God’s Covenant with David–Part 2
2 Samuel 7:8–17; 1 Chronicles 17:11–14
Samuel Lesson #161
February 5, 2019
“Our Father, what a glorious privilege it is to serve You, to be brought into a distinctive and unique relationship in this Church Age. We are in the Lord Jesus Christ, in Him and His body, being appointed to a mission related to growing to spiritual maturity and having an impact on the world around us through carrying out the great commission, which is to declare the gospel to those who need to hear it and also to teach those who are believers to obey all that the Scripture teaches.
“Father, help us to understand these things and as we teach the Word, we need to teach all the Word and its significance, what applies directly to the day and what has implications today. We need to understand that Your Word is the most important thing in our life. When we die, the only thing we take with us is Your Word which we have hid in our heart.
“Father, we pray that You will challenge us with the importance of studying the Word, reading the Word daily, and making it a part of our thinking and our living. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
This evening we’re continuing the study we started last time in 2nd Samuel 7 related to the Davidic Covenant. Before I get into that I want to cover a couple of other announcements that are important. First of all, the Chafer Conference is coming up in a month, March 11–13, 2019, about five weeks from now.
There are going to be two speakers. The first speaker is Dr. Steven Ger, who is a second-generation Messianic Jew. He’s a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary. He’s been involved as the pastor of a Messianic Jewish congregation and he’s written an outstanding commentary on the Book of Acts. He’s a good speaker and he’s going to be speaking on the topic, “Is the Hebrew Bible Messianic?”
You may not realize it but there’s a tremendous controversy among so-called academics that these weren’t prophecies, but that New Testament writers just sort of made them prophetic, but they weren’t really intended to be prophetic. He’s going to address those issues and it’s really important and will really stimulate you and increase your confidence in the prophetic accuracy of the Old Testament and what has been revealed there.
He’ll get into a lot of significant details, some of which you’ve heard before, some of which you’ve already forgotten but that’s how we learn.
The second speaker is someone who is new to us. His name is Mark McGinniss. He is a PhD who teaches at Baptist Bible Seminary. We had originally scheduled Dr. Allen Ross, who was a Hebrew professor of mine at Dallas Seminary. He now teaches at Beeson Divinity School, but he had to have hip surgery the first week of December and has not recovered well from that so wasn’t sure if he could come.
Pray for the conference. Pray for Dr. McGinniss that he will be thoroughly prepared. He comes highly recommended by several people we know such as Bruce Baker who is pastor at Washington Country Bible Church. He’s spoken here at several conferences.
Mike Stallard, who has spoken here before, who is with Friends of Israel and used to be the head of the doctoral seminary at Baptist Bible Seminary recommended him. Also, David Roseland, who has been a student at that seminary for the last several years spoke very, very highly of Dr. McGinniss as a great communicator, so we’re looking forward to having him here.
We need to be in prayer for the conference.
Let’s get into what we’re talking about tonight which is God’s covenant with David. This is the second part. We began last time talking about covenants. We went through the introductory part of 2 Samuel 7 and we need to get that context.
I want to say a couple of things again about the general context and how we read 2nd Samuel. It has three divisions. The first is that God blesses David and he, David, unites and expands the kingdom. This section has been called by some “God blesses David”. It’s in chapters 2–10.
The way you and I read books is to read it in chronological order. Many of us think that as we read 2 Samuel 6 it’s followed by 2 Samuel 7 and then 2 Samuel 8 follows chapter 7. That’s not how they wrote things in the Old Testament. They would write things thematically.
2 Samuel 7:1, “Now it came to pass when the king was dwelling in his house, and Lord had given him rest from all his enemies all around.” I pointed out last time that you have “all” mentioned twice, which means it is inclusive.
If you skip down to 2 Samuel 8:1 you read, “After this it came to pass that David attacked the Philistines and subdued them.” Then we also read that David defeated Moab in verse 2 and by the time we get to chapter 10 he’s in battle with the Ammonites.
Does that sound like God has given him rest from his enemies all around? Does it sound like that to you? What has happened is that the author has lumped the events together to give us an overview of how God has blessed David.
