is recalled in God’s words to the king: “I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock and appointed you ruler over my people Israel” (2 Sam. 7:8). There is, of course, a high level of political shrewdness in the consolidation of David’s power and in the success of his reign. Israel would be ruled by other kings, though, who were equally shrewd and decidedly more powerful. Yet none of these kings would touch David’s revered status in the nation’s memory. In part, at least, this reverence is explained by the unmatched passion of David’s commitment to Israel’s God.
For all of his many flaws, David remained unflinchingly devoted to God, as powerfully so in his failures as in his successes. Even his impertinent request to build a house for God stems from the devotion of his heart. Yet David’s great loyalty to God is dramatically superseded by God’s own loyalty to David. God promises to make David a great king, to empower him to give rest to his people, to be David’s father and take David as His son. And while God refuses to let David build a house for Him, He promises instead to build an eternal house for David.
Establishing a Divine Purpose (22–24)
Regrettably God’s great covenant with David was no guarantee that the king and his descendants would remain loyal to God. In just a few short chapters, David will spiral into adultery and murder. Those who follow David on the throne will prove false as often as they are true. Finally the line of Davidic kings will seem to stop altogether, and David’s once great kingdom will be reduced to a hollow shell of its former glory. In a confusing blow to hope, God’s promise to David will seem scandalously to have failed. It is just at this point, though, that a much later generation of Israelites will hear words that breathe new life into God’s ancient promise: “This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David” (Matt. 1:1). After so many years of expectation, God’s word to David is finally, unexpectedly fulfilled in this newly anointed king.