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The Sure Mercies of David

 

Recently, someone asked “If the Davidic Covenant was indeed one of works, where do the ‘sure mercies of David’ fit in, which were unconditional?”

It’s a great question, and not the easiest one to answer. The Davidic Covenant is not discussed very much in 17th century particular baptist works. Samuel Renihan explains in From Shadow to Substance that most of them were primarily polemical – meaning they were responding to paedobaptist errors rather than presenting an overview of particular baptist covenant theology, so they primarily focus on the Abrahamic, Mosaic, and New covenants. Nehemiah Coxe’s Discourse on the Divine Covenants presents the rare systematic overview of particular baptist covenant theology. However, he stops at the Abrahamic Covenant and then hands it off to Owen’s commentary on Hebrews to explain the Mosaic and New Covenants – in which case the Davidic is largely skipped over. My knowledge of all the various works on baptist covenant theology is incomplete, but the next systematic overview given that I am aware of is R.B.C. Howell’s The Covenants (1855) (see notes here). Following that is A.W. Pink’s The Divine Covenants. Both provide a lot of helpful insight on the Davidic Covenant, Pink especially. More recently Jeffery Johnson and Doug Van Dorn offer complete overviews for consideration. Aside from that, one can find statements scattered across various works such as Gill’s Exposition of the Whole Bible, and some comments offered by Samuel and Micah Renihan in their chapter in Recovering a Covenantal Heritage.

The Davidic Covenant

First, I will note that those who hold to 1689 Federalism may differ on whether or not the Davidic Covenant was a covenant of works. One may hold to 1689 Federalism and believe the Davidic Covenant was a covenant of grace, like the Noahic Covenant. They would all agree, however, that the Davidic Covenant was distinct from the New Covenant/Covenant of Grace. For example, Spurgeon explains “There was a covenant made with David, which was intended to be typical of another covenant; and David himself is the special type of that great King with whom God has made a covenant on behalf of his people.”

In the Davidic Covenant, God promised

  1. to set David’s offspring on David’s throne
  2. to establish his throne forever
  3. that his offspring would build a house for God to dwell in
  4. that He would be his offspring’s Father
  5. that His mercy would not depart from his offspring, in spite of his sin

2 Sam 7:12 “When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men. 15 But My mercy shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 16 And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever.

The “Letter” Fulfillment

Correctly parsing the Davidic Covenant is difficult because it so closely blends type and antitype. Pink notes

In the opening chapter of this study it was pointed out that the various covenants which God entered into with men, from time to time, adumbrated different features of the everlasting covenant which He made with the Mediator ere time began. As we have followed the historical stream it has been shown wherein the Adamic, the Noahic, and the Sinaitic covenants shadowed forth the essential features of that eternal compact which constituted the basis of the salvation of God’s elect. In connection with the Davidic it is observable there is an absence of those details which marked the earlier ones, that renders it less easy to determine the exact purpose and purport of it so far as the “letter” of it was concerned. Yet the reason for this is not far to seek: as the last of the Old Testament covenants, the type merged more definitely with the antitype. This becomes the more patent when we examine carefully those Scriptures bearing directly thereon, for in some of them it is almost impossible to say whether the type or the antitype be before us…

However, just as with the Abrahamic Covenant, Scripture tells us clearly how the Davidic Covenant was fulfilled in the land of Canaan amongst Israel prior to Christ.

1 Chr 22:5 Now David said, “Solomon my son is young and inexperienced, and the house to be built for the Lord must be exceedingly magnificent, famous and glorious throughout all countries. I will now make preparation for it.” So David made abundant preparations before his death.

Then he called for his son Solomon, and charged him to build a house for the Lord God of Israel. And David said to Solomon: “My son, as for me, it was in my mind to build a house to the name of the Lord my God; but the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘You have shed much blood and have made great wars; you shall not build a house for My name, because you have shed much blood on the earth in My sight. Behold, a son shall be born to you, who shall be a man of rest; and I will give him rest from all his enemies all around. His name shall be Solomon, for I will give peace and quietness to Israel in his days. 10 He shall build a house for My name, and he shall be My son, and I will be his Father; and I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever.’ 11 Now, my son, may the Lord be with you; and may you prosper, and build the house of the Lord your God, as He has said to you. 12 Only may the Lord give you wisdom and understanding, and give you charge concerning Israel, that you may keep the law of the Lord your God. 13 Then you will prosper, if you take care to fulfill the statutes and judgments with which the Lord charged Moses concerning Israel. Be strong and of good courage; do not fear nor be dismayed.

1 Chr 28:2 Then King David rose to his feet and said, “Hear me, my brethren and my people: I had it in my heart to build a house of rest for the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and for the footstool of our God, and had made preparations to build it. But God said to me, ‘You shall not build a house for My name, because you have been a man of war and have shed blood.’ However the Lord God of Israel chose me above all the house of my father to be king over Israel forever, for He has chosen Judah to be the ruler. And of the house of Judah, the house of my father, and among the sons of my father, He was pleased with me to make me king over all Israel. And of all my sons (for the Lord has given me many sons) He has chosen my son Solomon to sit on the throne of the kingdom of the Lord over Israel. Now He said to me, ‘It is your son Solomon who shall build My house and My courts; for I have chosen him to be My son, and I will be his Father. Moreover I will establish his kingdom forever, if he is steadfast to observe My commandments and My judgments, as it is this day.’ Now therefore, in the sight of all Israel, the assembly of the Lord, and in the hearing of our God, be careful to seek out all the commandments of the Lord your God, that you may possess this good land, and leave it as an inheritance for your children after you forever.

“As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a loyal heart and with a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever. 10 Consider now, for the Lord has chosen you to build a house for the sanctuary; be strong, and do it.”

David apparently received more revelation beyond what is recorded in 2 Samuel 7. He specifically says that God told him Solomon was the fulfillment of God’s covenant promise. These passages teach that at least promises 1-4 (from our list above) refer to Solomon. Importantly, this additional revelation that David received clarified that his throne would be established forever (meaning passed down through generations) upon the condition of continual obedience to Mosaic law down through the generations. At his deathbed, David again provides further elaboration of the revelation he received.

1 Kings 2:1 Now the days of David drew near that he should die, and he charged Solomon his son, saying: “I go the way of all the earth; be strong, therefore, and prove yourself a man. And keep the charge of the Lord your God: to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His judgments, and His testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn; that the Lord may fulfill His word which He spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons take heed to their way, to walk before Me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul,’ He said, ‘you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’

A little further down we read “Then Solomon sat on the throne of his father David; and his kingdom was firmly established.” (Cf 2 Sam 7:12) Later, when King Solomon asks for wisdom, he notes

1 Kgs 3:6 And Solomon said: “You have shown great mercy to Your servant David my father, because he walked before You in truth, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with You; You have continued this great kindness for him, and You have given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day.

