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The Biblical Covenants, Part 5c: The Davidic Covenant Confirmed

Because of the observations already made regarding the DC it is important to see if the prophets pick up on and trace these same observations. If they do, then we are certainly on the right track. If they do not, then we must return to the drawing board. It is essential that Scripture, and Scripture alone is our guide.

From the text of 2 Samuel 7, the context (vv. 10-7), cutting (vv. 8-17), and David’s prayerful response to the DC (vv. 18-29), we noted strong links to the previous covenants. With the mention of David’s seed being God’s son within a discussion of sin (v. 14) combined with David’s understanding of this covenant constituting specific instruction concerning the man (v. 19) we see clear connections to the 1st Gospel in Gen. 3:15. The promise of eternal rest (v. 11) marks a clear allusion to the Noahic Covenant. The connections to the AC abound in that David is also promised a great name (v. 9) as well as promises of land (v. 10) and seed (v. 12). As for the blessing that accompanies these promises, one has only to read the entirety of this covenant. The language of sonship (v. 14) not only links this passage with the 1st Gospel, but also to the MC (Ex. 4:22). This link is made stronger by the fact that the present text affirms that this sonship cannot be broken on account of sin; namely, that Yhwh will never withdraw His lovingkindness or loyal love (חֶסֶד – Ex. 34:6) in the way He withdrew it from Saul (v. 15). In other words, the DC will secure the picture of relationship painted by the MC. There is even an allusion to the PC in that David’s seed will be the one to build a house for Yhwh’s name (v. 13). If there is a house or temple for Yhwh, then there will need to be priests who minister to Yhwh. All the covenants are tightly woven into the fabric of the DC.

In addition to these covenantal links, we made several observations. (1) David’s promised kingdom will be eternal, global, with Jerusalem as its capital as the place of David’s throne (vv. 9, 10, 16, 19). (2) The fulfillment of this promise will include the rest broken by the curse and anticipated in the Noahic Covenant (v. 11). (3) The seed of David will suffer in connection with sin and yet this suffering will not break fellowship with Yhwh (vv. 14-15). (4) This seed will be both David’s natural born heir and God’s son (vv. 12, 14). (5) This son of David and son of God will build the house for Yhwh’s name (v. 13). 

These observations appear to make the DC the key which unlocks many of the questions that have been growing. We know that (1) the seed of the woman will (a) gain Yhwh ’s final victory, (b) bring final rest from the labor of the cures, (c) will come from Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, (d) be a king from Judah and David. We know that (2) Israel is a special part of God’s victory plan in that they are (a) considered God’s son, (b) designed to be a kingdom of priests, (c) Yhwh’s possession where He is their God and they are His people, (d) will be the means by which the whole world will know Yhwh. The DC finally beings to answer the question how this is possible by focusing on who will make it possible. Namely, this seed of David and Son of God will make it possible. Now it is time to consider how the prophets interpret the DC in conjunction with all the other covenants.


Isaiah: The King and the Servant

The Messianic thread which flows through Isaiah is impossible to miss. Regarding this Messiah, it is interesting that Isaiah focuses on two concepts which seem to be in paradox; that this coming One is both a king and a servant. Yet is this not exactly how the DC is revealed to us (2 Sam. 7:1, 2, 3, 18 vs. 2 Sam. 7:5, 8, 20, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29)? It seems that Isaiah’s many prophecies are steeped in DC understanding.


Isaiah’s King

The references in Isaiah to Messiah as king are so many that we must be selective for the scope of this presentation. Yet, there are three passages that will certainly help to extend our understanding of how Isaiah understood God’s covenant with David. These passages not only confirm that David’s natural heir will rule upon the earth over Jerusalem, Israel, and the world, but also that this One will be God’s Son and thus God Himself.


