Old Testament Survey - Lesson 17

Davidic Covenant

In this lesson, you will explore the historical significance of 2 Samuel 7 and 1 Chronicles 17, focusing on the Davidic covenant—a pivotal moment in biblical theology that has shaped the understanding of Israel's history and destiny. You will learn about Yahweh’s promise to King David, which establishes a perpetual dynasty, not through the construction of physical structures but through the lineage of David himself, symbolizing a profound shift from temporal architectural feats to an eternal spiritual legacy. This promise is not only foundational for the Israelites but extends its significance to the entire realm of biblical prophecy and interpretation, influencing subsequent scriptures and the messianic expectations that permeate both the Old and New Testaments. 

Daniel Block
Old Testament Survey
Lesson 17
Watching Now
Davidic Covenant

I. Introduction to the Lesson

A. Focus on 2 Samuel 7 and 1 Chronicles 17

B. Importance of the Davidic Covenant

C. Contextual and Theological Significance

II. The Davidic Covenant Described

A. Initial Conversation between David and Nathan

B. God’s Response through Nathan

1. Rejection of David's plan to build a temple

2. God's plan to establish David’s house

C. God's Promises to David

1. Establishment of David's name and security for Israel

2. Eternal nature of David’s throne

3. Conditional and unconditional aspects of the covenant

III. Significance and Interpretation

A. Hermeneutical Significance

1. Role in understanding other biblical texts

2. Connections to Psalms and prophetic books

B. Theological Implications

1. God's sovereignty and human leadership

2. The universal scope of the Davidic covenant

IV. Historical and Future Perspectives

A. Historical Context and David’s Understanding

1. David’s response to the covenant

2. David's recognition of the covenant's significance

B. Future Implications and Messianic Expectations

1. Expectation of an eternal kingdom

2. The covenant as a foundation for messianic hope

V. Reflections in Later Texts and Traditions

A. Reflections in the Psalms

1. Themes of mercy and faithfulness

2. The perpetuity of the covenant expressed in worship

B. Prophetic Books and the New Testament

1. Reinforcement of Davidic themes in prophecy

2. Realization of the Davidic covenant in the life of Jesus

VI. Conclusion

A. Summary of Key Points

B. The Enduring Legacy of the Davidic Covenant

  • Learning about the First Testament's language, geographical, and cultural contexts, and how these factors contribute to its frequent misinterpretation and underappreciation in modern times.
  • Gain insights into the literary and cosmic foundations of grace and glory in the Torah, understanding its role as more than law.
  • Learn that to be made in God's image entails embodying divine qualities and functioning as His representative on Earth, which extends a universal dignity upon all humans and shapes a theological ethic that influences how you treat others.
  • Genesis 1-3 frames human response to divine creation, emphasizing human dignity, work's moral role, free will's consequences, and the persistent grace amid sin.
  • This lesson reviews the Israelite covenant, understanding its stages, implications, and its role in God's redemptive plan.
  • Gain insights into Abraham's covenant with God, exploring his faith and God's promises.
  • Learn how the Exodus from Egypt marked Israel's transformation from a family to a nation under Yahweh.
  • Understand how the covenant at Sinai transforms Israel from slaves into a treasured nation destined for a divine mission, fulfilling God's ancient promises.
  • This lesson covers the covenantal expectations at Sinai. The covenantal agreement provided a constitutional and ethical framework for societal living, focusing on community rights and responsibilities.
  • In this lesson, you gain insight into how the tabernacle was both a physical manifestation of God's presence and a profound symbol of His grace, emphasizing the holiness and detailed guidance He provided to the Israelites for worship and daily life.
  • Gain insights into Deuteronomy, recognizing its focus on teaching rather than legislation, and understanding Moses' role as an instructor of Yahweh's will.
  • In this lesson, you explore how to interpret the First Testament's historiographic writings, emphasizing the divine inspiration and literary artistry that guide the selective storytelling and theological themes.
  • Learn how the books of Joshua and Judges illustrate the fulfillment and failure of Israel's covenant with Yahweh, highlighting divine promise, cultural assimilation, and the cyclical nature of faith and apostasy.
  • The Book of Ruth, highlights divine providence, social justice, and personal righteousness while exploring the role of Boaz as a pivotal figure in maintaining the lineage of King David.
