The Davidic Covenant
“When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come 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” (vv. 12–13).- 2 Samuel 7:1–17
Ancient Near Eastern monarchs frequently commissioned temples for their gods. So, it makes sense that David would want to build a temple for the God of Israel. The only difference was that the God of Israel is the only true God. Today’s passage tells us of David’s desire to build a temple to house the ark of God, and it tells us also about the Lord’s response.
Second Samuel 7:1–17 is one of the most important passages in the entire Bible for understanding God’s covenantal plan of salvation. The Davidic covenant recorded therein is also the high point of the Old Testament Historical Books. Everything that happened before this covenant led up to it, and everything that occurred after it—including the institution of the new covenant—refers in some way back to it. In this covenant, we see that David would not build a house or temple for God; rather, the Lord would build David a house.
After David expressed to Nathan the prophet his desire to build a temple, God responded that He did not need a house and that He had asked no one to build Him one (vv. 1–7). This was not a condemnation of David’s intent, for as we will see, God would allow David to plan for a temple for Yahweh, and Solomon would build it. David could not build the house of God because it was not yet time. The Lord would first give His people a fuller rest from their enemies, and this would not take place until after the death of David, for war would characterize his life. A temple could not be built because the Lord was unwilling to rest until His people could fully rest (vv. 8–11; see 1 Chron. 22:2–10).
Our Creator’s covenant with David reveals His grace. God said that He would be the One to make a house for David and to establish the throne of David’s son forever (2 Sam. 7:11–13). There is nothing here about what David did or would do. Moreover, God’s grace is seen in that the kingdom promised to David’s family is eternal, unlike Saul’s kingdom; the sins of David and his line would not prompt God to remove His love from David’s descendants (vv. 14–17). It is not that the sins of David’s house would go unpunished, however, for the Lord pledged to discipline David’s line for its transgressions (vv. 14–15).
Christ finally fulfills the Davidic covenant. Jesus was punished for the sins of both David’s line and all of God’s people. The love of God for David’s house is seen preeminently in His raising Christ from the dead (Isa. 53). God’s eternal love for Christ overflows into His eternal love for David and for all who trust in Christ alone (John 17:23).
The early church father Cyprian of Carthage writes that the Davidic covenant points finally to Christ and His church: “Christ should be the house and temple of God and that the old temple should cease, and the new one should begin.” God builds David’s house as He saves souls and unites them in the church. We are the temple David wanted to build, Christ being the cornerstone. Let that motivate us to holiness, for it is fitting that Christ’s house be holy.
Passages for Further Study
1 Chronicles 17:1–15