Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
1. David, desiring to build a house for God, receives from Nathan a Divine promise of perpetual dominion (1Chronicles 17:1-15). 2. His prayer (1Chronicles 17:16-27). This section is a duplicate of 2 Samuel 7. The differences are mostly verbal rather than essential, and are due, as usual, to a natural tendency to interpret and simplify archaisms and obscurities in the original narrative.
Now it came to pass, as David sat in his house, that David said to Nathan the prophet, Lo, I dwell in an house of cedars, but the ark of the covenant of the LORD remaineth under curtains.(1) Now it came to pass, as David sat in his house.—In both texts the story of this chapter naturally follows that of the removal of the Ark, although the events themselves appear to belong to a later period of David’s reign, “when the Lord had given him rest round about from all his enemies” (2Samuel 7:1; comp. 1Chronicles 17:8). 1Chronicles 17:11-14 indicate some time before the birth of Solomon, but the date cannot be more exactly determined.
David.—Thrice in 1Chronicles 17:1-2, for which Samuel has “the king.” The chronicler loves the name of his ideal sovereign.
Lo.—Samuel, “See, now.”
An house.—The house—viz., that which Hiram’s craftsmen had built (1Chronicles 14:1, sqq.).
Of cedars.—A vivid allusion to the splendour of the palace, with its doors, walls, and ceilings of cedar wood. “Cedar of Labnana” (Lebanon) was in great request with the Assyrian monarchs of a later age for palace-building.
Under curtains—i.e., in a tent (Habakkuk 3:7). Samuel has, “dwelleth amid the curtain” (collect.). The verb is omitted here for brevity.
Then Nathan said unto David, Do all that is in thine heart; for God is with thee.(2) Do.—Samuel, “Go, do.”
All that is in thine heart.—According to Hebrew ideas, the heart was the seat of the mind and will, as well as of the emotions. But even the great Greek Aristotle, seven centuries later than David, supposed the brain to be merely a kind of cooling counterpoise to the heat of the liver.
God.—Samuel, “Jehovah;” but in last verse,” ark of God.
And it came to pass the same night, that the word of God came to Nathan, saying,(3) The same night.—The words indicate a dream as the method of communication (Job 4:13; 1Samuel 27:6).
Go and tell David my servant, Thus saith the LORD, Thou shalt not build me an house to dwell in:(4) David my servant.—Samuel, “unto my servant, unto David.”
Thou shalt not build me an house to dwell in.—Rather, It is not thou that shalt build me the house to dwell in. Samuel, interrogatively, implying a negation, “Wilt thou build me a house for me to dwell in?” The chronicler, thinking of the famous Temple of Solomon, writes, “the house.”
For I have not dwelt in an house since the day that I brought up Israel unto this day; but have gone from tent to tent, and from one tabernacle to another.(5) Since the day that I brought up Israel (“out of Egypt,” Samuel) unto this day.—The construction, as compared with Samuel, is simplified, and the sentence abbreviated.
But have gone . . .—Literally, and I became from tent to tent, and from dwelling. This is clearly too brief for sense; some words must have fallen out, or the reading of Samuel may be original here. The phrase “and I became” almost demands a participle, and the one actually read in Samuel may be here disguised under the expression translated “from tent.” A slight further change (in the prepositions) will give the sense: “And I continued walking in a tent and in a dwelling.” Perhaps, however, the original text was, “and I walked from tent to tent, and from dwelling to dwelling;” alluding to the various sanctuaries anciently recognised, such as Bethel (Judges 20:18; Judges 20:26), Mizpeh (Judges 11:11; 1Samuel 10:17), and Shiloh. The word “dwelling” (mishkān) is a more general term than tent. It includes the sacred tent and its surrounding court.
Wheresoever I have walked with all Israel, spake I a word to any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to feed my people, saying, Why have ye not built me an house of cedars?(6) Wheresoever.—As long as . . . Literally, In all that . . .