  • Samuel had a significant yet complex role in Israel's history; judge, priest, prophet, and crucial figure in establishing monarchy.
  • Learn of David's central role in the Bible, understanding his unique portrayal and the extensive attention he receives compared to other figures.
  • Learn about the Davidic covenant's role in shaping biblical history and theology, emphasizing its eternal impact on Israel and beyond.
  • The books of Kings and Chronicles use historical events to underline theological themes, highlighting the role of scribes in documenting Israel’s history.
  • In this lesson on 1 and 2 Kings, review the downfall of Israel through kings' forgetfulness of God's covenants.
  • Learn about Solomon's temple's historical and theological significance, its divine design and purpose, and its role in Israelite worship and communal life.
  • Gain insights into the transformation and resilience of the Judean people during their exile in Babylon from 586-539 BC, exploring their struggles and adaptations in a new socio-political and religious context.
  • Learn about Daniel's exemplary life in Babylon, his integrity, and his prophetic visions, which highlight divine sovereignty and the vindication of the faithful amidst calamities.
  • Review the Persian period's impact on the Jewish diaspora, analyze the Book of Esther's literary and theological significance, and reflect on divine providence and cultural identity.
  • Explore the crucial roles of Ezra and Nehemiah in reconstructing the Jewish community and faith post-exile, understanding their historical significance, source materials, and theological insights.
  • Gain insight into the roles and significance of prophets in ancient Israel, learning about their historical context, and their critical function in guiding and correcting the nation through direct communication from Yahweh.
  • Learn about the lives and ministries of prophets Amos and Hosea, their calls for justice and return to divine covenant amidst Israel's political and spiritual turmoil, through prophetic books that blend personal biography with national prophecy.
  • This lesson reviews Jonah's struggle with divine grace and Micah's advocacy for justice and the messianic hope.
  • In this lesson, you learn how Isaiah's vision portrays the Messiah as king, servant, and conqueror, emphasizing his divine roles and global mission.
  • Learn of the political and social contexts of Jeremiah and Ezekiel's exile, including Babylon's rise, Jerusalem's fall, and the crisis of faith portrayed in Lamentations, emphasizing hope amid despair through God's faithfulness.
  • Learn about Jeremiah's life and prophetic ministry, navigating challenges with kings, themes in the Book of Jeremiah, and profound passages on true religion and a future covenant, offering lessons on prophetic burdens, God's faithfulness, and spiritual transformation.
  • Explore Ezekiel's life as a priest in exile, his bizarre actions, and profound messages revealing Yahweh's passion and eternal promises of judgment and restoration.
  • Learn about Nahum and Joel's prophecies on judgment, hope, and Yahweh's character. Explore the day of the Lord and the expansion of the covenant community.
  • Explore Obadiah, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah's prophecies. Discover themes of judgment, faith, and restoration in God's plan.
  • Gain insight into Haggai's role in motivating temple rebuilding during the Persian rule. His brief yet impactful ministry fosters hope and action amid community disillusionment, recoginizing God's presence and reign.
  • Gain deep insight into Hebrew poetry: its forms, parallelism, acrostics, and emotional depth. Explore its celebration and lamentation of Yahweh's glory.
  • Gain insight into Psalms which reflect diverse emotions and experiences. Structured into five divisions, attributed to various authors, their interpretation involves understanding Torah context, literary devices, and applying timeless principles to life.
  • Explore biblical wisdom's depth: from practical skill to moral insight, rooted in the fear of Yahweh. It contrasts with secular knowledge, emphasizing God's order and universal application.
  • Engage with Proverbs to unravel its diverse wisdom, from aphorisms to discourses. Understand its practical guidance for righteous living and leadership.
  • Discover the Song of Songs, a rich exploration of love's nature. From its allegorical interpretations to its celebration of covenantal love, it examines human relationships with wisdom and depth.
  • The book of Job offers insights into faith and suffering, exploring theological themes and character dynamics. It emphasizes trust in God amid life's most difficult trials.
  • Uncover Ecclesiastes' profound journey from despair to hope. Koheleth's existential ponderings contrast with the narrator's faith, urging a shift from worldly pursuits to finding fulfillment in God's sovereignty.

