The Covenant made with David, Son of Jesse
This covenant was sworn specifically to David and his direct descendants. It promises that a descendant of David will always sit on the throne of Israel. It also stipulates that, although God would never withdraw favour from David’s lineage, the covenant would only work properly if David’s descendants kept to the terms and conditions of all the covenants made with Israel. This meant being faithful to the teachings and traditions given to Moses, by not going after pagan gods, and by not adopting dangerous pagan ways and practices.
It also has implications for Israelites as a whole. Each successive covenant adds to the last, and this one is no different. God promises that as long as there is an observant, righteous and just descendant of David on Israel’s throne, then Israel would dwell in safety, and not have to fear oppression or attacks from her enemies.
The text of the covenant also has implications for the notion of messianism – that God would supposedly save Israel through an anointed descendant of King David. However, if one reads the texts fully, and not just bits and pieces of them (as messianists tend to do), one is able to see that it will be God who will save Israel, and God who will gather in the exiles, NOT a descendant of David. Having a descendant of David on the throne ofIsrael is just one of the things that God will do when God’s Kingdom in fulfilled, NOT a precondition of it.
The text of the Covenant
Further, say thus to My servant David: Thus says YHWH of the heavenly hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the flock, to be ruler of My people Israel, and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut down all your enemies before you. Moreover, I will give you great renown like that of the greatest men on earth.
I will establish a home for my people Israel and will plant them firm, so that they shall dwell secure and shall tremble no more. Evil men shall not oppress them anymore as in the past, ever since I appointed judges over My people Israel. I will give you safety from all your enemies.
YHWH declares to you that God, YHWH, will build and establish a house for you. When your days are done, and you go to lie with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingship. He shall build a house for My Name, and I will establish his royal throne forever.
I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to Me. When he does wrong, I will chastise him with the rod of men, and the affliction of mortals, but I will never withdraw my favour from him, as I withdrew it from Saul your predecessor, whom I removed to make room for you.
Your house and your kingship shall ever be secure before you; your throne shall be established forever.
(amalgamation of 2Sam 7:8-16, and 1Chron 17:7-14)
I have conferred power upon a warrior;
I have exalted one chosen out of the people.
I have found David, My servant;
Anointed him with My sacred oil.
My hand shall be constantly with him,
And my arm shall strengthen him.
No enemy shall oppress him,
No vile man afflict him.
I will crush his adversaries before him;
I will strike down those who hate him.
My faithfulness and steadfast love shall be with him;
His horn shall be exalted through My Name.
I will set his hand upon the sea,
his right hand upon the rivers.
He shall say to me,
“You are my father, my God, the rock of my deliverance”.
I will appoint him firstborn,
Highest of the kings of the earth.
I will maintain My steadfast love for him always;
My covenant for him shall endure.
I will establish his line forever,
his throne, as long as the heavens last.
But if his sons forsake My teaching
and do not live by My rules –
if they violate My laws,
and do not observe My commands,
I will punish their transgression with the rod,
And their iniquity with plagues.
But I will not take away My steadfast love from him;
I will not betray My faithfulness.
I will not violate My covenant,
Or change what I have uttered.
I have sworn by My holiness, once and for all;
I will not be false to David.
His line shall continue forever,
His throne, as the sun before Me,
As the moon, established forever,
An enduring witness in the sky.
Other References to the Covenant:
I have made a covenant with My chosen one;
I have sworn to My servant David:
I will establish your lineage forever,
I will confirm your throne for all generations.
YHWH swore to David
a firm oath that God will not renounce,
“One of your own descendants I will place upon your throne.
If your sons keep My covenant
and My decress that I teach them,
Then their sons also
To the end of time,
Shall sit upon your throne”.
Is not my house established before God?
For God has granted me an eternal pact,
Drawn up in full and secured.
Will God not cause all my success
And every desire to blossom?
But the wicked shall all
Be raked aside like thorns.
(2 Sam 23:5-6)
Your line on the throne of Israel shall never end, if only your descendants will look to their way, and walk before Me as you have walked before Me.
(that is, act in accordance with God’s laws).
(1 Kings 8:25b)
YHWH was not willing to destroy the House of David, because of the covenant God had made with David, and in accordance with God’s promise to maintain a lamp for him and his descendants for all time.
(2 Chron 21:7)
Like the stars of the sky which cannot be counted, and the sand of the sea which cannot be measured, so I will multiply the offspring of My servant David.
