THE PROMISES OF THE DAVIDIC COVENANT TAKE PRECEDENCE OVER THE CONSTRUCTION OF GOD’S HOUSE
J.A. Thompson: The Chronicler was ready to embark on his primary theme—the building of the temple—but certain steps had yet to be taken.
– the individual who would actually build the temple had to be identified (chap. 17),
– the political conditions had to be propitious (chaps. 18–20),
– the precise site had to be chosen (chap. 21),
– the materials and plans had to be in hand (chaps. 22; 28–29), and
– the personnel to undertake the proper functioning of the temple had to be selected and authorized (chaps. 23–27).
All of these important items are taken up in the last part of 1 Chronicles, which closes with David’s prayer, the recognition of Solomon as king, and the death of David (chap. 29). The present chapter describes David’s desire to build the temple, a desire that failed to receive God’s blessing (17:1–15).
Thomas Constable: In some particulars, the promises God gave David related to him personally. However, other promises pertained to his descendants and, in particular, to one descendant who would do for Israel much more than David could do. In chapters 17—21 the emphasis is on the promises that related to David personally. The writer evidently wanted to establish God’s faithfulness in fulfilling these to encourage his readers to trust God to fulfill the yet unfulfilled promises concerning David’s great Son.
In 2 Samuel 7, the warnings of discipline if David’s descendants failed God focused attention on Solomon and the kings that followed him through Zedekiah, the last king of Judah. In 1 Chronicles 17 those warnings are absent. This fact probably indicates that the Chronicler was looking beyond the kings of Judah who had failed and died to the King who was yet to come. This King would carry out God’s will perfectly (cf. Isa. 9:6; John 4:34). This would have given the restoration community renewed hope.
August Konkel: The Chronicler’s vision for the future of the people of faith was established on the fulfillment of the promise to David. There were two aspects to this promise: land and dynasty. The promise of land was expressed in terms of rest (Deut 3:20; 12:10; 25:19; Josh 21:44; 1 Kings 5:4). The promise of rest in the land was grounded in God’s words to the patriarchs (Exod 6:2–8; Deut 1:8). Fulfillment of rest came with the conquests of David (2 Sam 7:1, 11). This is the occasion for David’s decision to build a temple. David regards his conquests as a divine provision; in return he seeks to affirm his loyalty and devotion to God. His proposal meets with prophetic approval from Nathan. God’s instructions from the time of the covenant with Moses were to cross the Jordan, enter the rest in possessing the land (Deut 12:9–10), and there establish one central place where all Israel would worship (vv. 5, 11, 14). The conquest of Jerusalem, a central location uniting north and south, was regarded as divine provision, according to the ideal of Deuteronomy.
In the interpretation of the Chronicler, the intent of David to build the temple was premature because David had not yet secured the rest required for building the temple. David was a man of war (1 Chron 22:7–8). Rest would come in the time of his son Solomon, who would benefit from the achievements of David (vv. 9–10).
Andrew Hill: This narrative genre is classified broadly as “report,” specifically a prophetic commission report (17:3–15) and a prayer (17:16–27). The report contains a number of specialized formulas often found in prophetic literature, including
– the messenger formula (“this is what the LORD says,” 17:4, 7),
– the word formula (“the word of God came,” 17:3),
– the adoption formula (“I will be his father, and he will be my son,” 17:13),
– the self-abasement formula (“who am I?” 17:16), and
– the covenant formula (“you made your people Israel your very own,” 17:22).
Chronicles is the story of two “houses”: the house or dynasty of King David and the house or temple of God. According to Selman, the building blocks for the Chronicler’s narrative are the two words from God—one blessing David’s house (17:3–15) and the other blessing the house King Solomon built for Yahweh in Jerusalem (2 Chron. 7:11–22).
Martin Selman: For the Chronicler, a proper understanding of the covenant involved recognizing the presence of the kingdom of God as well as God’s activity in and through an individual descendant of David who would build God’s house/temple. In spite of Solomon’s weaknesses, therefore, and the fact that conditions in post-exilic Israel made a mockery of any real hope of restoring David’s monarchy, the Chronicler’s belief in the ongoing relevance of the Davidic promise surely meant that the contemporary shadow of a theocracy had not exhausted the vitality of God’s covenant promise. Chronicles clearly points both to the special significance of Solomon and to a longing for another son of David who would finally rebuild God’s house and establish God’s kingdom forever (this phrase occurs eight times in 1 Chr. 17).
I. (:1-6) LOWERING THE PRIORITY ON BUILDING GOD’S HOUSE
A. (:1-2) David’s Good Intentions to Build God a Temple
“And it came about, when David dwelt in his house, that David said to Nathan the prophet, ‘Behold, I am dwelling in a house of cedar, but the ark of the covenant of the LORD is under curtains.’ 2 Then Nathan said to David, ‘Do all that is in your heart, for God is with you.’”