This Old Testament Survey course offers a deep exploration of the Old Testament's literary structure, divine covenants, and historical context. Lessons cover the Pentateuch, emphasizing its narrative over legalistic interpretations, and extend through key biblical figures like Abraham and Moses. Topics such as the covenant at Sinai, the concept of imago Dei, and the tabernacle rituals highlight the continuity of God's grace and the ethical implications of divine laws. The course critically addresses common misconceptions, the role of the Torah as instruction, and the portrayal of God’s plan, underscoring the relevance and complexity of these ancient texts.

Dr. Daniel Block 
Old Testament Survey
Davidic Covenant
Lesson Transcript


The subject of our study in this lesson is 2 Samuel 7, primarily, and secondarily, 1 Chronicles 17, the Davidic covenant. We have not done it often in our instruction here on the First Testament, but this text is so critical for the history of the dynasty, the history of Israel, and biblical theology that we need to hear this text from the inspired author who penned this account before we talk about it. Now when the king lived in his house, and Yahweh had given him rest from all his surrounding enemies, the king said to Nathan the prophet, See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells in a tent.

And Nathan said to the king, Go, do whatever is on your mind, for Yahweh is with you. But that same night the word of Yahweh came to Nathan, Go and tell my servant David, Thus says Yahweh, Would you build me a house to dwell in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent for my dwelling. Wherever I have moved with all the people of Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, Why have you not built me a house of cedar? Now therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, Thus says Yahweh of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel.

And I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and will plant them so they may dwell in their own place, and be disturbed no more.

And violent men will no longer afflict them as they have in the past, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, Yahweh declares to you that Yahweh will make for you a house.

When your days are fulfilled, and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.

I will be to him a father, and he will be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with a rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men. But my unfailing love, Chesed, will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I dismissed from before you.

And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever." In keeping with all these words, and in keeping with this entire vision, Nathan spoke to David. Then King David went in and sat before Yahweh and said, Who am I, O Adonai Yahweh, Lord Yahweh, and what is my house that you've brought me this far? And yet this was a small thing in your eyes, O Adonai Yahweh.

You have spoken also of your servant's house concerning the distant future, and this is a Torah for humanity, O Adonai Yahweh. And what more can David say to you? For you know your servant, O Lord Yahweh, because of your promise and according to your own decision, your own heart, mind really, you have performed this entire great act to make your servant know it. Therefore you are great, O Lord Yahweh, for there is none like you, there is no God besides you, according to all that we have heard with our ears.

And who is like your people Israel, the one nation on earth whom God went to redeem to be his people, making himself a name and doing for them great and awesome things by driving out before your people whom you redeemed for yourself from Egypt, a nation and its gods. And you established for yourself your people Israel to be your people forever, and you, O Yahweh, became their God. And now, O Adonai Yahweh, confirm forever the word that you have spoken concerning your servant and concerning his house, and do as you have spoken.

And your name will be magnified forever, saying, Yahweh of hosts is God over Israel, and the house of your servant David will be established before you. For you, O Yahweh of hosts, the God of Israel, have made this revelation to your servant, saying, I will build you a house. Therefore your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to you.

And now, O Lord Yahweh, you are God, your words are true, and you have promised this good thing, that's covenant benefaction, to your servant. Now therefore may it please you to bless the house of your servant so that it may continue forever before you. For you, O Lord Yahweh, have spoken, and with your blessing the house of your servant will be blessed forever.

2 Samuel 7, 1 to 29, from the ESV version, Adapted in Places. Well, this is a fascinating and important text. Robert Gordon, a scholar on the books of Samuel, labels 2 Samuel 7 the ideological summit not only of the Deuteronomistic history but also of the Hebrew Bible as a whole.

