2 Samuel 7:1–29 . . . Bible Study Summary with Videos and Questions
“God’s Promise, David’s Prayer”
Looking back at last week's study, David had built a brand new ox cart, had the ark of God set in its center, and headed to Jerusalem with all the people, singing and rejoicing around the ark. As it was going down the road, it hit a rut and shook so much that the ark looked as though it would fall to the ground. A man named Uzzah, standing by the cart, reached out his hand to steady the ark. The moment his hand touched it, the lightning of God struck him and he fell dead. David was nonplussed; he didn’t know what to do; he was so sick at heart that he had the ark of God stored in the first house that was handy. He returned to Jerusalem, bitter and resentful against the LORD for doing such a thing like that.
That was the first of two lessons that David had to learn. It's recorded that David was afraid of the Lord when this happened and he became bitter. But the truth was that it was David’s fault that Uzzah had died. See why and learn the second lesson that David learned that day by reviewing last week's summary.
God Makes a Promise to David (2 Samuel 7:1–17)
After reading these first seventeen verses, we should clearly see David's earnest desire to build a temple for God. The ark had been kept in the tabernacle, which was a crude, old, shoddy tent, while David lived in a "house of cedar," which was a remarkable contrast to his previous shelter in Adullam's Cave. Cedar wood was especially valued then, meaning that David lived in an expensive, beautiful home. When he remembered that the ark of God remained behind tent curtains, the contrast bothered him. He was troubled by the thought that he lived in a nicer house than that of the ark of God. So he reasoned with himself as he spoke with Nathan the court prophet (v. 2).
1After the king was settled in his palace and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, 2he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent” (2 Samuel 7:1–2).
Nathan responded assuredly to King David with encouragement. But Nathan had spoken in the flesh, relying on human judgment and common sense, instead of the Spirit. He was too quick to give a "word" from the LORD. Later that evening God corrected him by saying, No, that's not right. The reason was that David was a man of war. He'd been the one chosen to represent the LORD as the conquering king over all. And so God said, No, it won't be David who'll build my temple [cf. vv. 4–16]. God rejected David’s plan to build it, even though it was well intentioned, sincere, and earnest. [Note: This is the first time we see Nathan the prophet. We know little about his past, except that he seems to have been from a priestly family (1 Kings 4:5). But from this point on, he'll serve, with Gad, as a prophet of the LORD with access to the king.]
This chapter provides a beautiful example for us when we fully realize the obedience in David’s heart as he praised God and accepted this disappointment and the reversal of his plans. He agreed that God was right and that the temple should be built by Solomon, his son. The great passion of David's heart was to establish Yahweh's sovereignty in the consciousness of His people, which is why he brought the ark to Jerusalem, the center of the nation (see ch. 6). But David didn't want only to bring the ark to Jerusalem. He wanted to build an appropriately magnificent temple to honor Yahweh.
In response to David's strong desire to honor Yahweh, God promised to honor David with a line of descendants who'd continue to rule Israel. Thus, God wouldn't only establish David's reign as long as he lived, but forever. This chapter, along with 1 Samuel 7 (Samuel's revival speech) and 12 (Samuel's farewell speech), is one of the most important in 1 and 2 Samuel theologically. They all contain explanations of God's methods and intentions.
Let's look more carefully at the passages in this first half of chapter 7. In the first three verses, David presents his strong desire to please God. It was when God had subdued all of David's enemies that He gave this covenant to David (vv. 1, 9). Those enemies included the Ammonites with whom David was at war when he committed adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband Uriah murdered (which we'll see in ch. 11). Thus it seems clear that God gave the Davidic Covenant to David after he'd committed these sins, not before, as the order of events in the text implies.
The Israelites had anticipated entering into their Promise Land rest, following their wilderness wanderings (Deuteronomy 12:9). Joshua had already given them a measure of rest (Joshua 21:44; 22:4; 23:1). Now, with David's victories, they enjoyed a larger measure of rest than they'd had anytime previously in their history.
In the ancient Near East, people didn't consider a king's sovereignty as being fully established until he'd built himself an appropriate palace. Because they also regarded kings as ministers of their god, they viewed their gods' temples as palaces of true kings. This view existed in Israel as well. David thought it inappropriate for him as a second-in-command representative to live in a magnificent palace while his Commander-in-Chief's tabernacle dwelling was only a temporary, much less impressive structure.
In this segment's remaining verses (4–17), we see God's purpose in honoring David. The promises Yahweh had made to him here provide an important key to understanding God's program for the future. He rejected David's suggestion that he build a temple for the LORD and gave three reasons. First, there was no pressing need to do so since the ark had resided in tents since the Exodus (v. 6). The tent in which it was currently occupied was the one David had pitched for it in Jerusalem (6:17), not the tabernacle that stood then at Gibeon (1 Chron. 16:1, 39; 21:28-30). Second, God hadn't commanded his people to build him a permanent temple (v. 7). Before God raised Israel's kings, he'd dealt with the tribes of Israel during the Judges period (v. 7) when tribal leaders were to responsibly shepherd the Israelites in their areas. Third, David was an inappropriate person to build a temple since he'd shed much blood (v. 5; 1 Chron. 22:8; 28:3). He'd become ritually unclean because of all the killing he'd been responsible for during his long reign. That wasn't true of Solomon (cf. 1 Kings 6:1).
