2 Samuel 7:1
When the king sat in his house. The order is not chronological; for the words, Jehovah had given him rest from all his enemies round about (so the Revised Version, rightly), imply the successful termination, not of all wars necessarily, but certainly of something more than that with the Philistine invaders in the Rephaim valley. A general summary of all David's wars is given in 2 Samuel 8:1-18; and it was probably after he had subdued the Philistines and Moab, and his throne was now fully established, that in some time of peace, possibly before Hanun forced him into wars which won for him an empire, David sent for Nathan, and told him his full desire. Its position here immediately after the account of the bringing of the ark to Zion has a higher unity than that of chronology. It shows that David had always a larger purpose than the mere placing of the ark in its feint; and, as soon as a period of tranquillity arrived, he confided his thoughts to the prophet. Thus, with only one step taken towards his whole plan, David exercised a wise moderation in leaving the service at Gibeon unmolested. As regards the word "rest," we have to distinguish between the first series of wars, which established David firmly on his throne, and the second series, which gave him widespread dominion.
2 Samuel 7:2
A house of cedar; Hebrew, cedars. As these trees were sent by Hiram, and as the house was built, and David now settled in it, some considerable time must have elapsed since his accession. Moreover, the league with Hiram would be the result of David's successes recorded in 2 Samuel 8:1; for the bond of union between the two was their mutual fear of the Philistines. As we have seen before, the alliance with Tyro had a very civilizing effect upon the Hebrews, who were far inferior to the Tyrians in the mechanical arts; and David's house of hewn cedar logs was marvellous in the eyes of a people who still dwelt chiefly in tents. David purposed to build even a more sumptuous palace for Jehovah, and advised with Nathan as his chief counsellor, and the person to whom subsequently the education of Solomon was confided. Within curtains; Hebrew, the curtain; that is, the tent. The tabernacle prepared by Moses for the ark was formed of ten curtains (Exodus 26:1), but the significance lay, not in their number, hut in the dwelling of Jehovah still being a mere temporary lodging, though his people had received from him a settled land.
2 Samuel 7:3
Go, do all that is in thine heart. Nathan rashly approves. The king's purpose seems so pious that he does not doubt its acceptance by God.
2 Samuel 7:4
The word of Jehovah came unto Nathan. Not every word of a prophet was inspired, and only a very few of the prophets, and those only upon great and solemn occasions, spake under the direct influence of the Spirit of God. In his usual relations with the king, Nathan was simply a wise, thoughtful, and God-fearing man. In giving his approval he probably meant no more than that a permanent dwelling for Jehovah was what all pious men were hoping for. But from the days of Samuel to those of Ezra, there was never wanting one or even more holy men who were, on fit occasions, commissioned to bear a message from God to man; and as these generally belonged to the prophetic order, men too often now confound prophecy with prediction. So inveterate is this confusion that even in the Revised Version Amos is made to say, "I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet's son," whereas the Hebrew distinctly is, "I am no prophet, nor a prophet's son [that is, one trained in the prophetic schools], but I am a herdsman" (Amos 7:16). But though not a prophet by profession, yet Amos was discharging a prophet's higher duty in testifying against wickedness and impiety, and was acting under a special Divine call. Still, he did not belong to the prophetic order, nor wear the garment of black camel's hair, which was their professional dress. On the present occasion, Nathan, in approving, had spoken as a man, but now a Divine message comes to him. How we know not. but in verse 17 it is called a "vision;" and it is also said that it came "that night."
2 Samuel 7:5
Shalt thou, etc.? The question implies an answer in the negative; but there is no disapproval of David's purpose as such; but only the deferring of its full execution unto the days of his son. There is more than this. The idea which runs through the Divine message is that the dwelling of Jehovah in a tent was a fitting symbol of Israel's unquiet possession of the laud. It was David's mission to give them tranquillity and security in the region which they had conquered long ago, but wherein they had never hitherto been able to maintain their liberty unimpaired. Then, upon the accomplishment of David's special duty, his son, Shelomo, i.e. the peaceful, was to build the solid temple, as the proof that Jehovah had now taken permanent possession of the land. We find also a further thought, namely, that the building of the temple signified "the making for David of a house." In its full significance this means that the tribe of Judah and the lineage of David were now chosen by God as the ancestors of the Messiah.
2 Samuel 7:6
I have walked in a tent and in a tabernacle; literally, I have walked continually; that is, I have ever been a wanderer, first, in the wilderness, and subsequently at Gilgal, Shiloh, Nob, and Gibeon. Instead of a "tabernacle," the Hebrew has a "dwelling." This may refer to the houses of Abinadab and Obed-Edom, but the words more probably signify "a tent that was my dwelling."
