Peter Gentry on the Davidic Covenant

After the Mosaic covenant, the Davidic covenant is the next major covenant in the Bible’s storyline. The Davidic covenant, begins God intended model of kingship for the people of Israel (443). The Davidic covenant then carries forward the purpose of the Mosaic covenant. Just as the Mosaic covenant was to be the means of fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant in the storyline, so the Davidic covenant is the means of fulfillment for the Mosaic covenant (443).

The context of the Davidic covenant is God’s intention for a king to rule over his people. God had from the beginning promised that kings would be part of the equation (Gen 17:6, 16; Nu, 23:21; 24:17; Deut 17:14-20). Therefore, kingship is not a disruption in the plan but part of the plan (446). God establishes the kingdom by making a covenant with David.

The Davidic covenant covers promises that are for David’s lifetime as well as promises that extend beyond his life. But the covenant relationship also demands “obedience to Yahweh on the part of a king” (449). Faithfulness by the king is expected evidenced by the fact that Yahweh may have to discipline the future Davidic kings (449). The bond that God would forge with the Davidic king would be that Yahweh would his “father” and the king would be Yahweh’s “son.” Biological sonship is not in view (450). The term “son” used in the Bible can refer to “having the characteristics” of something (cf. Isaiah 5:1) (450). In other words, the Davidic king is to have the character qualities of Yahweh. Such an understanding is confirmed by the the surrounding ancient Near Eastern cultures which emphasized that the king was the “image” of God because he was the “son” of God (450). What matter was that how the king behaved gave indicators of how the god behaved (450). Sonship therefore carries echoes and allusions to the “image” of God.

The connection between sonship and image calls to mind the creation covenant God makes with Adam as he is the likeness and “image” of God (445). Therefore, the Davidic king picks up the sonship language of image and the sonship of Israel which is an Adamic identity. Therefore, the king is taking on the role of Adam, and also taking on the role of Israel (456). But David’s kingship means more than his rulership merely over Israel. The eternal dynasty that God is promising David has implications for the nations. The covenant God makes with David is the “charter of humanity” (2 Sam 7:19). In other words, “as the divine son, the Davidic king was to effect the divine instruction, or Torah, in the nation as a whole and was, as a result, a mediator of the Mosaic Torah” (457). The Davidic king was to be the model Israelite who also mediated God’s Torah, and rule and reign, to the nations (457). Therefore, picking up the national-international interplay of the promises of the Abrahamic covenant, the Davidic covenant was for national Israel but had international implications.

Later interpretations of the Davidic covenant emphasize the fact that the Davidic king “must know and keep Torah in order for this to be the basis of his rule of the nation” (461). Such texts such as Psalm 89:31-34, 49 emphasize the obedience of David. Thus, there is the intermingling of unconditional elements (2 Sam 22:51; Psalm 18:51) and conditional elements (Psalm 132:12; 1 Kgs 2:3-4; 6:12; 8:25; 2 Chron 6:16; 7:17-18; Jer 22:1-5, 24) (460).

The emphasis on obedience is found in Isaiah 55:3 which could speak either of God’s sure mercies for David or the sure mercies performed by David. Gentry takes the latter options. He believes that the “sure mercies” performed by David is the death and resurrection of the future new David (470-71). This text is then fulfilled in Jesus as Paul makes refernece to in Acts 13:34 (479-80).

The Davidic covenant is related to the Mosaic because the David king becomes the administrator of the Mosaic covenant (480). The Davidic king takes on priestly dimensions as the whole nation is now beginning to be summed up in himself (480). But the Davidic covenant is also connected the Abrahamic covenant in a few ways. First, David brings rest and gives his people a place, as promised by the Abrahamic covenant (481). Second the Davidic covenant is a national covenant with international implications, just like the Abrahamic: the nations will come under the rule and reign of the Davidic king.

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