Chapter 5: The Davidic Covenant
After the death of Jacob and his 12 sons in Egypt, their children grew in about 21/4 centuries to a population probably between 2 and 3 million in that land.
But Israel’s children became slaves: “And Joseph died, and all his brethren, and all that generation. And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them. Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph. … And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigour: And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage …” (Exodus 1:6-14).
Then God raised up Moses and fitted him in a special way to lead these children of Israel out of the bondage that had come to them in Egypt.
When they reached Mt. Sinai, in the peninsula wilderness, God made a covenant with them establishing them as a nation—His nation—among the kingdoms of the world. Their government was theocratic, with the civil, as well as the spiritual and religious laws, given directly from God. God Himself was their King and He ruled them by a system of judges.
Israel’s First King Was God
God was Israel’s only King! Israel was both church and state. In Acts 7:38 we are told that the Israelites formed the church in the wilderness. The word “congregation” of Israel used throughout the Old Testament has the same meaning exactly as the word “church” in the New. Israel, consequently, had more than one set of laws. God gave Israel a twofold form of government. The congregation, or church, was given ritualistic laws—animal sacrifices, meat and drink offerings, carnal or fleshly ordinances.
But Israel also was a civil government; thus for it God established civil officers and civil laws—statutes and judgments. The one great central code of law, basis for both church and civil government—the overall spiritual code—was the Ten Commandments, spoken by God directly to all the congregation, written with the very finger of God in tables of stone.
For several generations after leaving Egypt, God was their King! (This history is found through the books of Moses, Joshua and Judges.) Each tribe kept separate by itself, but together they formed one nation in much the same manner as the United States is one nation composed of individual states.
Each tribe occupied its own land, or district. The Levites became the priestly tribe, mingling throughout the other tribes, having no inheritance in the land and no separate territory (except for cities) of their own. To offset this, however, the children of Joseph were divided into two tribes—Ephraim and Manasseh—thus leaving 12 distinct and separate tribes, each occupying its own territory or province, in addition to the Levites who were sprinkled among the tribes.
All these years the birthright and the scepter remained within the one nation—the birthright, of course, being handed down through the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, the scepter with Judah.
Dissatisfied With God
The children of Israel were human, even as you and I. They continually grumbled and complained. Their carnal minds were hostile to God and His laws, even as human minds today (Romans 8:7). Soon they became dissatisfied with God as their King and demanded that a man should be their king as in the Gentile nations around them. So today, we want to be like the non-Christians around us instead of conforming strictly to the ways of God as we are instructed in His Word! Human nature has ever been thus.
When the elders of Israel came to Samuel demanding a man be made their king, it naturally displeased Samuel, their prophet. But the Eternal said: “Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them. … [H]owbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and shew them the manner of the king that shall reign over them” (1 Samuel 8:7-9).
Saul was their first human king. He refused obedience to God and was finally rejected. He was slain in battle. His sole surviving son, Ishbosheth, was slain after a reign of only two years (2 Samuel 2:10). However, Ishbosheth never reigned over Judah. With this short reign over part of Israel, Saul’s dynasty ceased. That is how God rejected him. His dynasty was cut off!
David’s Dynasty Forever
David succeeded Saul. David sat on the Eternal’s throne. David’s son Solomon succeeded him, also sitting on the Eternal’s throne. “Then Solomon sat on the throne of the [Eternal] as king instead of David his father …” (1 Chronicles 29:23; see also 2 Chronicles 9:8).
I wish here to impress another special point. Before Saul, the Eternal had been King over Israel. These human kings were sitting upon the Eternal’s throne. The Eternal—“Lord”—is Jesus Christ who was with the Father before the world was (John 17:5; 1:1-2, 14). Jesus is both the “root” and the “offspring” of David (Revelation 22:16). Since He was the “root,” the throne was His before David was born. David merely sat upon the Eternal’s throne. Secondly, since Jesus was David’s lawful fleshly Son, this same throne shall once more become His right by inheritance, continuing David’s dynasty. And so, when Christ returns to Earth, David’s throne will be doubly His right!
Now we come to a seemingly incredible fact—fantastic—almost unbelievable, but true! While David was king, God made with him a perpetual covenant, unconditionally, which God cannot and will not break! This covenant is even more amazing, and less understood, than the unconditional covenant with Abraham!
I want you now to plant firmly in mind the specific nature and character of the covenant the Almighty made with David. For it is a vital link in the purpose and mission of Christ—an important key to Bible understanding!