The Divine and Global King (Is. 6:1-5)

Isaiah 6 begins with the familiar words: “In the year of King Uzziah’s death, so I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne greatly exalted, and the hem of His robe filled the temple.” In relation to our survey, four questions require answering: (1) Who did Isaiah see? (2) Where does this scene take place? (3) When does this scene take place? And (4) how does this text tie into our understanding of the DC?

Regarding who Isaiah saw, it becomes quite obvious that the Lord (אֶת־אֲדֹנָי) is none other than Yhwh of hosts (יְהוָה צְבָאוֹת – v. 3). Isaiah saw God. To this we must add two additional notes. The first of which is that in v. 5, Isaiah himself specifies that this Yhwh of hosts is foremost the king (אֶת־הַמֶּלֶךְ). In the same year that David’s heir Uzziah died, Isaiah saw the true son of David sitting on a throne as the King of kings. The second note regarding this One’s identity comes much later in John’s Gospel. In Jn. 12:36b-43, the apostle states unambiguously that Isaiah saw Jesus that day. It was Jesus’ glory that Isaiah saw and so Isaiah spoke of Jesus in these lines (Jn. 12:41). The prophet witnessed King Jesus sitting on a throne with His robe filling the temple.

The next two question can be taken together. Regarding the place of this scene, one might be tempted to assume that Isaiah is witnessing a heavenly scene. Yet, there are several factors that argue against it. (1) The scene takes place in the temple (v. 1). Since the temple which Solomon constructed was still in use in Isaiah’s day, a reference to the temple would instantly lead Isaiah’s readers to assume this is what he meant. As such, if Isaiah meant to refer to a heavenly temple, one would think he would make such a  distinction (Ps. 11:4; Rev. 4:2; 15:5). The temple thus seems to indicate the temple in Jerusalem. (2) The Seraphim who stand above the King state that His glory fills the earth (v. 3). This would indicate that the scene being witnessed takes place on earth rather than in heaven. (3) Because we know that this same King, Lord, and Yhwh of hosts is none other than Jesus, we should also note that Jesus is never described as sitting on a throne in heaven. Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father in heaven (Ps. 110:1) but does not sit upon His own throne until after He returns to earth to establish His kingdom (Ezek. 43:7). Thus, Isaiah witnessed the future when Jesus is enthroned as David’s heir on earth in the temple in all His glory. This glorious event is the very hope for which David prayed: “Lift your heads ye gates, And be lifted up ye eternal doors; And the King of glory will come in! Who is this King of glory? Yhwh of hosts, He is the King of Glory!” (Ps. 24:9-10).

With these things in place it becomes more obvious how this text ties into the discussion of the DC. It is this scene of fulfillment that encourages Isaiah to fulfill his mission. He is tasked with proclaiming the gospel to a people who will not repent (6:9-10), nor will they repent until all the curses of the MC come to completion (6:11-12; Lev. 26:31; Deut. 30:1-10). Because the DC is the key that unlocks all the previous covenants, Isaiah is given a glimpse of the fulfillment of the DC to encourage him that even though his own generation will spurn him and his message, Israel will one day be regathered and reconciled as was promised. According to Isaiah, God Himself will reign on David’s throne over the whole world as fulfillment of the DC.


The Divine Son Miraculously Born from David’s Line (Is. 7:1-17)

The very next chapter in Isaiah begins to explain how it is possible for a Davidic heir to also be the Son of God. When a coalition of Arameans and apostate northern Israelites threaten Judah and Jerusalem, Isaiah is sent to Judean King Ahaz to encourage him to trust in Yhwh rather than in foreign aid. Yhwh reminds Ahaz of the connection between a people and their king. The head of the nation of Aram is the capital city of Damascus. The head of the capital city is the king, Rezin. The same is true of northern Israel. Israel’s capital at Samaria is the head of the nation and the king, the son of Remaliah, is the head of Samaria (Is. 7:8-9a). There is a chain between the nation, the city, and the king. Yet, what is missing from this statement is every bit as important as what is mentioned. By implication, Yhwh states that the head of Judah is Jerusalem, and the head of Jerusalem is David’s Seed. This is not stated, but rather Yhwh tells Ahaz through Isaiah: “If you all fail to believe, you all will certainly never remain.” In other words, turning to a foreign power for aid because Judah fears a coming combined enemy is a statement of unbelief in the true head of Judah and Jerusalem; namely, the true seed of David, Yhwh of hosts.[1] This is a call of faith in the coming seed of David.

