Now it came to pass, as David sat in his house, that David said to Nathan the prophet, Lo, I dwell in an house of cedars, but the ark of the covenant of the LORD remaineth under curtains.
Verse 1. - We may easily imagine how the excitement, though not the deeper interest, attending the removal of the ark and the festival on occasion of its safe establishment on Zion had now subsided. David's thoughts respecting the honour due to God and to the ark of the covenant had time to grow into convictions, and they were greatly and rightly stimulated by reflection on his own surroundings of comfort, of safety, of stability and splendour. He revolves the possible methods and the right methods of showing that honour due. The completion of his own house, one presumably fit for the permanent abode of the King of Israel (1 Chronicles 14:1), is the clear demonstration to him that the ark should not dwell in a mere tent. It is a true touch of life, when it is written that as David sat in his house these thoughts possessed him, and so strongly. The exact time, however, here designed, and the exact occasion of his revealing the thoughts that burned within him, to Nathan, do not appear either here or in the parallel place. In the opinion of some, an indication of some interval having elapsed is found in the words (2 Samuel 7:1), "The Lord had given him rest round about from all his enemies;" while others consider those words to refer to the victories gained over the Philistines, as recorded in ch. 14. Nathan the prophet. This name suddenly breaks upon us, without any introduction, here for the first time. Nathan is emphatically entitled "the prophet," but perhaps merely to distinguish him from Nathan, David's eighth son. Amid many other important references to Nathan, and which speak for themselves, must be specially noted 1 Chronicles 29:29; 2 Chronicles 9:29. And it will be noticed from the former of these references, in particular how Nathan is the prophet (הַגָּבִיא); not (like Samuel and Gad) seer (הָרֹאֶה or הַתוֶה). Possibly he is intended in 1 Kings 4:5. An house of cedars. The cedar here spoken of does, of course, not answer to our red, odorous cedar. The word employed is אֶרֶז, in the plural number. The first Biblical use of this word is found in Leviticus 14:4, 6, 49-52. It is derived by Gesenius from an obsolete word אָרַז, from the grip and the firmness of its roots. It is probably the derived signification, therefore, that should be adhered to (as in the Authorized Version), and not the original, where in Ezekiel 27:24, the plural of the passive participial is found, "made of cedar," not with A. Schultens, "made fast." The cedar genus belonging to the order Coniferae, is odoriferous, very lasting, and without knots. The numerous good qualities which it possesses are spoken to in the variety of uses, and good kind of uses, to which it was put - these all crowned by the almost solitary spiritualized appropriation of the tree, found in Psalm 92:12. From a comparison of 1 Kings 5:6, 8 (in the Hebrew, 20, 22) with 2 Chronicles 2:3, 8, and some other passages, we may be led to believe that the cedar as the name of timber was used occasionally very generically. Nevertheless, the very passages in question instance by name the other specific kinds of wood. Two of the chief kinds of cedar were the Lebanon and the Deodara, which is said not to have grown in Syria, but abounds in the Himalayas. And as the use of the Lebanon cedar for some purposes (e.g. for the masts of ships) is almost out of the question, it is exceedingly probable that this Deodars and some other varieties of pines are comprehended under the eh-rez. Dean Stanley points out what may be described as very interesting moral landmark uses of the celebrated cedars of Lebanon, in those passages which speak of Solomon's sweep of knowledge, commencing in the dewing direction from them (1 Kings 4:33), of the devouring fire that should begin with the bramble and reach high up to those cedars (in Jotham's parable, Judges 9:15), and (in the parable of Joash, King of Israel, to Amaziah, King of Judah, 2 Chronicles 25:18) of the contempt with which the family of the cedars of Lebanon is supposed to hear of the matrimonial overtures of the family of the thistles of Lebanon. Stanley's pages ('Sinai and Palestine,' edit. 1866, pp. 414-414d) are full of interest on the subject of the cedars of Lebanon (see also full article in Dr. Smith's 'Bible Dictionary,' 1:285, 286; and Dr. Thomson's 'Land and the Book,' pp. 197-200). Cedar was the choice wood for pillars and beams, boarding and ceiling of the finest houses; and alike the first and second temples (Ezra 3:7) depended upon the supply of it. Under curtains. Here rightly in the plural, though our parallel (2 Samuel 7:2) shows the singular (Exodus 26:1-13; Exodus 36:8-19).
