THE CONTEXT OF GOD'S COVENANT WITH DAVID: 2 SAMUEL 1-7
A) God's PLAN (2 Samuel 1-2): David is anointed king as a young man in 1 Samuel 16, and he kills Goliath the giant in the next chapter. But for the rest of the book of 1 Samuel, David is running for his life. After Saul tries to kill him twice, David knows he has to leave town; and he spends the next several years of his life either hiding in the wilderness (Chapters 22-26) or living as a refugee among the Philistines (Chapters 27-31). It was during this time that David penned some of the Psalms (see Psalm 34, 52, 54, 56, 57, 59, 63, 142). In some of these Psalms, we find David asking God to judge his enemies. At first, this may seem cruel or vengeful; but the whole point is that David is refusing to take vengeance himself. He's calling upon God to do what's right rather than taking things into his own hands. During the course of his time in the wilderness, David actually had two opportunities to kill Saul and take over as king (Chapters 24 and 26). Twice, he had the chance to take a short-cut to the throne; to take what was promised to him without having to wait on God's timing. But he refused to do it. David knew there was a difference between the easiest way to the throne and the right way. And the waiting was worth it: Saul is killed in battle, and in 2 Samuel 2:4, David is crowned king.
B) God's PRINCE (2 Samuel 2-5): In 2 Samuel 2:4, David is made king over the tribe and territory of Judah. But at the same time, another king is anointed over the other tribes of Israel: Ish-bosheth, the son of Saul. Ish-bosheth means “man of shame”, and this seems to be Scripture's way of telling us that it was wrong of Israel to anoint another as king when God had made it so clear the next king was to be David. 2 Samuel 3:1 gives us a description of the ensuing years: “Now there was a long war between the house of Saul and the house of David; and David grew steadily stronger, but the house of Saul grew weaker continually.” David's kingship would come in stages. He's anointed in 1 Samuel 16; he's made king of Judah in 2 Samuel 2; but it's only later still that he reigns over all Israel (5:4-5):
Stages of David's Kingship Scripture Location Duration Characterized By
David is anointed as king 1 Samuel 16:13 Bethlehem Unknown Suffering and hardship
David reigns over Judah 2 Samuel 2:4 Hebron 7 1/2 years Reigning partially over some
David reigns over all Israel 2 Samuel 5:1-5 Jerusalem 33 years Reigning fully over all
C) God's PRODIGALS (2 Samuel 5:1): After he had reigned seven years over Judah, and following the death of Ish-bosheth, all Israel came to David, asking him to reign over them as well. We read in 2 Samuel 5:1, “Then all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and said, 'Behold, we are your bone and your flesh'. . .” It was a beautiful thing to say. In some ways, it was also a confession. The language of “bone and flesh” echoes back to Genesis 2:23. When the Lord had brought the woman to the man, Adam had said: “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh. . .” Israel was to David as Eve was to Adam. They belonged to him, as a wife belongs to her husband; but they had deserted him. Now they came to their senses. For seven years they had rejected their true king; now they're coming back to him like the prodigal to his father. How would David respond? We're given more details of the account in 1 Chronicles 12:39, where we read, “They were there with David three days, eating and drinking. . .” Turns out, David was ready to receive them with a feast of his own.
D) God's PURPOSE (2 Samuel 5:12): After David had been crowned king over all Israel, we read in 2 Samuel 5:12, “And David realized that the Lord had established him as king over Israel, and that He had exalted his kingdom for the sake of His people Israel.” God had done amazing things for David; He took him from the sheepfolds and had made him to reign as king over all Israel. But what was God's purpose behind it all? The Lord had done these things “for the sake of His people Israel.” Thing is, as much as the Lord loved David, He wasn't primarily doing this for David's sake—He was doing it for the sake of His people Israel. The whole reason the Lord raised up a shepherd was for the purpose of protecting and nourishing His sheep. This is what we see in Psalm 78:70-72: “He also chose David His servant and took him from the sheepfolds; from the care of the ewes with suckling lambs He brought him to shepherd Jacob His people, and Israel His inheritance. . .” David realized there was a greater purpose for his rising to the throne than his own exaltation. The whole reason David had been made the shepherd of Israel was the Lord's care and concern for His sheep.