The dim-witted and hard-hearted Ahaz refused to name a sign for this promise even though Yhwh commanded him to do so. Therefore, Yhwh named His own sign. the child born of a virgin: “Thus, the Lord Himself will give to you all a sign. Behold! The virgin is pregnant and will bear a son, and she will call his name ‘with us God[2]’” (7:14). The confirmation that Judah must place their trust in David’s coming seed as their head is the promise that David’s coming seed will also be God’s Son. He will not be born by natural means, for He will born of a virgin. That the Father of this child is God is indicated by His name. In this child, God will be among His people. This future event will fulfill the promise that God will dwell in the tents of Shem (Gen. 9:27). The promised seed of David will truly and literally be God’s Son.


The Divine, Davidic King Ruling a Global Kingdom (Is. 9:1-7)

Because (1) there was much rebellion and disobedience in Isaiah’s day and (2) because all the curses of the MC had not yet come about, the prophet speaks much of the need of repentance considering coming judgment. Yet, in chapter 9, Isaiah foresees a day of restoration for not only Judah, but all Israel and the world (9:3). The reason for this future day of gladness is bound up in the same child mentioned in 7:14, a child that (1) must be a man (a) by virtue of His being a child and (b) because He is to be a king of Israel in David’s line (v. 7). Yet this same child (2) is explicitly called God (v. 6). According to Isaiah, the key to everything is this future seed of David/Son of God who will be the future fulfillment of the DC.


Isaiah’s Servant

Because the DC is given to king David who is also Yhwh’s servant, Isaiah traces the multifaceted implications of this coming One in terms of His kingship and servitude. While the first portion of Isaiah focuses on the future King, the latter portion of this massive book zeroes in on the future Servant. There are four “Servant Songs” in Isaiah 42, 49, 50, and 53 that work together to provide a three-dimensional picture of this coming servant-king.


The First Servant Song: Yhwh’s Chosen and Persevering Victor (Isaiah 42:1-4)

Isaiah’s first “Servant Song” is largely positive in that Yhwh declares His personal choice of this Servant who is (1) endowed with Yhwh’s Spirit, (2) will secure justice for all nations, and (3) will persevere unto victory regardless of hardship. This Servant will be a vital instrument in God’s victory plan. Yet, while much of the emphasis is on the ultimate victory of this Servant, there remains obvious implications that this Servant will suffer.


The Second Servant Song: Yhwh’s Prophet with a Global Mission (Isaiah 49:1-7)

The second “Servant Song” reveals this Servant’s identity as well as making clear His mission. By stating that Yhwh has named Him from His mother’s womb (v. 1b), our attention is drawn back to Is. 7:14 and the name which the virgin called her son: God with us. This Servant is none other than the Davidic seed and Son of God. That even far off nations are to heed these words (v. 1a) indicates that this Servant has business with the world rather than exclusively to Israel. This much is confirmed when the Servant is (1) identified as Israel’s singular representative (v. 3) and (2) is commissioned with the double mission of saving Israel and the world (v. 6). Yet this mission will not go unopposed. In v. 7 we see that Yhwh’s servant will be despised and abhorred by the nations and yet will gain victory when their kings and princes bow down and worship Him. Yhwh’s Servant is given a precise mission: to save Israel and the world. In this mission He will be victorious but not without personal suffering.