Then Nathan said unto David, Do all that is in thine heart; for God is with thee.
Verse 2. - This verse gives Nathan's response on the spur of the moment. And that it was not radically wrong from a prophet may be inferred from the stress afterwards laid upon the acceptableness to God of what had been in the heart of David to do. Even with God, silence would sometimes be understood by a prophet to be equivalent to assent.
And it came to pass the same night, that the word of God came to Nathan, saying,
Verse 3. - The express word of God came, however, that same night. It proved to be an overruling word. But it brought with it the point of a fresh and most welcome new departure for David. We might glean here by the way a suggestion of the beneficent operation of express revelation, superseding the thought, the method, the reason of man.
Go and tell David my servant, Thus saith the LORD, Thou shalt not build me an house to dwell in:
Verses 4-15. - These verses are the unfolding to David of the magnificent and far-stretching purposes of God's grace towards him in his son Solomon and his descendants for ever. The revelation is made by the mouth of Nathan. Verse 4. - Thou shalt not build. The Hebrew marks the personal pronoun here as emphatic," Not thou shalt build," i.e. but some one else. In the parallel this prohibition is conveyed by that interrogative particle which expects the answer No, and may be thus translated: "Is it thou shalt build for me," etc.?
For I have not dwelt in an house since the day that I brought up Israel unto this day; but have gone from tent to tent, and from one tabernacle to another.
Verse 5. - This verse contains the three terms - house, tent, tabernacle (see notes on 1 Chronicles 16:1). Gesenius observes that when the Hebrew of the last two words is used distinctively, the tent describes the outer coverings of the twelve curtains; and the tabernacle, the ten inner curtains and framework as well, in other words, the whole equipment of the well-known tabernacle. As compared with the version we have here, the parallel place speaks an almost pathetic condescension, "I was a shifting traveller in tent and tabernacle." God meant to remind David how surely and faithfully he had shared the pilgrim lot and unsettledness of his people. What most holy the tabernacle contained was herein a type of the bodily tabernacle of Jesus Christ in later times.
Wheresoever I have walked with all Israel, spake I a word to any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to feed my people, saying, Why have ye not built me an house of cedars?
Verse 6. - The judges of Israel. The substitution of the Hebrew character beth for pe, in the word "judges," would make it "tribes," and bring it into harmony with the parallel place. But the succeeding clause, Whom I commanded to feed my people, would rather suggest that the parallel place, which adds the same clause, should be brought into harmony with this (see again ver. 10 of this chapter). The general meaning and the gracious spirit underlying it is evident enough. God had never made a suggestion to tribe, or leader of tribe, nor to judge, who had been temporarily raised up to lead, and so to feed, all his people Israel, to build him an house. He had shared their lot, and had shared it unmurmuringly. He also "had not opened his mouth" (1 Kings 8:12-16; 1 Chronicles 28:3, 4; Psalm 78:67-71). Note also the expression, "I chose no city out of all the tribes of Israel" (1 Kings 8:16). It is to be remarked that we learn from 1 Chronicles 22:8 and 1 Chron 28:3 the fuller causes why David was not to be permitted to be the builder of the house. It is not apparent why those causes are not recited here. The same remark applies to the parallel place.
Now therefore thus shalt thou say unto my servant David, Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I took thee from the sheepcote, even from following the sheep, that thou shouldest be ruler over my people Israel:
Verse 7. - I took thee. (So 1 Samuel 16:11, 12; 2 Samuel 7:8; Psalm 78:80.) The sheepcote. The Hebrew נָזֶה strictly signifies a resting or place of resting. Hence the habitation of men or of animals, and in particular the pasture in which flocks lie down and rest (Psalm 23:2, plural construction; Job 5:24; Hosea 9:13; Jeremiah 23:3; Jeremiah 49:20). The sheepcote was sometimes a tower, with roughly built high wall, exposed to the sky at the top, used for protection from wild beasts at night; sometimes the sheepfold was a larger low building of different shape, to which a fenced courtyard was adjacent, where the peril of cold or of wild beast was less imminent. The word of our present passage, however, cannot be compared with these places; comp. rather Exodus 15:13; 2 Samuel 15:25; Isaiah 33:20; Isaiah 65:10; Hosea 9:13, as above.