Lest we think that David was some kind of super believer, see that even though he was a mature believer, he sinned like we all do. The author then follows that by showing how God disciplined David for his sin and the consequences that David had to live through.
Most of these consequences directly impacted his own family. David, because he was spiritually mature, confessed his sin, and the cursing or judgment was transformed into blessing. Chronologically what happens is that David sins with Bathsheba and he conspires to have her husband killed in combat. Then we see all of the horrible things that happened to David and his family subsequently.
It is near the end of his life that we have the events of 2 Samuel 6 and 7. They did not occur early. They occur at the end when there is rest from the enemies. It is when God, in an incredible way because of all the sin in David’s life, gives him this covenant. This is a great example of grace in the life of someone who realizes he does not deserve it.
This makes great sense when we turn to 2 Samuel 7:18 where we see David’s response. “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house that you have brought me this far?” He is just stunned in light of his sins and his failures.
So graciously God deals with you and me in the same way, all the time. We’re all sinners. One of the things that always has impressed me is that when you study the Book of Judges and you realize what spiritual failures men like Gideon and Jephthah and Samson and Barack were, and yet, God praises them for their faith at some point in their spiritual life when you get to Hebrews 11.
How God evaluates us on the basis of His grace and the fact that we possess the righteousness of Christ is far different from how we think we are going to be evaluated. There have been a lot of preachers at revivals over the years who have preached a lot of gloom and doom and fear for people that they’re going to stand before God, even as believers, and they’re going to go through all of this horrible sin exposure and everything else.
The reality is that Jesus Christ paid for our sins. They were cancelled on the Cross. Colossians 2:12–14 says our sins are cancelled, obliterated as an act of grace. It tells us when it happened. It happened at the Cross. It didn’t happen when you believed or when I believed.
There are four different levels of forgiveness in the Bible.
The way the Book of 2nd Samuel is structured here is to teach about God’s blessing first, His judgments last, and then the wonders of the Davidic Covenant at the end in those last four chapters.
Here we’re looking at just what happens in those first ten chapters. We’re in the last part where God grants David a covenant.
Whenever you see the word “grant” and I use that word specifically, think in your mind what are synonyms for granting something to someone. Another word would be giving something to someone. A grant is a gift. What does that tell you? What is the one word that ought to come to mind whenever you hear the word gift?
If it’s not grace, you need to be here more often than you are. It is grace. That’s what this chapter is teaching. It’s teaching all about the grace of God. That is one of the lessons we learn when we study the covenants.
Here are the basic questions we need to answer:
If you haven’t grown up in a Calvinistic church, by that I mean a church that completely buys into Reformed Theology, then you will probably say that you never heard of theological covenants.
That’s because they’re a theological construct developed in what has come to be known as Covenant Theology. This is Reformed Theology, which is the term that is used to refer to the branch of the Protestant Reformation that occurred in French Swiss [western Switzerland] and French territory, the Huguenots, and also Dutch Reformed and Scottish Reformed churches. Out of Reform Theology came Presbyterian churches and also Congregational churches.
The difference is that in a Presbyterian church the elders are answerable to a hierarchy called a Synod, unless you’re an independent Presbyterian church like Bethel. In a Congregational church that still holds to the same government, they don’t have a hierarchy that goes beyond the local church, so that’s the distinction between those two terms. Presbyterian really isn’t independent. It refers to a broader organization outside the local church.
In Covenant or Reformed Theology, you have three theological covenants. The theology of works. Adam and Eve were to maintain their status in the Garden of Eden by works. That’s a theological covenant. There’s nothing there, though, that indicates anything that Covenant Theology says about a covenant of works. There’s a covenant there but it’s not a covenant of works.
Then because when Adam and Eve sin, Covenant Theology says the covenant of works is replaced by a covenant of grace. In some forms of Covenant Theology you then have a covenant of redemption. So, there are the theological covenants, but they are never mentioned anywhere in the Bible. They’re just theological constructs that are imposed upon the texts in order to make their theology work.
Then we have biblical covenants, which we’ll talk about. These are sometimes described as conditional because the covenant itself has a condition. The human who is the object of the covenant must fulfill the covenant or the covenant becomes temporary.