In 2 Samuel 23:1, 5, we find: “Now these be the last words of David. … God … hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure ….” In other words, a covenant that shall endure forever and cannot fail!
Turn back to the seventh chapter of 2 Samuel for more specific details. God gave David this covenant promise at a time when David was much concerned over the ark of the covenant dwelling in a tent. David wanted to build a great temple at Jerusalem.
“And it came to pass that night, that the word of the Lord came unto Nathan, saying, Go and tell my servant David, Thus saith the Lord, Shalt thou build me an house for me to dwell in? … [W]hen 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 [Solomon], and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever. 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: But my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee. And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever” (2 Samuel 7:4-5, 12-16).
Points to Notice
Notice carefully these points:
1) David’s throne was set up and established with Solomon, David’s son.
2) The throne—David’s throne (verse 16)—was established forever in Solomon (verse 13). Observe that this nowhere says that when Christ comes, God will establish it in Him forever. It says it was to be established forever in Solomon.
3) What if Solomon, or the children of Israel, disobey? Would that cancel this covenant? Verses 14-15 plainly say that if they commit iniquity, God will chasten them with the rod of men, but will not break this covenant. The throne shall go on forever just the same!
4) Notice particularly, in case of disobedience, God will not take the throne away as He took it from Saul. How did He take it from Saul? Saul’s dynasty ended! No son of Saul ever sat on the throne. But Solomon’s dynasty would not end. The punishment for disobedience would be chastening at the hands of men.
5) Since God did firmly establish this throne with David and with Solomon, if David’s throne ceased from existence, even for the length of one generation, could we say it had been established forever as God here promised?
Here is the fact as little realized as any in the Bible! Almighty God made an absolutely binding—just how binding we shall see!—covenant with David, unconditionally guaranteeing that there should never be a single generation from that time forward when there would not be a descendant of David, in unbroken dynasty sitting on David’s throne, ruling over children of Israel! It was the promise of a continuous, unbroken dynasty—all generations forever—that was guaranteed.
This is hard to believe! Yet God promised and unalterably guaranteed just that! There were no conditions. Nothing that would happen could prevent it. The sins of the people were not to change it. The promise stood immutable!
The End of the Record
But where is that throne today?
The history of the Bible records a line of kings, all descendants of David in continuous dynasty, down to King Zedekiah. But in the year 585 b.c. this last recorded king ever to sit on this throne was captured by the armies of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, his eyes were put out,
he was taken to Babylon, and there died in a dungeon!
Moreover, all his sons were slain! All the nobles of Judah who were not already imprisoned or enslaved at Babylon at that time were killed, so that none could remain to sit on the throne of David! The Chaldeans destroyed Jerusalem, burned the temple and the king’s houses, took the Jews, a captive, slave people, to Babylon. There is certainly no record of any king of the line of David ruling over Judah from that day to this. However, the line of Jehoiakin to Jesus survived in Babylonish captivity—so Jesus was a descendant of David.
Some will say, however, that this throne is established today in Christ. But Christ has not yet taken over this throne! He pictured Himself as the nobleman (Luke 19:12) who went to a far country (heaven) to get for Himself a Kingdom, and, who, after receiving the right to the Kingdom, would return. Jesus Christ will not sit upon the throne of David until His Second Coming to Earth, yet in the future!
But what of the nearly 600 years between King Zedekiah and the birth of Christ? Who was reigning over the Israelites and sitting on David’s throne during those generations? If no one, then we must conclude God broke His Word, or the Scripture has been broken!
The answer is a mystery more astounding than any tale of fiction! The Bible reveals it, step by step.
But, then again, some will point to the expression “I will stablish” (2 Samuel 7:13) and conclude that possibly God meant at the Second Coming of Christ He would establish that throne forever. And still that will not do. From whom would Christ take over David’s throne if that throne has ceased these centuries to exist? But God plainly promised He would establish that throne in Solomon: “And I will stablish the throne of his [Solomon’s] kingdom for ever.” He was not speaking of establishing it many centuries later in Christ—at His Second Coming. The “he” referred to is Solomon—not Christ, for God said: “If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him …” (2 Samuel 7:14).
But now I give you a scripture that ends all speculation as to when this throne was established: “Hear me, thou Jeroboam, and all Israel; Ought ye not to know that the [Eternal] God of Israel gave the kingdom over Israel to David for ever, even to him and to his sons by a covenant of salt?” (2 Chronicles 13:4-5). The margin says “perpetual covenant.” This shows the establishing of the throne was then in the past! God gave, did give, this kingdom to David and his sons—not his Son, Christ, but his sons, plural—continuously forever.