The judges of Israel.—Samuel has “tribes.” The term “judges” would be more intelligible in later times, and has probably been substituted for the more difficult original expression. The following clause seems to refer to individual rulers, but is not really incompatible with a reference to the ascendency or hegemony of different tribes at different epochs of Israelite history. (Comp. Genesis 49:10; 1Chronicles 28:4; Psalm 78:67-68.) The word “tribe” (shēbet) might only denote clan, or house, as in Judges 20:12 (Heb.).
To feed.—Shepherd, or tend—i.e., to govern. (Comp. Psalm 78:71.)
Now therefore thus shalt thou say unto my servant David, Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I took thee from the sheepcote, even from following the sheep, that thou shouldest be ruler over my people Israel:(7) I took thee from the sheepcote . . .—Comp. Psalm 78:70-72. The pronoun is emphatic: “I it was who took thee from the pasture.”
From following.—Heb., from behind. Samuel has the older form of this preposition.
That thou shouldest be.—That thou mightest become.
And I have been with thee whithersoever thou hast walked, and have cut off all thine enemies from before thee, and have made thee a name like the name of the great men that are in the earth.(8) Whithersoever thou hast walked.—Same phrase as in 1Chronicles 17:6, “wheresoever,” i.e., throughout thy whole career.
And have cut off all thine enemies.—This appears to refer not merely to the death of Saul and the overthrow of his house, but also to the successful conclusion of some of the wars recorded in the following chapters. (Comp. also 1Chronicles 14:8-17.)
And have made thee.—Rather, and I will make thee.
The great men.—The sovereigns of Egypt and Babylon, of Tyre, and the Hittite states.
Also I will ordain a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, and they shall dwell in their place, and shall be moved no more; neither shall the children of wickedness waste them any more, as at the beginning,(9) I will ordain a place for my people Israel, and will plant them.—Comp. Exodus 15:17; Psalm 44:2-3. Although Israel had effected a settlement in Canaan, the history seems to show that down to the times of David the tribal boundaries were subject to great fluctuation, and the inroads of surrounding peoples made their tenure very uncertain.
Them . . . they . . . their.—Heb., him . . . he . . . his; Israel, the subject, being singular.
In their place.—In his own stead, or fixed habitation. (Comp. homestead, farmstead.)
Shall be moved.—Shall be troubled, or disturbed.
Children of wickedness.—Sons of wickedness, i.e., wicked men; like “sons of Belial” (worthlessness).
Waste them.—An Aramaic usage of the verb. Samuel, “afflict them,” which seems original. (Comp. Genesis 15:13.)
As at the beginning.—Referring to the bondage in Egypt.
And since the time that I commanded judges to be over my people Israel. Moreover I will subdue all thine enemies. Furthermore I tell thee that the LORD will build thee an house.(10) And since the time that I commanded judges.—Heb., from days that . . . Samuel, more definitely, “from the day that I appointed judges ever my people.” This whole clause should not have been separated from 1Chronicles 17:9, which it properly concludes. The allusion is to the oppressions undergone in the period of the judges, and the troubles of the former reign.
Moreover (and) I will subdue all thine enemies.—A continuation of the promises at the beginning of 1Chronicles 17:9. “I will subdue the foes of the king, as I subdued the foes of the shepherd and the outlaw.” (Comp. 1Chronicles 17:8.) Instead of this, Samuel has, “And I will give thee rest from all thy enemies.”
Furthermore I tell thee . . .—Literally, And I have told thee, and a house will Jehovah build thee;” that is, I have foretold it. (Comp. Isaiah 40:21; Isaiah 45:21.) That which follows is a sort of ironical inversion of David’s wish to build a house for the Lord. The term “house” is figurative (offspring), as in Psalm 127:1. (Comp. Genesis 30:3.) The reading of Samuel is, “And Jehovah hath [now] told thee [by my mouth] that a house will Jehovah make for thee.” This looks original, with its rare construction of the perfect, which the chronicler has altered; its repetition of the most holy Name; and its less exact “make,” which Chronicles improves into “build,” with an eye to 1Chronicles 17:4; 1Chronicles 17:6, as well as to the play on the word (bānāh, build; bānîm, sons).
