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David’s Eternal Kingship

May 11, 2014

 The Da’at Miqra’s introduction to the Book of Samuel states that King David was unique in his days for wanting to build the Holy Temple. I believe that this claim is backed up by numerous passages in the Bible, although it is never explicit.

A local scholar, therefore, conceded that indeed King David did long to build the Temple, but not any more than other noble contemporaries of his who also sought to do so, and therefore was not unique in this regard. I then wrote to him as follows:

Upon being anointed by Samuel, we find that scripture records no divine promise to David of an eternal dynasty. Such a promise is only found later, although in many places. (Twice in Samuel, a number of times in Kings, numerous times in Psalms, and a similar number in Chronicles. Also mentioned a number of times in the later prophets and prayers.) What did King David do after his ascension that earned him everlasting kingship?

The answer to this is that, as described in II Samuel 7 and elsewhere, David was rewarded in response to his wanting to build the Temple! Again, the local scholar claimed that it is never explicit that David was given that reward or any other for specifically wanting to build the Temple, and there are even other midrashim that claim he was rewarded with eternal kingship, what we would call an eternal dynasty, for other deeds.

However, that is not the way to understand the texts, because, and this is the key, whenever someone is rewarded with an eternal promise by God in the Bible, it is for exemplary and outstanding conduct above and beyond one’s contemporaries. If it were not so, why would they be rewarded altogether? Thus, the fact that King David’s stated to desire to build the Temple is always followed with the divine promise of eternal kingship means that by wanting to build the Temple, David demonstrated his exceptional excellence in this regard, much more so than his contemporaries.

Some other examples:

• Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were given an eternal covenant to be a holy nation because they excelled at loyalty to the one true God, and despite the fact that there were contemporaries who also believed in God. So much so, that other monotheists were considered insignificant compared to them.

• Moses was promised that the Israelites would believe in him forever, as he excelled in the qualities of humility and perception of the divine much more than any one else.

• Aaron was given eternal priesthood and his tribe was entrusted with eternal service in the Sanctuary for his outstanding qualities of peacemaking and leadership of his Tribe.

• Phinehas was given an eternal covenant of priesthood and peace because he risked his life for God’s honor when the rest of the people could not act.

Thus, it follows that David earned eternal kingship by going above and beyond his contemporaries with regards to striving to build the Temple, a striving that is always connected to his eternal dynasty. (See Psalm 132).

One should also note that whenever such eternal promises are given, there are always those objectors who claim that the recipient is underserving, or others who claim that they deserve similar.

• The patriarchs had Ishmael, Esau, and Balaam.

• Moses and Aaron had Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, and their party.

• Phinehas had the tribe of Simeon.

• David had the Ten Tribes.

This also sheds light on a textual difficulty earlier in Samuel. Most know that Saul was rejected by God as king of Israel for not destroying the Amalekites. (I Samuel 15) Yet, already earlier, in I Samuel 13:13-14, Samuel told Saul that due to his lack of patience in preparing for war against the Philistines, “For now would the LORD have established your kingdom upon Israel for ever, but now your kingdom shall not continue; the LORD has sought him a man after His own heart, and the LORD has appointed him to be prince over His people, because you have not kept that which the LORD commanded you.”

The simplest answer is that in chapter 13, Saul forfeited his right to a an eternal dynasty, and later, in chapter 15, Saul lost his own crown. This is reflected by the rise of David, who first earns his own right to be King, and later, because of his excellence, earns the right to an eternal kingdom. It is another chiasm: Saul first lost eternal kingship, then his own. David first earned the kingship, and then was rewarded with eternal kingship.

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