We then read how King Solomon was a man of rest and peace, as promised to David (note the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant as well).

1 Kgs 4:1 So King Solomon was king over all Israel… 20 Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand by the sea in multitude, eating and drinking and rejoicing… 24 For he had dominion over all the region on this side of the River from Tiphsah even to Gaza, namely over all the kings on this side of the River; and he had peace on every side all around him. 25 And Judah and Israel dwelt safely, each man under his vine and his fig tree, from Dan as far as Beersheba, all the days of Solomon. [cf 1 Kg 5:But now the Lord my God has given me rest on every side; there is neither adversary nor evil occurrence.]

At the dedication of the temple, Solomon said the promises of the Davidic Covenant were fulfilled.

1 Kgs 8:12 Then Solomon spoke:

“The Lord said He would dwell in the dark cloud.
13 I have surely built You an exalted house,
And a place for You to dwell in forever.”

14 Then the king turned around and blessed the whole assembly of Israel, while all the assembly of Israel was standing. 15 And he said: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who spoke with His mouth to my father David, and with His hand has fulfilled it, saying, 16 ‘Since the day that I brought My people Israel out of Egypt, I have chosen no city from any tribe of Israel in which to build a house, that My name might be there; but I chose David to be over My people Israel.’ 17 Now it was in the heart of my father David to build a temple for the name of the Lord God of Israel. 18 But the Lord said to my father David, ‘Whereas it was in your heart to build a temple for My name, you did well that it was in your heart. 19 Nevertheless you shall not build the temple, but your son who will come from your body, he shall build the temple for My name.’ 20 So the Lord has fulfilled His word which He spoke; and I have filled the position of my father David, and sit on the throne of Israel, as the Lord promised; and I have built a temple for the name of the Lord God of Israel. 21 And there I have made a place for the ark, in which is the covenant of the Lord which He made with our fathers, when He brought them out of the land of Egypt.”

22 Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands toward heaven; 23 and he said: “Lord God of Israel, there is no God in heaven above or on earth below like You, who keep Your covenant and mercy with Your servants who walk before You with all their hearts. 24 You have kept what You promised Your servant David my father; You have both spoken with Your mouth and fulfilled it with Your hand, as it is this day. 25 Therefore, Lord God of Israel, now keep what You promised Your servant David my father, saying, ‘You shall not fail to have a man sit before Me on the throne of Israel, only if your sons take heed to their way, that they walk before Me as you have walked before Me.’ 26 And now I pray, O God of Israel, let Your word come true, which You have spoken to Your servant David my father.

Keil and Delitzsch note “It is very obvious, from all the separate details of this promise, that it related primarily to Solomon, and had a certain fulfilment in him and his reign.”

If… then…

Of the 5 promises we listed above, Scripture says 4 of them were fulfilled when Solomon built the temple

  1. to set David’s offspring on David’s throne
  2. to establish his throne forever
  3. that his offspring would build a house for God to dwell in
  4. that He would be his offspring’s Father
  5. that His mercy would not depart from his offspring, in spite of his sin

The 5th has reference to a time when David’s offspring disobey Mosaic law. Since that had not yet happened, it had not yet been fulfilled.

Note especially that even the promise to establish the throne forever referred to the letter fulfillment. Recall that God told David this promise was conditional.

1 Chr 28:7 Moreover I will establish his kingdom forever, if he is steadfast to observe My commandments and My judgments, as it is this day.’

God revealed this to Solomon as well.

1 Kgs 9:1 And it came to pass, when Solomon had finished building the house of the Lord and the king’s house, and all Solomon’s desire which he wanted to do, that the Lord appeared to Solomon the second time, as He had appeared to him at Gibeon. And the Lord said to him: “I have heard your prayer and your supplication that you have made before Me; I have consecrated this house which you have built to put My name there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually. Now if you walk before Me as your father David walked, in integrity of heart and in uprightness, to do according to all that I have commanded you, and if you keep My statutes and My judgments, then I will establish the throne of your kingdom over Israel forever, as I promised David your father, saying, ‘You shall not fail to have a man on the throne of Israel.’ But if you or your sons at all turn from following Me, and do not keep My commandments and My statutes which I have set before you, but go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land which I have given them; and this house which I have consecrated for My name I will cast out of My sight. Israel will be a proverb and a byword among all peoples. And as for this house, which is exalted, everyone who passes by it will be astonished and will hiss, and say, ‘Why has the Lord done thus to this land and to this house?’ Then they will answer, ‘Because they forsook the Lord their God, who brought their fathers out of the land of Egypt, and have embraced other gods, and worshiped them and served them; therefore the Lord has brought all this calamity on them.’”

The same clarification is found in Psalm 132, most likely written by Solomon around the time of the completion of the temple.

10 For the sake of David Your servant,
Do not turn away the face of Your anointed.
11 The Lord 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.
12 “If your sons will keep My covenant
And My testimony which I will teach them,
Their sons also shall sit upon your throne forever.”

God’s promise to establish the throne of David and his offspring forever had reference to a continuous succession of kings. They would continue to reign, one after the other as long as they obeyed Mosaic law. God’s dwelling in the temple was also conditioned upon this obedience. He says in v3 above that the temple was consecrated to put His name there forever (cf Ps 132:14). Yet he goes on to state the conditional nature of forever (v7). God revealed the same thing to Solomon during its construction.

1 Kgs 6:11 Then the word of the Lord came to Solomon, saying: 12 Concerning this temple which you are building, if you walk in My statutes, execute My judgments, keep all My commandments, and walk in them, then I will perform My word with you, which I spoke to your father David. 13 And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will not forsake My people Israel.”

Note also that Israel’s tenure in the land was now conditioned upon the obedience of the king (1 Kgs 9:7 “then I will cut off Israel from the land which I have given them“). The Davidic Covenant was truly an extension of the Mosaic Covenant of works for life in the land of Canaan.

Solomon Forsakes the Lord

Solomon failed to meet the conditional requirement.

1 Kgs 11:1 But King Solomon loved many foreign women, as well as the daughter of Pharaoh: women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites— from the nations of whom the Lord had said to the children of Israel, “You shall not intermarry with them, nor they with you. Surely they will turn away your hearts after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love. And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart. For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord, and did not fully follow the Lord, as did his father David. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, on the hill that is east of Jerusalem, and for Molech the abomination of the people of Ammon. And he did likewise for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods.

