2 Samuel 7:4
And it came to pass that night, that the word of the LORD came to Nathan, saying,
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(4) That night.—The night following Nathan’s conversation with David, when the prophet’s mind would have been full of what he had heard, and thus prepared for the Divine communication. That communication is distinctly marked as coming from a source external to the prophet himself, by its being in direct opposition to his own view already expressed.

2 Samuel

THE PROMISED KING AND TEMPLE-BUILDER

2 Samuel 7:4 - 2 Samuel 7:16
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The removal of the ark to Jerusalem was but the first step in a process which was intended to end in the erection of a permanent Temple. The time for the next step appeared to David to have come when he had no longer to fight for his throne. Rest from enemies should lead to larger work for God, else repose will be our worst enemy, and peace will degenerate into self-indulgent sloth. A devout heart will not be content with personal comfort and dwelling in a house of cedar, while the ark has but a tent for its abode. There should be a proportion between expenditure on self and on religious objects. How many professing Christians might go to school to David! Luxury at home and niggardliness in God’s work make an ugly pair, but, alas! a common one.

Nathan approved, as was natural. But he knew the difference between his own thoughts and ‘the word of the Lord’ that came to him, and, like a true man, he went in the morning and contradicted, by God’s authority, his own precipitate sanction of the king’s proposal. Clearly, divine communications were unmistakably distinguishable from the recipient’s own thoughts.

The divine message first negatives the intention to build a house. In 1 Chronicles a positive prohibition takes the place of the question in 2 Samuel 7:5, but that is only a difference of form, for the question implies a negative answer. From David’s last words {1 Chronicles 28:3} we learn that a reason for the prohibition was ‘because thou art a man of war, and hast shed blood.’ His wars were necessary, and tended to establish the kingdom, but their existence showed that the time for building the Temple had not come, and there was a certain incongruity in a warrior king rearing a house for the God whose kingdom was in its essence peace.

The prohibition rests on a deep insight into the nature of Jehovah’s reign, and draws a broad distinction between His worship and the surrounding paganism. But the reason given in the text is very remarkable. God did not desire a permanent Temple. If we may so say, He preferred the less solid Tabernacle, as corresponding better to the simplicity and spirituality of His worship. A gorgeous stone Temple might easily become the sepulchre, rather than the shrine, of true devotion. The movable tent answered to the temporary character of the ‘dispensation.’ The more fixed and elaborate the externals of worship, the more danger of the spirit being stifled by them. The Old Testament worship was necessarily ceremonial, but here is a caveat against the stiffening of ceremonial into stereotyped formalism.

The prohibition was accompanied by gracious and far-reaching promises, designed to assure David of God’s approbation of his motive, and to open up to him the vision of the future and the wonders that should be. We need say little about the retrospective part of the message {2 Samuel 7:8 - 2 Samuel 7:9}. God had been the agent in all David’s past, had lifted him from the quiet following of his sheep, had given him rule, which was but a delegated authority. Israel was ‘My people,’ and therefore he was but an instrument in God’s hand, and was not to govern by his own fancies or for his own advantage.

Every devout man’s life is the realisation of a plan of God’s, and we sin against ourselves as well as Him if we do not often let thankful thoughts retrace all the way by which the Lord our God has led us.

With 2 Samuel 7:9 the prophecy turns to the future. David personally is promised the continuance of God’s help; then a permanent, peaceful possession of the land is promised to the nation, and finally the perpetuity of the kingdom in the Davidic line is promised. The prophecy as to the nation, like all such prophecies, is contingent on national obedience. The future of the kingdom will stand in blessed contrast with the wild times of the Judges, if-and only if-Israel behaves as ‘My people’ should.

But the main point of the prophecy is the promise to David’s ‘seed.’ In form it attaches itself very significantly to David’s intention to build a house for Jehovah. That would invert the true order, for Jehovah was about to build a house, that is, a permanent posterity, for David. God must first give before man can requite. All our relations to Him begin with His free mercy to us. And our building for Him should ever be the result of His building for us, and will, in some humble way, resemble the divine beneficence by which it has been quickened into action. The very foundation principles of Christian service are expressed here, in guise fitted to the then epoch of revelation.

But the relation of the two things, God’s building and Solomon’s, is not exhausted by such considerations. The consolidation of the monarchy in David’s family was an essential preliminary to the rearing of the Temple. That work needed tranquil times, abundant resources, leisure, and assured dominion. So the prophet goes on to promise that David shall be succeeded by his ‘seed,’ who shall build the Temple.

