Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Davidic Covenant, Part I

I was recently asked the following two questions:
What is your understanding of the "Davidic Covenant", as referenced in 2 Sam. 7:8-17?
What is God really saying when he states: "I will be a father to him and he will be a son to me."

I am good friends with the questioner and I know that he would appreciate what I would call a "full answer". The following is the first part of my reply:

It's always tricky to give just the right amount of context; I am always tempted to give way too much. That said... In the first four chapters of 2 Sam. David solidifies is reign over Judah while at war with the kingdom of Israel ruled by the son of Saul, Ish-Boshet. Ish-Boshet is assassinated at the end of the fourth chapter and at the beginning of the fifth chapter David is "elected" king by the "Northern Kingdom of Israel". For the first time there is a "Kingdom of Israel" ruled by one king: David. The age of "Tribes" and "Judges" is over. David establishes his capital in Jerusalem - a well fortified city in the Judaen mountains right on the border between Judah and the North (specifically, the portion of Benjamin). David's success is apparent and Hiram, king of Tyre forges an alliance with him (with obvious benefits for Hiram). David continues to weaken the Philistines and defeats them repeatedly. In the sixth chapter David attempts to move the Ark to Jerusalem failing on his first attempt. He is successful on his second attempt (when he stops imitating the Philistine method of Ark transportation made famous in 1 Sam.). Finally, we come to the first verse of chapter seven and with great relief and joy read:

"And it came to pass, when the king dwelt in his house, and the Lord had given him rest round about from all his enemies." - David has finally found some respite.

Quick methodological point: the Hebrew Bible is chock-full of allusion to the Torah/Five Books of Moses. For the prophets/authors of the books of the Prophets the Torah was the literary and spiritual (can you really separate the two?!) soul of their society. Their writing had to have its imprint. For the prophets the Torah was the context. Though the Torah was sealed, their writing was an extension of the Torah. They wrote to further the grand unfolding plan of the Torah. However, they did not usually do this by citing chapter and verse - this would not have been necessary nor, in my opinion, as effective. The Torah in Ancient Israel was speech itself (Deut. 6, 7):
And you shall teach them to your sons and speak of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk on the way, and when you lie down and when you rise up.

The Ancient Israelite could not read 2 Sam. 7:1 without viscerally connecting to Deut. 12:10-12:
10. And you shall cross the Jordan and settle {same verb in Hebrew as 'dwelt'} in the land the Lord, your God, is giving you as an inheritance, and He will give you rest from all your enemies surrounding you, and you will dwell securely. 11. And it will be, that the place the Lord, your God, will choose in which to establish His Name there you shall bring all that I am commanding you: Your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, your tithes, and the separation by your hand, and the choice of vows which you will vow to the Lord. 12. And you shall rejoice before the Lord, your God you and your sons and your daughters and your menservants and your maidservants, and the Levite who is within your cities, for he has no portion or inheritance with you.