Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
And it came to pass, when the king sat in his house, and the LORD had given him rest round about from all his enemies;Ch. 2 Samuel 7:1-29. The Promise of Perpetual Dominion to the house of David
=1 Chronicles 17. Cp. Psalm 89:19-371–3. David’s desire to build a house for the Lord
1. when the king sat in his house] When the king dwelt in his house, which he had built in the “city of David” (ch. 2 Samuel 5:9; 2 Samuel 5:11; 1 Chronicles 14:1). At what period of his reign David formed this resolution to build a temple cannot be exactly determined. On the one hand the emphatic words “when the Lord had given him rest round about from all his enemies” (cp. 2 Samuel 7:9) seem to point to a time after some at least of the wars recorded in ch. 8. On the other hand it was before the birth of Solomon (2 Samuel 7:12), and so cannot be placed in the latter years of his reign. The arrangement of the book is not strictly chronological, and this narrative finds a most suitable place here from its close connexion with the subject of the preceding chapter.
That the king said unto Nathan the prophet, See now, I dwell in an house of cedar, but the ark of God dwelleth within curtains.2. Nathan the prophet] The first mention of one of the most eminent men in the reigns of David and Solomon. It was he who rebuked David for his sin with Bathsheba (ch. 2 Samuel 12:1 ff.); who became Solomon’s tutor (ch. 2 Samuel 12:25, note), and took a leading part in securing his succession to the throne (1 Kings 1:22 ff.); who wrote a history of the reign of David and of part at least of the reign of Solomon (1 Chronicles 29:29; 2 Chronicles 9:29), from which in all probability a large portion of the books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles, is derived.
within curtains] The term applied in Exodus 26:1 ff; Exodus 36:8 ff., to the coverings of the tabernacle.
And Nathan said to the king, Go, do all that is in thine heart; for the LORD is with thee.
And it came to pass that night, that the word of the LORD came unto Nathan, saying,4. the word of the Lord came unto Nathan] Observe the clear distinction between Nathan’s own judgment, which approved David’s resolution, and the divine message which he was commissioned to deliver to David.
4–17. The Lord’s message to David
The connexion of thought in 2 Samuel 7:5-13 is as follows: “Thou shalt not build a house for Me (5–7), but I, who have chosen thee to be the ruler of my people, will build an house for thee (8–11), and thy son shall erect an house for me” (12, 13). The reasons why David’s zeal was thus checked must be carefully considered. The unsettled condition of the nation had made a fixed sanctuary impossible hitherto, and even now the time for it was not yet fully come. The house of David must be firmly established and peace secured, before this great step in the history of the national religion could be advantageously taken. Again, David was not to build the house “because he had shed much blood, and had made great wars” (1 Chronicles 22:8; 1 Chronicles 28:3).
Thus personally David was not the fitting man to build the temple, though he is not blamed for wars which were a necessity of the time; and the very fact that he had to wage these wars, shewed that the time for building the temple had not come, because the kingdom was not yet firmly established.
Go and tell my servant David, Thus saith the LORD, Shalt thou build me an house for me to dwell in?5. my servant David] Any Israelite might call Himself God’s servant in addressing God: but only a few who were raised up to do special service, such as Moses and Joshua, are honoured by being thus distinctively styled “Servants of Jehovah.” See Introd. p. 44.
Shalt thou build] Thou is emphatic. The question of course is equivalent to a negative.
Whereas I have not dwelt in any house since the time that I brought up the children of Israel out of Egypt, even to this day, but have walked in a tent and in a tabernacle.
In all the places wherein I have walked with all the children of Israel spake I a word with any of the tribes of Israel, whom I commanded to feed my people Israel, saying, Why build ye not me an house of cedar?7. with any of the tribes of Israel] 1 Chronicles 17:6 reads judges for tribes, and at first sight this appears to be required by the following words, “whom I commanded,” &c., which seem more applicable to an individual ruler than to a tribe. But the reading “tribes” is supported by the versions, and may be understood of the different tribes which through the Judges and leaders chosen from them successively attained the supremacy, as Ephraim in the time of Joshua, Dan in the days of Samson, Benjamin in the reign of Saul. Compare David’s expression in 1 Chronicles 28:4, “he hath chosen Judah to be the ruler,” and the reference to the choice of the tribe of Judah and the rejection of the tribe of Ephraim in Psalm 78:67-68.
to feed] To tend, as a shepherd tends his sheep. Cp. note on ch. 2 Samuel 5:11.
a house of cedar] Cp. 2 Samuel 7:2. A permanent sanctuary with beams of the most costly timber. See note on ch. 2 Samuel 5:11.