This oracle by Nathan constitutes the title deed of David, the Davidic dynasty, to the rule of Israel and Judah. It exercised authority over Israel, that is, all twelve tribes, only until 931 BC when the northern ten tribes broke away, but over Judah it lasted for some 400 years until 586 BC. While an understanding of this text is crucial for interpreting the Deuteronomistic history, especially all of Samuel and Kings, as we will see, its hermeneutical significance extends far beyond this document to the Psalter, the Prophets, the New Testament Gospel, and the Apocalypse of John.

The word covenant is strangely absent from this chapter on the Davidic covenant. However, it does surface in a later allusion to this oracle. In 2 Samuel 23, 5, David speaks of God's dynastic promise as an eternal covenant.

In Psalm 89, 3, Ethan the Ezraite opens up his celebration of the blessings promised to David with, I will sing of the mercies of Yahweh forever to all generations. I will make known your faithfulness with my mouth, for I said mercy will be built up forever. In the heavens you will establish faithfulness.

I have made a covenant with my chosen. I have sworn to David my servant, read, vassal. I will establish your descendants forever and build up your throne to all generations.

And then in verses 28 to 29, he adds, my mercy I will keep forever and my covenant shall be confirmed to him, so I will establish his descendants forever and his throne as the days of heaven. In Psalm 132, 10 to 12, another psalmist writes, for the sake of David your servant, do not take away the face of your anointed, Messiah. Yahweh has sworn to David a truth from which he will not turn back.

Of the fruit of your body I will set upon your throne. If your sons will keep my covenant and my stipulations that I shall teach them, their sons also shall sit upon your throne forever. These are reflections in the Psalter on the significance of what happened in 2 Samuel 7. When we come back to 2 Samuel 7 and try to understand it in context, we notice that three significant developments antedated this oracle from God that Nathan delivered to David.

First, Yahweh had given rest to David, rest from all his enemies, 2 Samuel 7.1. Obviously, this chapter is to be placed chronologically after chapter 8 where those battles are described. But the arrangement of the book here is not necessarily chronological. Whether David realized the connection or not, the author certainly has in mind here Deuteronomy 12.10-11, which predicted where Moses predicted that when Yahweh had given the nation rest and the nation dwells securely in the land, then he will select a central site, apparently a permanent central site, for his name to dwell and at which the entire nation should assemble for their national religious celebrations.

That's Deuteronomy 12.10-11. So that's the first thing to keep in mind. The Lord has given rest in fulfillment of the promise in Deuteronomy 12. Second, the Ark of the Covenant had been brought to Jerusalem.

We mentioned this briefly in the previous lesson, but in chapter 6 verses 1 to 3, we witness an exciting moment for David. For the first time, the throne of Yahweh, the Ark of the Covenant, and the throne of the king were situated in the same city, Jerusalem. We're there.

However, it was the incongruence here of this image that David, the servant, vassal of Yahweh, he had a permanent residence, and it dawned on him there's something wrong with this picture. I've got a nice palace, but the throne of Yahweh is housed in a temporary tent. And when that dawned on him, he approached Nathan the prophet about the matter.

The identity of Nathan is nowhere clearly described. He appears out of nowhere in this chapter and would reappear at two or three other significant moments in David's life. In 2 Samuel 12, to rebuke David for his sin with Bathsheba, and then in 1 Kings 1, to challenge him officially to designate Solomon as his successor.

So he was there from the beginning of David's reign or early in David's reign to the end. Now in the ancient world, it was widely considered that the responsibility of king, it was the responsibility of kings to construct and maintain the temples of the gods, and to see to it that the cult was properly organized and functioning. David's reflection on the status of Yahweh's residence was therefore quite in order.

Kings build temples for the national god. However, the fact that he went to Nathan the prophet with his thoughts indicates his recognition that he can't make this decision independently. He was but a servant of Yahweh.

The gods decide where their temples should be built. In contrast to the prophets of Ahab that we'll encounter in 2 Kings 22, Nathan demonstrated that he was more than a lackey of the king. His initial response was positive, yes, go ahead.