And it shall come to pass, when thy days be expired that thou must go to be with thy fathers, that I will raise up thy seed after thee, which shall be of thy sons; and I will establish his kingdom.(11) Omit the mark indicating the beginning of a paragraph (¶).
And it shall come to pass.—In accordance with the promise, “The Lord will build thee an house” (1Chronicles 17:10). The phrase is wanting in Samuel, and should probably be supplied, with LXX.
Be expired.—Are fulfilled (perfect; Samuel has imperfect tense).
That thou must go to be with thy fathers.—Literally, to go with thy fathers—an unusual expression, for which Samuel has the ordinary, “and thou lie down with thy fathers.” (Comp. 1Kings 2:2 : “Go the way of all the earth.”)
Which shall be (shall arise or come, Genesis 17:16) of thy sons.—Samuel has the more original, “which shall go forth from thy bowels.” The chronicler has paraphrased this, to suit the taste of a later age.
His kingdom.—Heb., malkûthô—a later word than the synonym in Samuel (mamlakhtô).
He shall build me an house, and I will stablish his throne for ever.(12) He.—The emphatic word.
His throne.—Samuel, “throne of his kingdom”—a characteristic abridgment.
I will be his father, and he shall be my son: and I will not take my mercy away from him, as I took it from him that was before thee:(13) I will be his father . . .—Heb., I (on my part) will become a father unto him, and he (on his part) shall become a son to me. (Comp. Psalm 2:7.) After these words, Samuel adds: “If he commit iniquity I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men.” The omission is probably not a mere abridgment. The reference in this prophecy looks beyond Solomon to Him of whom the greatest princes of the house of David were but imperfect types. The warning here omitted was amply fulfilled in the history of Solomon and his successors but it could not apply to the true Anointed of Jehovah, and is therefore suppressed as a transitory element in the prophecy.
And I will not take my mercy away.—Samuel, “and my mercy shall not depart”—the same verb in a different form. But the LXX., Syriac, and Vulgate there agree with Chronicles.
As I took it (away) from him that was before thee.—Samuel, “as I took it away from Said whom I took away from before thee; “repeating the same verb thrice. Our text is probably more correct. So Vulg. and LXX. virtually; but Syriac, “My mercies shall not depart from him, as I made [them] depart from Saul who was before thee.”
But I will settle him in mine house and in my kingdom for ever: and his throne shall be established for evermore.(14) But I will settle him (Heb., make him stand) in mine house and in my kingdom.—Samuel, “and thine house and thy kingdom shall be maintained for ever before thee; thy throne,” &c.; where, however, the LXX. and Syriac have “before me,” which agrees. better with our text. The change of persons in our verse brings out more clearly the theocratic nature of the Davidic kingdom. Solomon and his successors were to reign as vicegerents of Jehovah.
According to all these words, and according to all this vision, so did Nathan speak unto David.(15) According to all these words, and according to all this vision.—The matter of this prophecy (1Chronicles 17:3-15) undoubtedly rests upon authentic tradition. Neither the compiler of Samuel, however, nor the chronicler professes to give an exact report of the words of Nathan, as if they had been taken down on the spot, as they were uttered, by some shorthand reporter. The modern demand for literal accuracy was unknown to Oriental antiquity. Where the two narratives vary, sometimes Samuel, sometimes the Chronicle, contains the more original form of the tradition. 1Chronicles 17:15 (2Samuel 7:17), in fact, seems to imply that the essence rather than the actual words of the oracle is given.
2. David’s prayer (1Chronicles 17:16-27). The remarks on 1Chronicles 17:15 apply generally to this section also. The prayer undoubtedly breathes the genuine Davidic spirit, even if it be merely an ideal soliloquy. But why may not David himself have recorded the substance of it as a memorial?