2 Samuel 7:7
In all the places wherein I have walked; Hebrew, in all wherein I continued walking; that is, in all my walking, in all the whole time wherein I have been a wanderer. Instead of tribes, the Chronicler (1 Chronicles 17:6) reads "judges," the words in the Hebrew being almost identical. "Judges" is, of course, the more easy and natural reading, but "tribes" gives a fuller sense, and is supported by all the versions. For in the troubled anarchy which lasted until Saul's reign, first one tribe and then another was called to the front, and had a temporary ascendancy; but neither did Jehovah give it any command to provide a settled place for his worship, nor did any one of the judges conceive the thought of making his tribe permanently the chief, by providing a fixed abode for the ark and for God's worship within its borders. To feed my people Israel. The shepherd, in biblical language, is the ruler, and to feed is to govern, yet in a kindly way, going in front as the shepherd before his flock, to bear the brunt of danger, to clear the road, and to guide into the safe pastures. So tribe after tribe had been called to bear the brunt of war, and, after winning deliverance, it became its duty to guide anti lead the people. In 1 Kings 8:16, 1 Kings 8:18, 1 Kings 8:25, and still more remarkably in 1 Chronicles 22:8, 1 Chronicles 22:9, we find large additions made to the account here given. It follows that we have in this place only a brief summary of the message brought by Nathan, but one containing all the chief points.
2 Samuel 7:8
I took thee from the sheepcote. There is in Nathan's message a marked advance upon the words of all previous prophecies. Hitherto God's promises had been general, and no tribe, and much less any special person, had been chosen as the progenitor of the Messiah. The nearest approach to the selection of a tribe had been the prediction of Judah's supremacy until Shiloh came (Genesis 49:10); but it was not even there expressly declared that Shiloh should be of Judah's race. But now David is clearly chosen. Jehovah takes him from the sheepcote; Hebrew, "the meadow" (see Psalms 78:70). It was in the meadows, the Naioth, round Ramah, that Samuel had gathered the young men of Israel to study their ancient records, and raise their country to a sense of its high calling. In those meadows David had been formed for his high vocation; but he had returned from them to Bethlehem, to feed his father's sheep. And now, "from following the ewes that gave suck," Jehovah takes him to be "his servant," a word of high dignity, applied to but few persons in the Old Testament. It signifies the prime minister, or vicegerent of Jehovah, as the theocratic king, and is the special title of Moses among God's people, and, among the heathen, of Nebuchadnezzar, as one summoned to do a great work for God. But it is in the last twenty-seven chapters of Isaiah that the title reaches its full grandeur. For there, first of all, Israel is called Jehovah's servant, because it was Israel's office to be the witness for the oneness of God amidst the debasing polytheism of all the nations round. And then, finally, the servant is Messiah, as being the personal Representative of God upon earth. The title is now given to David as the type of Christ's kingly office, and also as the sweet singer, who added a new service to the worship of God, and made it more spiritual, and more like the service of angels round God's throne.
2 Samuel 7:9
I have made thee a great name. The widespread conquests of David, and his great empire, were not for the sake of mere earthly dominion. It was, first of all, a type of Messiah's reign, to whom God has premised the heathen for his inheritance, and that his gospel shall be carried to the ends of the earth. But, secondly, if Messiah was to be "David's Son," it was necessary that that king should hold a special place in the hearts of all Israelites. In the fables and tales of the Arabs, it is Solomon who holds the foremost place. Just as our forefathers showed the native qualities of the race by making Arthur's court the abode of prowess and chivalrous bravery; so the Arabs made Solomon's court the representative of that dazzling splendor and magnificence which they so admired; and invested him with superhuman knowledge and magical power, such as made janns and ifreets the humble slaves of his will. In the Old Testament no king is "Jehovah's servant" but David; no king is ever connected with Messiah but David. The religious fervent of the people may gather round a Hezekiah or a Josiah, and prophets may encourage them in their work; but no prophet sees in either of them the ancestor of Christ. It is, however, in the Psalms that we learn the full meaning of Nathan's words. Here a veil is partly drawn over them. But it would be a wilful closing of the eyes to read this message and not bear in mind the clear light with which every word is illumined by the inspired outpouring of David's own heart. He thoroughly understood the fulness and blessedness of God's revelation, and has taught us that it all looked onward to Christ.
2 Samuel 7:10, 2 Samuel 7:11
Moreover I will appoint … will plant. For "moreover," the Hebrew has "and." The tenses also continue the same: "And I have appointed … and have planted." It is all part of the same act. As regards the second verb, the past tense alone makes sense. Jehovah was not about to plant Israel in a place of their own, hut had just done so completely. For David's kingdom had given them security, and with it the power of doing for God that duty which was Israel's special office in the world. Had the anarchy of the times of the judges continued, and the energies of the nation been spent in a hard struggle for existence, that rapid advance in literature which followed upon the institution of Samuel's schools, and which filled David's court with poets and chroniclers, never could have existed, and prophecy would have been impossible. The age of Hezekiah was apparently the culminating period of Hebrew civilization, after which came the depressing influences of the Assyrian invasions, and then long exile, followed by a second weary struggle for existence. If writing was at first a mystery and an art known only to priests, it became throughout the monarchy the possession especially of the prophets, who were Israel's learned men. At the head of their roll stands the matchless Isaiah, and to render it possible for his genius to display itself, not only Samuel's schools, but the security of David's era of conquest, and the long peace and magnificence of Solomon's reign, were all necessary. When "God had given David rest from his enemies round about," he had thereby finally appointed a place for Israel and had planted them there. There is, perhaps, some difficulty in the verb forms at the end of verse 11, but none in the meaning. The reign of David marks an era in the national life. Under him Israel obtained secure possession of the place appointed for it; and now, having no longer to waste its energies in perpetual fighting, the national life grows upwards, and attains to culture, to thought, and civilization. Canaan is now their own, and instead of being mere warriors, they develop national institutions and a national character. What could men do that belongs to a higher and nobler life who were in daily fear of being swept away by Canaanites and Midianites, by Philistines and Ammonites? This miserable period is described as "beforetime," and as "since the day that I commanded judges to be over my people Israel." And here a colon should be placed; and the Hebrew will then proceed, "But now I have caused thee to rest from thine enemies, the anarchy and its attendant weakness is over; "and Jehovah telleth thee that Jehovah will make thee a house." Rest has been given; the establishment of David's family as the Messianic lineage is to follow (see on this promise, 1 Samuel 2:35).
