This article briefly surveys scripture’s presentation of Christ as Son of David. This glorious title encompasses both the deity and humanity of our Lord. It denotes His royal character and assured sovereignty over the nations in the purposes of God.
2 Samuel chapter 7 describes one of King David’s finest hours. He had conceived an ambition to build a house, i.e., a temple to the honour of the God who had taken him from minding sheep, preserved him from the murderous intentions of Saul, and established him on the throne of Israel. To his great surprise and humbling, God far surpassed his exercise and instead insisted that He would build David a house, a dynasty of kings. Surely what God has done (and will yet do) for us far outstrips anything we can ever do for Him.
This covenant secured a special status for the Davidic king as the Lord’s anointed, and representative of His people. Each king, insofar as he feared the Lord and faithfully represented Him, pointed forward to the ultimate son of David, Jesus the anointed One, the Messiah.1Realistically, the covenant also anticipated the failure of some and the consequent exercise of God’s discipline but assured an everlasting dominion to the house of David. On the other hand, the subsequent history of Israel, including exile and subjugation to foreign powers, called into question the credibility of these glowing promises, Ps. 89. 38-51.
In view of David’s major contribution to the Psalter, we might expect that the Spirit of inspiration would shed further light on the fortunes of his successors on the throne of Judah. Psalms 2, 45, 72, 89, and 110 all spring to mind in this connection.
Psalm 2 introduces us to a menacing confederacy of nations in revolt against the Lord and His anointed. Yet God is unperturbed in view of the fact that He has established His king by decree on His holy hill of Zion. God’s purposes for Christ cannot be overthrown. Those same rulers of earth are advised to sue for peace, and ‘kiss the Son, lest he be angry’, Ps. 2. 12.
Psalm 45 is a magnificent hymn composed for a royal wedding. The poet is bubbling over with his irrepressible theme as he contemplates the king’s person, his prowess in battle, and the expected fruit of his marriage. Whilst hyperbole was an accepted element in such contexts, the extravagant language of verses 6 and 7 transcends a mere human monarch. Centuries later, the writer to the Hebrews quotes these verses to establish the deity of Christ, Heb. 1. 8, 9.
Psalm 110 is succinct but frequently quoted in the New Testament. Perhaps David had been reflecting on his recent acquisition of Jerusalem and its ancient king-priest Melchizedek. Be that as it may, the first Christians found here a major testimony to the exaltation of Christ, albeit with the necessity of an interval between His two advents. The opening verse indicates that under the Spirit’s guidance David acknowledges his successor as his Lord.
Dark days in Israelite history came with the fall of the northern kingdom to Assyria. It must have seemed that the very existence of the house of David was in jeopardy. Yet God, through a succession of prophets, fostered the hope that His promises would achieve a fulfilment far greater than anything Israel had so far experienced.2
Matthew’s Gospel opens with the genealogy of Jesus Christ, ‘the son of David’. Luke records the angel’s announcement to a wondering Mary that her child ‘shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David‘, Luke 1. 32. In due course, Joseph was providentially guided to Judaea, to ‘the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)’, Luke 2. 4. There, in the humblest of circumstances, the Saviour was born, v. 11.
Centuries earlier, David conquered Jerusalem and made it ‘the city of David’, 2 Sam. 5. 4-10. The Jebusites, the natives of the land, taunted him, ‘You will not come in here, but the blind and the lame will ward you off’, v. 6 ESV. David conquered the city and declared, ‘“Whoever climbs up by the way of the water shafts and defeats the Jebusites, (the lame and the blind, who are hated by David’s soul) he shall be chief and captain.” Therefore, they say, “The blind and the lame shall not come into the house [i.e. the temple]”’, v. 8 NKJV. These taunts form an instructive contrast to Matthew’s Gospel where, on six occasions, Jesus is called ‘the Son of David’. In each case the episode is associated with conflict with the religious leaders, and there is also a reference to blindness.
These episodes demonstrate that Christ contrasts markedly with the attitude and ways of His ancestor King David. His mercy extends to the lame and the blind, with even the spiritually disadvantaged Canaanite blessed. David would have regarded her ancestors as enemies!3 Yet, paradoxically, those who considered themselves as the custodians of the Jerusalem temple were among His spiritually blind opponents, who refused to countenance what children readily understood, cp. John 9. 39-41.
Who exactly is Jesus? This remains the most consequential question that anyone can ask. It is to be noted that in His public ministry Christ did not describe Himself as Son of David, for obvious reasons, John 6. 15. When He posed a final question to His opponents, He did so to bring out not simply His Davidic descent, but His deity. The Pharisees readily acknowledged that Psalm 110 referred to the Messiah, ‘What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, The Son of David. He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool? If David then call him Lord, how is he his son?’ Matt. 22. 42-45.
How can Messiah be both David’s Son and David’s Lord? The early Christians accepted ‘the gospel of God … concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead’, Rom. 1. 1-4. Speaking of Psalm 16, Peter explained that David, ‘being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; he seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell,4neither his flesh did see corruption’, Acts 2. 30, 31.
Thus, in Christ risen and exalted at God’s right hand, the fortunes of the house of David are gloriously and permanently restored. It is Israel’s greatest honour that ‘from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever’, Rom. 9. 5 ESV. Conversely, it is surely their greatest tragedy that the vast majority reject this preeminent Son of David. Yet happily millions from all the nations render Him the obedience of faith through the gospel, Acts 15. 16-18; Rom. 1. 5.
Facing imminent martyrdom, Paul could exhort his friend Timothy to persevere in hardships and ‘remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel’, 2 Tim. 2. 8 ESV. To the church in Philadelphia, Christ is portrayed as ‘he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth’, Rev. 3. 7; cp. Isa. 22. 22. As far as the kingdom of God is concerned, all powers of admission and exclusion are vested in the Lord Jesus. Isaiah chapter 22 points to the fact that He is the unfailingly faithful and competent steward of the entire divine programme. John’s tears are therefore unnecessary, for ‘the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof’, Rev. 5. 5. Those seals unloosed bring the purposes of God to completion, albeit by devastating judgements. What will bring terror to the world of the impenitent is at the same time the bright hope of Christ’s people, Rev. 22. 16, ‘I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star’.
We noted earlier that Christ inherits ‘the throne of his father David’; moreover, there will come a glad day when ‘the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever’, Rev. 11. 15 ESV. This will far surpass David’s conquests, and, correspondingly, the resultant blessings will far outstrip the peace of Solomon’s reign, Ps. 72.
For David as a type of Christ see: J. N. Case, Personal Types of the Lord Jesus, J. Ritchie, pp. 72-83; A. F. Kirkpatrick, II Samuel in Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges, Cambridge University Press, pp. 42-45.
See, for examples, Isa. 7. 14; 9. 6, 7; 11. 1ff.; 32. 1; Jer. 23. 5; 33. 15; Ezek. 21. 26, 27; 34. 23, 24; 37. 24, 25; Hos. 3. 4, 5; Amos 9. 11-15; Mic. 5. 2; Zech. 3. 8; 6. 12, 13.
See further, R. P. Gordon, I & II Samuel, Zondervan, pp. 49-53.
That is, Hades, ESV.
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