Now therefore so shalt thou say unto my servant David, Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I took thee from the sheepcote, from following the sheep, to be ruler over my people, over Israel:8. from the sheepcote] Rather, from the pasture. Cp. Psalm 78:70-71.
to be ruler] Cp. ch. 2 Samuel 5:2, 2 Samuel 6:21.
And I was with thee whithersoever thou wentest, and have cut off all thine enemies out of thy sight, and have made thee a great name, like unto the name of the great men that are in the earth.
Moreover I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in a place of their own, and move no more; neither shall the children of wickedness afflict them any more, as beforetime,10. Moreover I will appoint] It is probably best to take the verbs here as perfects: And I have appointed … and have planted them, and they dwell in their own place. For the metaphor of planting, comp. Exodus 15:17; Psalm 44:2.
and move no more] Better, and shall not be disturbed any more.
the children of wickedness] Sons of wickedness = wicked men. Cp. Psalm 89:22.
10, 11. as beforetime, and as since the time] It is best to connect the first clause of 2 Samuel 7:11 with 2 Samuel 7:10. Beforetime refers to the beginning of the nation’s history in Egypt; since, &c. to the various oppressions they had suffered from the beginning of the period of the Judges down to the present.
and have caused thee to rest] And have given thee rest, as in 2 Samuel 7:1; to be connected with the verbs at the beginning of 2 Samuel 7:10, I have appointed … and have planted them.
Also, &c.] Or, And the Lord hath told thee, referring to the communications made to David by Samuel. Cp. 1 Samuel 25:28.
And as since the time that I commanded judges to be over my people Israel, and have caused thee to rest from all thine enemies. Also the LORD telleth thee that he will make thee an house.
And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom.12. And when] And is not in the Hebrew text; perhaps and it shall come to pass, which is found in the LXX., has dropped out. Nathan now passes on from recounting God’s past mercies to Israel and David to a direct prophecy concerning the establishment of David’s house.
I will set up thy seed] First Solomon, who recognises the fulfilment of this promise in his elevation to the throne (1 Kings 8:15-20); then the line of David’s descendants who succeeded him on the throne of Judah; and finally Christ, in whom the prophecy reaches its highest fulfilment. See Luke 1:31-33; Acts 2:29-31; Acts 13:22-23.
He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever.13. for my name] The Name of God signifies God Himself so far as He has revealed and manifested Himself to men. His promise concerning the Temple was that He would “put His name there,” that is, that He would be present and reveal Himself there in an especial manner. See 1 Kings 8:29; 1 Kings 9:3.
stablish] A shorter form of establish, both words being derived from Lat. stabilire. Cp. special and especial from species, state and estate from status.
I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men:14. I will be his father and he shall be my son] The nation of Israel is honoured with the lofty title of “Jehovah’s son” (Exodus 4:22; Deuteronomy 14:1; Hosea 11:1); and the king, as the representative of the nation, enjoys the same distinction. This relationship implies, on the part of God, the watchful care and love of a parent; on the part of the king, the duty of loyal trust and willing obedience. Cp. Psalm 89:26-27, where similar expressions are applied to David; Psalm 2:7; and 1 Chronicles 22:9-10; 1 Chronicles 28:6, where David quotes this promise in reference to Solomon. It finds its highest fulfilment in the mysterious eternal relationship between God the Father and Christ the Son, with reference to which these words are quoted in Hebrews 1:5. See Introd. p. 43.
If he commit, &c.] A warning that this high dignity will not exempt him from the danger of sin nor from its punishment. He will be chastised, if need be, as men chastise their children to correct and reclaim them. Cp. Psalm 89:30-33, and 1 Kings 11:34-36; 1 Kings 11:39.
But my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee.15. shall not depart, &c.] Lit, shall not be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I took away from before thee. The three verbs belong to the same root. But there is perhaps some error in the text. 1 Chronicles 17:13 reads, “my mercy will I not take away from him, as I took it away from him who was before thee;” and the Sept. here has, “My mercy will I not take away from him, as I took it away from them that I took away from before me.”