2 Samuel 7:12
Thy seed … which shall proceed. As the son is to be established in the kingdom and to build the house, he must be Solomon, who plainly, therefore, was not as yet born (see note on 2 Samuel 7:1).
2 Samuel 7:13
I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. The temple which Solomon was to build was the symbol of the new development of Israel, and naturally these words suggest a meaning not unworthy of so great an advance in the accomplishment of the nation's mission. Had we, indeed, only this passage, we might be content to take it in a popular sense, as signifying that, whereas Saul's throne (and subsequently that of the many usurpers in Samaria) had but a brief existence, Solomon's descendants should hold for many centuries undisputed possession of the kingdom of Jerusalem. But in Psalms 89:29 we read, "His (David's) seed will I make to endure forever, and his throne as the days of heaven." And again in Psalms 89:36, Psalms 89:37 a continuance is assured to it as lasting as that of the sun and moon. We can scarcely, therefore, be wrong in the conviction that these promises pointed onwards to the establishment of Christ's kingdom, and that the great importance attached to the building of the temple finds its explanation in its relation to him. This full establishment after so long a delay of the Mosaic typical ritual, the addition to it of psalmody, giving it a spiritual side, and making the worship that of the heart, the bestowal of empire, and the rapid development of the people under David and Solomon, were all steps in that wonderful series of special providences which made the Jews fit to be the progeniters of the Messiah, which surrounded him during his ministry with companions capable of understanding and recording his teaching, and provided for him, after his death, missionaries, not merely with zeal enough, but with intellectual gifts sufficient to enable them to persuade both Greece and Rome to listen to tidings so wonderful and mysterious as that God for our salvation had become man. Keil also well points out that the temple was a symbol of Christ's incarnation; for it meant the dwelling of God on earth. "I have surely," says Solomon, "built thee a house of habitation, a place for thee to dwell in forever" (1 Kings 8:13). The same thought was in St. John's mind when he said, "The Word became flesh, and dwelt as in a tabernacle among us" (John 1:14). For the verb used by him, literally "tabernacled," is a comparison between Christ's life on earth, and the dwelling of God in "the tent of meeting." But there is more than this. Christ himself calls his body "the temple" (John 2:19, John 2:21). At the Resurrection he raised up again the temple of his body which the Jews had destroyed, and at the Ascension it was removed from the earth, to be reserved in heaven until his second advent. His reign now is spiritual, and his temple is not a building made with hands, but is the heart of the renewed believer (1 Corinthians 6:19). And this indwelling of Christ in the heart will continue unto the end of the present dispensation. For Christ's indwelling is that also of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16); and the gift of the Spirit continues unto the end of the world. "The Father shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever" (John 14:16).
2 Samuel 7:14
I will be his Father, and he shall be my son. Between father and son there is not only love, but oneness. Whatsoever the father hath, that belongs also to the son by natural right. But this sonship is magnified in the Psalms beyond the measure of Solomon or any natural limits. The Son there is "the Firstborn," which Solomon was not, "higher than the kings of the earth" (Psalms 89:27); and he must have "the nations for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession" (Psalms 2:8). Psalms like the second and seventy-second belong, not to Solomon personally, but to him as the type of the prince of Peace; and they help to show us what is the true meaning and fulfilment of the words here. The rod of men; that is, such punishment as men fitly receive for their faults. David's natural posterity was to be exempt neither from human depravity, nor from punishment, nor from the changes and chances of mortal life. With them, as with men generally, there would be a tangled skein, of virtue and sin, of folly and wisdom, of terrible fall and penitent recovery. But there was to be no blotting out of David's lineage. Great earthly houses, in the long course of events, one after another become extinct, and even the tabernacle of David was to fall (Amos 9:11), but not forever. God would "raise up its ruins' in Christ, and "build it as in the days of old." So in Isaiah 9:1 there is the same thought of the complete down-hewing of David's earthly lineage, yet only to rise again to nobler life and vigour, in the Branch, or Sucker, that was to spring from the fallen trunk.