Mark Boda: The contrast here was probably both one of quality – that is, a grand palace versus a humble tent – as well as one of permanence, a settled palace versus a transient tent.
Pulpit Commentary: David’s thoughts respecting the honor due to God and to the ark of the covenant had time to grow into convictions, and they were greatly and rightly stimulated by reflection on his own surroundings of comfort, of safety, of stability and splendor.
J.A. Thompson: David wanted to build a house for God, but God himself would do something far greater in building a house for David. This house, the Davidic dynasty with its eternal and messianic implications, was of far greater importance than any building. This chapter reminds the reader that the house God builds surpasses any human house however grand it may be and however honorable the motivations were behind its building. This should once again remind us that it is superficial to think of the Chronicler as someone who could not see beyond legal and ceremonial religion. . .
In Near Eastern thought there was a widely recognized relationship between the earthly kingship and the temple of the protecting deity of the city-state. The state was seen as a reflection of the cosmic reality of the divine government, which stood behind the state. The state, with its various hierarchies, culminated in the earthly kingship at its apex. This was thought to be parallel to a cosmic state of affairs with its own gradations in which the major deity headed a pantheon of lesser deities. The ultimate kingship of the protecting deity was thought to be expressed through, and paralleled by, the empirical kingship exercised by the ruler of the city-state on earth. This concept was given concrete expression in the relationship that existed between the temple of the city-state and the palace of the king of the city-state. The temple was the earthly residence of the deity, and the palace was the residence of the earthly representative of the deity, that is, the king.
Peter Wallace: Of course, Nathan and David are also influenced by their culture. And in the ancient world, there are three things that characterize great kings:
1) they defeat their enemies in battle,
2) they speak wise and persuasive words
3) they build impressive buildings (especially temples for their gods).
B. (:3-6) Divine Correction that the Building of God’s House is Not Top Priority
“And it came about the same night, that the word of God came to Nathan, saying, 4 ‘Go and tell David My servant, Thus says the LORD, You shall not build a house for Me to dwell in; 5 for I have not dwelt in a house since the day that I brought up Israel to this day, but I have gone from tent to tent and from one dwelling place to another. 6 In all places where I have walked with all Israel, have I spoken a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd My people, saying, Why have you not built for Me a house of cedar?’”
Frederick Mabie: The anticipation of a place where God would choose to cause his name to dwell (Dt 12:5) is coupled with the negative reality that human beings tend to approach God “in their way” (Dt 12:4) and “everyone as he sees fit” (Dt 12:8).
Martin Selman: 3 Reasons for the delay in the building of the temple:
1) throughout Israel’s existence, from the exodus to the judges, no such place of worship was required.
2) to remind David that his own role as Israel’s ruler (v. 7; cf. 11:2) was bound up with God’s purposes, not his own.
3) for the present, God has given a higher priority to his promise of a dynasty than to the construction of a physical temple (v. 10b).
II. (:7-15) RAISING THE PRIORITY ON BUILDING THE DYNASTY OF DAVID
Frederick Mabie: Although David’s idea to build a temple for God is not well received, God reveals through the prophet Nathan that David’s son will be given the honor of building a house (i.e., temple) for God. Yet God further reveals through Nathan that he (Yahweh) will build a house (i.e., dynasty) for David (the Davidic covenant). This blessing is consistent with God’s election of David (v.7), his ongoing presence with David (v.8), and his plans to strengthen David (v.8).
A. (:7-8) Divine Elevation of David and His Dynasty
“Now, therefore, thus shall you say to My servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be leader over My people Israel. 8 And I have been with you wherever you have gone, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make you a name like the name of the great ones who are in the earth.’”
J.A. Thompson: The Lord’s plan was to grant him a great name and provide his people a place and a secure home free from oppression by wicked people who once harassed them. These words would have conjured up a great sense of longing and encouragement on the part of the Chronicler’s postexilic readers.
B. (:9-10a) Divine Establishment of Israel in Their Secure Land
“And I will appoint a place for My people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in their own place and be moved no more; neither shall the wicked waste them anymore as formerly, 10 even from the day that I commanded judges to be over My people Israel. And I will subdue all your enemies.”
Andrew Hill: The idea of a permanent and centralized structure for the worship of Yahweh is not the issue in God’s veto of David’s plan to build a temple. The problem is not the erection of a temple for Yahweh, but David. David’s legacy as a warrior means he will serve only as Solomon’s contractor for the building of the temple (cf. 22:8; 28:3). It appears that the construction of a permanent sanctuary or temple for the worship of God is connected to Israel’s secure position in the land of covenant promise (17:9–10). Unlike the era of the judges (“leaders,” 17:10), the Israelites are no longer oppressed by the neighboring people groups. God enables David to achieve this relative peace and safety by cutting off and subduing Israel’s enemies (17:8), as reported in the account of his successful military campaigns (chs. 18–20).
