Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
The parallel account to this chapter is in 1 Chronicles 17, and the differences are very slight.
And it came to pass, when the king sat in his house, and the LORD had given him rest round about from all his enemies;(1) Had given him rest.—No intimation is given of how long this may have been after the events narrated in the last chapter; but it is evident that this narrative is placed here, not because it followed chronologically, but because it is closely related in subject, and the historian, after telling of the removal of the ark, wished to record in that connection David’s further purposes in the same direction. It must have been after the successful close of David’s principal foreign wars—“rest round about from all his enemies”—and the future in 2Samuel 7:10 does not necessarily imply that it was before the birth of Solomon; yet it is more likely to have been in a time of quiet prosperity, before the troubles of his latter years.
That the king said unto Nathan the prophet, See now, I dwell in an house of cedar, but the ark of God dwelleth within curtains.(2) Nathan.—This is the first mention of him, but he was already a confidential counsellor of the king, and became prominent later in this reign and in the opening of that of Solomon (2 Samuel 12; 1Kings 1:10; 1Kings 1:12; 1Kings 1:34; 1Kings 1:38). Nathan “the prophet” and Gad “the seer” wrote parts of the history of this and the succeeding reign (1Chronicles 29:29; 2Chronicles 9:29).
Within curtains.—This is the word used in Exodus 26 and 36 for the covering of the tabernacle. The ark was not now within that, but in a similar temporary structure. David’s heart is moved by a comparison of his own royal residence with the inferior provision for the ark. Compare the opposite state of things among the returned exiles in Haggai 1:10.
And Nathan said to the king, Go, do all that is in thine heart; for the LORD is with thee.(3) Go, do all that is in thine heart.—Nathan naturally considered that it must be right for David to execute his pious purpose; but he spoke only according to his own sense of right, and not by Divine direction.
And it came to pass that night, that the word of the LORD came unto Nathan, saying,(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.
Go and tell my servant David, Thus saith the LORD, Shalt thou build me an house for me to dwell in?(5) Shalt thou build?—The question implies the negative, as it is expressed in 1Chronicles 17:5, and as it is here translated in the LXX. and Syriac.
After David was told that he should not be allowed to build a temple for God as he desired, he is promised that God will make for him a sure house, and will accept the building of the temple from his son. David is called “my servant,” an expression used only of those eminent and faithful in the service of God, as Moses and Joshua, thus showing—as in fact the whole message does—that the prohibition conveyed nothing of Divine displeasure; but no reason for it is here expressed. But in, David’s parting charge to Solomon (1Chronicles 22:8), and to the heads of the nation (1Chronicles 28:3), he says, “the word of the Lord came unto” him, giving as the reason, “because thou hast shed much blood on the earth,” and “hast been a man of war.” Those wars had been necessary, under the circumstances in which he was placed, and had never been disapproved of God; still the mere fact that he had been a man of blood unfitted him for this sacred office.
 Two reasons for the prohibition are found by nearly all commentators in this message itself. (1) That God must first build “a house “for David before he could properly build a temple for God; and (2) that the kingdom was not yet sufficiently established and peaceful for a temple to be built. But neither of these are assigned as reasons m the Divine word, and it is better to keep only to that which is assigned, however these other facts may convince us of the fitness and propriety of the postponement of David’s purpose.
Now therefore so shalt thou say unto my servant David, Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I took thee from the sheepcote, from following the sheep, to be ruler over my people, over Israel:(8) Sheepcote.—Better, pasture.
Moreover I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in a place of their own, and move no more; neither shall the children of wickedness afflict them any more, as beforetime,(10) Will appoint . . . will plant.—There is no change of tense in the original; read, have appointed, . . . have planted.
(11) And as since the time.—These words are connected with the last clause of the verse before. The Lord says that He had now given His people rest under David, not allowing “the children of wickedness to afflict them any more as before time,” when they were in Egypt, nor as in the troubled period of the judges, “since the time that I commanded judges,” &c.
And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom.(12) Which shall proceed.—The promise here given certainly has immediate reference to Solomon, and it is thought by many that the use of the future shows that he was not yet born. This may be the fact, and if so, the expression will give an important indication of the point in David’s reign to which this passage belongs. But the same expression might have been used after Solomon’s birth, the future tense being merely an assimilation to the futures of the whole passage, and the point of the promise being that David’s son shall succeed to his throne.
I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men:(14) If he commit iniquity.—The promise has plainly in view a human successor or successors of David upon his throne; and yet it also promises the establishment of David’s kingdom FOREVER by an emphatic threefold repetition (2Samuel 7:13; 2Samuel 7:16), which can only be fulfilled, and has always been understood as to be fulfilled, in the Messiah. There is a similar promise of a prophet, human and yet more than human, in Deuteronomy 18:15-22, and the explanation in both cases is the same. The Divine word looks forward to a long succession of human prophets or heads of the theocracy who should for the time being, and as far as might be, fill the place of the true Prophet and King, all culminating at last in Him who should fully make known the Father’s will and reign over His people, of “whose kingdom there shall be no end.” (Luke 1:32-33).
But my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee.(15) As I took it from Saul.—He and his house were utterly and permanently set aside; David’s descendants will be punished for their sins, yet shall never be forgotten, and shall, ultimately issue in one who shall conquer sin and death for ever.
And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever.(16) Established.—Two different Hebrew words are so translated in this verse. The first is the same word as that used in 2Samuel 7:12-13, while the second is translated sure in 1Samuel 2:35; Isaiah 55:3, and would be better rendered here also made sure.