So the Lord became angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned from the Lord God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, 10 and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods; but he did not keep what the Lord had commanded. 11 Therefore the Lord said to Solomon, “Because you have done this, and have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to your servant. 12 Nevertheless I will not do it in your days, for the sake of your father David; I will tear it out of the hand of your son. 13 However I will not tear away the whole kingdom; I will give one tribe to your son for the sake of My servant David, and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen.”

God is very clear: Solomon failed to keep the condition, so the conditional promise will not be fulfilled. His kingdom in Canaan will not be established forever down through successive generations for Israel living in the land. It will be taken from him. However, “for the sake of David” Solomon’s kingdom will not be taken from him during his life. Instead, the kingdom would be taken away from Solomon’s son Rehoboam. (Whether or not this was due to a promise made in the Davidic covenant will be discussed below.)

Rehoboam became king, but the people rebelled against him because of his heavy taxes. 10 tribes broke away from Rehoboam and made Jeroboam king instead. These 10 tribes became known as “Israel” in opposition to “Judah” (“Jew” refers to someone from the tribe of Judah, not simply to all Israelites – though a Jew became known as a true faithful Israelite in opposition to the Israelites who broke away and setup a capital in Samaria, thus known as Samaritans – cf John 4:9, 12, 20).

1 Kgs 12:19 So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day.

20 Now it came to pass when all Israel heard that Jeroboam had come back, they sent for him and called him to the congregation, and made him king over all Israel. There was none who followed the house of David, but the tribe of Judah only.

R.B.C. Howell remarks

Here the reign of the family of David over all Israel, actually, and forever ceased. Indeed, from beginning to end, it continued at most, but three generations, or about
one century. Over Judah alone, his descendants continued to reign for several centuries more. At length however Nebuchadnezzar invaded and conquered the nation, destroyed Jerusalem, burned the temple, carried the people into captivity, and desolated the whole land. With this overthrow, which occurred five hundred and eighty nine years before the coming of Christ, ended finally, the reign even over
Judah itself, of the family of David. His literal throne existed no more… Twenty four hundred years has David’s literal throne been buried. It will never be resuscitated. (The Covenants, 38-40)

Jeroboam’s Enduring House

Interestingly, note that God offered Jeroboam (whom the 10 tribes made their king) the same conditional “letter” promise that he made Solomon.

1 Kgs 11:37 So I will take you, and you shall reign over all your heart desires, and you shall be king over Israel. 38 Then it shall be, if you heed all that I command you, walk in My ways, and do what is right in My sight, to keep My statutes and My commandments, as My servant David did, then I will be with you and build for you an enduring house, as I built for David, and will give Israel to you.

This is very interesting because it teaches us that Jeroboam could have become like David and could have his throne established over Israel forever, if he obeyed the Mosaic Covenant. It also teaches us that David’s obedience to the Mosaic Covenant – obedience that is repeatedly mentioned throughout the various revelations of the Davidic Covenant – secured blessings for his offspring.

1 Kgs 11:34 However I will not take the whole kingdom out of his hand, because I have made him ruler all the days of his life for the sake of My servant David, whom I chose because he kept My commandments and My statutes.

1 Kgs 3:6 And Solomon said: “You have shown great mercy to Your servant David my father, because he walked before You in truth, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with You; You have continued this great kindness for him, and You have given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day.

Compare this to Abraham.

Gen 22:15 Then the Angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time out of heaven, 16 and said: “By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son 17 blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. 18 In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”

Genesis 26:2 Then the Lord appeared to him and said: “Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land of which I shall tell you. Dwell in this land, and I will be with you and bless you; for to you and your descendants I give all these lands, and I will perform the oath which I swore to Abraham your father. And I will make your descendants multiply as the stars of heaven; I will give to your descendants all these lands; and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.”

Saul’s Enduring House

Interestingly, this opportunity to have a kingdom established down through the generations of a king appears to have been a standing order. When Saul provoked the Lord to anger by unlawfully offering a sacrifice himself

1 Sam 13:13-14 Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the command of the Lord your God, with which he commanded you. For then the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. 14 But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.”

The 5th Davidic Promise

Was the 5th promise fulfilled in Solomon? In 2 Sam. 7:14-15 God told David

  • If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men. But My mercy shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from before you.” (NKJV)
  • When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you.” (ESV)
  • “…But my faithful love will never leave him as it did when I removed it from Saul, whom I removed from before you.” (CSB)
  • “…But I will not withdraw my support from him as I did from Saul, whom I removed so that you could be king. ” (GNT)
  • “…But my loyal love will not be removed from him as I removed it from Saul, whom I removed from before you.” (NET)
  • “…and My kindness doth not turn aside from him, as I turned it aside from Saul, whom I turned aside from before thee” (Young’s Literal)

As I took it from Saul

It is not immediately clear exactly what the verse is referring to. It clearly has something to do with God’s favor upon Saul as king. Saul was anointed by God to be king over Israel (1 Samuel 9:16; 10:1). The Spirit was placed upon him as a prophet (1 Sam. 10:10). He was then made king by the people (1 Sam. 10:17-25).

He disobeyed Mosaic law and was therefore rejected as king by God (1 Sam 15:10, 26). As we saw above, God said that Saul’s kingdom would not continue forever because he would be replaced by someone else. Samuel said “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this day and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you.” (1 Sam. 15:28).

God then anointed David king and the Spirit came upon him as the Spirit left Saul (1 Sam. 16:13-14). However, Saul remained king of Israel for the rest of his life. David still considered him the divinely anointed king of Israel (1 Sam. 24:6, 14). Upon his second opportunity to kill Saul, David said

1 Sam. 26:9 But David said to Abishai, “Do not destroy him, for who can put out his hand against the Lord‘s anointed and be guiltless?” 10 And David said, “As the Lord lives, the Lord will strike him, or his day will come to die, or he will go down into battle and perish. 11 The Lord forbid that I should put out my hand against the Lord‘s anointed.

Saul later died in battle (1 Sam. 31). After his death, the tribe of Judah made David their king (2 Sam 2:4). However, the rest of Israel made Saul’s son Ish-bosheth their king. “Ish-bosheth, Saul’s son, was forty years old when he began to reign over Israel, and he reigned two years. But the house of Judah followed David.” (2 Sam. 2:10). Ish-bosheth was murdered (2 Sam 4), then all Israel made David their king (2 Sam. 5:1-5).

In sum: Saul sinned so the Lord tore the kingdom of Israel from him and gave it to someone else (David). But he remained the official anointed king of Israel all of his life until he died (in battle). His son then reigned over a portion of divided Israel until he was murdered, at which point David reigned over all of united Israel.