C. (:10a-14) Divine Encouragement Regarding David’s Lasting Legacy
“Moreover, I tell you that the LORD will build a house for you. And it shall come about when your days are fulfilled that you must go to be with your fathers, that I will set up one of your descendants after you, who shall be of your sons; and I will establish his kingdom. 12 He shall build for Me a house, and I will establish his throne forever. 13 I will be his father, and he shall be My son; and I will not take My lovingkindness away from him, as I took it from him who was before you. 14 But I will settle him in My house and in My kingdom forever, and his throne shall be established forever.”
Mark Boda: The phrase at the core of this covenant ceremony is found in 17:13: “I will be his father, and he will be my son.” This phrase reflects the reciprocity that is central to all covenants in the Old Testament. . . The language here, however, is slightly different from that of the Abrahamic, Sinaitic, and new covenants, which place the emphasis on the national character of the covenant (God with his people). With David, the terms are far more intimate, emphasizing the unbreakable bonds of family relationship with its depth of loyalty.
D. (:15) Divine Enlightenment from Nathan the Prophet to King David
“According to all these words and according to all this vision,
so Nathan spoke to David.”
III. (:16-27) PRAYER OF RESPONSE REFLECTING THE AWE AND HUMILITY OF DAVID IN PRAISE OF GOD’S GRACIOIUS COVENANT PROMISES
Frederick Mabie: David’s prayer in response to God’s revelation of the “Davidic covenant” (cf. vv.7–15) reflects his awe in the light of God’s blessings already bestowed on him (vv.16–17) as well as God’s promise to establish his “house” (dynasty) into the future (“forever”). David’s humility and awe are directly tied to God’s singularity (“there is no one like you, O LORD,” v.20; cf. 2Ch 14:11; 20:6) and his choice of Israel to be his redeemed people (vv.21–22). David understands God’s blessing on his house as part of God’s broader relationship of blessing with his people, Israel, which in turn is a conduit to God’s goodness and ways becoming known to all humankind (“Then men will say . . .” v.24).
August Konkel: The prayer of David focuses on the redemptive acts of God on behalf of his people (1 Chron 17:20–21), recalling the unique status of Israel among all other nations, who do not have a God such as this (cf. Deut 4:7–8). God has acted freely in creating Israel as his people, and in the same way he has now chosen to create a dynasty (house) for David (1 Chron 17:17–19); God has acknowledged and recognized David in a manner incomparable to any other king. David can only pray that these words be confirmed and that the name of God may be magnified in Israel. This does not absolve David of accountability before God, as is fully shown in the narrative in Samuel. David expresses the desire that the purposes of God may be fulfilled in his dynasty and in God’s people Israel (vv. 26–28). The doxology of David’s prayer affirms that all of this is so that God may be blessed forever. The marvel expressed in the prayer is that God could be so honored in his action of not only bringing David to his current position but also declaring to him his purpose for the future.
J.A. Thompson: The text of David’s prayer here is substantially the same as in 2 Sam 7:18–29 although there are some alterations and omissions. The prayer is offered in the newly established tent shrine in Jerusalem to which the ark has been brought. It acknowledges the greatness and uniqueness of God and refers to the election and deliverance of Israel, revealed especially in the exodus. The continuity of David’s throne also is acknowledged (vv. 23–24). The reference to the exodus in vv. 21–22 is important. The saving events of the exodus were basic in Israel’s theology although they were not always made explicit by the Chronicler. Even Solomon’s prayer of dedication (2 Chr 6) of the temple pays scant attention to the exodus, which is mentioned only in passing (2 Chr 6:5). Those earlier events seem to be lost sight of in the new emphasis on the Davidic covenant.
Iain Duguid: David’s prayer is in three parts: verses 16–22 expand “thus far”; verses 23–25 follow “and now” with a single petition; and verses 26–27 follow “and now” with a concluding affirmation. If there is no other god like the Lord, then there is no other nation like Israel, for they are “your people.” Just as the oracle had set God’s choice of David in the context of his purpose and past actions relating to Israel (vv. 5–10), so David affirms God’s actions from the exodus on; Israel is to be “your people forever,” and the “Lord” is to be “their God” (vv. 21–22). God’s actions on behalf of his people have led from Moses to David. The Davidic covenant marks a new phase, not replacing but building on the foundation of God’s earlier covenantal promises and deeds.
Martin Selman: David’s response illustrates two central aspects of the Chronicler’s view of prayer.
