Walter Kaiser on 2 Samuel 7:19

Walter Kaiser, in his article “The Blessing of David: The Charter of Humanity,” seeks to explicate the meaning of the phrase, “this is the torah of man” in 2 Samuel 7:19. Kaiser examines the context of the passage to highlight the unconditional nature of the Davidic promise (305-07). While individuals in David’s line can break the covenant, God is always faithful to his “everlasting” promise to David and his family (307). The Davidic promise, then, is the next stage in the unfolding of God’s plan.

In response to great promises God gives to him, David is overwhelmed with gratitude towards God (2 Samuel 7:18). Then, reflecting on the covenant, David says, “This is the torah of man” (2 Samuel 7:19). But what does David mean by the this phrase? Kaiser breaks down the phrase, examining each of relevant components.

First, he tackles whether the phrase is a statement or question. The King James Version, for example, takes it as a question: “Is this the manner of man, O Lord?” Kaiser believes it to be a statement, however (311). He points out that no “interrogative pronoun or interrogative hey” exists in the text, indicating question (311). Moreover, while Hebrew literature can ask a question without those features, even if a question was asked by David, it would be a rhetorical question, thus, just like a statement (311). Therefore, the phrase is a statement, not a question.

Second, does “this” refer to how the promise came to David or the content of the promise? The context indicates that it refers to the content of the promise (312). Many interpret “this” based on the interpretation of another Hebrew word torah and give it a rather anomalous meaning of “custom” or “manner.” But since torah doesn’t mean that in, then it is erroneous to determine the meaning of “this” by it. So what David is proclaiming to be the torah of mankind is the promises of the Davidic covenant.

Third, what is the meaning of torah? Overwhelming it refers to law, ordinances, or instructions from God (313). Only in 17 other places does it mean something different and even in those they are attached to God in some way (313). Most likely, then, the word means “law” and the law “in this context is a principle by which all mankind is to be blessed” (314). God’s plan for humanity is for the blessing of Abraham to come through the Davidic king (314).

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