2 Samuel 7 – “God’s Promise to Perpetuate the Davidic Dynasty”

Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
David expresses his desire to build the temple. Although God rejects David’s request, he promises to perpetuate the Davidic dynasty forever. David prays to God and asks him to uphold his promise.
II. Photo
David complains to Nathan: “Here I am dwelling in a house of cedar, while the Ark of the LORD abides in a tent!” (v. 2b)

III. Important Verses
1-2: When the king was settled in his palace and the LORD had granted him safety from all the enemies around him,  the king said to the prophet Nathan: “Here I am dwelling in a house of cedar, while the Ark of the LORD abides in a tent!”
5-7: “Go and say to My servant David: Thus said the LORD: Are you the one to build a house for Me to dwell in? From the day that I brought the people of Israel out of Egypt to this day I have not dwelt in a house, but have moved about in Tent and Tabernacle. As I moved about wherever the Israelites went, did I ever reproach any of the tribal leaders whom I appointed to care for My people Israel: Why have you not built Me a house of cedar?”
12-16: “When your days are done and you lie with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, one of your own issue, and I will establish his kingship. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish his royal throne forever. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to Me. When he does wrong, I will chastise him with the rod of men and the affliction of mortals; but I will never withdraw My favor from him as I withdrew it from Saul, whom I removed to make room for you. Your house and your kingship shall ever be secure before you; your throne shall be established forever.”
28-29: “And now, O Lord GOD, You are God and Your words will surely come true, and You have made this gracious promise to Your servant. Be pleased, therefore, to bless Your servant’s house, that it abide before You forever; for You, O Lord GOD, have spoken. May Your servant’s house be blessed forever by Your blessing.”

IV. Outline

1-2. David’s desire to build a temple
3. Nathan’s encouragment
4-16. God’s message for David
    4. God appears to Nathan
    5-7. God has never dwelled in a house
    8-11. God has protected David and will give him greatness
    12-16. David’s house will be established forever
17. Nathan delivers the message
18-29. David’s Petition
    18-19a. Confession
    19b. Petition
    20-21. Affirmation of confidence
    22. Praise of God’s greatness
    23-24. Praise of God’s deeds for Israel
    25. Petition
    26-27. Anticipated praise
    28. Affirmation of confidence
    29. Petition for blessing

V. Comment
Chapter 7 begins with the story of David’s wish to build the temple and God’s subsequent rejection of that wish. Although God dismisses David’s request, he promises that the Davidic dynasty will last forever: “Your house and your kingship shall ever be secure before you; your throne shall be established forever.” (v. 16) Collins emphasizes the importance of this promise: “Second Samuel 7 is one of the key passages not only in the Deuteronomistic History but in the Hebrew Bible as a whole. The promise to David that is narrated here is the foundation charter of the Davidic dynasty, and is a frequent point of reference in later writings. It would eventually become the basis for messianic hope, that is, the hope that the Davidic kingship would be restored and would last forever… the essential point [of the oracle] is that the Davidic dynasty will last forever. In fact, it lasted some four hundred years, which might be regarded as a reasonable approximation of ‘forever.’ (compare 1 En. 10:10, which states of the offspring of the fallen angels that ‘they hope that they will live forever and that each of them will live for five hundred years.’) Nonetheless, when the Davidic kingdom was finally brought to an end by the Babylonians, the promise was thought to stand. If there was no king in the present, then God’s promise must be fulfilled in the future by the restoration of the Davidic line. This is the origin of the hope for a messiah, or anointed king, understood as one who is to come and change the course of history.” (233-35)

The second part of chapter 7, which is David’s prayer to God, is similar in both form and content to the psalms found in the book of Psalms. Although he doesn’t elaborate, Campbell asserts that his prayer is “prayer of thanksgiving” (77). This is probably because, like the Thanksgivings psalms, David’s prayer contains elements of praise (e.g. vv. 22-24, 26-27) and elements of blessing (v. 29). (For more on the genres found in the book of Psalms see  the “Introduction to Cultic Poetry” in “Psalms Part 1 with an Introduction to Cultic Poetry” by Erhard S. Gerstenberger, pp. 9-22.) Yet, the genre of this prayer is not as straightforward as Campbell makes it seem. Indeed, the psalm should actually be labeled a “Complaint/Petition.” This is because of its utilization of an invocation (v. 18), a confession (vv. 18-19a), two affirmations of confidence (vv. 20-21, 28), multiple hymnic statements (vv. 22-24, 26-27), two petitions (vv. 19, 29), a declaration of anticipated praise (v. 27), and a blessing (v. 29). Thus, this passage evinces almost all of the qualities of a Complaint/Petition and should be labeled as such.

Two final remarks. First, Collins makes many interesting points about God’s statements. He writes: “Central to this oracle is the play on the double sense of ‘house.’ David may not build a house (= temple) for [God], but the deity will build a house (= dynasty) for David. It was not unusual in the ancient Near East for the founder of a dynasty to build a temple for his patron god. The oddity of this passage is the rejection of the offer to build a temple. Scholars have tried to explain this rejection in various ways. Some suggest that this oracle was meant to explain why it was Solomon rather than David built the temple.” (233) Second, although our chapter says that David does not build the temple because God does not want to dwell in a house, 1 Kings 5:17 gives a different explanation: “ “You know that my father David could not build a house for the name of the LORD his God because of the enemies that encompassed him, until the LORD had placed them under the soles of his feet.” Note that our chapter paints a completely different picture: “The LORD had granted him safety from all the enemies around him.” (v. 1b)

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Anderson, A. A. “2 Samuel” Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 11 (Waco Texas: Wordbooks, 1989).
Campbell, Antony F. “2 Samuel” The Forms of the Old Testament Literature, vol 8 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eedrdmans, 2005).
Collins, John J. “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible,” (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004).
Photo taken from http://farm1.static.flickr.com/88/249145349_16f7b85bf1.jpg