We used the terms of conditional and unconditional covenants. The Abrahamic Covenant is unconditional and eternal. The Land, Davidic, and New Covenants are all unconditional. Some people want to debate those terms. Another way of speaking about them is permanent versus temporary. This is what the writer of Hebrews brings out in Hebrews 8 when he talks about the New Covenant, but the old covenant, the Mosaic Covenant, was never designed to be permanent. It was designed to be temporary, while the other covenants were eternal and permanent.
I think that in some ways using eternal instead of unconditional and temporary instead of conditional is a better way. It’s a little clearer way of speaking about these things.
Then we also have Gentile covenants versus Jewish covenants. Every covenant after Abraham is a covenant with the Jewish people. Before that, the Edenic, the Adamic, and the Noahic Covenants were all Gentile covenants because there were no Jews on the earth at that time.
One term we need to know is the suzerain-vassal treaty form. This was a form that was used by ancient civilizations. We have uncovered a lot of forms of it from the Hittite Empire, which flourished from the late third millennium to the second millennium BC. For those of you who can’t do all the math, that’s roughly from about 2500 BC to about 1000 BC. That would cover the period of the Exodus and the giving of the Law.
A suzerain is a king. Synonyms for a suzerain might be a despot, an emperor, a ruler, or a master. He is a leader so it’s the suzerain, on the one hand, who is the superior and he is entering into a covenant with an inferior such as a servant or someone who is subservient to him. It may be with a client nation or a vassal nation, so this is the term that is used in all the literature to describe this form.
If you have any experience in dealing with contracts, such as a real estate business or a business where you had to take care of a lot of different contracts or if you’re a lawyer, you know there are what you can refer to as boilerplate contracts. They are outlines of different contracts. There are all kinds of legal organizations that have websites where you can pay a small fee and download a boilerplate will or divorce filings. You can download all kinds of different formats.
Those formats change from decade to decade. I would assume if you were a lawyer and you were familiar with 21st century current real estate contract forms that if you were to see a contract with certain things in it you could tell when that contract was valid just because of the way the forms had changed.
There were certain things that were allowed in contracts say before the Civil Rights Act and certain things that were not allowed after that. When you look at a contract and you see a certain style or structure or language you can date it.
That’s what these forms are. They were contracts or covenants that were used by the Assyrian Empire later on. Earlier they were used by the Hittite Empire. By looking at the elements that are there you can see parallels of what we find in Scripture.
Let me tell you why that’s important. You and I are always being attacked over why we believe certain things, like Moses writing the Pentateuch or the belief that the Bible is the Word of God. One piece of evidence for this is that the Bible says it was written during a certain time. For example, Moses was a highly educated man reared in the education system of the Pharaoh.
He grew up in the household of the Pharaoh for his first forty years and he would have been completely familiar with all these legal forms and structures. The suzerain-vassal treaty form was the way that these types of arrangements were structured at the time of Moses.
If you went five or six hundred years later, from 1400 BC to 400 BC or if you went from 1400 BC to 1200 BC you would have a different form. Someone who wrote in 1200 BC would not be familiar with the boilerplate of the 15th century BC.
This gives us great confidence that the Bible was written in the time it was written because it uses these various forms, which have been discovered through archeology. They’re very interesting and we can learn a lot of things from them.
We will talk about the Jewish covenants, which is the structure for understanding the Davidic Covenant. We also have the Abrahamic Covenant, which is sort of the grandfather or the root of the other three covenants. In the Abrahamic Covenant God promised Abraham He would give him a piece of real estate.
Back in the 19th century and through much of the 20th century it was called the Palestinian Covenant, until Yasser Arafat came along and co-opted the term Palestinian and applied it to his rag-tag band of Arab terrorists, Palestinian referred to Jews. Palestine was a name that had been imposed upon that territory by the Roman emperor, Hadrian, in about AD 135.
Now we refer to the Abrahamic Covenant mostly as a land or real estate covenant because that gets away from all the semantic problems with Palestine.