Compare with Solomon: Solomon sinned so the Lord tore the kingdom of Israel from him and gave it to someone else (Jeroboam). But he remained the official anointed king of Israel all of his life until he died (of old age). His son then reigned over united Israel for a time until it was taken from him and given to Jeroboam, who reigned over a portion of divided Israel while he continued to reign over Judah.

Recall 1 Kings 11:11-13

Therefore the Lord said to Solomon, “Because you have done this, and have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to your servant. 12 Nevertheless I will not do it in your days, for the sake of your father David; I will tear it out of the hand of your son. 13 However I will not tear away the whole kingdom; I will give one tribe to your son for the sake of My servant David, and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen.”

God “tore” the kingdom from Saul and from Solomon because of their sin. In Saul’s case, it happened in his day “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this day” while in Solomon’s case it happened in his son’s day. Both remained kings over Israel the rest of their lives. So in what sense was the kingdom torn from Saul that it was not from Solomon? The best answer appears to be that God cut Saul’s life short by killing him in battle so that David could reign (“whom I removed from before you” – cf Acts 13:22) while Solomon died of old age. Speaking to Jeroboam, God said

1 Kgs 11:34 Nevertheless, I will not take the whole kingdom out of his hand, but I will make him ruler all the days of his life, for the sake of David my servant whom I chose, who kept my commandments and my statutes. 35 But I will take the kingdom out of his son’s hand and will give it to you, ten tribes. 36 Yet to his son I will give one tribe, that David my servant may always have a lamp before me in Jerusalem, the city where I have chosen to put my name. 37 And I will take you, and you shall reign over all that your soul desires, and you shall be king over Israel.

Consider the blessings and curses of the Mosaic Covenant in Deuteronomy 28.

Deut 28:1, 7 “And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you todayThe Lord will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before you.”

Deut 28:15, 25 “But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you todayThe Lord will cause you to be defeated before your enemies.

Saul broke Mosaic law and was therefore killed in battle. Solomon broke Mosaic law, but he was not killed in battle. The Lord did raise up adversaries (“wounds inflicted by human beings”) against Solomon after he sinned (“And the Lord raised up an adversary against Solomon, Hadad the Edomite... God also raised up as an adversary to him, Rezon the son of EliadaHe was an adversary of Israel all the days of Solomon, doing harm as Hadad did.” 1 Kgs 11:14, 23, 25) but Solomon was not defeated by them. Instead “Solomon slept with his fathers and was buried in the city of David his father” (1 Kgs 11:43).

5th Promise Fulfilled?

“I will become his father and he will become my son. When he sins, I will correct him with the rod of men and with wounds inflicted by human beings. But my loyal love will not be removed from him as I removed it from Saul, whom I removed from before you.” (NET)

Was this promised fulfilled in Solomon? This has not been an easy question to answer, but in light of the above, I do believe it was fulfilled in Solomon’s day. God said he would not take the kingdom from Solomon, but would take it from his son instead “for the sake of David,” which is shorthand meaning “because of the Davidic Covenant.” Solomon sinned and God raised up adversaries who did Israel harm by inflicting wounds, but God did not allow them to kill Solomon, who lived and reigned as king until he slept in fulfillment of this covenant promise made to David.

This is likely what Solomon was referring to at the dedication of the temple when he said “‘O Lord God, do not turn away the face of Your Anointed; Remember the mercies of Your servant David.’” (2 Chr 6:42) Thus all of the Davidic promises we originally saw were fulfilled in Solomon.

Spiritual Fulfillment

So the conditional Davidic Covenant was fulfilled in Solomon and the Davidic kingdom of Israel was taken from his son as a result of his sin. However, in God’s judgment upon Rehoboam we see a “but.”

1 Kgs 11:39 And I will afflict the descendants of David because of this, but not forever.

God will curse the descendants of David according to the letter of the promise, but there will be a time in the future when this will cease. It will not be permanent.

1 Kgs 11:13 However I will not tear away the whole kingdom; I will give one tribe to your son for the sake of My servant David, and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen.”

The kingdom of Israel is taken away from the line of David because of their disobedience to Mosaic law, but the tribe of David is to be spared in some way. (Where is this promised in the Davidic Covenant?)

Rehoboam forsakes the Lord so God sends judgment upon Judah.

1 Chr 12:1 When the kingdom of Rehoboam was established and strong, he and all Israel with him forsook the law of the Lord. And it came about in King Rehoboam’s fifth year, because they had been unfaithful to the Lord, that Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem with 1,200 chariots and 60,000 horsemen. And the people who came with him from Egypt were without number: the Lubim, the Sukkiim and the Ethiopians. He captured the fortified cities of Judah and came as far as Jerusalem. Then Shemaiah the prophet came to Rehoboam and the princes of Judah who had gathered at Jerusalem because of Shishak, and he said to them, “Thus says the Lord, ‘You have forsaken Me, so I also have forsaken you to Shishak.’”

Psalm 89 was most likely written during this time when the Davidic kingdom had been fully established but then lost to Israel’s old enemy Egypt (See Spurgeon’s introductory comments, Gill’s, and Knife’s – pages 88ff). In this psalm we see a hope of some future fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant (that we don’t really see in Psalm 132), despite the fact that Scripture teaches the Davidic promises were already fulfilled. Verses 19-37 recall what God promised in the Davidic Covenant, but with new details and a new emphasis. The “forever” clause is no longer understood to be conditional.

28 “My lovingkindness I will keep for him forever,
And My covenant shall be confirmed to him.
29 “So I will establish his descendants forever
And his throne as the days of heaven.

30 “If his sons forsake My law
And do not walk in My judgments,
31 If they violate My statutes
And do not keep My commandments,
32 Then I will punish their transgression with the rod
And their iniquity with stripes.
33 But I will not break off My lovingkindness from him,
Nor deal falsely in My faithfulness.
34 “My covenant I will not violate,
Nor will I alter the utterance of My lips.
35 “Once I have sworn by My holiness;
I will not lie to David.
36 “His descendants shall endure forever
And his throne as the sun before Me.
37 “It shall be established forever like the moon,
And the witness in the sky is faithful.” Selah.

Previously God said the establishment of the throne forever was conditioned upon the obedience of David’s sons (1 Kgs 9:4-5; 1 Chr 28:7). Now the “forever” promise is to be fulfilled in spite of their disobedience. What are we to make of this discrepancy? If we rejected the divine inspiration of Scripture we could simply say that Ethan the Psalmist misunderstood the Davidic Covenant. If we rejected the truthfulness of God we could say He contradicted Himself. Neither are an option. Neither can we say the Davidic Covenant only really had reference to a distant future son, not to Solomon or Rehoboam.

