The Davidic Covenant

The Nature of the Covenant with David

Although in 2 Samuel 7 and 1 Chronicles 17 the promise to David is not specifically called a covenant, David called it such later in 2 Samuel 23:5, “For He has made an everlasting covenant with me.”  The writer of 2 Chronicles again referred to it as a covenant in verses 13:5 and 21:7, and later the Lord spoke through the Psalmist in Psalm 89:3, 28, “I have made a covenant with My chosen; I have sworn to David My servant…My lovingkindness I will keep for him forever, And My covenant shall be confirmed to him.”  Many times the Biblical writers refer to this covenant as the promises of God to David (2 Sam 7:28; 1 Kings 2:4, 24; 5:12; 8:20, 24-25, 56; 9:5; 2 Kings 8:19; ; ; 6:10, 15:16, 21:7).10  The covenant must then be seen as eternal and unconditionally given as a promise from God, yet conditional blessings are later tied to the faithfulness of David’s descendants.  As will be shown, these conditions in no way nullify the original promises.  The unconditional aspects of the covenant are founded upon the covenant with Abraham, and the conditional blessings are directly related to the Law of Moses

First, as the unbreakable word of God, the covenant with David is unconditional and eternal.  It is specifically called eternal or said to endure forever in 2 Samuel 7:13, 16 (twice); 23:5; 1 Chronicles 17:12, 14 (twice); Isaiah 55:3; and Ezekiel 37:25.11  The covenant was a “royal grant type of covenant, whereby the sovereign bestows benefits upon the underling.”12  A grant covenant is by definition given unconditionally.  David simply believed that God Himself would fulfill the promises that He had given.  When this covenant was originally given to David, God did not place any conditions on David at all for the fulfillment.13  The responsibility rested in God’s power and faithfulness alone.

Second, the Davidic Covenant brought more clarity to the previous promises to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3.  God promised in Gen. 12:2 that He would make Abraham’s nation and name great.  In 2 Samuel 7:9 God makes the same promise to David.  Because David is the king of the nation, its figurehead and ruler, his success translates into success for the nation, and the greatness of his name translates into the greatness of the nation.  Thus both the promises to Abraham concerning the great nation and a great name specifically passed on to David and his line.14  Furthermore, God promised Abraham that kings would come from him (Gen. 17:6) through Sarai (Gen. 17:16), and reiterated these promises to Jacob when God changed his name to Israel (Gen. 35:10-11).  The Lord placed David, of the tribe of Judah, as king over Israel in direct fulfillment of the promises to the patriarchs (Jer. 33:26).15 

Third, the covenant has some conditional blessings attached to it.  At the end of his life David passes the covenant on to Solomon, stating a new blessing that is conditioned upon obedience to God, “If your sons are careful of their way, to walk before Me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel” (1 Kings 2:4).16  “The only conditional element in this covenant was whether or not the descendants of David would continually occupy the throne or exercise the right to rule.”17  David himself even foresaw his kingdom being torn away (Ps. 89:38-45), and yet demonstrated faith that the Lord would remember His covenant (Ps. 89:46-52).18  Even if a Davidic descendant did not currently sit on the throne, Israel could be confident in the ultimate fulfillment of the covenant.

Finally, this covenant came into existence under the dispensation of the Mosaic Law.  The conditional blessing of a man continually occupying the throne rested upon the king’s obedience to the Law.  When David lay on his deathbed, he specifically relates the conditional promises in 1 Kings 2:4 to Solomon walking in God’s ways “according to what is written in the Law of Moses” (1 Kings 2:3).  This idea is expanded in 1 Kings 9:6-9, wherein it becomes the kings responsibility to keep the nation from turning to idols.  If the king remains righteous and true to the Lord, he will exercise authority over the nation in areas concerning the Law.  The king would be an “instrument of the Lord to chasten and punish those in Israel who broke the covenant.”19  However, if the king begins to worship other gods then the people will follow him in his idolatry.  The final punishment for an increasingly wicked nation was dispersion from the land, during which time no king would sit on the throne ([v]Deut. 28:64-65).

10Ibid., 163.
11Pentecost, J. Dwight, Thy Kingdom Come, 144.
12Howard,Jr., David M., An Introduction to the Old Testament Historical Books (Chicago: Moody Press, 1993), 160.
13Blaising, Craig A. and Darrell L. Bock, Progressive dispensationalism, 163.
14Ibid., 166.
15Howard,Jr., David M., An Introduction to the Old Testament Historical Books, 158.
16Cf. 1 Kings 6:12; 8:25; 9:4-9; 1 Chron. 28:7; 2 Chron. 6:16; 7:17-22.
17Pentecost, J. Dwight, Thy Kingdom Come, 143.
18Ibid., 143.
19Blaising, Craig A. and Darrell L. Bock, Progressive dispensationalism, 169.