– First, God’s unconditional promises are not to be received casually, as though their advantages were automatic, but with submissive faith and thanksgiving.
– Secondly, for the Chronicler, faith is often expressed through prayer, notably in the examples of David (also 29:10-19), Solomon (2 Chr. 1:8-10; 6:14-42), Jehoshaphat (2 Chr. 20:6-12), and Hezekiah (2 Chr. 30:18-20; 32:20, 24). Prayers are often strategic in Chronicles, especially those which introduce and conclude the temple-building narratives in the reigns of David and Solomon.
Chronicles makes a closer connection between prayer and the building of the temple than Samuel or Kings (I Chr. 29:10-19 has no parallel), and seems to have specifically encouraged the thought in the post-exilic period of the temple as a ‘house of prayer’ (cf. Isa. 56:7). As in the prayer-psalm in chapter 16 and the Lord’s Prayer itself, the requests come toward the end of the prayer (vv. 23-27; cf. Matt. 6:11-13). Precedence is given to praise for God’s amazing and undeserved generosity.
A. (:16-22) Focus of David’s Prayer Analyzed
“Then David the king went in and sat before the LORD and said,”
Martin Selman: The prayer is not just a conventional religious response to good news, for God’s word has brought about a marked change in David’s perspective. He has a new perception of his dependence (cf. v. 1), and the similar questions in the prayer of 29:14 show that this was not a passing phase. Even more importantly, an awareness has emerged of God as not only unique but without any rival (v. 20).
1. (:16-18) Focus on the Humility of David’s House in Light of the Magnitude of God’s Blessing
“Who am I, O LORD God, and what is my house that Thou hast brought me this far? 17 And this was a small thing in Thine eyes, O God; but Thou hast spoken of Thy servant’s house for a great while to come, and hast regarded me according to the standard of a man of high degree, O LORD God. 18 What more can David still say to Thee concerning the honor bestowed on Thy servant? For Thou knowest Thy servant.”
2. (:19) Transition – Insight into God’s Motivation
“O LORD, for Thy servant’s sake, and according to Thine own heart, Thou hast wrought all this greatness, to make known all these great things.”
3. (:20-22) Focus on the Uniqueness of Both God and Israel’s Elect Status
“O LORD, there is none like Thee, neither is there any God besides Thee, according to all that we have heard with our ears. 21 And what one nation in the earth is like Thy people Israel, whom God went to redeem for Himself as a people, to make Thee a name by great and terrible things, in driving out nations from before Thy people, whom Thou didst redeem out of Egypt? 22 For Thy people Israel Thou didst make Thine own people forever, and Thou, O LORD, didst become their God.”
B. (:23-25) Fulfillment of God’s Promises Assured
“And now, O LORD, let the word that Thou hast spoken concerning Thy servant and concerning his house, be established forever, and do as Thou hast spoken. 24 And let Thy name be established and magnified forever, saying, The LORD of hosts is the God of Israel, even a God to Israel; and the house of David Thy servant is established before Thee. 25 For Thou, O my God, hast revealed to Thy servant that Thou wilt build for him a house; therefore Thy servant hath found courage to pray before Thee.”
Martin Selman: Two requests emerge in the latter part of the prayer.
– The first is that God’s ‘word’ (NRSV, RSV) promise (NIV, GNB) should be established for ever (v. 25). David recognizes that the giving of the promise and its future depends on God, though from now on its success or otherwise will be bound up with the faith and obedience shown by David’s descendants. The Davidic covenant is usually described in this chapter as the word/promise (vv. 3, 23; cf. v. 6), but it is also called this great thing (v. 19), ‘this good thing’ (v. 26, NRSV, RSV), and what God has revealed (v. 25; cf. v. 15). Verse 23 contains a good example of prayer not always changing the circumstances but the attitude of the person who prays – ‘Do what you said’ (GNB) or Do as you promised (NIV) is in direct opposition to Nathan’s original advice to the king (Do whatever you have in mind, v.2).
– The second request is that God’s name (‘fame,’ GNB, REB, NEB) will be magnified forever (v. 24, NRSV, RSV). David has shown understandable human interest in the implications of the divine word for himself and his house (vv. 16-19, 23), but the prayer concludes, as the next will begin (29:10- 13), with a concern for God’s honor. The greatness of God’s name through both ‘houses’ is in the end more important to David than the promise of a great name for himself (cf. v. 8).
C. (:26-27) Faithfulness of God’s Blessing Acclaimed
“And now, O LORD, Thou art God, and hast promised this good thing to Thy servant. 27 And now it hath pleased Thee to bless the house of Thy servant, that it may continue forever before Thee; for Thou, O LORD, hast blessed, and it is blessed forever.”