The real issue is that both the initiative to build a temple and the choice of the person for the task must come from God, not from a worldly king. Realize that it wasn't because God was disciplining David, or that God had rejected him, that the LORD prohibited David's good intention. God was simply redirecting his servant. He was to be a ruler (v. 8), not a temple builder. Similarly, God doesn't always permit us to carry out our desires to honor him. Sometimes he redirects our focus, plans, and efforts because he wants us to serve him in a different way. After all, those of us who are God's servants must accept the disappointments of life because "our disappointments are His appointments." Sometimes life's greatest blessings flow out of its profoundest disappointments. Our willingness to do what little we can for our Lord will be repaid many times over by the outpouring of his lavish and surprising acts of grace, both now and in the ages to come.
It's clear in vv. 8–9a that God had blessed David in the past by choosing him as Israel's shepherd-king, by being with him in blessing, and by cutting off all David's enemies. Look at these four promises of Yahweh found in this passage: (1) a great name or famous reputation for David (v. 9b); (2) a homeland for Israel (v. 10); (3) undisturbed rest from all of Israel's enemies (vv. 10–11a); and (4) an everlasting royal dynasty and kingdom for David and his heirs (vv. 11b–16). Some of God's promises to David would find fulfillment during his lifetime (vv. 8–11a) while others would be fulfilled after his death (vv. 11b–16).
Let's look closely at vv. 14–15 that speak of Solomon and his kingdom to come. . .
14“I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands. 15But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you” (vv. 14–15).
If David's son sinned, God would discipline him, but He would never remove Solomon's right to rule (cf. Hebrews 12:5–11). Thus David's house (dynasty), his kingdom (the people of Israel and their land), and his throne (the right to rule) would remain forever. Yahweh committed himself to the house of David. But he rewarded or disciplined individual kings by extending or withholding the benefits of his grant according to their loyalty or disloyalty to his covenant.
David Prays a Humble Thanksgiving Prayer to God (vv. 18–29)
When David received God's grace-filled promise, he didn't think it made him any greater. In his eyes it made God greater. We, too, should receive salvation and every blessing with the same attitude! God's giving reflects the greatness of the Giver, not the receiver.
David’s Prayer 18Then King David went in and sat before the Lord, and he said:
“Who am I, Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? 19And as if this were not enough in your sight, Sovereign Lord, you have also spoken about the future of the house of your servant — and this decree, Sovereign Lord, is for a mere human! (vv. 18–19)
King David's response to God's promise was heartwarming in its humility. His heartfelt response to the oracle of Prophet Nathan is one of the most inspiring prayers in Scripture, moving from thanksgiving for his present favor (vv. 18–21) to praise for what God had done in the past (vv. 22–24), to petition for future fulfillment of God's promises (vv. 25–29). David included humility (v. 18), gratitude (v. 19), praise (v. 22), remembrance (vv. 23–24), and acknowledgment (vv. 25–29), as essential ingredients in his prayer.
Clearly, in David's prayer, we can see that he revealed a proper attitude toward himself, toward Yahweh, and toward their relationship. Ten times he referred to himself as Yahweh's servant; eight times he called God his Master (Heb. Adonai). [To see the relationship between "Yahweh," "Adonai," "Jehovah," and "LORD," see this video from The Bible Project.] He saw his own role in the larger context of God's purpose for Israel. In every one of these instances, we can see David, contrasted with Saul. We also see why God blessed him personally and used him as a channel of blessing to others. And can you see the thrust of v. 27 relating to "Thy kingdom come," and the thrust of v. 28 being "Thy will be done"? [If not, reread both verses now.]
Chapter 7 is a high point in a "fertility" motif running through 1 and 2 Samuel. Here the ultimate blessing came to David. If God's giving of his covenant followed David's sins with Bathsheba and Uriah, we've extraordinary evidence of the LORD's grace. God chose to bless David in spite of his sins because, over all, David was a man who sought to glorify God and serve him acceptably with his life. The covenant came in response to David's desire to honor God in Israel by helping the people there perceive God's true position as head of their nation.
A Hearty Way to Apply his Passage
From his days as a simple shepherd boy to the time he was a heroic ruler, David served God in many capacities. By looking at the various stages of his life, we can clearly see how his godly devotion allowed the Lord to use him mightily.
As a Shepherd David was anointed as king, long before commanding anything other than sheep (1 Samuel 16:1–13). Shepherding was a job he took so seriously that he even killed a lion and a bear to protect his flock. During those days, he learned to be strong and brave and to take care of creatures weaker than himself. An early life of obedience to his earthly father taught him the humility he'd later need in order to depend on his heavenly Father.
As a Psalmist David’s writings reveal his hunger for God. He was open about issues such as fear, depression, defeat, loneliness, and sorrow. By describing valley experiences and communing with the LORD during the night watches, he provides us with intimate glimpses of the God he knew so well.
As a Leader Following his encounter with Bathsheba (that we'll cover shortly), David’s life was plagued by heartache, suffering, and conflict. He’d sinned greatly, but God forgave him and continued to use him as king and military commander. He ruled Israel for 40 years, and his people called Jerusalem the “City of David.” His restoration teaches us about sin’s consequences and God’s limitless grace.
King David served God’s purpose when he lived. And his impact continues thousands of years later; every hearty follower of Jesus Christ has been blessed by appreciating David’s obedience, service, and literary skill. He's a great example of what God can accomplish through us if we yield — surrender — our lives to Him. Strive always to "seek, surrender, and serve our Lord God."
It Makes You Wonder . . . .
- Q. 1 Why was Nathan so quick to give David approval to build the temple? What should he have done instead?
- Q. 2 David's heart is partly right about building the temple. Which part does David have right?