The Land Covenant is in Deuteronomy 29. The Seed Covenant has two aspects, one is the seed referring to all of Abraham’s descendants, so it’s in the plural and two, seed in the sense of the singular. Paul says in Galatians 3 the Seed [singular] referring to Jesus Christ, the Messiah. He is the Messiah because He is a descendant of David.
The Seed Covenant in the Abrahamic Covenant is expanded on in the Davidic Covenant. The Land Covenant is expanded on in the Seed Covenant. The Seed Covenant is expanded on in the Davidic Covenant here in 2 Samuel 7. Then the worldwide blessing is expanded on in the New Covenant, Jeremiah 31:31–34.
All of these have the form of a royal grant. There is an important distinction which we’ll get into in a minute. The Mosaic Covenant follows the pattern of a suzerain-vassal treaty so we have this contrast, which we’ll look at in a minute because it’s going to help us understand things.
It’s also going to help educate us because this is the language when you’re looking up things like covenants in a Bible dictionary. I’m really been getting immersed in this with the group of pastors I’ve been meeting with on Friday mornings. We have been studying two different books on the New Covenant. We have been drilling down in all kinds of minutia related to the New Covenant.
Almost every article that we read refers to and goes through information concerning these covenants. That’s what we’re covering. The first question is what a covenant is. I pointed this out last time. It is a legally binding agreement or promise between two or more parties especially for the performance of some action. That’s really critical. God’s going to do something, but He couches it in legal language. God lowers Himself to our level to bind Himself in a legal agreement with fallen human beings. Isn’t that something?
God wants to make sure everything is done according to a righteous standard so it will be just. This eventually plugs into our understanding of the angelic conflict because when we study the angelic conflict, we realize there was a trial in eternity past. We’ve been studying this in our class in 1 Peter 5 on Thursday nights.
I pointed out last time that wasn’t something that was ginned up or imagined in the 20th century by Pastor Thieme or by Lewis Sperry Chafer or by Donald Grey Barnhouse. It goes back to the 19th century that there’s an understanding that there’s this trial that occurs for the angels in Heaven.
As a result of that, we see that all of human history is structured in the Bible with these legal terms. There are terms like covenants. Terms like righteousness and justice. Terms like justification, propitiation, expiation, and all of these big theological words that people don’t want to use anymore because they’re dumbing down the Bible so that everyone with a first-grade education can understand it. They’re not getting educated very well either in the school or in the home and they don’t know how to read words that have more than three or four syllables.
You can pick up the NIV. You can pick up the ESV. You can pick up a number of these modern translations and they don’t use the time-honored theological terms that were chosen by the translators of the English Bible in centuries past in order to communicate these specific dimensions of Christ’s work on the Cross with everything structured within the framework of the Law.
God isn’t functioning willy-nilly. He doesn’t go outside of the Law. He tells man exactly what He’s going to do and what the structures are and so we have these identified in covenants.
As I pointed out earlier, we have these theological covenants. We also have these biblical covenants. The biblical covenants we’re talking about are the covenants with the Gentiles, the Edenic Covenant [Genesis 1–2], and we have the Adamic Covenant [Genesis 3–8]. Then the Noahic Covenant is given in Genesis 9. Those are all with Gentiles.
Then we have something new that begins with Abraham. We have these specifically identified in the Bible as covenants. We have the Abrahamic Covenant, the Mosaic Covenant, the Land Covenant [Deuteronomy 29], the Davidic Covenant [2 Samuel 7], and we have the New Covenant [Jeremiah 31].
There are other covenants that are also mentioned. Turn with me to Numbers 25:11 which describes a secondary covenant that is giving an award to Phineas who is a descendant of Aaron. He has been faithful in defending the priesthood. This happens after that strange little incident which occurs with Balaam and his prophecies which are designed to seduce Israel by giving them the idea that they can destroy the Jews by seducing them with the temple prostitutes of Baal.
Phineas, the son of Eleazer steps to the plate and he is going to stop all of this infidelity that is taking place between the men of Israel and the temple prostitutes. In Numbers 25:7 we read, “Now when Phineas the son of Eleazer, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose from among the congregation, and took a javelin in his hand; he went after the man of Israel into the tent and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her body. So the plague was stopped among the children of Israel.”