Further, three great promises are given in reference to David’s seed,- a perpetual kingdom, a personal relation of sonship to Jehovah, and paternal chastisement, if necessary, but no such departure of Jehovah’s mercy as had darkened the close of Saul’s sad reign. Then, finally, the assurance is reiterated of the perpetuity of David’s house and throne. The remarkable expression in 2 Samuel 7:16, ‘established before thee’ {that is, David}, if it is the true reading, suggests a hint of the life after death, and conceives of the long-dead king as in some manner cognisant of the fortunes of his descendants. But the Septuagint reads ‘before Me,’ and that reading is confirmed by 2 Samuel 7:26 and 2 Samuel 7:29, and by Psalm 89:36.

Now it is clear that these promises were in part directed to, and fulfilled in, Solomon. But it is as clear that the great promise of an eternal dominion, which is emphatically repeated thrice, goes far beyond him. We are obliged to recognise a second meaning in the prophecy, in accordance with Old Testament usage, which often means by ‘seed’ a line of successive generations of descendants. But no succession of mortal men can reach to eternal duration.

Apart from the fact that the kingdom, in the form in which David’s descendants ruled over it, has long since crumbled away, the large words of the promise must be regarded as inflated and exaggerated, if by ‘for ever’ is only meant ‘for long generations.’ A ‘seed,’ or line of perishable men, can only last for ever if it closes in a Person who is not subject to the law of mortality. Unless we can with our hearts rejoicingly confess, ‘Thou art the King of glory, O Christ! Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,’ we do not pierce to the full understanding of Nathan’s prophecy.

All the glorious prerogatives shadowed in it were but partially fulfilled in Israel’s monarchs. Their failures and their successes, their sins and their virtues, equally declared them to be but shadowy forerunners of Him in whom all that they at the best imperfectly aimed at and possessed is completely and for ever fulfilled. They were prophetic persons by their office, and pointed on to Him.

He has built the true Temple, in that His body is the seat of sacrifice and of revelation, and the meeting-place of God and man, and inasmuch as through Him we are built up into a spiritual house for an habitation of God. In Him is fulfilled the great prophecy of ‘My Servant the Branch,’ who ‘shall build the Temple of the Lord’ and ‘be a Priest upon His throne.’ In Him, too, is fulfilled in highest truth the filial relationship. The Israelitish kings were by office sons of God. He is the Son in ineffable derivation and eternal unity of life with the Father, and their communion is in closest oneness of will and mutual interchange of love. In that filial relation lies the assurance of Christ’s everlasting kingdom, for ‘the Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into His hand.’

The prophecy is echoed in many places of Scripture, and is ever taken to refer to a single person. The angel of the annunciation moulded his salutation to the meek Virgin on it, when he declared that her Son ‘shall be called the Son of the Most High: and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David: and He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end.’2 Samuel 7:4-6. That night the word of the Lord came to Nathan — Because David’s mistake was pious, and from an honest mind, God would not suffer him to remain long in it. Shalt thou build a house for me? — That is, How is it that thou hast formed this design? Whereas I have not dwelt in any house, &c. — I have not mentioned, nor has any one else thought of the building me one, from the time you have been a people. But I have walked in a tent and in a tabernacle — I have been content with a moveable house, in which I was always present to conduct and lead my people from place to place. By the tent may be meant the curtains and hangings within, which were of curious work, and by the tabernacle the frame of boards to which they were fastened, with the coverings upon it.7:4-17 Blessings are promised to the family and posterity of David. These promises relate to Solomon, David's immediate successor, and the royal line of Judah. But they also relate to Christ, who is often called David and the Son of David. To him God gave all power in heaven and earth, with authority to execute judgment. He was to build the gospel temple, a house for God's name; the spiritual temple of true believers, to be a habitation of God through the Spirit. The establishing of his house, his throne, and his kingdom for ever, can be applied to no other than to Christ and his kingdom: David's house and kingdom long since came to an end. The committing iniquity cannot be applied to the Messiah himself, but to his spiritual seed; true believers have infirmities, for which they must expect to be corrected, though they are not cast off.Nathan the prophet - Here first mentioned, but playing an important part afterward (e. g. 2 Samuel 12:1; 1 Kings 1:10; 1 Chronicles 29:29; 2 Chronicles 9:29). From the two last passages it appears that he wrote the history of David's reign, and a part at least of Solomon's. His distinctive title is the prophet, that of Gad the seer (compare 1 Samuel 9:9). He was probably nuch younger than David. In 2 Samuel 7:3, he spoke his own private opinion; in 2 Samuel 7:4, this was corrected by the word of the Lord. 2Sa 7:4-17. God Appoints His Successor to Build It.

4-17. it came to pass that night, that the word of the Lord came unto Nathan—The command was given to the prophet on the night immediately following; that is, before David could either take any measures or incur any expenses.