And David the king came and sat before the LORD, and said, Who am I, O LORD God, and what is mine house, that thou hast brought me hitherto?(16) Sat before the Lord.—In the tent of the Ark.
And said.—Comp. Psalms 18, title.
Who am I.—The longer form of the pronoun I is used in Samuel (’anokhî; here ’anî).
O Lord God.—Heb., Jehovah Elohim. Samuel has “Adonai Jehovah,” which is more original. David addresses God as “my Lord, Jehovah;” just as in 1Chronicles 17:4; 1Chronicles 17:7, God speaks of David as “my servant.” (Comp. the frequent style of the Assyrian kings, who speak of their wars as undertaken in the service of the gods their lords.)
Mine house.—My family.
Hitherto.—To this pitch of greatness. With this and the next verse, compare David’s last words (2Samuel 23:5).
And yet this was a small thing in thine eyes, O God; for thou hast also spoken of thy servant's house for a great while to come, and hast regarded me according to the estate of a man of high degree, O LORD God.(17) And yet.—Samuel has the word here supplied in italics. David says, “My unlooked-for exaltation was not enough: thou hast also revealed to me the far future of my offspring.”
O God.—Here and at the end of the verse Samuel again has “my Lord, Jehovah.”
Also.—Samuel has this word in the text.
And hast regarded me according to the estate of a man of high degree.—The Hebrew is obscure. Samuel has simply, “and this [is] the law of man, my Lord Jehovah.” The word “law” (tôrāh) has been supposed to mean manner or custom in this place, but it is not used in that sense elsewhere. Its strict sense is teaching. (Comp. Isaiah 8:16; Isaiah 8:20, where the oracles delivered to the prophet are called tôrāh.) The rendering therefore is, and this (thy gracious revelation) is a lesson to mankind. Our text demands one slight alteration, in accordance with this. Read tôrāh for tôr, and then we may translate: “and thou regardest me (LXX., ἐπεῖδές: comp. Luke 1:48) like man’s teaching (Psalm 32:8) that bringeth up (same verb, Ezekiel 19:2), O Lord God;” that is to say, Thy revelation is a part of my moral discipline, like the instruction which men give their children. David was not allowed to build the Temple, which was so far a check; but encouragement was added to the prohibition by the wisdom of his heavenly Teacher. If we might assume the other sense of tôrāh, we might render: and thou regardest me after the manner of men that exalteth, that is, as human benefactors help on those whom they favour. The old versions give no help.
What can David speak more to thee for the honour of thy servant? for thou knowest thy servant.(18) Samuel has the omitted “speak.” (Comp. Psalm 120:3.) The word translated “for the honour,” may be a corruption of that for “to speak.”
Of thy servant?—The Hebrew term is in the accusative case, and should be omitted as a mistaken repetition of the same word at the end of the verse.
O LORD, for thy servant's sake, and according to thine own heart, hast thou done all this greatness, in making known all these great things.(19) O Lord.—Not in Samuel. Probably belongs to end of last verse.
Heart—i.e., purpose, intent.
In making known all these great things. (greatnesses).—The repetition “greatness . . . greatnesses” is probably a scribe’s error. Samuel has the right text: “Thou hast done all this greatness” (work of power, δύναμις), viz., informing Thy servant of what shall be hereafter. Isaiah makes the miracle of prediction a special difference between the true God and idols (Isaiah 41:21-29; Isaiah 45:11; Isaiah 45:21).
O LORD, there is none like thee, neither is there any God beside thee, according to all that we have heard with our ears.(20) One or two words are omitted. (See 2Samuel 7:22 : “Wherefore thou art great, O Lord God, for there is none,” &c. Comp. Isaiah 46:9; Isaiah 45:18; Isaiah 45:5-6, &c.; Deuteronomy 33:26; and for the end of the verse, Psalm 44:1; Exodus 10:2; Deuteronomy 4:9.)