And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever.16. thy kingdom shall be stablished] Better, thy kingdom shall be made sure. Two different words are translated “shall be stablished” in this verse. The second corresponds to that in 2 Samuel 7:13 : the first is that rendered in 1 Samuel 2:35, “a sure house, and in Isaiah 55:3, “the sure mercies of David.”
before thee] The explanation that “David is regarded as seeing all his descendants pass before him in a vision,” is forced, and it is best to follow the LXX. in reading before me. This reading moreover seems to be required by 2 Samuel 7:26; 2 Samuel 7:29.
According to all these words, and according to all this vision, so did Nathan speak unto David.17. this vision] The manner in which God’s message was communicated to Nathan was by “a vision,” in which his spiritual sight was quickened to discern the truth. The word for “vision” is derived from the same root as chôzeh, one of the words translated ‘seer’ (see on 1 Samuel 9:9), and is distinguished as a method of revelation from a ‘dream.’ Cp. Isaiah 1:1.
On the Messianic interpretation of this prophecy, see Additional Note I. p. 233.
Then went king David in, and sat before the LORD, and he said, Who am I, O Lord GOD? and what is my house, that thou hast brought me hitherto?18. Then went king David in, and sat before the Lord] In the tent where the Ark, the symbol of God’s presence, was. As sitting does not seem to have been a customary posture for prayer, some commentators render tarried instead of sat. Others suppose that David sat to meditate, and afterwards stood up to pray.
Who am I &c.] Cp. Jacob’s language in Genesis 32:10.
O Lord God] Whenever God is thus printed in small capitals, it represents the sacred name Jehovah. From very ancient times the Jewish practice in reading the Scriptures has been to substitute in place of Jehovah Adônai, which means my Lord, or Lord; or if the title Adônai is joined with Jehovah, as here, Elôhîm, which means God. The E. V. follows the Jewish practice in giving Lord and God, and whenever they represent the name Jehovah indicates the fact by the use of capitals. “Lord God,” which represents “my Lord Jehovah,” must therefore be distinguished from “Lord God” (2 Samuel 7:25), which represents “Jehovah Elohim,” i.e. “Jehovah God.” See Additional Note II. on 1 Samuel, p. 236.
The appropriateness of this address “my Lord Jehovah” in David’s thanksgiving must be carefully noted. It is not merely an acknowledgment of the Divine sovereignty in general, but expresses the consciousness of belonging specially to God, and standing under His immediate guidance and protection. See Oehler’s Theology of the Old Testament, I. 148. It is the correlative of the title “my servant” with which God distinguishes David. It calls to mind St Paul’s words “the God whose I am, whom also I serve” (Acts 27:23). Compare Abram’s use of it in Genesis 15:2; Genesis 15:8; and Moses’ in Deuteronomy 3:24; Deuteronomy 9:26. When he turns to praise God for his dealings with Israel in general, David uses the ordinary title Jehovah Elôhîm (2 Samuel 7:22), and retains it in 2 Samuel 7:25 at the beginning of his petition, as if to identify the covenant God of Israel with the God to whom he makes his prayer: but in 2 Samuel 7:28-29 he returns to the more familiar address of confident trust “my Lord Jehovah.”
18–29. David’s prayer and thanksgiving
David’s address to God consists of (a) humble thanksgiving for the undeserved favour shewn to him and his house, 2 Samuel 7:18-21; (b) praise for God’s past manifestations of his glory in and to Israel, 2 Samuel 7:22-24; (c) petition for the final fulfilment of the promise, 2 Samuel 7:25-29.
And this was yet a small thing in thy sight, O Lord GOD; but thou hast spoken also of thy servant's house for a great while to come. And is this the manner of man, O Lord GOD?19. And is this the manner of man] It is best to understand these difficult words as David’s expression of humble astonishment at the greatness of the honour destined for him and his house. Render, And this is a law for men! i.e. this decree that my kingdom shall be established for ever, is to be valid for weak human beings, such as myself and my posterity! Another explanation very commonly adopted is, And this is the manner of man, viz. to speak so familiarly and condescendingly as thou hast done to me; but the Heb. word is used nowhere else in the sense of manner, and the whole context requires a reference to the substance rather than to the manner of the communication.
The reading in 1 Chron. is quite different: “thou hast regarded me according to the estate of a man of high degree.” One or other of the texts is perhaps corrupt.
And what can David say more unto thee? for thou, Lord GOD, knowest thy servant.20. thou, Lord God, knowest thy servant] Words fail, and David appeals to God’s omniscience. Cp. Psalm 17:3; Psalm 139:1-4; John 21:17.
For thy word's sake, and according to thine own heart, hast thou done all these great things, to make thy servant know them.21. For thy word’s sake] To fulfil Thy promises made to me through Samuel. The reading of 1 Chronicles 17:19, and of the LXX. here, is for thy servant’s sake.
