Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
θ. The Purpose of David to build a Temple, and the Objection raised by the Prophet Nathan: 1 Chronicles 17
1 Chronicles 17:1And it came to pass, as David sat in his house, he said unto Nathan the prophet, Lo, I dwell in a house of cedars, and the ark of the covenant of the 2LORD is under curtains. And Nathan said unto David, Do all that is in thine heart; for God is with thee. 3And it came to pass in that night, that the word of 4the LORD came to Nathan, saying, Go and say unto David my servant, Thus saith the LORD, Thou shalt not build me a house to dwell in. 5For I have not dwelt in a house from the day that I brought up Israel unto this day; but I was 6from tent to tent, and from one tabernacle to another. As long as I have walked in all Israel have I spoken a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I com 7manded to feed my people, Why have ye not built me a house of cedars ? And now, thus shalt thou say unto my servant David, Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I took thee from the common, from behind the sheep, to be ruler over my people 8Israel. And I was with thee, whithersoever thou wentest; and I cut off all thy enemies from before thee, and made thee a name like the name of the great on 9the earth. And I ordained a place for my people Israel, and planted them, and they dwelt in it, and were no more troubled; and the sons of evil no more wasted them as before. 10And since the days that I appointed judges over my people Israel: and I subdue all thy enemies; and I tell thee that the Lord will build thee a house. 11And it shall come to pass, when thy days are fulfilled to go unto thy fathers, that I will raise up thy seed after thee, which shall be of thy sons, and I will establish his kingdom. 12He shall build me a house, and I will establish his house for e1 Chronicles 17:13I will be his father, and he shall be my son; and I will not take my mercy from him, as I took it from him who was before thee. 14But I will settle him in my house and in my kingdom for ever; and his throne shall be established for ever.
15According to all these words and all this vision, so Nathan spake unto David. 16And King David went and sat before the LORD, and said, Who am I, O LORD 17God, and what is my house, that Thou hast brought me hitherto? And this was a small thing in Thine eyes, O God; and Thou hast spoken of the house of Thy servant for a great while to come, and regardest me after the way1 of man that 18raiseth up, O LORD God. What shall David add to Thee of the glory of Thy 19servant?2 and Thou knowest Thy servant. O LORD, for Thy servant’s sake, and after Thy heart, hast Thou done all this greatness, to make known all these great 20things. O LORD, there is none like Thee, and no God besides Thee, according to all that we have heard with our ears. 21And what one nation in the earth is like Thy people Israel, whom God went to redeem to Himself as a people, to make Thee a name of great and terrible deeds, to drive out nations before Thy people, 22whom Thou didst redeem from Egypt? And madest Thy people Israel a people 23to Thee for ever; and Thou, LORD, becamest their God. And now, LORD, let the word which Thou hast spoken of Thy servant and of his house be maintained for 24ever, and do as Thou hast said. Yea, let it be maintained, and let Thy name be magnified for ever, saying, JEHOVAH Zebaoth, the God of Israel, is God to Israel; and the house of David Thy servant is established before Thee. 25For Thou, O my God, hast opened the ear of Thy servant, that Thou wilt build him a house; there 26fore Thy servant hath found [courage] to pray before Thee. And now, LORD,27Thou art God, and hast spoken this goodness concerning Thy servant. And now Thou art pleased to bless the house of Thy servant, that it may be before Thee for ever; for Thou, LORD, hast blessed, and it is blessed for ever.
PRELIMINARY REMARK.—After the history of the transplanting of the ark to Jerusalem, the author of the books of Samuel has given the account of David’s purpose to build a temple, and of the word of God communicated to him by Nathan, 2 Sam. 7, and, indeed, in a form substantially agreeing with the present text, though occasionally deviating from it in words. Besides the expositors of Chronicles are therefore here to be compared also those of the corresponding parts of the books of Samuel, namely, C. A. Crusius (Hypomnemata, ii. pp. 190–219), Thenius, Keil, Hengstenberg (Christol. 2d edit, i. 143 ff.), L. Reinke (Die Weissagung des Propheten Nathan, in his contributions to the explanation of the O. T., vol. iv. p. 427 ff.), and, in a critical respect, Wellhausen (p. 170).
1. David’s Purpose, and Nathan’s Consent at first to it: 1 Chronicles 17:1, 2.—As David sat in his house, in that cedar palace described in 14:1, 15:1 ff. Alter בְּבֵיתוֹ2 Sam. 7:1 has the further chronological determination: and the Lord had given him rest round about from all his enemies.” Our author leaves out this determination intentionally, to avoid the apparent contradiction with the circumstance that the severest wars of David are introduced afterwards, and so, according to his arrangement of the material, following the order of thought rather than of time.