That plague was God’s divine discipline on the Israelites for this horrible immorality that was taking place. Verse 9 says, “Those who died in the plague were 24,000.” Phineas stops this by being faithful to God and killing the man who is guilty of inciting all of this infidelity.
As a result of that, we come to Numbers 25:11, “Phineas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned back my wrath—God speaking—from the children of Israel, because he was zealous with My zeal among them, so that I did not consume the children of Israel in My zeal. Therefore say, ‘Behold, I give to him My covenant of peace.”
Aaron is the high priest and the high priest is supposed to be descended from Aaron, but because of this, there’s going to be an everlasting priesthood that comes from Phineas. That’s what is outlined here in Numbers 25:13. It’s like a grant. That’s what we’re going to see.
It’s freely given by God who is the King to a faithful subject. It is a gift with no strings attached and it is eternal. It’s an everlasting priesthood. Another thing I want you to note here is that God is swearing this and that is what enacts the covenant and there’s no sacrifice.
A lot of people think that a sacrifice is necessary for a covenant to go into effect but there are many covenants, including the Davidic Covenant, that do not have a sacrifice with them, as well as the covenant with Phineas.
What we see is that a covenant is a legally binding agreement. All ancient near-eastern covenants were legal instruments and like any formal, contractual documents, there were rigid guidelines for how they were written and how they would be enforced.
Covenant enactment was precise, just as covenants or contracts today are precise. If you sign a contract with Visa for your credit card, it’s going to have different terms than your next-door neighbor’s. You can’t go out and tell your Visa card company that you want to just pay seven percent because that’s the contract your neighbor has. You have to go with the eleven and half percent that’s on your contract.
Same thing with your mortgage. You can’t just pay two percent because your neighbor got a good deal. You have to pay your four and half percent in order to fulfill the stipulations of your contract. This is the nature of contracts. They are legal documents between two parties. So we always see that there is one that is the party of the first part.
For instance, in the covenant of the everlasting priesthood God is the party of the first part and Phineas is the party of the second part. In the Davidic Covenant, God is the party of the first part and David is the party of the second part. This helps us to understand these covenants.
On this chart we have all of the covenants. The Edenic Covenant is in Genesis 1:27–28 where God says, “I will make man in My image.” In fact, the use of the terms “image” and “likeness” are terms that would be used in a covenant, so that’s covenantal language there even though the word “covenant” isn’t used there. I have Hosea 6:7 on the screen because among theologians there’s a debate.
They say that there’s no mention of a covenant until Noah in Genesis 9, so therefore you can’t say there are any covenants before that. If you go to the Noahic Covenant, you have a statement where God says to Noah and his descendants to be fruitful and fill the earth.
That’s the same thing that God told Adam. My point is that if you look at all the other things that are said by God to man, all the obligations and promises that are made by God to man in Genesis 1 and 2, they get modified category by category in the curse in Genesis 3.
Man was to rule over the animals in Genesis 1 but now there’s going to be some changes. Some of the animals are now going to be under the curse. Later on, during the Noahic Covenant there will be fear of man on the part of the animals.
You see that if you have all the same elements spoken of in each of these passages, if the third one is a covenant and it is refining the stipulations in Genesis 3, which refines the stipulations in Genesis 1 and 2, then they all have to be covenants even though the word “covenant” is not used until you get to Genesis 9.
Those are Gentile covenants and they are eternal covenants. The Adamic and the Noahic Covenants modify the Creation covenant. The Noahic Covenant is in effect until the earth is destroyed by fire. God will never again destroy the earth by water.
That’s the significance of the rainbow, because we only see that when it is raining. Other stipulations in the Noahic Covenant are capital punishment for murderers and also that we are to eat meat. Prior to the Noahic Covenant man was a vegetarian. Man did not eat animal flesh.
Now it is not only authorized. It is mandated in the Noahic Covenant. I always say that when you see a rainbow, go eat a steak and make sure you are voting for people who are going to enforce capital punishment. As long as you see that rainbow, those aspects are still in effect.
Then, because of the Tower of Babel and man’s failure there, God is no longer going to work through all of the nations. He is going to work through one man and his descendants, Abraham. God enters into a covenant with Abraham. This covenant is a royal grant. We’ll get into the details of the Abrahamic Covenant in a minute.