The best way to resolve the tension is to understand the Davidic promises as having a double meaning, or a dichotomous nature. In this podcast series and this post, I explain how God promised two things to Abraham. The first promise was that Abraham would have numerous offspring that would become a great nation and possess the land of Canaan (Gen 12:2, 7; 13:15; 15:5, 7, 18-21; 17:2, 7-8; 22:17; 24:7; 26:3-4; 28:3-4, 13-14; 35:11-12; 46:3; 48:4). The second promise was that Abraham would be the father of the promised seed of the woman who would bless all nations (Gen 12:3; 18:18; 22:17b-18; 26:4; 28:14; Gal 3:8, 16-17). The first promise was given as a picture for us to better understand the second promise. It was typological of the second promise in that the kingdom of Israel was a shadow of the kingdom of Christ.

We can take a similar approach to the Davidic Covenant. God promised two things to David. The first promise was that David would have numerous offspring that would rule over the nation of Israel in the land of Canaan with God in their midst. The second promise was that David would be the father of the promised seed of the woman who would bless all nations. The first promise was given as a picture for us to better understand the second promise. It was typological of the second promise in that the throne of David was a shadow of the throne of Christ. (Consider Augustine on this point).

The trouble is that in the Davidic they seem to overlap entirely, as Pink noted.

The promises made to David in all these places had immediate reference to Solomon and to his descendants. But it is clear that the New Testament writers understood them as referring also to the Messiah… Peter affirms that David was aware of this, and that he so understood the promise as referring not only to Solomon, but in a far more important sense to the Messiah… In what way these promises that were made to David were understood as applying to the Messiah, it may not be easy to determine. (Albert Barnes on Acts 2:30)

Though aided by the Spirit of prophecy, perhaps what allowed David and Ethan the Psalmist to see a future fulfillment beyond Solomon was the very end of the oath. David understood that the promise to establish the throne of Solomon’s kingdom forever (v 13) was conditioned upon Solomon’s obedience to the law (recall 1 Chr. 28:7). But then God goes on to say that even if Solomon commits iniquity, David’s kingdom and throne shall be established forever.

2 Sam. 7:12 “When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men. 15 But My mercy shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 16 And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever.”

So Solomon’s kingdom (letter fulfillment) will be established forever if he obeys the Mosaic law, but David’s kingdom (spiritual fulfillment) will be established forever even if Solomon commits iniquity. I think this is precisely what David and the prophets latched on to. Re-read Psalm 89 with this in mind.

For the Sake of David

This would explain why the tribe of Judah was separated from the 10 tribes and spared from their annihilation. Previously, all 12 tribes were spared from the Mosaic curse because of God’s promise to Abraham. But because the first Abrahamic promise had been fulfilled in the reigns of David and Solomon, it no longer preserved all of Israel from the Mosaic curse (Gen 15:11; Deut 28:26). The second Abrahamic promise (yet to be fulfilled) was narrowed to the seed of David and thus Judah was spared. Israel was destroyed and scattered by Assyria, but God spared Judah from Assyria.

2 Kgs 8:19 However, the Lord was not willing to destroy Judah, for the sake of David His servant, since He had promised him to give a lamp to him through his sons always. (Cf Hosea 1:6-7; 2 Kgs 19:32-37; 20:6)

Judah’s kings later followed in the steps of Israel and forsook the Lord but God did not destroy and scatter them all, like he did to the 10 tribes. Instead, he saved a remnant who were taken captive into the land of Babylon. Part of this judgment upon Judah included the termination of David’s throne even over Judah. David’s offspring never again reigned as kings over Judah.

Jeremiah 22:24 As I live,” says the Lord, “though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, were the signet on My right hand, yet I would pluck you off; 25 and I will give you into the hand of those who seek your life, and into the hand of those whose face you fear—the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and the hand of the Chaldeans. 26 So I will cast you out, and your mother who bore you, into another country where you were not born; and there you shall die. 27 But to the land to which they desire to return, there they shall not return.

28 “Is this man Coniah a despised, broken idol—
A vessel in which is no pleasure?
Why are they cast out, he and his descendants,
And cast into a land which they do not know?
29 O earth, earth, earth,
Hear the word of the Lord!
30 Thus says the Lord:
‘Write this man down as childless,
A man who shall not prosper in his days;
For none of his descendants shall prosper,
Sitting on the throne of David,
And ruling anymore in Judah.’ ”

Immediately after this curse, Jeremiah proclaimed the future restoration of Israel and Judah through a righteous branch of David.

Jeremiah23:1 “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of My pasture!” says the Lord. Therefore thus says the Lord God of Israel against the shepherds who feed My people: “You have scattered My flock, driven them away, and not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for the evil of your doings,” says the Lord. “But I will gather the remnant of My flock out of all countries where I have driven them, and bring them back to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase. I will set up shepherds over them who will feed them; and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, nor shall they be lacking,” says the Lord.

“Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord,
“That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness;
A King shall reign and prosper,
And execute judgment and righteousness in the earth.
In His days Judah will be saved,
And Israel will dwell safely;
Now this is His name by which He will be called:

 

The Davidic covenant became, as Bergen observes, “the nucleus around which messages of hope proclaimed by Hebrew prophets of later generations were built…”xix This covenant is mentioned or alluded to in several of the Psalms (cf. Ps. 21, 72, 89, 110, 132). It is also alluded to in the prophetic writings. As the monarchy eventually began to slide into wickedness, the prophets began to understand the promises of the Davidic covenant eschatologically. As Joyce Baldwin notes, the prophets taught that David’s “booth would be repaired (Am. 9:11); a Davidic child would establish his throne with justice and with righteousness (Is. 9:6–7); a branch from the stump of Jesse would yet create an ideal kingdom (Is. 11:1–9; cf. Je. 23:5; Zc. 3:8).”xx The promises that had not yet been fulfilled would be fulfilled in the future (cf. Isa. 7:13–25; 16:5; 55:3; Jer. 30:8; 33:14–26; Ezek. 34:20–24; 37:24–25; Hos. 3:5; Zech. 6:12–13; 12:7–8). (Keith Mathison: The Davidic Covenant — The Unfolding of Biblical Eschatology)

The Sure Mercies of David

Though spoken in prophetic idiom using the language and imagery of Israel and Canaan, these promises of a future restoration referred to eschatological Israel (the church of Christ) and the kingdom to be established forever was the kingdom of heaven (for more see here).