1 Chronicles 17:2. Do all … for God is with thee. In 2 Sam.: “Go and do … for the Lord is with thee.” The omission of לֵךְ before עֲשֵׂה rests on the strong abbreviating and simplifying tendency of our author; the substitution of אֱלֹהִים for יְהוָֹה on his aim to choose the current expressions of his day. The older practical expositors justly designate this preliminary consent of Nathan as proceeding “from his merely human judgment” (bona intentione et sincero animo, non tamen ex divina revelatione, J. H. Mich.).—Luth.: “The prophets themselves occasionally err and sin, as Nathan when he says to David of his own spirit that he shall build a house to the Lord, which is soon after altered by a divine revelation.”
2. God’s Revelation to Nathan: 1 Chronicles 17:3–15.—On the night as the time of divine revelations by dreams, visions, etc., comp. our remarks on Job 4:13 (pp. 75, 84).—Thou shalt not build me a house to dwell in. In 2 Samuel this prohibition is put in the form of a question: “Shalt thou build me a house?”
1 Chronicles 17:5. But I was from tent to tent, and from tabernacle; that is, from one tabernacle to another. For this sentence, which is obscure from its pregnant brevity, 2 Samuel gives: “but have walked (have been walking) in a tent and in a tabernacle.” The tabernacle (משׁכן) is presented along with the tent (אהל) as the more comprehensive notion, including court, altar of burnt-offering, etc.
1 Chronicles 17:6. With any of the judges of Israel. 2 Samuel: “with any of the tribes of Israel” (שִׁבְטֵי for שֹׁפְטֵי). Our reading is perhaps the older; comp. Berth. and Wellh.
1 Chronicles 17:7 ff. give the proper contents of the divine revelation, as far as it concerns David’s relation to the building of the temple.
1 Chronicles 17:8. And made thee a name, like the name of the great on the earth, referring to the kings of the heathen monarchies. These words (1 Chronicles 17:8b) formed the text of the memorial sermon preached in all the churches of the Prussian state on the death of Frederick II. (1786).
1 Chronicles 17:9. And I ordained a place for my people Israel. The perfects (with וconsec.) וּנְטַעְתִּיהוּ ,וְשַׂמְתִּי etc may be taken as future statements of that which God will further show to His people. Yet it seems better to make these promises of future salvation begin with 1 Chronicles 17:11.—And the sons of evil no more wasted them as before. The Egyptians are no doubt chiefly intended; comp. 16:20. On בִּלָּה in the sense of wasting (= עִנָּה in 2 Samuel), comp. Dan. 7:25.
1 Chronicles 17:10. And since the days that I appointed judges over my people Israel. וּלְמִיָּמִים, “and until the days” (EW. § 218, b); comp. the still more definite phrase: וּלְמִן־הַוּוֹם, 2 Sam. 7:11. The whole time from Joshua to Saul is here included.—And I subdue all thy enemies.2 Samuel: “and I give thee rest from all thy enemies” (וַֽהֲנִיחֹתִי לְךָ for וְהִכְנַעְתִּי), perhaps more original. The change of the suffix of the 2d pers. into that of the 3d (Berth., EW.) is not necessary, either in our passage or there, as the enumeration of the divine benefits extends to the present, and even to that which was experienced by David himself.—And I tell thee that the Lord will build thee a house, and not inversely: thou build Him a house. The building of the house is here naturally figurative of the bestowment of a blessed posterity, etc. There is no allusion to David’s house of cedar (1 Chronicles 17:1, 14:1). Inadmissible is the past meaning of וְאַגִּיד, “and I have told them,” etc. (Berth., Wellh.); for we cannot discover that such an announcement was made before, as our historical books nowhere mention it. Even 2 Sam. (וְהִגִּיד) speaks of an announcement in the present or immediate future.
