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The Davidic covenant

There was an unbreakable promise of an unbreakable dynasty—a dynasty preeminent above all others! But what happened to that dynasty? And where is it today?

David, though he made mistakes, was a deeply converted man who followed God with his whole heart. So God told him he would make him a "house" (2 Samuel 7:11)—that is, a royal dynasty. It was to be an enduring dynasty through his son Solomon: "And I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever" (verse 13). If Solomon disobeyed God, he would be punished (verse 14). "But My mercy shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever" (verse 15-16; compare 23:1, 5; 1 Chronicles 22:9-10; 28:4-5).

Yet this requires some clarification, particularly the statement about Solomon's dynasty enduring forever. The Hebrew word translated "forever" here, olam , does not always carry this meaning. Occasionally it means unending as long as certain conditions apply (compare Exodus 21:6; Jonah 2:6). Recorded elsewhere, there were definite conditions attached to the endurance of Solomon's throne. Notice 1 Chronicles 28: "Moreover, I will establish his kingdom forever, if he is steadfast to observe My commandments and judgments" (verse 7). God later reiterated this condition to Solomon himself (2 Chronicles 7:17-18; compare verses 19-22).

So if he lived in disobedience to God, the promise of an unending Solomonic dynasty would be rendered null and void. Sadly, this would come to pass, as Solomon's heart was eventually turned to following other gods (see 1 Kings 11:4).

What, then, of 2 Samuel 7:14-15, where God said he wouldn't remove His mercy from Solomon as He did with Saul? It must simply have meant that, in the event of Solomon's disobedience, God would not bring about his death to end his reign, as happened with Saul. Instead, Solomon would be allowed to live out his days with his kingdom intact for the sake of David—and indeed this is what happened (compare 1 Kings 11:12). Nevertheless, Solomon violated the conditions that would have guaranteed him a perpetual dynasty. So while nothing forbade his descendants from reigning until well into the future, God was not obligated to ensure their continuance upon the throne.

On the other hand, God's promise to David in 2 Samuel 7:15-16—that David's own kingdom and throne would be established forever—still stands. For God did obligate Himself to this course no matter what Solomon did. Notice His confirmation of this tremendous pledge in the book of Psalms: "I have made a covenant with My chosen, I have sworn to My servant David: ‘Your seed I will establish forever, and build up your throne to all generations'" (89:3-4). So from then on, David would have a descendant sitting on a continuing throne in every generation!

God further proclaimed: "Also I will make him My firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth. My mercy I will keep for him forever, and My covenant shall stand firm with him. His seed also I will make to endure forever, and his throne as the days of heaven . . . My covenant I will not break, nor alter the word that has gone out of My lips. Once I have sworn by My holiness; I will not lie to David: His seed shall endure forever, and his throne as the sun before Me; it shall be established forever like the moon, even like the faithful witness in the sky" (verses 27-29, 34-37).

And in Jeremiah 33:19: "Thus says the LORD: ‘If you can break My covenant with the day and My covenant with the night, so that there will not be day and night in their season, then My covenant may also be broken with David My servant, so that he shall not have a son [that is, a descendant] to reign on his throne.'"

Here, then, was an unbreakable promise of an unbreakable dynasty—a dynasty preeminent above all others! But what happened to that dynasty? And where is it today?

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