But he returned later with his mind changed for having said to David, do whatever's in your heart, go ahead, build temple. The Lord appeared to him and said, oh not so fast, sir. It was David's offer to build a permanent house for Yahweh that afforded Yahweh to turn this image around, and instead of David building a house for Yahweh, Yahweh declared that he would build of David and for David a house himself.

And of course, now we're using the word house in two different senses. In the first instance, house is the building where a person lives. The temple is the house of God.

But for David, what God was going to do for David was not build a palace, but establish his dynasty. To this day, we talk about the house of the Habsburgs, and the house of Windsor, and the house of the Romanovs. These are the dynasties of their respective empires, kingdoms really.

But we need to talk about the significance of this oracle. Having read the story, you've heard the details. But what is the point, and why is it so momentous here? Well, let's think first of all of its significance for David.

Many are convinced that First Testament personalities didn't realize the significance of what was happening to them. But this chapter provides an important test case proving the opposite. Did David realize the importance of Nathan's words? His response provides several clues.

First, David found the benefactions, the good things that Yahweh was offering him absolutely amazing. Notice his reaction in verse 18, Wow! Who am I that God should pick me as the recipient of this message? Number one. Two, David realized that when God chose him to be the shepherd of his people, he had the interests of his people in mind.

This is critical. The king in Israel, the kingdom of Israel does not exist for the king of Israel, unlike other kingdoms of that time where kingdoms existed for the glory of the king. Here it's the opposite.

God's concern in naming David king was his people Israel, verses 23 to 24. And then third, David saw the correlation between the significance of this revelation and the deliverance of Israel from Egypt. He knew that because of this decision by God, Yahweh's reputation would depend upon his fulfillment of this word as it had in his fulfillment of his promise to get Israel out of Egypt.

Fourth, David was aware that Yahweh's offer had eternal dimensions. In verse 19, he uses the expression, the distant future. But five times in verses 24 to 29, David repeats the word forever, forever, forever, forever, and forever, highlighting its eternality.

In fact, from Yahweh's perspective, it is eternal and irrevocable. God would never retract the title to the throne of Israel as he had with regard to Saul. And five, David recognized the universal scope of the benefactions offered him.

In verse 19, he inserted an extremely significant three-word sentence, All three words are quite clear. This is the Torah of humankind. Whatever else this obscure sentence means, it guaranteed the extension of the covenant significance outside the boundaries of Israel to all humanity.

As we will see, this statement becomes the basis for the universalizing of the messianic hope. It's not just about Israel. It's about adam, ha-adam, all of humanity.

That point David got. But what's its significance for Israel? Well, we can make a couple of comments here. One, it guaranteed for Israel a divinely appointed vice regent through whom the blessing of God would extend to the entire nation, and Yahweh's covenant with them, the Israelite covenant, would be kept running smoothly.

That's David's function here. David had said, And who is like your people? Israel, the one nation on earth whom God went to redeem to be his people, making himself a name and doing for them great and awesome things by driving out before your people whom you redeemed for yourself from Egypt, a nation and its gods, and you established for yourself your people Israel to be your people forever. And O you, O Yahweh, you became their God.

David recognized this is not about him. He has the indescribable, unbelievable privilege of being God's vice regent for his people. It's about the people.

Later prophets would speak of the Davidic rule as Yahweh's signet, the symbol of God's claim to Israel, Jeremiah 22, 24 of Jehoiakim called Jeconiah there, and also in Haggai 2, 23 of Zerubbabel, a member of David's line after the exile, a governor in Judah. But it was ultimately not primarily about David any more than that when Yahweh created the world, he did not create the world for Adam. He created Adam for the world to be his vice regent and governor.

So it guaranteed for Israel a divinely appointed vice regent. Second, for Israel, it confirmed Yahweh's earlier promise to provide Israel with the king of his own choosing, Deuteronomy 17, 14 to 20. And it anticipated the coming of the greatest David of all, of course, the ultimate Messiah, Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of God, the Messiah of Israel.

We find evidence of this messianic hope in dozens of references and allusions in the First Testament. In the Deuteronomistic history, it's in 2 Samuel 23, 5. It's in 1 Kings 2, 4, and many other places. It's in the Psalter in Psalm 2, Psalm 18, 49 to 50, Psalm 45, Psalm 89, Psalm 132.