Established for All Generations
“I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David my servant, Thy seed [dynasty—Moffatt] will I establish for ever, and build up thy throne to all generations” (Psalm 89:3-4). Note it! This throne, established forever, was built up to all generations. God did establish that throne, beginning with David and Solomon. We have a record of it for a number of generations—as far as King Zedekiah, 585 b.c.
It was established to all generations, continuously, perpetually, forever! That term “all generations” certainly must include those generations from Zedekiah to the birth of Christ. Who occupied that throne during those generations?
Christ is not sitting on that throne now, but on the throne of Almighty God in heaven (Revelation 3:21).
So what about this present generation? Where is there a descendant of David today sitting in an unbroken line of kings on the throne of David, ruling over children of Israel?
Can one wonder that men like Thomas Paine and Robert Ingersoll lost faith in the Bible? They saw these unconditional promises, but they could not see how they had been kept. Yet, if we have patience, we shall see!
But to continue, in the 89th Psalm, with the 28th verse: “My mercy will I keep for him for evermore, and my covenant shall stand fast with him. His seed [dynasty—Moffatt] also will I make to endure for ever, and his throne as the days of heaven.“
Consider a moment the meaning of the word “seed” in this sense. Moffatt’s translation in modern English properly translates it “dynasty.” The Revised Standard Version translates it “his [David’s] line”—that is, continuous line or succession of sons, generation after generation. This “seed” is not the general population of the children of Israel. This is speaking of David’s seed, or David’s sons. His sons were to be kings. David was of the tribe of Judah, possessor of the scepter, not the birthright, promise. His “seed,” therefore, was the kingly line. So, literally, it means his dynasty, his line of successive sons.
Now while his throne is enduring through all generations, as the days of heaven, consider the next verse: “If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments; If they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; Then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless my lovingkindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail. My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips. Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David. His seed [dynasty] shall endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before me. It shall be established for ever as the moon, and as a faithful witness in heaven” (Psalm 89:30-37).
This is speaking of those generations when his children may disobey and forsake God’s law. Some today are excusing their inability to locate this throne by saying the covenant was conditional—that because the children of Israel disobeyed God, the covenant was broken. But what does the Almighty say? If the children disobey and transgress, they shall be punished for their transgression—but not by the breaking of God’s unconditional covenant with David!
Some say Christ took over the throne. But He didn’t. Instead He was crucified, resurrected, and ascended to heaven. He shall come, and soon now, to sit upon that throne as the King of kings and Lord of lords. But how could Jesus Christ, when He returns again to Earth, take over and sit upon a throne that long ago ceased to exist?
Will Christ Come to a Nonexistent Throne?
If the throne of David ceased with Zedekiah, then it does not exist today. And if it does not exist, how shall Christ sit upon a nonexistent throne? (See Luke 1:31-32.) And, since it was to continue through all generations, how about those many generations between Zedekiah and the birth of Jesus?
The very important fact that the glorified King of kings is coming to sit on an existing throne is further affirmed by the Prophet Jeremiah. In the 33rd chapter is a prophecy of events to occur at the time of Christ’s coming in supreme power and glory! At the time of writing this prophecy, the prophet was imprisoned in Jerusalem. The armies from Babylon were taking the Jews captive. God said to Jeremiah, “… I will … shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not. … [C]oncerning the houses of this city, and concerning the houses of the kings of Judah, which are thrown down …” (verses 3-4).
Jeremiah knew the kings’ houses in Jerusalem were being destroyed—the throne of David removed from Jerusalem. He was, as will be shown later, to be God’s agent in rooting out that throne from Jerusalem. God was now revealing to him a reassuring fact. The throne of David would, in this end time, be again planted in Jerusalem. God now reassures the prophet that the throne will rule continuously over Israelites until that time. It will be the same continuous dynasty. The Messiah will sit on an existing throne!
Here is the prophecy of what is to happen at Christ’s glorious coming to rule: “Behold, the days come, saith the [Eternal], that I will perform that good thing which I have promised unto the house of Israel and to the house of Judah” (verse 14). Notice carefully! This promise of David’s continuous dynasty is a promise to the house of Israel, as well as to Judah. Since the division into two nations, that throne had not been connected with Israel—only with Judah. But the promise to be fulfilled at Christ’s coming connects it with Israel as well as Judah!