1 Chronicles 17:11. To go unto thy fathers.2 Sam. 7.: “to lie with thy fathers.” For the phrase, comp. Deut. 31:16; 1 Kings 2:2.—Thy seed … which shall be of thy sons. Instead of this somewhat pleonastic reference to Solomon, 2 Samuel presents perhaps the original: “ which shall proceed out of thy bowels” (אֲשֶׁר יֵצֵא מִמֵּעֶיךָ; comp.1 Sam. 16:11; Gen. 15:4). Probably the chronological difficulty contained in this phrase, according to which Solomon appeared to be not yet born at the time of this promise, led our author to choose the more general expression, as he had in 1 Chronicles 17:1 altered the text for a chronological reason by means of an omission. That here, as in the two following verses, he meant to designate not so much Solomon as the Messiah, is asserted by the older orthodox exegesis (for example, L. Lavater: “Si tantum de Salomone h. l. intelligendus esset, non dizisset semen quod erit de filiis tuis, sed quod erit de te;” and so Starke and others), and recently still by Keil. But the very next prediction: “He shall build me a house” (1 Chronicles 17:12), applies clearly to Solomon only, as in 2 Chron. 7:18 his person, and not that of soma future Messianic descendant, is manifestly designated. Accordingly, as in 2 Samuel, so also in Chronicles the Messianic element is limited essentially to the eternal duration that is promised (1 Chronicles 17:12–14) to the kingdom of Solomon; comp. Hengstenb. Christol. i. 152 ff.
1 Chronicles 17:13. And he shall be my son. The words following this promise: “whom I will chasten with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the sons of men,” the Chronist has designedly omitted, to bring out more sharply the thought of the everlasting divine favour, in harmony with his usual practice to set the iight before the shade of the house of David.—From him who was before thee, from Saul, whose name is added, 2 Sam. 7, perhaps by the hand of a glossator. The present text is certainly more original, even with respect to the foregoing לֹא אָסוּר (for לֹא יָסוּר), as Bertheau and Wellh. justly assert against Thenius.
1 Chronicles 17:14. But I will settle him in my house and in my kingdom for ever; הֶֽעֱמִיד לְעוֹלָם, as in 2 Chron. 9: 8, 1 Kings 15:4, of enduring foundation or preservation, causing perpetual existence. The “house” or “kingdom” of God, in which this preservation or confirming of the seed of David is to take place, is first the Old Testament theocracy, then the Messianic kingdom of the new covenant. The text of Samuel differs: “and thy house and thy kingdom shall endure for ever before thee, and thy throne shall be established for ever,” of which form it can scarcely be so absolutely asserted, as is done by Bertheau and others, that it is the more original. Moreover, the sense of the one as of the other form is Messianic.
1 Chronicles 17:15. According to all these words and all this vision. A hendiadyoin, by which the words addressed by Jehrovah to Nathan are characterized as spoken, בְּחָזוֹן (comp. 1 Sam. 3:1) or בְּחִזָּיוֹן (2 Sam. 7:17), as a divine revelation or prophetic message from God. It is to be observed also that this prophetic message is communicated not as it was related by Nathan before the king, but as it was revealed to him of the Lord by night, which is a plain indication that we are to hold by the matter rather than the form of the words in question. The case is the same as in 1 Sam. 3:10–14 (the disclosure made to the young Samuel concerning the fate of Eli) and in 1 Sam. 8:7–9 (God’s word to Samuel on the introduction of the kingdom in Israel).
3. David’s Thanksgiving for the Promise made to him through Nathan: 1 Chronicles 17:16–27.—And King David went, into the sanctuary erected by him, as the following words: “and sat before the Lord,” show.—Who am I, O Lord God? 2 Samuel: “my Lord God,” a difference actually not existing for the Masoretic reader, as our יהוה is to be read by אֲדנָי.
1 Chronicles 17:17. And this was a ssmall thing in Thine eyes. This is the literal rendering.—And Thou hast spoken of the house of Thy servant for a great while to come, literally, “hast spoken that which points far away;” לְמֵרָחוֹק is an accusative depending on תדבר, of the same force as in Prov. 7:19, Job 39:29; comp. 1 Chronicles 17:14.—And regardest me after the way of man that raiseth up. So should the obscure וּרְאִיתַנִי כְּתוֹר הָאָדָם הַמַּֽעֲלָה perhaps be rendered; “the way of man leading upwards” (תּוֹר, abbreviated from תּוֹרָה) would then be the gracious and upholding (thus not merely condescending, but positively furthering and improving) disposition and conduct of human benefactors, with which the gracious procedure of God towards David is here compared. Nearly so Keil, who makes הַמַּֽעֲלָה correspond to the parallel לְמֵרָחוֹק, whereas Hengstenberg, like many ancients, conceives the phrase to be an address to God: “Thou highest Lord God;” and other expositors take it as an adverb of place equivalent to בַּמָּרוֹם (et me intuitus es more hominum in cœlis). It is natural enough to assume some corruption of the text here, as in the parallel reading of Samuel: וְזאֹת תּוֹרַת הָאָדָם, though none of the proposed emendations give satisfaction, neither Ewald’s and Bertheau’s change of the Kal Hiph.ראיתני into the הראיתני, and of המעלה into למעלה (resulting in the sense: “and hast caused me to see, as it were, the order of men upwards”), nor Bötteher’s reading וּרְאִיתִינִי, “so that I saw myself as the order of men that is upwards” (saw myself as the after-age at the head of a ruling race), nor Well-hausen’s conjecture that וַתַּרְאֵנִי דֹרוֹת (at least in 2 Samuel) should be read. That the בְּתוֹךְ of some Heb. MSS. affords no sufficient help, see Crit. Note.