Wherefore thou art great, O LORD God: for there is none like thee, neither is there any God beside thee, according to all that we have heard with our ears.22. Wherefore thou art great] Since Thou hast done these great things for me, I praise Thee and acknowledge Thy greatness. Cp. Psalm 35:27; Psalm 40:16; Psalm 48:1.
for there is none like thee, &c.] Cp. Exodus 15:11; Deuteronomy 3:24; Deuteronomy 4:35; 1 Samuel 2:2.
according to all, &c.] David passes from the evidence of God’s greatness derived from his own experience, to the evidence afforded by the history of His dealings with Israel, handed down from father to son by oral tradition. Cp. Exodus 10:2; Deuteronomy 4:9; Psalm 44:1; Psalm 86:8-10.
And what one nation in the earth is like thy people, even like Israel, whom God went to redeem for a people to himself, and to make him a name, and to do for you great things and terrible, for thy land, before thy people, which thou redeemedst to thee from Egypt, from the nations and their gods?23. And what, &c.] For what, &c., a further reason for the last statement. Cp. Deuteronomy 4:7; Deuteronomy 4:32-38.
whom God went &c.] Better, which their god went to redeem. Elôhîm, the Heb. word for God, is a plural noun, but regularly takes a singular verb when it denotes the true God. Here the verb “went” is in the plural, which indicates that the gods of the nations are meant to be included. The sense is, ‘Where can any nation be found, which has been delivered by the deity it worships, as Israel was delivered from Egypt by Jehovah?’
for you] “You” can only refer to Israel, and an address to the people is quite out of place in David’s prayer to God. We must either omit for you with the LXX, or read for them, i.e. the nation, with the Vulgate.
for thy land] This gives no satisfactory sense, and “the nations and their gods” at the end of the verse has no proper construction in the existing text. It is best to emend the text by the help of the LXX, compared with 1 Chronicles 17:21, and read to drive out in place of for thy land. The close of the verse will then stand thus; “and to do great things and terrible, to drive out nations and their gods before thy people, which thou redeemedst for thyself out of Egypt.”
The construction, which began in the third person, in connexion with the relative clause, returns at the end of the verse to a direct address to God.
great things and terrible] The miracles of the Exodus, the journey through the wilderness, the Entry into Canaan. Cp. Deuteronomy 10:21 for the phrase.
For thou hast confirmed to thyself thy people Israel to be a people unto thee for ever: and thou, LORD, art become their God.24. thou hast confirmed] Established, the same word as in 2 Samuel 7:13. Cp. Deuteronomy 32:6.
art become their God] Hast proved Thyself to be their God, in fulfilment of the promises in Genesis 17:7-8; Exodus 6:7.
And now, O LORD God, the word that thou hast spoken concerning thy servant, and concerning his house, establish it for ever, and do as thou hast said.
And let thy name be magnified for ever, saying, The LORD of hosts is the God over Israel: and let the house of thy servant David be established before thee.26. let the house of thy servant David be established] Rather, the house of thy servant David shall be established; an expression of confident assurance, the ground of which is introduced by the “for” of 2 Samuel 7:27.
For thou, O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, hast revealed to thy servant, saying, I will build thee an house: therefore hath thy servant found in his heart to pray this prayer unto thee.27. hast revealed to thy servant] Lit. hast uncovered the ear of thy servant, a figure of speech said to be derived from the practice of removing the hair or a corner of the turban from another’s ear in order to whisper a secret into it. Cp. 1 Samuel 9:15.
therefore] The promise justified a prayer which otherwise would have seemed presumptuous.
found in his heart] Lit. found his heart; i.e. found courage. Cp. the phrase “to take heart.”
And now, O Lord GOD, thou art that God, and thy words be true, and thou hast promised this goodness unto thy servant:28. thou art that God] Better, thou art God, and thy words shall be truth. Truth is an essential attribute of God, and His promises must therefore prove true. Cp. Exodus 34:6; Psalm 19:9; John 17:17.
Therefore now let it please thee to bless the house of thy servant, that it may continue for ever before thee: for thou, O Lord GOD, hast spoken it: and with thy blessing let the house of thy servant be blessed for ever.29. let the house of thy servant be blessed] Or, shall the house of thy servant be blessed. David concludes with words of confident hope, on the ground that “Jehovah hath spoken it.” Cp. 1 Chronicles 17:27.