Amos 9:11 “On that day I will raise up
The tabernacle of David, which has fallen down,
And repair its damages;
I will raise up its ruins,
And rebuild it as in the days of old;

 

Is. 9:6 For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

 

Jer. 33:14-18 ‘Behold, the days are coming,’ says the Lord, ‘that I will perform that good thing which I have promised to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah:

‘In those days and at that time
I will cause to grow up to David
A Branch of righteousness;
He shall execute judgment and righteousness in the earth.
In those days Judah will be saved,
And Jerusalem will dwell safely.
And this is the name by which she will be called:

THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.’

For thus says the Lord: ‘David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel; nor shall the priests, the Levites, lack a man to offer burnt offerings before Me, to kindle grain offerings, and to sacrifice continually.’ ”

19 And the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, saying, 20 “Thus says the Lord: ‘If you can break My covenant with the day and My covenant with the night, so that there will not be day and night in their season, 21 then My covenant may also be broken with David My servant, so that he shall not have a son to reign on his throne, and with the Levites, the priests, My ministers. 22 As the host of heaven cannot be numbered, nor the sand of the sea measured, so will I multiply the descendants of David My servant and the Levites who minister to Me.’ ”

 

Ezk. 37:24 “David My servant shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd; they shall also walk in My judgments and observe My statutes, and do them. 25 Then they shall dwell in the land that I have given to Jacob My servant, where your fathers dwelt; and they shall dwell there, they, their children, and their children’s children, forever; and My servant David shall be their prince forever. 26 Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them, and it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; I will establish them and multiply them, and I will set My sanctuary in their midst forevermore. 27 My tabernacle also shall be with them; indeed I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 28 The nations also will know that I, the Lord, sanctify Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forevermore.” ’ ”

Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Isaiah all refer to a new covenant of peace that will be made in the future, not like the old covenant that Israel broke. Isaiah said

Is. 42:1,6 Behold my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations…
I will give you as a covenant for the people,

Is. 49:3, 8 “And He said to me,
‘You are My servant, O Israel,
In whom I will be glorified.’…
I will preserve You and give You
As a covenant to the people,

Is. 55:1-5 “Ho! Everyone who thirsts,
Come to the waters;
And you who have no money,
Come, buy and eat.
Yes, come, buy wine and milk
Without money and without price.
Why do you spend money for what is not bread,
And your wages for what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
And let your soul delight itself in abundance.
Incline your ear, and come to Me.
Hear, and your soul shall live;
And I will make an everlasting covenant with you—
The sure mercies of David.
Indeed I have given him as a witness to the people,
A leader and commander for the people.
Surely you shall call a nation you do not know,
And nations who do not know you shall run to you,
Because of the Lord your God,
And the Holy One of Israel;
For He has glorified you.”

The “sure mercies of David” is alternately translated:

  • my faithful love promised to David. (NIV)
  • my steadfast, sure love for David. (ESV)
  • According to the faithful mercies shown to David. (NASB)
  • even the sure mercies of David. (KJV)
  • the promises assured to David. (HCSB)
  • just like the reliable covenantal promises I made to David. (NET)*

* tn Heb “the reliable expressions of loyalty of David.” The syntactical relationship of חַסְדֵי (khasde, “expressions of loyalty”) to the preceding line is unclear. If the term is appositional to בְּרִית (bÿrit, “covenant”), then the Lord here transfers the promises of the Davidic covenant to the entire nation. Another option is to take חַסְדֵי (khasde) as an adverbial accusative and to translate “according to the reliable covenantal promises.” In this case the new covenantal arrangement proposed here is viewed as an extension or perhaps fulfillment of the Davidic promises. A third option, the one reflected in the above translation, is to take the last line as comparative. In this case the new covenant being proposed is analogous to the Davidic covenant. Verses 4-5, which compare David’s international prominence to what Israel will experience, favors this view. In all three of these interpretations, “David” is an objective genitive; he is the recipient of covenantal promises.

Of these three options offered in the NET footnote, I believe the second (the new covenant is a fulfillment of the Davidic covenant) would fit best with all that we have discussed above. However, the footnote goes on to mention another possibility.

A fourth option would be to take David as a subjective genitive and understand the line as giving the basis for the preceding promise: “Then I will make an unconditional covenantal promise to you, because of David’s faithful acts of covenantal loyalty.”

We saw a similar idea above in Solomon’s prayer for wisdom.

1 Kgs 3:6 And Solomon said: “You have shown great mercy to Your servant David my father, because he walked before You in truth, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with You; You have continued this great kindness for him, and You have given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day. (NKJV)

The ESV has “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant David my father, because he walked before you in faithfulness…” In a WTJ essay, Peter J. Gentry argues for a subjective translation and interpretation (read a summary here), with the important qualification that it is referring to Christ, not David.

The “sure mercies” are by David rather than for David… [T]he use of the name David in Isaiah shows that a future descendent is uppermost in the author’s thought… If “David” refers to the future king in 55:3, a precedent would already be set by Hos 3:5, a usage more similar than those in Jeremiah (30:8–9) and Ezekiel (34:23–24; 37:24–25)…

Scholars have emphasized that ḥasdê dāwıd̄ hanneʾĕmānîm in 55:3b functions in apposition to berîtʿôlām in 3a. What acts of ḥesed on the part of the future David can constitute an eternal covenant?… It is the acts of ḥesed on the part of the Servant that establish and initiate the discussion on the eternal covenant in ch. 54 of which 55:3 continues the thread. It is because the Servant is the “covenant of the people” in himself (42:6; 49:8) that the apposition of ḥasdê dāwıd̄ and berîtʿôlām in v. 3 makes sense…

The role of the Davidic King in fulfilling his covenant obligations is defined by divine sonship based upon 2 Sam 7:14–15 and Deut 17:18–20… Thus Isaiah employs nāgîd because the future David fulfills the role of obedient [royal] son in the framework of the Davidic Covenant… The main reason interpreters have sought to interpret the
text from the point of view of an objective genitive is a failure to see that a future, not historical, David is in view and a failure to observe properly the trajectory of the covenants in the OT and the flow of thought both in the book of Isaiah as whole and in the near context of ch. 55. The fact that some interpreters use such renderings in English as “the promises of grace to David” or the aforementioned “unfailing kindnesses promised to David” — paraphrases which actually go beyond linguistic parameters for a literal translation as objective genitive—really show how awkward it is to construe it this way. The blessings do come to the nations, not because Yahweh’s promises to David are democratized in the way some think, but because a new David who is an obedient son succeeds in bringing Yahweh’s Torah to all humans.