1 Chronicles 17:18. What shall David add to Thee of the glory of Thy servant, of the honour pertaining to Thy servant, of the high honour which Thou hast vouchsafed to Thy servant (me, David). So conceived, אֶת־עַבְדְךָ gives a tolerable sense, and need not be … erased, with the modern critics, though its absence in the Sept. and in 2 Samuel (where there is merely: “what shall David say further to Thee ?”) is fitted to create suspicion.
1 Chronicles 17:19. O Lord, for Thy servant’s sake.2 Sam. 7:21: “for Thy word’s sake.” The original reading is not necessarily to be sought in the text of Samuel (see Wellh.). In b our author has contracted the longer form of the other text.
1 Chronicles 17:21. Whom God went to redeem to Himself as a people. After this certainly correct reading (הלךְ האלהים) is that in 2 Samuel (אֲשֶׁר הָֽלְכוּ אלהים) to be altered.—To make Thee a name of great and terrible deeds. The words גְּדֻלּוֹת וְנוֹרָאוֹת appear to be loosely annexed to שֵׁם, to define the way in which God made him a name (comp. EW. § 283). If this construction seem too harsh, לַֽעֲשׂוֹת must be inserted (as in 2 Sam. 7:23) after שֵׁם: “that Thou makest Thee a name, and doest great and terrible things.”—To drive out nations before Thy people. The here much deviating text in 2 Samuel should be altered partly according to the present text, namely, by inserting the certainly original לְגָרֵשׁ; see Geiger, Urschrift und Uebersetzung des A. T., and Wellh., who follows him.
1 Chronicles 17:24. Yea, let it be maintained, etc. This וְיֵאָמֵן is wanting in 2 Samuel, and is perhaps repeated from 1 Chronicles 17:23, to set forth more clearly the connection with the following: “and let Thy name be magnified.” On the copula וְ, in the sense of our “yea,” comp. Dan. 10:19.
1 Chronicles 17:25. For Thou, O my God, hast opened the ear of Thy servant, revealed, disclosed, made known to him; comp. 1 Sam. 9:15.—That Thou wilt build him a house, figuratively, by the increase of his posterity and the prosperity of his dynasty; comp. 1 Chronicles 17:10.—Therefore Thy servant hath found to pray before Thee, namely, “the courage, the heart to do so” (אֶת־לִבּוֹ, 2 Sam. 7:28), which is, at all events, here to be supplied, if not necessarily inserted in the text.
1 Chronicles 17:27. For Thou, Lord, hast blessed, and it is blessed for ever; comp., for the sentence and the expression, Ps. 33:9. On the credibility of the thanksgiving of David given here and 2 Sam. 7:18 ff., Thenius and Bertheau express themselves very favourably. They refer its main elements to David, on account of its many properties harmonizing with other genuine Davidic documents. In particular the last words of David (2 Sam. 23:5 ff.), in which the joyful confidence founded on the divine promises in the happy continuance of his house has found a quite similar expression, count with them as a proof that our verses rest on a definite recollection of the utterance of David, and that exact reports of important expressions concerning the history of salvation, as they were him, must have been contained in the sources of handed down partly by David, partly concerning the books of Samuel and of Chronicles.
For בְּתוֹר a good many MSS. read בְּתוֹךְ, which is as unsatisfactory as the obscure בְּתוֹר, or as תּוֹרַת, 2 Sam. 7:19, or as the reading of the Sept.: καὶ ἐπεῖδες με ὡς ὅρασις ἀνθρώπου, καὶ ὕψωσάς με, or that of the Vulg.: et fecisti me spectabilem super omnes homines.
 אֶת־עַבְדֶּךָ, Wanting in the Sept. and in 2 Sam. 7:21, is perhaps spurious. But see Exeg. Expl.
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.