As I summarized it earlier, there are three parts to it: land, seed, and blessing. The Land Covenant is developed in Deuteronomy 29, the Davidic Covenant in 2 Samuel 7, and the New Covenant in Jeremiah 31. The New Covenant replaces the old covenant, which is the Mosaic Covenant, that was designed to be temporary. The New Covenant will replace in the future the Mosaic Covenant.
I pointed out earlier that there is debate whether there is a covenant in Eden. The second line of evidence is a statement in Hosea 6:7, “Like Adam, they transgressed the covenant.” It’s comparing Israel’s transgression of the Mosaic Covenant to a previous transgression of a covenant by someone identified as Adam.
This could be Adam, meaning all of mankind, or it could be Adam, meaning Adam, the individual. If it’s referring to all of mankind, when did the human race transgress the covenant? Romans 5:12–14, “In Adam all die.”
It was Adam’s sin that caused the transgression of the covenant. Those who are arguing that Adam just means mankind are being rather facetious in their understanding. This is just silly to try to argue on this kind of point. Hosea 6:7 clearly indicates that mankind, in Adam, transgressed a covenant, which means there had to have been a covenant in existence. The only thing that would have been there would have been the Edenic Covenant.
In this next chart I want to emphasize one element that we haven’t covered which are the promises. The Abrahamic Covenant had a promise of land, seed, and blessing. Each one of those had a promise. The Land Covenant’s promise was that all the land would eventually be given to Israel and they would live there in peace forever and ever.
The Seed Covenant promises that at the time the land is given to Israel there would be a descendant of David’s sitting on the throne who would rule in truth and in righteousness. The New Covenant promise is that there would be a spiritual change on the part of Israel, because that covenant is only with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, and when that covenant goes into effect, it changes the spiritual nature of the Jewish people. Those three covenants come together at the same time.
We’re living in an era of promises. Hebrews 11 talks about the fact that those great spiritual heroes there had promises that they didn’t see fulfilled and they’re looking forward to their fulfillment. They will be fulfilled in the future.
On that timeline from past to future I’m going to put the dispensations. Here we have the dispensations mostly of Israel here going back to the formation of Israel, the patriarchs and Moses, all the way through the New Testament when these prophecies and promises are made.
We have the Abrahamic Covenant that is made with Abraham in roughly 2200 BC which promises land, seed, and blessing. Then in Deuteronomy 29 we have the Real Estate Covenant [the Land Covenant] and then we have the Davidic Covenant in 2 Samuel 7 and the New Covenant in Jeremiah 31.
When are these fulfilled? These are fulfilled when Jesus Christ comes back. A question that comes up presents a problem and that is people have been taught that, somehow, the New Covenant applies to the Church but there’s no statement anywhere that applies it to the Church.
Jesus Christ said, “This is the new covenant of my blood which is given for you.” Who is he talking to? Who are the “you”? Church Age believers? Who is sitting there? Eleven disciples who were Jewish and represent the Jewish people. The church hasn’t started yet. He hasn’t given the Upper Room Discourse yet, which teaches about the church. He’s talking to the disciples.
One thing that happened on the Cross is that is the sacrifice, which is the foundation of the New Covenant. That’s for the Jewish people. The second thing that happened is He paid the penalty for the sins of the whole world. Those two are separate aspects.
There are many things that happened on the Cross. Those are just two of them but they’re not connected. They are distinct. In the future we will participate in the New Covenant because we will be the bride of Christ serving with Christ, ruling and reigning, in that kingdom that is grounded in the New Covenant.
Do we have a role in relation to the New Covenant? Yes, but it is in the Millennial Kingdom. It is not today. So when Paul says he is a minister of the New Covenant, he is proclaiming the gospel to Gentiles and Jews in this dispensation. If you believe the gospel, then when we come back at the end of the Tribulation with Christ we will rule and reign with Him.
That is when we have a relation to the New Covenant, I believe, because we are in Christ. He is the party of the first part in terms of that covenant. There’s a lot more that goes with that and I’m in the middle of refining a lot of my ideas about the New Covenant because of my study, but this is what we see.