Before thee.—The LXX. has unnecessarily changed this to before me. The thought is, that David is now made the head of the line in which shall be fulfilled the primeval promise “The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head.” This was originally given simply to the human race (Genesis 3:15); then restricted to the nation descended from Abraham (Genesis 22:18, &c); then limited to the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10, comp. Ezekiel 21:27), and now its fulfilment is promised in the family of David.
According to all these words, and according to all this vision, so did Nathan speak unto David.(17) This vision.—A word applied to any Divine communication, and not merely to that given in vision strictly so called. (See Isaiah 1:1.)
Then went king David in, and sat before the LORD, and he said, Who am I, O Lord GOD? and what is my house, that thou hast brought me hitherto?(18) Then went king David in, and sat.—As always at every important point in his life, David’s first care is to take that which he has in his mind before the Lord. The place to which he went must be the tent he had pitched for the ark. Here he sat to meditate in God’s presence upon the communication which had now been made to him, and then to offer his thanksgiving (2Samuel 7:18-21), praise (2Samuel 7:22-24), and prayer (2Samuel 7:25-29).
The Divine Name is here printed with the word GOD in small capitals. This is always done in the Authorised Version wherever it stands for JEHOVAH in the original. The same custom is also followed with the word LORD. Out of reverence for the name, Jehovah never has its own vowels in Hebrew, but is printed with those belonging to Lord, or in case this word also is used, then with those belonging to God.
And this was yet a small thing in thy sight, O Lord GOD; but thou hast spoken also of thy servant's house for a great while to come. And is this the manner of man, O Lord GOD?(19) Is this the manner of man?—This clause is very obscure in the original, and little help in determining its meaning can be had from the ancient versions. The word translated “manner” is a very common one, and never has this sense elsewhere; its well established meaning is law. Neither is there any reason to suppose that a question is intended. Translate, “And this is a law for man!” David expresses his surprise that so great a promise, even a decree of an eternal kingdom, should be given to such as himself and his posterity. The same thought is far less strikingly expressed in the parallel passage (1Chronicles 17:18), “Thou hast regarded me according to the estate of a man of high degree.”
Wherefore thou art great, O LORD God: for there is none like thee, neither is there any God beside thee, according to all that we have heard with our ears.(22) All that we have heard with our ears.—Such expressions are common enough in all languages not only for that which has been communicated orally, but for all that has been made known in any way; the same word is used with reference to written records in Deuteronomy 4:6; 2Kings 17:14; 2Kings 18:12; 2Kings 19:16 (in Hezekiah’s prayer in reference to Sennacherib’s letter); Nehemiah 9:29; probably Esther 2:8; and in many other places. (So also the corresponding Greek word, Revelation 1:3, &c). It is therefore entirely unnecessary to suppose that David refers here only to oral tradition; he means the history of the Divine dealings with his people as recorded in their sacred books.
And what one nation in the earth is like thy people, even like Israel, whom God went to redeem for a people to himself, and to make him a name, and to do for you great things and terrible, for thy land, before thy people, which thou redeemedst to thee from Egypt, from the nations and their gods?(23) Whom God went to redeem.—The word here used for God in this its usual plural form is always construed with a singular verb when it refers to the true God. Here the verb is plural, because the thought is, “What nation is there whom its gods went to redeem?”
For you.—These words, which can only refer to Israel, seem strange in a prayer to God. They are omitted by the LXX., and changed into for them by the Vulg. If they are retained as they are, it must be understood that David for the moment turns in thought to the people, instead of to God whom he is immediately addressing.
For thy land.—The LXX. and the parallel passage (1Chronicles 17:21), instead of this have, “by driving out.” If the text here may be corrected in this way, there will be no occasion for inserting from before the nations, which is not in the Hebrew. This part of the verse will then read, to do great things and terrible, by driving out before thy people, which thou redeemedst to thee from Egypt, nations and their gods. The phrase, “great things and terrible,” in reference to the Exodus, is taken from Deuteronomy 10:21. The whole of this part of the prayer is evidently founded upon Deuteronomy 4:7; Deuteronomy 4:32-34.
And let thy name be magnified for ever, saying, The LORD of hosts is the God over Israel: and let the house of thy servant David be established before thee.(26) Let thy name be magnified.—David here, in the true spirit of the Lord’s prayer, puts in the forefront of his petition the “hallowed be thy name;” and this is the striking feature of all his life, into whatever sins he may at times have been betrayed, that his main object was to live to the glory of God.
For thou, O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, hast revealed to thy servant, saying, I will build thee an house: therefore hath thy servant found in his heart to pray this prayer unto thee.(27) Therefore hath thy servant.—The ground of the believer’s prayer must ever be the lovingkindness and promises of God.
Therefore now let it please thee to bless the house of thy servant, that it may continue for ever before thee: for thou, O Lord GOD, hast spoken it: and with thy blessing let the house of thy servant be blessed for ever.(29) Let it please thee.—These words may be taken either in the optative, as in our Version, or better in the future, constituting a prophecy based upon the promise, “It will please thee.” Compare a similar possibility in the translation of the last clause of the Te Deum, “Let me never,” or “I shall never be confounded.”
Several of the Psalms have been referred by various writers to this point in David’s life; but while many of them take their key-note from the promise now made, and which was ever fresh in David’s thought, none of them have notes of time definitely determining them to the present occasion, unless it be Ps. ex., which seems like an inspired interpretation of the promise of the perpetuity of his kingdom, and at the same time might have taken its “local colouring” from his recent successful wars.