The Third Servant Song: The Servant’s Perspective (Isaiah 50:4-11)

If the first Servant Song emphasizes the Servant’s victory, this third “Servant Song” emphasizes His suffering. The whole of this third song is from the perspective of the Servant Himself and in it He (1) claims to speak for Yhwh (vv. 4, 10), (2) describes His suffering (v. 6), (3) claims His perfect obedience to and places His exclusive trust in Yhwh (vv. 5, 7, 9), and (4) calls on men to follow Him in faith (v. 10) or suffer His wrath (v. 11). In other words, what this Servant does has far reaching implications for others. How men treat and interact with Yhwh’s Servant has drastic and eternal consequences.


The Fourth Servant Song: The Suffering Substitute (Isaiah 52:13-53:12)

In Isaiah’s fourth and final “Servant Song” several things become clear. Foremost of all, we finally understand why the servant suffers: as a substitutionary sacrifice to Yhwh on behalf of Israel. Because the second Servant Song unambiguously stated that the Servant’s mission the salvation of Israel and the world, we need not understand that this substitutionary sacrifice is exclusively for Israel. Yet, the death of Yhwh’s Servant on Israel’s behalf is the emphasis of this final song. The connection between the king and the servant has already been established in David and only now becomes clear as to this connection’s necessity: the king must die on behalf of His people. Not on behalf of His own iniquity, but on behalf of the peoples’ (vv. 4-5 vs. 2 Sam. 14b). This One will be God’s own lamb to take away the sin of the world (Ex. 12:1-13; Is. 53:7-10; Jn. 1:29, 36).

Here we begin to understand more of the how from understanding the who. David’s heir will be a God-man who will die the death that Israel earned so that Israel will die and yet not die. Thus, the curses of the MC will come to a head in the death of this One and allow for the blessings which follow (Deut. 30:1-10) to take place. The Servant King will be a prophet like Moses (Deut. 18:15), an heir of David (2 Sam. 7:13), a perfect Israelite of God’s own choosing (Deut. 17:14-17), and the Son of God (2 Sam. 7:14).


Jeremiah: Certainty and Security

Jeremiah wrote chapter 33 of his collection from prison. Jerusalem is under siege by Nebuchadnezzar and will eventually fall. The interior of the city is being literally broken up by its inhabitants to fill the gaps in the outer walls. Things are not looking good. But then again, this is exactly what God promised would happen in the event of Israel’s rebellion and disobedience (Deut. 28). In chapter 33, Jeremiah looks ahead past this present time of cursing to a time of restoration, healing, and health (v. 6). Israel and Judah will be cleansed and forgiven their rebellion and sin (v. 8), and they will become an object lesson for praise among the nations (v. 9). Days are coming when this good word will be fulfilled (v. 14), and the DC is in the heart of it. Regarding Israel’s restoration, the DC provides the key.

This passage provides three insights regarding the future fulfillment of the DC. The first is that the DC once fulfilled will be the official link with Jerusalem’s righteousness. In v. 15, Jeremiah sees a singular righteous branch from David’s line who will execute justice and righteousness. The language here corresponds with that of Ps. 72:1-5 as well as Is. 11:1-5, both of which look forward to a righteous king from David’s line. It is this righteous branch from David (v. 15) who will transform to city from “Jerusalem” (teacher/bringer of peace – יְרוּשָׁלַםִ) into “Yhwh our righteousness” (יְהוָה צִדְקֵנוּ) (v. 16). In other words, the seed of David will unlock the anticipated blessings that come after all the blessings and curses of the MC are ended (Deut. 30:1-10).

Secondly, there is an overt link made between the DC and the PC. In vv. 17-18 Jeremiah places the certainty of David’s throne next to the certainty of Levitical priests ministering to Yhwh. The same thing is true in vv. 19-22 when the Noahic Covenant is given as proof that both the PC and the DC will never be neglected, forgotten, or dismantled but will come to fulfillment exactly as God has promised. This connection between the PC and the DC is significant for at least two reasons. (1) It proves that the PC is distinct from either the MC or the DC and thus is neither fulfilled by the DC nor is it swept away with the MC. (2) It demands that we understand these two covenants as linked in such a way that they complement each other. What we know is that the PC will be fulfilled by Levitical priests through Phinehas and then Zadok always ministering before Yhwh. We also know that the ultimate seed of David will be Yhwh. Thus, the PC complements the DC but only when the son of David and Son of God reigns from David’s throne.