These covenants are all Jewish and they’re all fulfilled at the same time when Jesus Christ returns and establishes His kingdom. Let’s go to the suzerain-vassal treaty form.
When I talked about this earlier, I explained this was a treaty entered into by a king after he had conquered some other neighboring countries. He would say, “Well, I’ve done these things for you. I’ve provided for you. I’ve given you all of this protection. My army guards your towns and everything so as a result of this, I am going to enter into this treaty with you and I’m going to expect you to do certain things.”
That’s the essence of the suzerain-vassal treaty form. It had a form and that form was a historical prologue. The giving of the Law at Mount Sinai follows this format. This was a historical prologue, what God had done for Israel—Exodus 20:2b and Exodus 19:1–4.
There’s a preamble and in the preamble this is an explanation or overview of what the covenant is going to be all about. It’s going to give information in relation to that particular covenant that is going to come about. So that’s the preamble, the introduction to the covenant.
Then there are stipulations. You have general stipulations or general requirements and then there are specific requirements. General requirements are spelled out in Exodus 20:3–17. Specific requirements are spelled out in Exodus 20:22–23:33.
There’s a provision given to read it. This is why Moses had two copies of the Law and one is put in the ark of the covenant because it’s stored there for future generations. And then there’s another copy that is taught from, to teach the people what the stipulations of the Law are.
Then there are witnesses. In Exodus the witnesses are all the tribes and the altar in Exodus 24. In Deuteronomy, which follows the same pattern, God calls on all of Heaven and all of earth. Not the geophysical heavens. That’s just stars.
Who inhabits the heavens? The angels. That’s one group of sentient beings that God has created. And He calls on the earth. Earth is inhabited by human beings in his image and likeness. That’s only the second group that God has created.
There are only two groups of sentient beings: angels who inhabit the heavens and human beings who inhabit the earth. God is calling on the witnesses to the covenant. How many witnesses do you have to have? You have to have at least two witnesses to confirm something.
All the tribes and the altar in Exodus 24 and heavens and the earth in Deuteronomy. Then there are going to be blessings and curses. If you are obedient, I’m going to do all these wonderful things for you. If you are disobedient, then I am going to discipline you harshly. That’s where we have the five cycles of discipline in Leviticus 26.
The purpose for this kind of a treaty, the purpose for the Mosaic Law, is to encourage people to be more faithful and obedient. It’s the “carrot-and-the-stick” approach. Also, if you’re a vassal and you’ve been loyal and faithful and you’ve done everything well, then the king might come along (nothing says he has to) and give you a wonderful gift just out of the goodness of his heart. That’s called a royal grant.
A royal grant is grace. Let’s look at some of the comparisons. The Abrahamic Covenant is a royal grant. That means that the Land Covenant, the Davidic Covenant, and the New Covenant which develop aspects of the Abrahamic Covenant, must also be royal grant covenants.
A royal grant is a gift to those who already serve their masters with great loyalty. Abraham was saved long before Genesis 12. The grammar of Genesis 15:6 indicates that it doesn’t flow from Genesis 15:1–5. That’s God’s promise that Abraham is going to have a son from his own body. Genesis 15:6 is like a parenthesis.
The verb there is a perfect tense and it’s like a reminder. Remember Abraham had already believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness. This Abrahamic Covenant is a gift to someone who has been a believer and is faithful and loyal. Now God is choosing to bless him in a special way.
He’s not the only believer we’ve studied. Lot was a believer. Job was a believer. Melchizedec was a believer. There were many, many other believers at that same time.
In Genesis 26:4–5 God outlines this, “I will make your descendants multiply as the stars of the heaven; I will give to your descendants all these lands, and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.”
It’s a reward to a vassal who has been loyal. God always works with rewards. It’s not contrary to grace.
Another aspect of a royal grant is that it obligates the king to do certain things for the vassal, for the servant. The king willingly enters into this contract saying that he’s going to do this for the vassal because of your loyalty to me. This is a reward that the king is obligated to fulfill the contract, not the servant.