2 Samuel 7:15, 2 Samuel 7:16
Before thee. This does not refer to time, but means "in thy presence," or "before thy face," that is, "as thou hast thyself been witness." There is a strong contrast between the fate of Saul's house and this eternal endurance promised to that of David. The lineage of Saul might have made a new start in Jonathan, and even when he died at Gilboa, he left a son behind him. Still, no one ever locked upon Mephibosheth as having any title to the throne; and though Shimei (2 Samuel 16:5) may have conceived the hope that, if David were overthrown, the kingdom might return to Saul's family, yet, as a matter of fact, among the many vicissitudes of the ten tribes, the attempt never was made to search for a descendant of Saul to be Israel's king. Saul's was a royalty for one generation; David's throne was to be established forever. Not because David was sinless. His character is sullied by crimes of the darkest hue. But he never sank into a mere tyrant, such as Saul was towards David and towards the priests at Nob. Nor did David ever become an irreligious man (1 Samuel 22:18, 1 Samuel 22:19; 1 Samuel 28:15), though there is in him a strange and painful mixture of great good and great evil. The salt that preserves his character is his genuine sincerity and earnestness both towards God and man; and these qualities make him not unworthy of the high place he holds among God s people. Still, the premise was not because of David's deserts, but because from him was to come the Christ, who is blessed. forevermore.
2 Samuel 7:17
Vision. This word does not imply that Nathan saw anything with the natural eye, but signifies that sort of prophecy which was vouchsafed to a "seer." Thus the prophecies of Isaiah, of Nahum, and of Obadiah are called "visions." Probably the word is taken from the fixed gaze, with which the seer looked into the far off world with unmoved eyes, yet seeing not with them, but with the spiritual sight within. It would thus be an intellectual process accompanied by a rigidity of the natural organs, caused partly by intensity of feeling, but chiefly by mental preoccupation, which left no faculty at liberty to discharge its ordinary function.
2 Samuel 7:18
David … sat before the Lord. The word "sat" is usually explained by commentators as meaning "tarried." The rabbins give the word its ordinary meaning, and say that it was the privilege of kings to pray in a sitting posture. But we cannot possibly believe that kings at this early stage had established a special etiquette for observance in prayer, and the difficulty is merely imaginary. Because the Jews prayed standing, and we moderns pray kneeling, we both assume that to pray sitting was an irreverent act. It was not so, nor are we to think of David as sitting at ease in a chair. He sat upon the ground, as was the Oriental custom, with his feet doubled under him, and his head bent forward; and in this posture meditated upon Jehovah's message, and then poured out his thoughts. As it is expressly said that "he sat before Jehovah," the place must have been the outer court of the tabernacle. Who am I, O Lord Jehovah! In the Authorized Version Jehovah is rendered "God," because it has the vowels of the word Elohim; usually it is rendered "Lord," because the Masserites attached to it the vowels of Adonai, "lord," equivalent to Dominus. As Adonai here precedes Jehovah, the Massorites were driven from their usual practice, and were so superstitious as to suppose it more reverent to pronounce the name Elohim than that of Jehovah, to which the Jews attached magical powers. David's words are not so much a prayer as a meditation, full of thanksgiving, and even of wonder at the greatness of God's mercies to him. In it he first acknowledges his own unworthiness and the meanness of his father's house compared with the high dignity which God is bestowing upon him. For not only has he raised him to the kingly office, but promised him the continuance of his house "for a great while to come." Whether David understood as yet that he was now placed in the same position as Abraham of old, in that "in his seed all the families of the earth should be blessed," is uncertain, and depends upon the interpretation put upon the following words. This only we may affirm, that whet he says in this place of his house remaining until a distant future falls far short of the meaning of the passages quoted above from the Psalms.
2 Samuel 7:19
And is this the manner of man, O Lord God? Hebrew, and this is the law of man, O Lord Jehovah. In the parallel passage (1 Chronicles 17:17) the Hebrew has, "And thou hast regarded me according to the law of a man of high degree." The rendering of the Authorized Version here, which, by making the clause interrogative, implies a negative, gives absolutely no sense; but some commentators render, "And this is the manner of men, O Lord Jehovah," understanding thereby that God was acting towards David in a human manner, that is, as an earthly friend and benefactor would do. But though the Revised Version favours this rendering, the Hebrew word torah never has this meaning, and, unless, the attempt be made to amend the text, for which the versions give no help, we must take torah in its usual sense, and understand that this continuance of David's house into the distant future has now become a human law, that is, a divinely constituted ordinance, which must now take its place among the laws which govern human affairs. The words are undoubtedly difficult, and we feel that David was speaking in an ejaculatory manner, in sentences but half expressed, breaking forth from him bit by bit, under the pressure of deep excitement within. We notice too that, while there is no direct reference to the Messiah in David's words, yet that the Psalms indicate that he did connect the duration of his house with the Messiah's advent; and this ejaculation may have sprung forth, if not from a fully formed conviction, yet from the feeling that the permanence of his house was for the purpose of a higher kingdom than that of Jerusalem; and so the promise was a "law of man" and the promulgation of a decree which affected the whole human race. This may be the meaning of the Vulgate, which renders "a law of Adam," that is, one embracing within its scope all Adam's race,
2 Samuel 7:20
Thou, Lord. God, knowest thy servant. The Hebrew throughout has Lord Jehovah, except in 2 Samuel 7:22, 2 Samuel 7:25, where it has "Jehovah God," the title of Deity used in Genesis 2:1-25. The repeated use Of this covenant and personal name of God is very emphatic; and the appeal to Jehovah's knowledge of his heart reminds us of similar outpourings of David's consciousness of his sincere devotion to his Maker, as for instance in Psalms 17:3.