The messianic hope pervades that very Davidic and royal book, the Psalter. And finally, it also pervades the prophets. You see it in Isaiah 9, Isaiah 11, Isaiah 16, 55, verse 3. We see it in Jeremiah 23, verses 5 to 6. In Jeremiah 30, verse 9. In Jeremiah 33, 14 to 17.

In Ezekiel 34, 22 to 32, 37 to 23, 23 to 28. Hosea 3, 5. Amos 9, 11. Micah 5, 2. Zechariah 12, 7 to 14.

It's all over the prophets. David's divinely inspired exclamation, and this is the Torah for humanity, laid the foundation for the universalizing of this messianic hope. The Messiah doesn't come only for Israel.

Yes, he comes for Israel, and Jesus is actually crucified, and on the cross, the King of the Jews. But that inscription is written in Latin and in Greek as well, reminding us that it is King of the universe. Indeed, all Israel's and the world's hope came to be wrapped up in the anticipated restoration of the house of David.

And then, of course, we come to the New Testament. Every time you read the word Christ, which means the Anointed One, you have an echo back to this text. David was the Lord's Anointed.

Jesus is David's Son. He is the Son of God, the Son of David. He is the Messiah.

It's over the books of Matthew, Luke, John, Mark. It's in Acts. It's in Revelation.

It's everywhere. Jesus is the Son of David. Jesus is the Messiah.

And to Jesus is given eternal title to the throne, not only of Israel but to the cosmos itself. This is the significance of 2 Samuel 7 and 1 Chronicles chapter 17, the covenant that Yahweh makes with his servant, his vassal, David. Or the audience of this that were still living, even written.

Yeah, when it was written. And before even some of the exiles and things like that, to hear David talking about the kingdom and about God's promises. And wouldn't it have taken a lot of faith for them to believe it in that context, that seeing Israel as it was compared to the empires of Egypt or Assyria or Babylon.

And to hear God making these promises, wouldn't that have been a huge contrast for them and something that would require faith for them to really believe that that would happen? Of course. The psalmist, I've forgotten which psalm it is, where the psalmist reflects on this. Yeah, Psalm 89.

This psalm was probably written in the exile period. It says, a masculine Ethan, the Ezraite. We don't know exactly what that means, what the significance of those names means.

But I read the beginning of this. I will sing of the loving kindness of the Lord forever. You've sworn to David.

But at the end, we have, he's just talked about the covenant with David all the way through. How long, O Lord, will you hide yourself forever? Will your wrath burn like fire? Remember what my span of life is, what vanity. Where are your former loving kindnesses, cheseds, O Lord, that you swore to David in your faithfulness? Remember, O Lord, the reproach of your servants, how I bear in my bosom the reproach of all the many peoples with which your enemies have reproached, O Lord, with which they have reproached the footsteps of your anointed.

What's happened? Where's David? And people are asking, where's God's word? And the whole thing is a meditation on the Davidic covenant in the context of the exile. In that covenant, the psalmist finds his hope for the future. He asks the question, where is it? But of course, it's in the promises of God.

Yeah, because they're living as a small community. As a small community. Well, and see, this is part of the problem.

Exiled. In the post-exilic period. Yeah.

They're back, but it's only a handful. We'll talk about this yet. The people are back from exile, thousands of them, but it is still only a minority of the child population.

The people are back. They're back in the land, but it's only living in the pocket around Jerusalem. David is back, but only as governor.

He's not king. He's a rumble ball. He's not king.

The temple is back, but it's such a, these are all the eternal promises of God. It's such a puny thing. And the people are wondering, where's God in this picture? It's not the full-blown fulfillment that the prophets and psalmists expected, but it is a deposit.

It's a down payment. God hasn't forgotten. The land is in the picture.

The people are in the picture. David is in the picture, and the temple is in the picture. The presence of God.

They're all there, but the Hebrew word here is ma'at in small measure. So, when you get to the New Testament, I mean, these things keep coming back.