E) God's PLACE (2 Samuel 5): When David had ruled seven years over Judah, he had ruled from Hebron, which was a southern city in the tribe of Judah. Now that he had been anointed king over all Israel, David chose Jerusalem as the new and permanent location for his throne. Jerusalem was more centrally located to all the tribes of Israel than Hebron. In fact, we might think of Jerusalem as being the city that connects the tribe of Judah with the rest of the tribes of Israel, since it's reckoned as being both the most northern city of Judah (Joshua 15:8) as well as the most southern city of Benjamin (Joshua 18:28). God was bringing all His people together at Jerusalem. It would take some work though; the city was still inhabited by the Jebusites. But David and his men go up and take the city; and afterwards, “David lived in the stronghold and called it the city of David.” ( 2 Samuel 5:9).
F) God's PRESENCE (2 Samuel 6): But it wasn't just David who would now dwell in Jerusalem. In 2 Samuel 6, we witness the king bringing the ark of the covenant into the city of David. The ark was associated with the presence of the Lord; so when the ark came into Jerusalem it signified that this is the place where the Living God himself would dwell. God was associating His presence with a very particular place. And since Jerusalem had become the capital city of David's reign, the Lord was also associating His presence with a very particular kingship. This is why 1 Chronicles 29:23 describes the beginning of Solomon's reign by saying: “Then Solomon sat on the throne of the Lord as king. . .” David's throne had become the throne of the Lord. David's reign now represented the reign of God. Not only would God's presence be found in David's city; God's reign would be administered in and through David's throne. It was God himself who would reign on the throne of David at Jerusalem.1
G) God's PEACE (2 Samuel 7:1): It was after all these things that 2 Samuel 7:1 tells us: “. . .the king lived in his house, and the Lord had given him rest on every side from all his enemies. . .” For years, Israel had been ravaged by the attacks of their enemies. But now, under David, the Lord was giving His people a measure of peace. God had truly done wonderful things for His people Israel: He had chosen and anointed their new king, a man after His own heart. He had appointed a place; He had endowed it with His presence; and He had given peace. The stage was set for the Davidic covenant.
AN OVERVIEW OF THE DAVIDIC COVENANT:
So far in our study of the Covenant of Grace, we've covered God's first promise in Genesis 3:15, God's covenant with Noah, His covenant with Abraham, and His covenant with Israel at Sinai. God's covenant with David is the next stage, and the last, of the Old Testament manifestations of the Covenant of Grace:
I. The Covenant of Works with Adam
II. The Genesis 3:15 promise of a Redeemer:
A) The Noahic Covenant
B) The Abrahamic Covenant
C) The Mosaic Covenant
D) The Davidic Covenant
E) The New Covenant
Being the next manifestation of the Covenant of Grace, the Davidic Covenant shares fundamental unity with both the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants.2 It's through the covenant with David that many of the promises made to Abraham find their fulfillment: God had promised that kings would come forth from Abraham (Genesis 17:6); now we finally see the fulfillment. By the end of David's reign, we're also told that, “Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand that is on the seashore”, which was in fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham as well (Genesis 22:17; 1 Kings 4:20).3 The requirements given at Sinai also continue to apply in the Davidic Covenant: The kings of Israel were commanded to write out a copy of God's Law personally, read it daily, and conform their lives to it (Deuteronomy 17:18-20). Even David's last words to his son Solomon hearken back to Sinai. He says: “Keep the charge of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies, according to what is written in the Law of Moses, that you may succeed in all that you do” (1 Kings 2:3).4
There are several passages associated with the Davidic Covenant,5 but the two most primary Scriptures are 2 Samuel 7 and Psalm 89. The passage in 2 Samuel 7 records the actual promises God had made to David, while Psalm 89 is written as a later reflection upon those promises. The word “covenant” doesn't actually appear in 2 Samuel 7, but Psalm 89 makes it clear that this was indeed a covenant (vv3,28,34,39).