2 Samuel 7:21
For thy word's sake; In 1 Chronicles 17:19 we read, "For thy servant's sake." The phrase seemed, perhaps, to the Chronicler difficult, but it does not mean "because of thy previous promise," for no such promise had been given, but "because thou hast now said it." Nor does it imply pre-existing merit in David, but that God had now chosen to declare his will, and what was according to his own heart. It thus makes God's own good will and pleasure the cause of the great honours bestowed upon David. Instead of these great things, the Hebrew has this great thing; that is, the lasting continuance of David's family.
2 Samuel 7:22
Wherefore thou art great. God's goodness is to David a proof of his greatness, and he sees it displayed, not only in his dealings with himself, but also in the past history of the Jewish nation. There is in this a depth of evangelic piety. An unconverted heart would see the greatness of God in the majesty of creation, or in severe dealings with the impenitent. David saw it in acts of mercy and kindness. We look upon Elijah as the very type of sternness, yet he too recognized the presence of God in "the still small voice" of gentleness and love (1 Kings 19:13).
2 Samuel 7:23
And what one nation, etc.? The translation should be, And who is like thy people, like Israel, the one nation upon earth which God went to redeem for himself to be his people, and to make for him a name, etc.? Israel both was and remains to this day a nation unique in its history, both in those early dealings of God with it, and also in its later history and its marvellous preservation unto this day. It is remarkable that in this place the word for "God," Elohim, is followed by a verb plural, the almost invariable rule in Hebrew being that, though Elohim is itself plural, it takes a verb singular whenever it refers to the true God. In the corresponding passage (1 Chronicles 17:21) the verb is in the singular. No adequate reason has been given for this deviation, but probably the usage in these early times was not so strict as it became subsequently. It is the influence of writing, and of the eye becoming conversant with writing, that makes men correct in their use of language and in the spelling of words. In the Syriac Church, God the Word and God the Holy Ghost were at first spoken of in the feminine gender, because "Word" and "Spirit" are both feminine nouns; but grammar soon gave way to soundness of thought and feeling. So probably in colloquial language Elohim was often used with a verb plural, but correct thinking forbade and overruled grammar. We may regard this, then, as one of the few passages in which the colloquial usage has escaped correction, and attach no further importance to it. For you. "You" is plural, and refers to the people. The Vulgate has "for them," which is in accordance with the greater exactness of modern grammar. But sudden changes of person are very common in Hebrew, which follows the rules of thought rather than of written composition; and so David speaks of Israel as you, because they seemed to him to be present. We must note, however, that in the words that follow, for thy land, and thy people, the pronoun is singular, and refers to God. From the nations and their gods. Both the Authorized Version and the Revised Version, by inserting "from," which is not in the Hebrew, take "nations" as in apposition with "Egypt;" but a moment's consideration shows that this is untenable, as "nations" is plural. But the whole verse is so full of grammatical difficulties as to make it extremely probable that the text is corrupt, and that we ought to supply the verb "to drive out," which is actually read in 1 Chronicles 17:21, or even to substitute it in the place of "for thy land," which is omitted in the parallel passage. The nations which God drove out had nothing to do with Egypt, but were the seven dominant tribes of Canaan; and the bestowal upon Israel of their territories was as essential a part of Jehovah's dealings with his people as the Exodus itself. Thus the reading will be, To drive out before thy people, whom thou purchasedst for thee from Egypt, nations and their gods.
2 Samuel 7:24
For thou hast confirmed. The word means "thou hast firmly and securely established Israel to "be thy people." This plainly refers to [he settlement in Canaan, now at last completed by David's victories, and not to the deliverance from Egypt. In the words that follow David recognizes the spiritual importance, not only of the permanent continuance of his house, but also of the empire given unto him. For Israel is now to be a people forever: and thou, Jehovah, art become their God. It is very necessary to retain here the personal name, Jehovah, as it is in the Hebrew, and not dilute it down to the Lord of the Septuagint. For now, to David's mind, the covenant seemed complete, and ratified forever. Israel is to have an everlasting existence—a promise belonging to it in its full sense only spiritually. For as long as the world lasts, it is against the spiritual Israel that the gates of hell shall never prevail. And next, first as the theocratic people, and then as the Church, it is to hold a unique relation to Jehovah, who is to be its God. For Israel, that is, the Jewish and the Christian Church, worships, not the God of nature, Elohim, but Jehovah, the God of grace; and they learn his attributes, not from philosophy, nor by metaphysical inquiry, but from his own revealed will, in which he teaches us what he is, what we are, and how we are to become one with him.
