2 Samuel 7: Is It About Jesus?

Hello, good readers of Unsettled Christianity. This is Abram K-J of Words on the Word. Joel made the mistake kind move of inviting me to contribute to his fine blog… so here I am!

I begin simply with a cross-post, because I’ve already seen some incisive responses in the comments to a post at WotW: Is 2 Samuel 7 About Jesus?

I suggest that 2 Samuel 7:14b can’t apply to Jesus:

When he commits iniquity, I will punish him with a rod such as mortals use, with blows inflicted by human beings.

But all the “forever” language in that passage clearly seems to be about more than just the next generation, and even messianic.

What do you think? How do you make sense of the passage? Feel free to comment at the original post, or right here in the comments section.

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4 Replies to “2 Samuel 7: Is It About Jesus?”

  1. Timing of the writer seems to be the key. From “Who Wrote the Bible”, Richard Elliott Friedman.
    “The Deuteronomistic historian, in the days of King Josiah, assembled his history out of the texts available to him…and the conclusion was the story of Josiah….
    In 2 Samuel he made only one insertion, the promise of the Davidic covenant, that David and his descendants after him, would hold the throne, eternally and unconditionally (2 Sam 7:1b, 13-16)….
    But the covenant promise in 1 Kings 8:25 says that the king’s tenure on the throne does depend on his behavior….
    All of the conditional passages spoke of the kings’ holding the throne of Israel. All of the unconditional passages spoke of the kings’ holding the throne… Partly conditional, partly unconditional…the throne of Judah in Jerusalem was unconditional…but the throne of all of Israel was to belong to them only if they were worthy. Which they were not. And so they lost it….1 Kings 11:38-39…but not for all time…in fact King Josiah attempted to take back the Northern Territory of Israel….then Josiah died from an Egyptian arrow.”

    Too much to write here on it. Should check the book out.

  2. Since I have a little more time, additional from the same source:
    “Modern investigators were confused over these insertions about the Davidic covenant. Sometimes the insertions reiterated this promise that the Davidic Kings would rule forever, even if they sinned; but sometimes they seemed to be saying just the opposite, that the kings could rule only if they did not sin.
    For example, the covenant promise in 2 Samuel 7 says explicitly that even if the king does wrong he keeps the throne:
    I shall chastise him with the rod of people and the lashes of humans if he does wrong, but my fidelity will not turn from him…Your house and kingdom will be secure before you forever. Your throne will be established forever.
    But the covenant promise in 1 Kings 8:25 says that the king’s tenure on the throne does depend on his behavior:
    There will not be cut off from you a man before me sitting on the throne of Israel only if your sons keep their way, to go before me as you went before me.
    …The political fortunes of the country affected the writer’s formulation of the covenant between God and his anointed King, his messiah– which became one of the central elements of Judaism and Christianity.
    …Some would say that that this makes this writer guilty of “pious fraud,” making up a covenant between God and King David and concocting its terms to fit later events in history. It does not seem that way to me. The Deuteronomist writer did not make up the Davidic covenant tradition himself. He only wrote about it. The tradition was much older than he was. Davidic covenant traditions appear in some biblical Psalms that were composed before the Deuteronomist ever picked up his quill. Also, it was hard to imagine that the Deuteronomist could have gotten away with making up a Davidic covenant in 622 BC and claiming that it had been around for four hundred years without anyone’s having heard of it…The Deuteronomist writer was governed by both events and tradition. His task was both to record history and to interpret history in the light of tradition.”

    Now my question… Was Jesus Matthew’s Josiah? Did Matthew do the same thing in modifying the historic story of Jesus (death) with a “pious fraud” to fit the tradition of a messiah? Not an arrow that finished the story, but a cross, and resurrection? Clearly the unconditional portion of the Davidic Covenant was not satisfied when Judah fell. Unless you stretch the story to include a resurrection.

    1. Thanks for the good comments, Gary! I, too, find myself comfortable with a both-and approach, though I suspect some might see that as a hermeneutical cop-out (let them). It does seem clear to me, at least, that NT writers (not to mention Isaiah and Micah) saw the covenant as being eternal and (thus?) unconditional in God’s application of it.

      –Abram

      1. I’m not smart enough to have an opinion myself on the subject. I was quoting from Friedman because…
        He’s Jewish (who better to know?)
        He’s an academic.
        I just happen to have his book available.
        And finally, I like his writings.
        Let’s just say I am generally a skeptic on all things…

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