The third insight from this passage, and the main point Jeremiah is making, is the certainty that this seed will come and usher in this time of health and healing. The whole point of linking the DC with the Noahic Covenant is to provide certainty as to its future fulfillment. The days of Jeremiah were dark indeed. The hope that is promised of restoration, health, and healing are linked with the fulfillment of the DC which will require the fulfillment of the PC. Let the reader know that these covenants will be fulfilled and thus the restoration of Israel will happen.


Ezekiel: Rest and Restoration

The prophet Ezekiel confirms and expounds upon what Jeremiah has already written. In chapters 34 and 37 Ezekiel also connects the DC with the PC. As he does so, the prophet presents these covenants as working in tandem to unlock the full weight of blessing promised to and through Noah, Abraham, and Moses.

In Ezekiel 34, Yhwh decries the leaders of Jerusalem as wicked, selfish, and neglectful shepherds. In vv. 11-19, Yhwh states that He will take over the role of Israel’s shepherd and He will care for them, feed them, and sort off the wicked from among them. Yet, in vv. 20-24, this role of Israel’s shepherd is given to Yhwh’s servant, David. He will be the one who cares for Israel as a servant shepherd and Yhwh will be Israel’s God. These verses bring up one question and an observation. First, is the future shepherd of Israel David’s seed or Yhwh? The answer of course is “yes”. Second, that David’s seed governing Israel as their shepherd is linked with Yhwh finally being worshiped as Israel’s God marks the DC as participating with the AC (Gen. 17:7-8) as well as fulfilling the picture of Israel’s relationship with Yhwh as articulated in the MC (Ex. 19:6). The remainder of the chapter completes the circuit by again linking the DC with the PC. Only once all these covenants are completed are any of them fulfilled.

Ezekiel 37 is often referred to simply as “The Valley of Dry Bones” because here Ezekiel witnesses a vision of God breathing life into dead Israel. Technically speaking, this is a New Covenant text and is yet rife with DC, PC, MC, AC, and Noahic Covenant references. Restored, reunited, and regenerated Israel will have a Davidic king placed over them (vv. 21-24). This renewed nation will live on its promised land forever (v. 25) where God will multiply them and live with them forever (v. 26). At this time, when God dwells in the tents of Shem (Gen. 9:27) within their land (Gen. 12:1-3) with David as their king (2 Sam. 7:8-17) will Israel be Yhwh ’s people and Yhwh will be Israel’s God (Gen. 17:7-8; Ex. 19:6). This is the endgame, for this situation will never change but will continue forever (v. 28).


In summation, the prophets confirm that (1) the kingdom promised in the DC is eternal, global, and centered in Jerusalem. (2) This covenant brings with it the (a) rest promised Noah, (b) the blessing promised Abraham, and (c) the relationship shown to Moses. (3) The individual who is the seed of David is both David’s physical heir as well as God’s Son. (4) This seed will receive the punishment for Israel’s sin and suffer as a substitute for Israel’s redemption. (5) This suffering will accomplish atonement for believing Israel and all who believe. (6) This Davidic/Divine king will reign over His kingdom after all the blessings and the curses of the MC come to pass and is a necessary link to the restoration of Israel. In other words, the who of the DC unlocks all the answers concerning how the other covenants will be fulfilled. There remains many questions to be asked and answered, but those questions will be laid to rest in what the prophets call the New Covenant.

[1] J. Alec Motyer, The Prophecy of Isaiah: An Introduction & Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: Inter Varsity Press, 1993), p. 82-3.

[2] “Immanuel” is a transliteration of the Hebrew עִמָּנוּ אֵל which literally means “with us, God” or “God is with us”.

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