2 Samuel 7:25, 2 Samuel 7:26
And now, O Lord God; Hebrew, Jehovah God. Similarly, in 2 Samuel 7:26 the Hebrew is "Let thy Name be magnified forever, saying, Jehovah Sabaoth is God over Israel." The special relation of Jehovah to Israel is throughout kept constantly in view; for Jehovah is the Name of Deity in covenant with his people, and it is in the confirmation and permanence of the covenant that David sees the true value of the lasting continuance of his own house.
2 Samuel 7:27
Thou hast revealed to thy servant; Hebrew, thou hast uncovered the ear of thy servant. (see note on 1 Samuel 9:15). Hath thy servant found in his heart; Hebrew, hath found his heart. The word "heart" has a wide meaning in Hebrew, embracing both our intellectual and our moral powers. Here it simply means "courage," as in, 1 Samuel 17:32. The Revised Version puts this in the margin: "Therefore hath thy servant been bold to pray this prayer."
2 Samuel 7:28
And now, O Lord God, thou art that God. The pronoun rendered "that" is really a personal pronoun used as the copula, which the Authorized Version inserts in italics. As this grammatical usage, which is common to all the Semitic languages, was not understood at the time when our version was made, we find all the parts of the verb "to be" constantly printed in italics, as though absent, while really they are expressed in the Oriental way. This has the advantage, however, of reminding the reader that wherever the verb "to be" is printed in Roman characters it has a much stronger meaning than the mere union of subject and predicate. Thus in Genesis 1:2 the first "was," in Roman type, means "existed," or possibly "became;" the second "was," in italics, is simply the copula. Here the correct translation is, And now, O Lord Jehovah, thou art the God; i.e. the one real, true God.
2 Samuel 7:29
Let it please thee to bless; or, begin and bless. Literally, the verb signifies to make up the mind and set about the doing of the thing purposed. Thus David prays that the blessing may now at once begin to take effect. It is often rendered "please" in our version, because the verb is one used only of a determination resolved upon of the free will of the purposer. Its force is well seen in Job 6:9, where what Job prays for is that God would deliberate no longer, but decide the matter and set about destroying him. The Authorized Version was led, by the use of this verse "please," to adopt the optative form. Really, it is the language of firm faith, and should be rendered, And now [there is no "therefore"] begin of thy own good will, and bless the house of thy servant.
2 Samuel 7:1-11
The facts are:
1. David, being settled in his kingdom and furnished with a permanent place of abode, is dissatisfied that the ark of the Lord should remain in a frail tent.
2. He sends for Nathan, and intimates his desire to build a fitting house for the Lord, and receives encouragement from the prophet.
3. During a vision of the night Nathan is directed to inform David that his desire cannot be realized; that all along it had been God's will to move from place to place in a tent (2 Samuel 7:6); that it was never his purpose to have any other abode while Israel was unsettled (2 Samuel 7:7).
4. He is further to inform David that the dwelling in a tent, and his own call from the sheepcote (2 Samuel 7:8) to be a leader of Israel, were both parts of one design, and that the success vouchsafed to him (2 Samuel 7:9) was evidence of this.
5. Also, David is to know that, in pursuance of the same purpose, God gave his people a land of their own, and planted (these verbs to be taken as perfects, not as converted into futures) them in a permanent abode, free from the embarrassment of such powerful assailants as annoyed them in the time of the judges, and from which they now have rest.
6. The good desire of David, though not to be now realized, is acknowledged by the assurance that God has further purposed to establish his house in Israel.
Commendable but unseasonable zeal.
Every reader of the narrative at once feels how natural and beautiful it was in David to desire, for the symbol of God's presence among his people, an abode somewhat commensurate with its glory and suggestive of permanence. It was in keeping with all the antecedents of his life, and there was manifested an exquisite spiritual sensibility in mentioning first of all so important a subject as a change in the abode of the ark to the prophet who represented the Divine source of guidance as distinguished from civil authority. What are the elements which render such zeal commendable and at the same time unseasonable?
I. THERE IS A PERSONAL ABSORPTION IN THE INTERESTS OF GOD'S KINGDOM AMONG MEN. God's kingdom among men was the great fact to be emphasized and illustrated in the life of the chosen race, suggestive of a more developed kingdom in later times. This fact had absorbed the energies of Moses, but was somewhat obscured when the people, weary of the existing form of the theocracy, asked for and obtained king in Saul. From the first David had, in his own life, restored the idea of the Divine kingdom to the distinctness of Mosaic times, and counted himself to have no function in the world apart from seeking to realize it in the national experience. For it he lived and ruled; for it he prayed, and of it he sang. This was the fountainhead of all his zeal, and the key to the communication made to Nathan. Herein also is the secret of all acceptable Christian zeal. We are right in feeling and purpose only in so far as our entire life is one with Christ's. Human life rises to its highest level only when it causes all its strength to flow in with the great stream of spiritual force which one day is to cover the earth. It is not patronage of institutions, study or criticism of Christian forms of thought and action, friendly feeling towards workers in mission fields, but personal identification with the interests of Christ's kingdom as the most vital and precious of all interests. This is a practical illustration of the phrase, "We have the mind of Christ."