There are both temporal and eternal components in God's covenant with David. We've seen this in our study of the other Old Testament manifestations of the Covenant of Grace; and it's the same here in the Davidic Covenant. There are temporal promises God makes to David; promises about David's throne, David's city (Jerusalem), and David's lineage. But behind these temporal promises are eternal realities. Just like with Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Israel, this covenant is here to teach us truths about the gospel.
God's covenant with David sets the stage for the coming of Christ in the gospels. The Davidic Covenant is the covenant of the kingdom. And as it's the last stage of the Covenant of Grace in the Old Testament, it shouldn't surprise us that this is the same language our Savior used to preach the gospel. Jesus' message of the kingdom of God wasn't a new teaching—He was simply picking up where the Old Testament had left off. In and through Christ, God was bringing to fulfillment everything that He had spoken to David.
So, God's covenant with David is about Christ and the gospel. What are the truths we learn in particular?
1. The FOUNDATION of the Covenant of Grace: We learn what is the only basis of our hope
2. The NATURE of the Covenant of Grace: We learn how it is that God's blessings flow to His people
3. The WARNINGS and COMFORTS of the Covenant of Grace: We learn what this all means for us
1 As Robertson puts it: “Under David. . .God formally establishes the manner by which he shall rule among his people. . . now God openly situates his throne in a single locality. . .God reigns from Mt. Zion in Jerusalem. . .The ark is brought triumphantly to Jerusalem. God himself associates his kingship with the throne of David.” (Christ of the Covenants, p229).
2 As Edwards notes: “This was the fifth solemn establishment of the covenant of grace which the church after the fall. . .The first was with Adam; the second with Noah; the third with the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the fourth was in the wilderness by Moses; and now the fifth is made to David.” (History of Redemption). Wright says: “The covenant with David is thus presented in the historical record, not as something utterly new or as a break with the past, but as an extension of God's covenant relationship with his people to the line of Davidic kings who would now reign over them.” (Knowing Jesus, pp89-90).
3 Rhodes draws this out for us: “Abraham had been promised that some of his descendants would be kings (Genesis 17:6), but so far we've not seen any sign of them. Here, God continues to undo the damage of the fall, by appointing David and his descendants as covenant kings. The missing piece of the covenant jigsaw is in place. . .David's son Solomon takes to the throne, and initially all is well. 'Judah and Israel were as many as the sand by the sea. They ate and drank and were happy. Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the Euphrates to the land of the Philistines and to the border of Egypt. They brought tribute and served Solomon all the days of his life.' See the promises being fulfilled? The people of Israel are as many as the sand by the sea, just as God promised Abraham in Genesis 22. They are living in the land stretching from the Euphrates to Egypt, just as God promised Abraham in Genesis 15.” (Covenants Made Simple). Williams likewise concludes: “Thus to no small extent, the kingship of David represents a marked fulfillment of the promises of the Abrahamic covenant.” (Far As the Curse is Found, p183). Further, the New Testament also affirms the unity between the Abrahamic and Davidic Covenants in Zacharias' prophecy in Luke 1:68-74 as well as in Paul's connection between the two in Romans 4:1-8. Lastly, in Ezekiel 37:24-28, the new covenant is put forth as the fulfillment of both the Abrahamic (v25) and Davidic (v24) Covenants.
4 The Law of Moses is also an explicit requirement annexed to the Davidic Covenant in Psalm 89:30-33. Referencing this passage, as well as Scriptures such as Psalm 132:11-12 and 1 Chronicles 28:7-8, Francis Roberts says: “As [the Lord] performs Covenant Mercy, so they must perform Covenant Duty. . .the covenant duties and conditions required of David and his seed in this covenant, are the same with those imposed upon Israel and their posterity in the Sinai covenant. . .[So,] This covenant with David did not void or annul the Sinai covenant or the duties thereof. . .David therefore and all his seed remained still under the obligation and duties of the Old Testament or Sinai covenant. . .” (Roberts, Mystery and Marrow , pp1052-53).
5 Aside from 2 Samuel 7 and Psalm 89, other important passages are 2 Samuel 23:1-7; as well as Psalms 2, 72, 110 and 132.