It came to pass that night: because David’s mistake was pious, and from an honest mind, God would not suffer him to lie long in his mistake, nor to disquiet his mind, or run himself into inconveniencies, in order to the work, before he gave a stop to it.

The word of the Lord came unto Nathan; that the same person who had confirmed David in his mistake, might now rectify it. And it came to pass that night,.... The same night following the day in which David and Nathan had had the above conversation, that neither of them might continue long in their error and mistake, and especially lest David, in his great zeal and warm affection, should take an hasty and improper step:

that the word of the Lord came unto Nathan; the word of prophecy, as the Targum; before he was not under a prophetic influence, but spoke in his own words, and had not the word of God; but now it came to him:

saying; as follows.

And it came to pass that night, that the word of the LORD came unto Nathan, saying,
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
4. the word of the Lord came unto Nathan] Observe the clear distinction between Nathan’s own judgment, which approved David’s resolution, and the divine message which he was commissioned to deliver to David.

4–17. The Lord’s message to David

The connexion of thought in 2 Samuel 7:5-13 is as follows: “Thou shalt not build a house for Me (5–7), but I, who have chosen thee to be the ruler of my people, will build an house for thee (8–11), and thy son shall erect an house for me” (12, 13). The reasons why David’s zeal was thus checked must be carefully considered. The unsettled condition of the nation had made a fixed sanctuary impossible hitherto, and even now the time for it was not yet fully come. The house of David must be firmly established and peace secured, before this great step in the history of the national religion could be advantageously taken. Again, David was not to build the house “because he had shed much blood, and had made great wars” (1 Chronicles 22:8; 1 Chronicles 28:3).

Thus personally David was not the fitting man to build the temple, though he is not blamed for wars which were a necessity of the time; and the very fact that he had to wage these wars, shewed that the time for building the temple had not come, because the kingdom was not yet firmly established.Verse 4. - The word of Jehovah came unto Nathan. Not every word of a prophet was inspired, and only a very few of the prophets, and those only upon great and solemn occasions, spake under the direct influence of the Spirit of God. In his usual relations with the king, Nathan was simply a wise, thoughtful, and God-fearing man. In giving his approval he probably meant no more than that a permanent dwelling for Jehovah was what all pious men were hoping for. But from the days of Samuel to those of Ezra, there was never wanting one or even more holy men who were, on fit occasions, commissioned to bear a message from God to man; and as these generally belonged to the prophetic order, men too often now confound prophecy with prediction. So inveterate is this confusion that even in the Revised Version Amos is made to say, "I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet's son," whereas the Hebrew distinctly is, "I am no prophet, nor a prophet's son [that is, one trained in the prophetic schools], but I am a herdsman" (Amos 7:16). But though not a prophet by profession, yet Amos was discharging a prophet's higher duty in testifying against wickedness and impiety, and was acting under a special Divine call. Still, he did not belong to the prophetic order, nor wear the garment of black camel's hair, which was their professional dress. On the present occasion, Nathan, in approving, had spoken as a man, but now a Divine message comes to him. How we know not. but in ver. 17 it is called a "vision;" and it is also said that it came "that night." David replied, "Before Jehovah, who chose me before thy father and all his house, to appoint me prince over the people of Jehovah, over Israel, before Jehovah have I played (lit. joked, given utterance to my joy). And I will be still more despised, and become base in my eyes: and with the maidens of whom thou hast spoken, with them will I be honoured." The copula vav before שׂהקתּי serves to introduce the apodosis, and may be explained in this way, that the relative clause appended to "before Jehovah" acquired the power of a protasis on account of its length; so that, strictly speaking, there is an anakolouthon, as if the protasis read thus: "Before Jehovah, as He hath chosen me over Israel, I have humbled myself before Jehovah" (for "before him"). With the words "who chose me before thy father and all his house," David humbles the pride of the king's daughter. His playing and dancing referred to the Lord, who had chosen him, and had rejected Saul on account of his pride. He would therefore let himself be still further despised before the Lord, i.e., would bear still greater contempt from men than that which he had just received, and be humbled in his own eyes (vid., Psalm 131:1): then would he also with the maidens attain to honour before the Lord. For whoso humbleth himself, him will God exalt (Matthew 23:12). בּעיני is not to be altered into בּעיניך, as in the lxx. This alteration has arisen from a total misconception of the nature of true humility, which is of no worth in its own eyes. The rendering given by De Wette is at variance with both the grammar and the sense ("with the maidens, ... with them will I magnify myself"); and so also is that of Thenius ("with them will I be honoured, i.e., indemnify myself for thy foolish contempt!").
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