II. THERE IS A WHOLESOME FEAR LEST PRIVATE AND SECULAR PROSPERITY SHOULD GENERATE SELFISHNESS. David was blessed with great prosperity in home and in state. In clearer, more reflective moods, he saw that this was connected with the furtherance of the great purpose of God in the world; but amidst the hurry of life and inevitable weaknesses of the moral nature, it was liable to produce a feeling of selfish content with his own condition. The dangers of prosperity are proverbial. His words to Nathan, contrasting his own permanent dwelling with the slender covering of the ark, revealed the thoughts and feelings of a man sensible of a grave spiritual danger, and anxious not to fall into it. It is sometimes, in the course of doing God's work, or what may be called secular work in a Christly spirit, that Providence grants men secular prosperity. Then comes the testing time of the religious life. Many fall under the spell, and undue absorption in temporal personal comfort robs the kingdom of Christ of much thought and energy it otherwise would have received. The pleasures of the "house of cedar" shut out the condition of the spiritual kingdom. But where zeal is sound, watchfulness is maintained, and spiritual growth keeps pace with worldly prosperity, there will be cherished a wholesome dread lest the blessings which come from God should in any measure wean the heart from him and the supreme interests of his kingdom.
III. THERE IS A PERCEPTION OF THE TEMPORARY CHARACTER OF EXISTING RELIGIOUS APPLIANCES. Spiritual instinct led David to feel that the tent was not suited as the abode in perpetuity of the eternal, unchangeable God. There was an incongruity between the nature of the occupant and the frailty and transitoriness of the dwelling place. Apart, then, from the contrast with his own "cedar house," he saw that the arrangement which had received Divine sanction through many generations was not to be considered as perfect and unalterable. This was confirmed by the faith he cherished that the presence of God among his people was in pursuance of the great historic promise made to Abraham (Genesis 22:17, Genesis 22:18), and preparatory to some further unfolding of the plan which embraced within its scope all the nations of the earth. So far his zeal in seeking a permanent abode for the ark was enlightened. And this is a characteristic of all true zeal. It does not merely proceed from impulse and strong feeling; it has respect to the nature of the kingdom of Christ and the variability of its outward appliances according to the stages of its development. The visible forms and arrangements adapted to one state of society may need revision and change more or less radical to render the deposit of truth more effective in its influence on a different state of society. A mere love of change is not identical with commendable zeal; a bare feeling that simple variation in outward forms will strengthen the power of religion is no sure guide; but a distinction between the permanent truth centring in Christ, and the transitoriness of the setting of that truth, will lead to a desire, when occasion offers, to make such modifications in the circumstantials of religion as may best accord with the nature of the truth on the one side and the development of human society on the either.
IV. THE IMPERFECTION OF THE ZEAL MAY LIE IN THE ERROR AS TO SEASONABLENESS. In this case all seemed right and sound, in accordance with the purest love and devotion, both to David and to Nathan. Subsequent light from God himself showed that here feeling was right and thought also up to a given point, but that the zeal was inappropriate by reason of a defective knowledge of the specific purposes of God. There were reasons in the Divine mind why David, at this juncture, should not build a house for the Lord. Probably his work of consolidation was not sufficiently advanced, and either then or later on he was reminded that a man of peace was alone suited for such work (1 Chronicles 22:8; 1 Chronicles 28:3). The defectiveness of the judgment even of good men is cause of much mistake in altering the institutions and visible agencies of the Church. There are times when neither David nor Nathan may depend on their present feelings and knowledge, but more light must be sought from the Head of the Church. However sound the principle that forms and circumstantials do not possess the permanence belonging to the central truth they cover, still a busy zeal eager to introduce something new as more suited to a later development, even though shown by the most sincere of men, must be regarded with distrust unless Providence, by some means as good to us as was Nathan's vision to David, makes it quite clear that the time has come when the old should give place to the new. Holy desire, even when conjoined with knowledge of a limited experience, may not be fitly realized because God's time is not quite come.
1. Where there is sincere piety there will be jealousy lest the cause of God should not receive its due consideration.
2. It will be a mark of prosperous piety amidst prosperous circumstances when men deliberately study how they may more worthily serve God and give him the honour due to his Name.
3. We should always anticipate that, as time advances, there will be fresh opportunities for manifesting our devotion, even though our specific methods be not wisest.
4. It is a noble ambition to seek to render the house of God as perfect as human means can make it, and in this often we see contrasts in character (2 Samuel 7:1-3; cf. Haggai 1:2, Haggai 1:5). A good man's life's work attains completion in so far as he combines, with advancing secular prosperity, regard for the prosperity of religion.
The historic development of God's purpose concerning man.
In 2 Samuel 7:4-11 we have an exposition of the grounds on which God declined to accept David's proposal to build a house for him. The motive was good, and there was a certain perception of propriety in the design, but as its unseasonableness resulted from imperfect knowledge of the Divine will, that will is here made known.