Applying this to Acts 13:34, he argues

In v. 32 Paul offers good news to “you” (second person plural), that is, his audience. What God promised to the fathers is now fulfilled for us, their descendants, when He raised Jesus from the dead. Paul cites Ps 2:7 and then affirms that God raised Jesus, no longer to return to corruption. That the resurrection of the Davidic son of Ps 2 is to an incorruptible life is demonstrated by two further texts: Isa 55:3 and Ps 16:10. In Isa 55:3 he (i.e., God) said, “I will give to you the faithfulὅ σια of David.” (Note that the “you” is second person plural. The recipients, according to Paul, are his audience in Pisidian Antioch, the descendants of the people first promised “the faithful ὅσια of David.” This makes perfect sense in view of Isaiah’s doctrine of a remnant.)…

[I]f Paul meant τὰ ὅσια Δαυιδ τὰ πιστά to be subjective genitive and understood “David” not as the historical David, but a rubric for the Messiah, his argument in context becomes plain. The explanation that David served his own generation is a clear statement that the historical David is not in view. Instead, Isaiah refers to the
Messiah. Since the pious deeds of David in the context of Isa 55:3 are the sufferings and death of the Servant in ch. 53, the reference to resurrection becomes clear. Isaiah 53:11 affirms that “after the suffering of his soul he will see the light of life and be satisfied.” Isaiah 53:12 shows the Servant sharing his victory with the many. And it is natural for Paul to cite 55:3 and not a verse or two in ch. 53 because this is the text that applies the work of the Servant to the nations. Once again, perhaps the reason why scholars have labored so hard to find an appropriate meaning for
ὅσια in Acts 13:34 is that they are thinking of the wrong David. This interpretation, then, for Acts 13:34 is plausible and also matches the proposal for Isa 55:3…

In conclusion, “the faithful kindnesses of David” mentioned in Isa 55:3 are kindnesses performed by David—a rubric for the future king in this text. The faithful or obedient acts of loyal love are those of the Servant King in Isa 53 whose offering of himself as an ʾās̆ām and whose resurrection enable him to bring to fulfillment the promises of Yahweh in the Davidic Covenant and is at the same time the basis for the New or Everlasting Covenant. This future King then fulfills the roles required for the king in Deut 17 and 2 Sam 7 by bringing the divine instruction or Torah to Israel (Deut 17) and, indeed, to all the nations (2 Sam 7:19). He is therefore a leader and commander of the peoples and becomes a covenant witness in himself to the nations. This is exactly how Acts 13:34 interprets Isa 55.

Though not necessarily holding to the subjective translation, Benjamin Keach interprets “David” in 55:3 as Christ in a similar fashion.

METAPHORS TAKEN FROM SACRED PERSONS AND THINGS, AND WHATSOEVER RELATES TO DIVINE WORSHIP

These may be reduced into three heads
(1) Men
(2) Places
(3) Customs, rites, or ceremonies
Of which in order

Metaphors from Men sacred to God

Men that belong to this, are either singular or conjunct, viz., the whole people. Single or singular, as David a man according to God’s own heart, who is put for the Messiah, Isa. lv. 3, “I will make an everlasting covenant with you, the most sure mercies of David.” R. Kimchi, clearly asserts, that the Messiah is to be understood here, and it evidently appears from verse 4. Some understand by “the mercies of David,” the blessings that God promised David, viz., that the Messiah and Savior of the world should be born of his race; which is the same thing in effect with the former explication.

And here as well:

the sure mercies of David: That is our Lord Jesus Christ, he is the true Antitipical David. Sure, because they are Mercies granted to us thro’ Christ’s suretiship; and when a Sinner is brought into the bands of the Covenant, God is said to make this Covenant with him, i. e. he actually entering then thro’ Christ into Covenant with God; but our standing then in it, is upon the account of Christ’s Covenant with the Father for us.

THE DISPLAY OF Glorious Grace OR THE Covenant of Peace Opened: In Several SERMONS.

Gill likewise.

And I will make an everlasting covenant with you; which is to be understood not of the covenant of works, nor of the covenant of circumcision, nor of the Sinai covenant; but of the covenant of grace, which is an “everlasting one”…

even “the sure mercies of David”; that is, the Messiah, the son of David, and his antitype, whence he is often called by his name, ( Ezekiel 34:23 Ezekiel 34:24 ) ( Ezekiel 37:24 Ezekiel 37:25 ) ( Hosea 3:5 ), and so Aben Ezra, Kimchi, and others interpret it. The blessings of the covenant are called “mercies”, because they spring from the mercy of God, as redemption, pardon of sin, regeneration, salvation, and eternal life; and they are the mercies of David, or of Christ, for the promises of them were made to him, and the things themselves put into his hands, and are ratified and confirmed by his blood, and through him come to his people: and these are “sure”, firm, and steadfast, through the faithfulness and holiness of God, who has given them to Christ; through being in a covenant ordered in all things and sure; and also being in the hands of Christ, in whom the promises are yea and amen, and the blessings sure to all the seed; see ( Acts 13:34 )

[Acts 13:34] “I will give you the sure mercies of David”; that is, of the Messiah; by which are meant the blessings of the sure and well ordered covenant of grace, which the Messiah by his sufferings and death was to ratify and secure for all his people: now had he only died, and not been raised from the dead, these blessings had not been ratified and made sure unto them; therefore, when God promises his people, that he will give them the sure mercies of David, or the Messiah, he promises that the Messiah shall not only die to procure mercies and blessings for them, but that he shall rise again from the dead, to make them sure unto them; so that these words are pertinently produced in proof of Christ’s resurrection.

And Pink

The “sure mercies of David” were the things promised to the antitypical David in Psalm 89:28,29, and so forth… Thus “the sure mercies” of the true David signified God would raise Him from the dead unto everlasting life. These “sure mercies” are extended by Isaiah unto all the faithful as the blessings of the covenant, and therefore may be understood to denote all saving benefits bestowed on believers in this life or that to come. This need occasion no difficulty whatever. Those “mercies” were Christ’s by the Father’s promise and by His own purchase, and at His resurrection they became His in actual possession, being all laid up in Him (2 Cor 1:20); and from Him we receive them John 1:16; 16:14-16). The promises descend through Christ to those who believe, and thus are “sure” to all the seed (Rom 4:16). It was the covenant which provided a firm foundation of mercy unto the Redeemer’s family, and none of its blessings can be recalled (Rom 11:32). Those “sure mercies” God swore to bestow upon the spiritual seed or family of David (2 Sam 7:15,16; Psalm 89:2,29, 30), and they were made good in the appearing of Christ and the establishing of His kingdom on His resurrection, as Acts 13:34 so clearly shows, for His coming forth from the grave was the necessary step unto His assumption of sovereign power. (Divine Covenants, Part 6)

Since I don’t know Hebrew (or Greek) I can’t comment on whether the subjective or objective translation is correct. If it is objective, it seems the meaning is that the establishment of the everlasting new covenant is the spiritual fulfillment of God’s promise to establish the throne of David forever (in which case “David” would not be a reference to Christ in Is. 55:3 – Spurgeon adopts this interpretation). However, I do believe that Is. 55:4-5 refer to Christ, not David. If it is subjective, then it refers to Christ and his work given as the new everlasting covenant.

