Paul Williamson on the Davidic Covenant

After the Mosaic covenant, the next major covenant in the Scriptures is the Davidic covenant. While the word “covenant” does not appear in the classic passage of the Davidic covenant (2 Samuel 7:1-14), the concepts of covenant-making are clearly there. It may be that classic features of covenant-making ceremonies, such as a sacrfices, do not appear in the text since the Davidic covenant fulfills aspects of the Abrahamic covenant (120). In other words, the basic covenant-cutting ceremonies happened earlier with Abraham and do not need to be repeated with David. Moreover, the passage does use the word hesed which is used often as a stand-in for “covenant” and covenantal concepts (121). Therefore, all indications are that God makes a covenant with David in 2 Samuel 7.

The focus of the covenant is upon God’s great promises to David. God promises David that he will David a “house,” i.e. a dynasty of rulers, even though he denied David the opportunity to build him a “house,” i.e. a temple (127). Williamson writes, “As the wordplay underlines, these two concepts are closely connected, for the permanence of God’s ‘house’ or ‘dwelling-place’ is contingent upon the permanence of David’s ‘house’ or ‘dynasty'” (127). David wasn’t so much wrong in his theology of temple-building, but merely timing (126-27).

God promises that David’s house would last “forever.” According to Williamson, “nothing—not even the covenant infidelity of David’s successor(s)—will threaten the permanence of David’s kingdom and throne” (127). Of course, David’s descendants may not sin all they want (cf. 2 Sam. 7:14), but God’s promises will not be removed from them (128). Interestingly, Williamson acknowledges that splitting upon the covenants based upon the conditional/unconditional dichotomy does not work well with Davidic covenant (128, n. 32). Other texts of Scripture makes the importance of obedience to the covenant extremely important for the upholding of the covenant. As with all other biblical covenants, there is tension in the narrative between human responsibility and divine promises.

David’s response to the covenant is one of prayer and praise. David acknowledges that the covenant is God’s “instruction/charter for humanity” (129). Whatever the obscure phrase means, it seems to indicate that the promises are “tied in somehow with God’s universal purpose in creation and the prospect of international blessing promised through Abraham (Gen 12:3) and his royal seed (Gen 22:18)” (129). Through David’s line, God’s blessing would flow to the nations.

The Davidic covenant has some connection to the Sinai covenant, but is more closely connection to the Abrahamic promises (144). There are many connections between the Davidic covenant and Abrahamic covenant:

  • “Great name” (Gen 12:2; 2 Sam 7:9)
  • Victory over enemies (Gen 22:17; 2 Sam 7:11)
  • Special divine-human relationship – covenant formula (Gen 17:7-8; 2 Sam 7:24)
  • “Seed” (Gen 21:12; 2 Sam 7:12-16)
  • Obligation to keep God’s law (Gen 18:19; 2 Sam 7:14)
  • Mediators of international blessing (Gen 22:18; Ps. 72:17)

The Davidic covenant focuses the Abrahamic promises (144). The “seed” promised to Abraham now becomes the “son” promised to David through whom the promises of God would reach the nations. But while David and sons did mediate some of the promises to the nations, the complete fulfillment would await the perfectly obedient king (145).

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