Continue: “In those days, and at that time, will I cause the Branch of righteousness [the Messiah] to grow up unto David; and he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land” (verse 15). This speaks of Christ’s rule as King of kings. Jesus, a descendant of David by human birth (Romans 1:3), was the righteous Branch, or offshoot of David.
Continue: “In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely …. For thus saith the [Eternal]; David shall never want a man to sit upon the throne of the house of Israel” (verses 16-17). Note it! It does not say David shall not, finally, after 2,500 years without a man on the throne, want for one. It says David shall never—at any time—through all generations—want for a descendant to remain sitting on his throne!
And over whom?
Throne Not Over Jews
Not Judah! Read it in your own Bible! During these more than 2,500 years, David shall not want for a man to sit upon the throne of the house of Israel—not Judah!
The throne was, at the time God revealed this prophecy to Jeremiah, being rooted out of Judah. During these 2,500 years between then and Christ’s coming, it was to be the throne of the house of Israel!
After the coming of Christ to rule, sacrifices will be offered, but they will be spiritual, not physical. In Ezekiel’s prophecy, from the 40th chapter to the end of the book, covering this period after Christ’s coming, these sacrifices are described in physical type. But, after Christ’s return, when these spiritual sacrifices are offered, the tribe of Levi will not have been destroyed—descendants of the priestly tribe will be living. Notice verse 18 of Jeremiah 33: “Neither shall the priests the Levites want a man before me to offer burnt offerings, and to kindle meat offerings, and to do sacrifice continually.”
This does not say they shall have, all these years prior to Christ’s coming, continually offered physical sacrifices. Other scriptures show plainly physical sacrifices should not have been offered by Christians after Christ’s own sacrifice, and they were not offered by Jews after the destruction of the temple in a.d. 70. But other prophecies already quoted show just as plainly that David’s descendants should be ruling on David’s throne through all generations, beginning with Solomon.
Since many of the Levites undoubtedly remained among the 10 tribes—although we know many continued among the Jews—and since those remaining among the 10 tribes have lost their identity along with all 10 tribes, it is entirely possible that many if not most, of the called true ministry of Jesus Christ through the centuries have been of the tribe of Levi.
Notice, now, how binding is God’s covenant with David. “Thus saith the [Eternal]; If ye can break my covenant of the day, and my covenant of the night, and that there should not be day and night in their season; Then may also my covenant be broken with David my servant, that he should not have a son to reign upon his throne …” (verses 20-21).
What People Say
Continue: “Considerest thou not what this people have spoken, saying, The two families which the [Eternal] hath chosen, he hath even cast them off? thus they have despised my people, that they should be no more a nation before them” (verse 24).
That is what the people have been saying, as they were prophesied to say! They say the Jews were scattered among many, if not all, nations—scattered individuals—but no longer a nation having its own government! And the 10 tribes were supposed to have been “lost,” or to have gone out of existence, or to be just part of the scattered individual Jews! Yes, so the Jews themselves have said—and so the world has said! But what does God say?
Continue, next verse: “Thus saith the [Eternal]; If my covenant be not with day and night, and if I have not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth; Then will I cast away the seed of Jacob, and David my servant, so that I will not take any of his seed [dynasty] to be rulers over the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: for I will cause their captivity to return, and have mercy on them” (verses 25-26).
The Test of Bible Truth
Strong words, those! Unless you can stop this old Earth from turning on its axis—unless you can remove the sun and the moon and stars from heaven, says the Almighty, you cannot prevent Him from keeping His covenant to maintain continuously, through all generations, forever, from the time of David and Solomon, a descendant of David in one continuous dynasty on that throne!
He would not necessarily rule over all the house of Israel, or the Jews—but at least some of them, and enough to form a nation.
This cannot be applied to mean that there would not have been a continuous throne, or that it applies only to the “one seed”—Christ—finally coming to rule. Notice, it says specifically, “… so that I will not take any of his seed to be rulers [more than one] over” Israelites. It is speaking of continuous, multiple rulers—not one Ruler coming to sit on a throne that 2,500 years before had ceased to exist!
The covenant promise to David is plain and definite. Either his dynasty has continued and exists today, ruling over the house of Israel (not the Jews), or God’s Word fails!
Remember again the scepter promise, which includes this line of kings until it culminates in Christ at His Second Coming: “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver [margin, ruler’s staff] from between his feet,
Has the scepter departed from Judah? Has the throne ceased? Or does it, as God so bindingly promised, exist today so that Christ can take over and sit upon a functioning, continuous throne when He comes?
The infallibility of the Bible is at stake! God’s Word is at stake!