It’s also protecting the servant. In a suzerain-vassal treaty form, it’s not a reward for loyalty. It’s an inducement to greater loyalty. It’s to motivate them to be more loyal. Perhaps they will receive a reward. The obligations of the vassals to the king are spelled out. That’s the Mosaic Law which says these are all the things you have to do in order to serve Me.
You entered into this contract. You agreed to it. You said you would do everything that’s in there. These are your obligations. It defines what vassal loyalty is, whereas the royal grant is a reward for vassal loyalty.
Royal grants have curses in them but they are directed to those who would violate the rights of the vassal, the rights of the servant. It says that if you harm the king’s servant, he will harm you. If you curse Abraham and his descendants, the king will curse you.
See the curses are directed to those who would harm the servant. The king is going to guarantee that so it’s protecting the rights of the king’s servant.
In a suzerain-vassal treaty, the curses are directed to the vassal, to the servant. In this case, to Israel. It says that if you disobey the king, then he’s going to bring a drought, bring a plague, bring wild animals, or bring the enemy who will tear up your fields if you disobey Him. He will eventually take you out of the land.
That fits a suzerain-vassal form. The royal grant lists the benefits that the sovereign promises the servant. This is what he’s going to do for them. To Abraham God said He was going to give him land, descendants that you can’t number, and you’re going to be a blessing to the whole world.
It is promissory. That’s another term being used today. It’s the promise of what the king is going to do for his servant.
In a suzerain-vassal treaty like the Mosaic Law, it’s going to give a list of laws that the vassal must follow in order to serve the king. It’s obligatory. This is what the servant is obliged to do.
I love studying all of this because it just opens up our understanding of what is going on in the Mosaic Law and what’s going on in these other covenants.
Now just two quick summary slides here. The Abrahamic Covenant is summarized in the first thirteen verses of Genesis 12. This isn’t the covenant. It’s actually cut in Genesis 17. This just summarizes it as land, seed, and blessing.
Then later God is going to enter into other covenants, grants with Israel expanding on each of these. The land promise is expanded in the Land Covenant found in Deuteronomy 29. The Seed Covenant is in 2 Samuel 7 and the Blessing Covenant is described in the New Covenant in Jeremiah 31.
We’re not going to talk about the Land Covenant or the New Covenant since we’re in 2 Samuel 7. We’re going to talk about the Davidic Covenant and this is just a nice chart to break down what is promised in the Davidic Covenant.
The key passages are 2 Samuel 7:12–16, Psalm 89 (a long psalm where David meditates on and thanks God for giving him this covenant), then the parallel passage to 2 Samuel 7 is 1 Chronicles 17:11–14. The only difference between 2 Samuel 7 and 1 Chronicles 17 is that 2 Samuel 7 is focusing on the physical descendant of David, which is Solomon.
God says that if he disobeys, He’ll punish him. That’s not reiterated in the 1 Chronicles passages because the 1 Chronicles passage focuses on the ultimate fulfillment, the ultimate Son of David, who is Jesus Christ.
David is promised an eternal house. House is a term that’s used in a Hittite or Syrian contract, and it refers to a dynasty. It says God is going to set up David as a dynastic ruler over Israel in 2 Samuel 7:11, 13, and 16. We’ll cover those next week.
Second, God promises David an eternal kingdom, and third an eternal throne. The person who sets on an eternal throne has got to be eternal. The person who is ruling an eternal kingdom has to be eternal. The eternal dynasty either has to have one person after another and then end in someone who is eternal.
All of these indicate that the one who ultimately fulfills this is an eternal person, who is divine. Only deity is eternal, so they all suggest that the ultimate fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant has to be in someone who is both human and divine, and that’s the Lord Jesus Christ.
We’ll come back next time and look at the specifics of the covenant and then we’ll see how that’s fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to study these things and to learn some new facts about covenants and the significance of the near-eastern background and how that helps us to understand more of what is going on in these great covenants that You gave to Abraham and to David.
“We pray that we might realize that this isn’t just something in ancient history but that the certainty of the fulfillment of Your promise to them is the basis for the certainty of the fulfillment for Your promise to save us. Therefore, we know that we are eternally secure in our salvation.
“We thank You for this. In Christ’s name. Amen.”