And I have been with thee whithersoever thou hast walked, and have cut off all thine enemies from before thee, and have made thee a name like the name of the great men that are in the earth.
Verse 8. - And have made thee. This may be rendered and will make thee; in which ease the promise to David commences with this rather than the following clause.
Also I will ordain a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, and they shall dwell in their place, and shall be moved no more; neither shall the children of wickedness waste them any more, as at the beginning,
Verse 9. - All the verbs of this verse are in the same tense as those of the foregoing verse, which are correctly translated. For an expression similar to the last clause of the verse, Neither shall the children of wickedness waste them any more, may be found in Psalm 89:22.
And since the time that I commanded judges to be over my people Israel. Moreover I will subdue all thine enemies. Furthermore I tell thee that the LORD will build thee an house.
Verse 10. - This verse should read on continuously with the preceding, as far as to the word "enemies." The time here denoted will stretch from the people's occupation of the laud to the death of Saul, as the expression, "at the beginning," in ver. 9, will point to the experience of Egyptian oppression. Will build thee an house; i.e. will guarantee thee an unfailing line of descendants.
And it shall come to pass, when thy days be expired that thou must go to be with thy fathers, that I will raise up thy seed after thee, which shall be of thy sons; and I will establish his kingdom.
Verse 11. - The promise is now, not to "David and his seed," but to David personally. The verse contains, no doubt, the original of the Apostle Peter's quotation (Acts 2:29, 30; see also Acts 13:34; Luke 1:32, 33). The last clause of this verse has Solomon, for the object of its pronoun "his."
He shall build me an house, and I will stablish his throne for ever.
Verses 12-14. - The reference of these promises was also to Solomon, and to him they were faithfully fulfilled. They were early perceived to be prophecies also, and of the highest significance and application (Psalm 89:26-37; Isaiah 9:7; Isaiah 55:3, 4; Jeremiah 23:5, 6; Jeremiah 33:17-21; Zechariah 6:12, 13; Hebrews 1:5; Hebrews 3:6). The alternative of the "son who commits iniquity" (2 Samuel 7:14) is omitted from the middle of our thirteenth verse. The latter half of ver. 13 manifestly purports to say, "I will not take my mercy away from Solomon, as I did take it away from Saul." The close of our fourteenth verse is in the parallel place (2 Samuel 7:16) distinctly referred to David, with the use of the second person possessive pronoun.
I will be his father, and he shall be my son: and I will not take my mercy away from him, as I took it from him that was before thee:
But I will settle him in mine house and in my kingdom for ever: and his throne shall be established for evermore.
According to all these words, and according to all this vision, so did Nathan speak unto David.
And David the king came and sat before the LORD, and said, Who am I, O LORD God, and what is mine house, that thou hast brought me hitherto?
Verses 16-27. - These verses contain David's response to the gracious communication which had been made to him, and thanksgivings for the promise made to him as regards his seed. His appreciation of the contents of that promise is expressed in a manner which would seem to indicate that he was not altogether untaught, even then, by the Spirit of some of the deeper significance of the far-reaching promise. Verse 16. - Sat before the Lord; i.e. before the ark. It has surprised many that it should be said that David sat before the Lord, in the act of prayer or devotion. But this was not altogether unusual (1 Kings 19:4) in the first place; and then, secondly, it is not quite clear that this is said. Possibly he sat awaiting first some such token as he might know how to construe into the presence of Jehovah, and into his gracious vouchsafing to give him audience, and thereupon he may have altered his attitude. Confessedly, however, the other is the morn natural reading.