The terms of the Covenant
What David and his descendants must do:
- Keep God’s covenants
Uphold God’s teachings
Act in accordance with God’s rules and laws
Observe God’s commandments
What God will do for David in return:
- Give David great renown, greater than all the kings of the earth
- Establish an eternal lineage of kings
- Promise that the kings who sit on Israel’s throne will always be of David’s line
- Give David a son who will build a Temple for YHWH
- Always be with David to strengthen him
- Crush David’s adversaries
- Extend his kingdom
- Make his descendants more numerous than the stars of the sky
What God will do for Israel if Israel’s messiahs remain faithful to YHWH:
- Establish a eternal home for Israel
- Plant Israel firm on that land
- Make them to dwell securely and without fear
- Give Israel safety
- Evil people will not oppress them
What will happen if Israel’s messiahs turn away from Yahveh:
- Israel will be defeated by her enemies
- The country will suffer general misfortune
- The messiah will also suffer personal misfortune
One of the main things this covenant promises, is that David’s line will last forever. One interpretation is that Israel will always have a king – period – and that that king will always be a direct descendant of David. However, since Israel has most definitely not had a king for several periods in her history, (most notably since 44 CE after the death of Herod Agrippa I), we can only assume the covenant implies that, IF Israel has a king, then that king will always be a direct descendant of David.
Now, the prophet Jeremiah says that David’s descendants will be more numerous than the stars of the sky. Since King David had many concubines, and doubtlessly many children by them, we can safely assume that even within a few generations, David’s descendants would already have been quite considerable in number. It would therefore not be unreasonable to speculate that David’s genetic legacy would be so widespread in the modern-day Jewish population, that virtually anyone born of ethnic Jewish descent could arguably claim to be a direct descendant of David!
Could it therefore be that the Hasmonean rulers, and through them the Herodian kings, could also have been direct descendants of David? It has never been claimed for them (in fact, their apparent lack of Davidic heritage was one reason why certain parties opposed their kingship), but God does not break a promise: if God promised that all the kings of Israel would be direct descendants of David, would God have let them rule otherwise (following the same logic)? Is it possible that the Hasmonean and Herodian kings were descendants of David without knowing it?
This leads onto a further line of thought: If we can assume that all modern ethnic Jews are descendants of David, then could the Jewish people search out and elect a just and righteous king to serve God and Israel? And according to the terms of the covenant, if Israel has a just king, then would Israel “dwell in safety”? These are questions, I believe, that are worth thinking about.
Many Jews who maintain a belief in a coming Davidic king-messiah fail to understand the nature of the Davidic covenant. True, it states that Israel will dwell safely in their land, and true, it states that Israel’s enemies will be crushed. However, messianists fail to take note of any of the stipulations encumbent upon a king.
As long as the king is faithful to God’s ways, rules the land in accordance with God’s covenants and commandments, then – and only then – would Israel be safe. If the king disobeyed God’s instructions, and went against God’s plan for Israel, then the monarchy would collapse, and the nation be thrown into turmoil.
If we bear this in mind, we begin to realise that the anointed Davidic king is but a servant of God, has no greater powers or qualities than the rest of us, and is subject to the same laws and precepts as any other son or daughter of Israel. Furthermore, we have to realise that we have to put things right with ourselves and with God; we have to commit ourselves to a better world. Otherwise having a Davidic king is pointless.
A note on Messianism
Talmidaism generally is not enamoured of messianic belief. We do not believe, for example, that the prophet Yeshua` was the messiah, or even a messiah. More than that, beliefs range from the possibility that a messiah might come (as with some Ebionites), to the outright rejection of any kind of a coming messiah-saviour (Yeshuinism and Liberal Talmidaism).
For us, as Followers of the Way, YHWH is so central to our faith that we consider YHWH to be our only saviour and redeemer, rather than any human being. Reliance and dependence on the coming of a human saviour only takes faith away from the belief that God has the power to help us directly, without any human intercessor.
There are several references to an anointed descendant of David, which one can connect directly with the Davidic covenant, and with a future time of peace for Israel. These are:
Ezekiel 34:11-31, 37:21-38, Isaiah 55:3-5, and Jeremiah 33:14-16
However, if you read these passages, you soon realise that it is God alone who will save God’s people, not a messiah; God who will gather in the exiles, not a messiah; and God who will bring peace and prosperity to Israel, not a messiah. God will act through all of us, not exclusively any one man. The Davidic king is merely one feature of the fulfillment of God’s kingdom of peace, not the agent or catalyst of its establishment; the icing on the cake, not the sine qua non.
Many Jews await a messiah, believing that we need one before our people’s great spiritual decisions can be taken, and our aspirations be met. To us, this is wasting time. We all have the power to do God’s will now. If what we did as a people was against God’s will, then we can be assured that God would ensure it would never come to fruition.
We have to realise that God alone is our Saviour and Redeemer, and that all of us are the agents of the future age of peace, with the ability and the power to change things, for Israel and for the whole world.