And what one nation in the earth is like thy people Israel, whom God went to redeem to be his own people, to make thee a name of greatness and terribleness, by driving out nations from before thy people, whom thou hast redeemed out of Egypt?(21) And what one nation in the earth.—Rather, And who is like Thy people Israel, a single (isolated) race on the earth? (Comp. Numbers 23:9.)
Nation (gôy)—i.e., race; a people considered as united by common blood, speech, country.
People (‘ām)—i.e., a political community, social union, or state, owning one sovereign.
Whom God went . . .—Literally, which God went (marched) to redeem to Himself as a people. Samuel has “which gods went.”
To make thee a name.—That is, for Thyself, God. Samuel has “for him,” in the same sense.
A name of greatness and terribleness.—Both nouns are plural, and imply renown for great and terrible deeds.
By driving.—To drive; parallel with “to redeem “and “to make.”
Nations.—Samuel adds, “and his gods.” The text of this verse in Samuel is corrupt (comp. the LXX.), and perhaps the added phrase is spurious. But, on the other hand, the chronicler may have omitted it because, like Isaiah, he regarded the heathen deities as non-entities. In earlier times, foreign gods were spoken of as real beings, subordinate to Jehovah. (Comp. the LXX. rendering of Deuteronomy 32:8.)
For thy people Israel didst thou make thine own people for ever; and thou, LORD, becamest their God.(22) For thy people Israel . . .—Literally, And Thou gavest (Samuel, confirmedst it) Thy people Israel unto Thyself for a people. Our reading is probably a result of partial obliteration.
Therefore now, LORD, let the thing that thou hast spoken concerning thy servant and concerning his house be established for ever, and do as thou hast said.(23) Lord.—Samuel adds “God.”
Let the thing . . . be established.—Let the word (promise) be upheld, maintained, assured. Samuel has a different verb, “establish thou.”
Let it even be established, that thy name may be magnified for ever, saying, The LORD of hosts is the God of Israel, even a God to Israel: and let the house of David thy servant be established before thee.(24) Let it even be established.—“Yea, let it be assured.” This repetition is wanting in Samuel.
The Lord of hosts is the God of Israel . . .—“Jehovah Sabaoth, God of Israel, is God to Israel.” “God of Israel” is not read here in Samuel, but in the next verse.
And let the house of David . . . be established.—“Let be” is wanting in the Hebrew, and the sentence might be taken as part of what men are to say hereafter in praise of God: “The house of David thy servant is established before thee.” Samuel, however, inserts the verb “let it become,” or “shall become.”
For thou, O my God, hast told thy servant that thou wilt build him an house: therefore thy servant hath found in his heart to pray before thee.(25) O my God.—Samuel: “Jehovah Sabaoth, God of Israel.”
Hast told thy servant that thou wilt build him an house.—Literally, hast uncovered the ear of Thy servant, to build him a house. Samuel has the more usual construction: “saying, A house I will build thee.” (Comp. 1Samuel 9:15.)
Hath found in his heart.—Rather, hath found his heart—i.e., hath taken courage. The noun is expressed in Samuel. As to its omission here, comp. 1Chronicles 14:1. The phrase is unique in Hebrew.
To pray.—Samuel adds, “this prayer.”
And now, LORD, thou art God, and hast promised this goodness unto thy servant:(26) Lord, thou art God.—Jehovah, Thou art the (true) God. Samuel: “my Lord Jehovah.” The chronicler omits the clause which follows in Samuel: “and thy words become truth” (prove true).
Now therefore let it please thee to bless the house of thy servant, that it may be before thee for ever: for thou blessest, O LORD, and it shall be blessed for ever.(27) Now therefore let it please thee.—Rather, and now Thou hast willed to bless. Samuel: “and now be willing, and bless.”
For thou blessest, O Lord.—For Thou, Jehovah, hast blessed. Samuel is, as usual, fuller: “For thou, my Lord Jehovah, hast spoken [promised], and in virtue of thy blessing thy servant’s house shall be blessed for ever.” Numbers 22:6 illustrates our text.