And yet this was a small thing in thine eyes, O God; for thou hast also spoken of thy servant's house for a great while to come, and hast regarded me according to the estate of a man of high degree, O LORD God.
Verse 17. - David here makes a clear sad very just difference between all that had been done for him, and the very great prospect now in addition put before him: Thou... hast regarded me according to the estate of a man of high degree; i.e. thou hast treated me, or dealt with me, in this promise as though [ had been of high rank indeed. The parallel reading is very concise (2 Samuel 7:19), and perhaps somewhat obscure, "And is this the manner [or, 'law'] of man?" or, "And this is to be a law of man," i.e. this continuity of a great while to come. Elliptical as this reading may seem, there is no real difficulty in feeling its essential harmony with the passage before us. David's unfeigned surprise and joy in the "great while to come" nature of the promises made to him and his house overpower all else in his estimation. It is, indeed, a most opportune emphasis that he lays upon this element of the full promise, and accords exceptionally well with our later knowledge and brighter light. Our Authorized Version rendering throws out sufficiently this surprise, and gives not inadequately the drift of the passage. The continuity and exaltedness of the promise, which was only fully realized in the greater Son of David, the Christ, might well astonish David.
What can David speak more to thee for the honour of thy servant? for thou knowest thy servant.
Verse 18. - Thy servant. The Septuagint Version has not got these words on their first occurrence. They may have found their way in wrongfully out of the next clause. They are not found in the parallel place. If they remain, they can mean nothing else than "How can David further acknowledge the honour conferred on thy servant," - a sense by no means far-fetched.
O LORD, for thy servant's sake, and according to thine own heart, hast thou done all this greatness, in making known all these great things.
Verse 19. - For thy servant's sake. The parallel place reads, "For thy word's sake." This reading is superior, and well suits the connection, suggesting also whether the first occurrence of the word "servant" in the previous verse might not be similarly explained. The similarity of the characters of the words in the Hebrew would render easy the exchange of the one word for the other.
O LORD, there is none like thee, neither is there any God beside thee, according to all that we have heard with our ears.
And what one nation in the earth is like thy people Israel, whom God went to redeem to be his own people, to make thee a name of greatness and terribleness, by driving out nations from before thy people, whom thou hast redeemed out of Egypt?
Verse 21. - In the parallel verse (2 Samuel 7:23), our Authorized Version, following the Hebrew text (לְכֶם), reads, "To do for you great things and terrible." The transition is awkward, no way in harmony with the other short clauses of the passage, and it would be inexplicable except for the alternative open to us, of regarding it as a quotation from Deuteronomy 4:34, brought in regardless of the context into which it was introduced. The difficulty does not meet us in our present passage, being obviated by the other sentences of our compiler. Both places, however, manifestly quote from the Book of Deuteronomy, with the grand passages and grand verbiage of which we may well imagine David familiar. A similar familiarity is also betokened in the following verses, as regard other Pentateuchal passages.
For thy people Israel didst thou make thine own people for ever; and thou, LORD, becamest their God.
Verse 22. - Didst thou make. This appears in Samuel, "Thou didst confirm."
Therefore now, LORD, let the thing that thou hast spoken concerning thy servant and concerning his house be established for ever, and do as thou hast said.
Let it even be established, that thy name may be magnified for ever, saying, The LORD of hosts is the God of Israel, even a God to Israel: and let the house of David thy servant be established before thee.
Verse 24. - The Hebrew text reads here naturally enough, And let be established and magnified for ever thy Name. The "established" in the last clause of the verse is not the same word with that used here.
For thou, O my God, hast told thy servant that thou wilt build him an house: therefore thy servant hath found in his heart to pray before thee.
And now, LORD, thou art God, and hast promised this goodness unto thy servant:
Now therefore let it please thee to bless the house of thy servant, that it may be before thee for ever: for thou blessest, O LORD, and it shall be blessed for ever.
Verse 27. - The marginal, It hath pleased thee, is the correcter rendering of the Hebrew here, though the parallel place exhibits the imperative mood. That it may be before thee for ever. The fulfilment of these words can be found in the Messiah alone (comp. Psalm 2:6-12).