I. GOD HAS A PURPOSE CONCERNING MAN. This is the basis of the declaration to David. It may, indeed, be said that there is a Divine purpose in the existence of every atom and form of force, since each is what it is by the will of God, and is related to all the rest of the universe in a definite way, so as to issue in a progressive order. Every change is thus the working out in the material world of a purpose of the eternal mind. But while this is true of man also considered as an organized creature in the world, it is further true of him that there is a purpose in the eternal mind of which he is the object, and to work out which all other things are means and agents. God has something to effect for man as well as by man. The New Testament informs us that it is spiritual in its nature, and abounding with good to man and glory to God..
II. GOD'S PURPOSE CONCERNING MAN IS INCORPORATED WITH HUMAN AFFAIRS. It is pointed out to David that the history of his ancestors in Egypt and under the judges, and also his own personal history, have been the vehicle through which this purpose has been gradually working. God's thoughts for man assume concrete forms. They enter as the golden thread into the rough web of human life. Human wills work in their own free way, but another will works with them, and uses them in their free course for the manifestation of itself. Abraham's domestic life, Israel's sojourn in Egypt and the desert, the struggle for existence during the period of the judges, and the raising up and fall of Saul, and the exploits of David, were occasions and forms by which that redemptive purpose revealed itself which later on in Judaea, in Pilate's hall and in the ages of Christendom, became more distinct and yet more one with human interests.
III. IN THE OUTWORKING OF THE PURPOSE TEMPORARY INSTITUTIONS ARE CREATED. The ark and the tabernacle were the creation of the Divine purpose working along the line of human history. They were the product of two things—the purpose and the incidents of Israel's existence. David was right in viewing the tabernacle as essentially temporary; but he is reminded (2 Samuel 7:6) that it expressed the Divine will for the time because of the human element through which that will was working onwards. A succession of temporary expedients is traceable from the first to the second Adam. One by one they disappeared before the approach of the true Light. Many of the modern expedients of the Church will prove their temporary character in so far as Christ's holy will works its way into the heart of the world, and men, possessing this life, become in the best sense a law to themselves (1 Corinthians 13:8-10).
IV. THE DIRECT CONTROL OF GOD SECURES TRANSITION FROM STAGE TO STAGE. The words to David were, "I brought up the children of Israel;" "I have walked in a tent;" "I commanded to feed;" "I took thee from the sheepcote;" "I have appointed a place." Thus men were free, and history was formed by the free action of man; but, still, in pursuance of the Divine purpose, an unseen hand so fashioned the sum of human free action that captivity in Egypt yielded to a settled home, and a good shepherd appeared to care for the flock in that settled home. It was this recognition of the actual control of God so as to shape the items of human history and secure a succession of transitions towards a definite goal that distinguished the teaching of the prophets. It is this which gave such assurance to apostles (Romans 8:22, Romans 8:28, Romans 8:31). The contending forces of each age are subject to him who by his mighty working can subdue all things unto himself (Philippians 3:21).
V. THE VALUE OF MEANS IN THE WORKING OUT OF THE PURPOSE IS RELATIVE. David's pious dissatisfaction with the tabernacle as an abode for the ark was met by the assurance (2 Samuel 7:6, 2 Samuel 7:7) that God was not dissatisfied, but had shown his approval of his servants who were identified with its maintenance. The tabernacle may have been inadequate to the later stage, but it was perfect in its adaptation to the early stage of God's method of working. He never complained of disrespect to his Name; he even honoured his servants who served him with such humble means. This applies to the methods by which, in different ages, revelations came to men—agencies for diffusing and preserving the truth, the condition of the Churches by which his will is still done and the individual efforts of Christians to bring on the final triumph of Christ. Those who will not approve of action and appliances and methods till they meet with what is absolutely perfect, do not know history, or else, knowing it, are unwilling to accept its lessons. In an imperfect world where perfect holiness has to be attained through means inferior, and out of perfect relation to the end in view, we have to estimate each method and agency by its fitness to raise us to a stage above the present, and in which it may be dispensed with for something that will be a stepping stone to a still higher point.
VI. THE WHOLE OF THE SUCCESSIVE STAGES TEND TO THE PERMANENT DWELLING OF GOD WITH MAN; David was fight in his ambition and faith. To have God permanently among Israel was the perfection of holy desire. All hitherto had pointed in that direction; and though in the visible sense in which David desired it his wishes were not to be granted, yet he was pointed on to the reality of a "house" (2 Samuel 7:11), which we know involved the raising up of Immanuel. This is the goal of all Old Testament revelations and ancient forms of instruction and discipline. And now that God has been visibly manifest in the flesh, the process is going on by which spiritually the dwelling of God with man in permanent union is to be realized (2 Corinthians 3:7-11; cf. Ephesians 2:18-22).
1. Life should be conducted on the principle that God is with man and working with and for him.
2. The comparison of events illustrated by the Bible teaching will enable us to trace out the line of God's Working.
3. Although occasions may arise, as during periods of Israel's history, when the signs of God's working are obscured (Isaiah 45:15), our faith should rest on the general revelation.
4. However unable we may be sometimes to see the unity of God's working, Providence will throw light upon it, and by some explicit "I have walked," "I took thee," our confidence will be confirmed.