The 5 Davidic Promises Fulfilled in Christ

The New Testament teaches that the promises of the Davidic Covenant were also fulfilled in Christ.

  • to set David’s offspring on David’s throne
  • to establish his throne forever

Luke 1:30 Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”

cf. Matthew 1:1; 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30-31; 21:9, 15; 22:42 Rom 1:3; Acts 2:30; Heb 1:8; Acts 15:16; Rev 3:7; 5:5

 

Acts 13:21 And afterward they asked for a king; so God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. 22 And when He had removed him, He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.’ 23 From this man’s seed, according to the promise, God raised up for Israel a[f] Savior—Jesus— 24 after John had first preached, before His coming, the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.

  • that his offspring would build a house for God to dwell in

John 2:19 Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

20 Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?”

21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body. 22 Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said.

Cf. 1 Cor 3:16; 6:19; 2 Cor 6:16; Col 2:9; Eph 2:21-22; Rev 21:22

 

Ephesians 2:19 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

  • that He would be his offspring’s Father

Heb 1:5 For to which of the angels did He ever say:

“You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You”?

 

And again:

“I will be to Him a Father,
And He shall be to Me a Son”?

 

Acts 13:32 And we declare to you glad tidings—that promise which was made to the fathers. 33 God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm:

‘You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You.’

  • that His mercy would not depart from his offspring, in spite of his sin

This last promise is a little more difficult. It does not have an explicit New Testament text demonstrating its fulfillment. However, Psalm 89, written after the fulfillment and collapse of the letter promise, demonstrates a slight change to the 5th promise. The original text in 2 Samuel 7 reads

If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men. 15 But My mercy shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from before you.

While Psalm 89 reads

30 “If his sons forsake My law
And do not walk in My judgments,
31 If they break My statutes
And do not keep My commandments,
32 Then I will punish their transgression with the rod,
And their iniquity with stripes.
33 Nevertheless My lovingkindness I will not utterly take from him,
Nor allow My faithfulness to fail.
34 My covenant I will not break,
Nor alter the word that has gone out of My lips.

The original says that if Solomon sins, God’s mercy/lovingkindness would not depart from Solomon. The Psalm 89 re-iteration says that if David’s sons (i.e., Solomon and Rehoboam, at the time) sin, God’s mercy/lovingkindess would not depart from David – meaning he would not break His covenant promise to David to establish his throne forever (through Christ). Thus this promise has both a letter and a spirit fulfillment.

(Many read these verses in Psalm 89 as a promise to the antitypical David (Christ), and therefore as a promise about Christ’s offspring, believers. Though we sin, God’s mercy/lovingkindness will not depart from his love for us in Christ. This may be a legitimate reading insofar as most of the psalms about David refer both to David and to Christ, but if these verses are read in reference to Christ, then they refer to a promise of the Covenant of Grace, or Covenant of Redemption, not to a promise of the Davidic Covenant).

Conclusion

In conclusion, the Davidic Covenant promised David 5 things. Those 5 things received a letter fulfillment in Solomon. However, the promise to establish David’s throne forever at its first mention (2 Sam 7:12) was a conditional promise concerning Solomon’s kingdom (cf 1 Chr 28:7; 1 Kgs 2:4; 8:25; 9:4-5), while it’s second and third repetition (2 Sam 7:16) was an unconditional promise that would be fulfilled in spite of the sin of David’s offspring – thus pointing to a greater fulfillment beyond the letter fulfillment in earthly Canaan. This greater spiritual fulfillment referred to the birth of Christ, the Messiah, and the establishment of his throne over the kingdom of heaven forever, of which Solomon’s earthly kingdom in Canaan was a type.

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  1. Pascal
    June 14, 2018 at 2:35 am

    Thanks Brandon for this excellent article! I came to similar conclusions lately when I was asked to summarize the 1689 Federalism position on the Davidic Covenant and how it was distinct or similar to Progressive Covenantalism and New Covenant Theology on that issue. Here is my answer:

    1689 Federalism sees a dual realization of the davidic promises. On the immediate level these promises were fulfilled earthly through the preservation of the royal lineage of Judah. On that level, the Davidic Covenant was a works conditioned covenant (2 Sam. 7:14-15) and ended in the curse of the covenant 400 years later or so in the Babylonian Exil where the throne of David was destroyed (Jer. 22:24-30). The Davidic Covenant was organically rooted into the Old Covenant (Abr + Mos + Dav) and was the royal dimension of it (Dt 17:14-20). The King was a typological son of God who represented the covenant people and ultimately failed by bringing curses and expulsion of the land (Dt 28:36); just like Adam failed, brought the curse and was put in exile (the Old Covenant is a typological republication of the Covenant of works which brings light to understand the Garden).

    On the other side, the promises made to David were directly connected to the Messiah and the New Covenant. On that level, the Davidic Covenant was unconditional (2 Sam. 7:13, 16) since it was guaranteed by Christ’s obedience as the fulfilling of the Abrahamic Covenant was (Gen. 18:19). Through Christ the line of David was resurrected and preserved (Jer. 52:31-34 ; Mt 1:11-12) and by His resurrection and ascension on high the tent of David has been rebuilt (Acts 15:16) and his throne is forever maintained as was initially promised and reaffirmed by the prophets (Isa. 55:3 ; Jer. 30:9 ; Ez 34:23-25).

    The particularity of 1689 Federalism is to bring forth this dual aspect of the Davidic Covenant and show how each one is connected with the Covenant of works on one side, and the Covenant of grace on the other. This approach is different from the Progressive Covenantalism and the New-Covenant Theology which tends to focus on the narrow historical establishment of the Davidic Covenant, whereas 1689 Federalism is primarily interested in the broad theological perspective (Law/Gospel) of which the Davidic Covenant was a type. I think that the main difference between these approaches, regarding the Davidic Covenant, is on the emphasis rather than the content (though I have not studied these two other approaches enough).

    Like

    • June 14, 2018 at 7:43 am

      That’s a great summary. I haven’t had a chance to study PC or NCT on the Davidic to compare, but will in the future. PC rejects the law/gospel distinction so they would explain the conditional aspect of the covenant differently.

      Like

  2. Pascal
    June 14, 2018 at 2:37 am

    I greatly appreciate your work brother!

    Like

  1. June 16, 2018 at 2:26 pm

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