Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 21, 1957
NUMBER 29, PAGE 8-10a

Adam Clarke's Commentary On II. Samuel 7:1-16

Bill Cavender, Cooper, Texas

The issue of premillennialism is still a living issue and one that could again cause serious trouble in the Lord's church if left unnoticed, untaught and unstudied. Issues, once considered dead, have a way of reviving, as witnessed by the resurrection of the issue of centralized church organization and control of church resources which is wreaking havoc in the church today. Premillennialists are also reviving. They are reorganizing, debating more, writing more, and in every way showing a renewal zeal in promulgating this erroneous theory. It is a time for studying and teaching again the truth on this deadly and dangerous heresy.

Premillennialism necessarily involves a study of Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah, and their New Testament fulfillment. Every prophecy of the Old Testament concerning the Messiah, his reign on David's throne, the nature of his kingdom, etc., finds fulfillment in Jesus Christ, his church and the New Testament scriptures.

One of the major arguments showing the falsity of the premillennial position is found in II Samuel 7:1-16. These verses, when properly understood, constitute abundant proof that Jesus Christ, not Solomon, is the "seed" spoken of who would establish the throne of David and David's kingdom forever. (Vs. 12). Adam Clarke, in his commentary on these passages, has done much to show their true meaning and, with but one or two minor exceptions, this writer believes his reasoning to be correct. His comments are here reprinted by permission of the Methodist Publishing House, Nashville, Tennessee, and our study of them will help us in understanding God's promise to David, the nature of David's everlasting kingdom, and of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, who now rules on David's throne over the kingdom promised in these verses Clarke says:

"This chapter is one of the most important in the Old Testament, and yet some of its most interesting verses are very improperly rendered in our translation; it therefore demands our most careful consideration. And, as in the course of these remarks I propose to consider and hope to explain, some of the prophecies descriptive of THE MESSIAH. which were fulfilled in JESUS CHRIST, among which prophecies that contained in this chapter is worthy of particular attention, I shall introduce it with a general statement of this great argument.

"It having pleased God that, between the time of a Messiah being promised and the time of his coming, there should be delivered by the prophets a variety of marks by which the Messiah was to be known, and distinguished from every other man; it was impossible for any one to prove himself the Messiah whose character did not answer to these marks; and it was necessary that all these criteria, thus divinely foretold, should he fulfilled in the character of Jesus Christ. That these prophetic descriptions of the Messiah were numerous, appears from Christ and his apostles. (Lk. 24:27.44; Acts 17:2,3; 28:23, etc.) who referred the Jews to the Old Testament as containing abundant evidence of his being THE MESSIAH, because he fulfilled all the prophecies descriptive of that singular character. The chief of these prophecies related to his being miraculously born of a virgin; the time and place of his birth; the tribe and family from which he was to descend; the miracles he was to perform; the manner of his preaching; his humility and mean appearance; the perfect innocence of his life; the greatness of his sufferings; the treachery of his betrayer; the circumstances of his trial; the nature of his death and burial; and his miraculous resurrection. Now amongst all the circumstances which form this chain of prophecy, the first reference made in the New Testament relates to his descent; for the New Testament begins with asserting that JESUS CHRIST was the son of David, the son of Abraham. As to the descent of Christ from ABRAHAM, everyone knows that Christ was born a Jew, and consequently descended from Jacob, the grandson of Abraham. And we all know that the promise given to Abraham concerning the Messiah is recorded in the history of David. It is remarkable that David's life is given more at large than that of any other person in the Old Testament; and can it be supposed that the historian omitted to record that promise which was more honorable to David than any other circumstance? The record of this promise, if written at all, must have been written in this chapter; in the message from God by Nathan to David, which is here inserted. Here, I am fully persuaded, the promise was, and still is, recorded; and the chief reason why our divines have so frequently missed it, or been so much perplexed about it, is owing to our very improper translation of the 10th and 14th verses.

"This wrong translation in a part of scripture so very interesting, has been artfully laid hold of, and expatiated upon splendidly, by the deistical author of The Ground and Reasons of the Christian Religion; who pretends to demonstrate that the promise of a Messiah could not be here recorded. His reasons, hitherto I believe unanswered, are there: 1. Because in verse 10, the prophet speaks of the future prosperity of the Jews, as to be afterwards fixed, and no more afflicted; which circumstances are totally repugnant to the fate of the Jews, as connected with the birth and death of Christ. 2. Because the son here promised was (verse 13) to build a house; which house, it is pretended, must mean the temple of Solomon; and of course Solomon must be the son here promised. 3. Because verse 14 supposes that this son might commit iniquity, which could not be supposed of the Messiah.

"The first of these objections is founded on our wrong translation of verse 10, where the words should be expressed as relating to the time past or present. For the prophet is there declaring what great things God had already done for David and his people; that he had raised David from the sheepfold to the throne; and that he had planted the Israelites in a place of safety, at rest from all those enemies who had so often before afflicted them. That the verbs vesamti and unetati, may be rendered in the time past or present, is allowed by our own translators; who here (verse 11) render vahanichothi, and have caused thee to rest, and also render vehiggid, and telleth; which construction, made necessary here by the context, might be confirmed by other proofs almost innumerable. The translation, therefore, should run thus: I took thee from the sheepcote; and have made thee a great name; and I HAVE APPOINTED a place for my people Israel; and HAVE PLANTED them, that they may dwell in a place of their own, and move no more. Neither DO the children of wickedness afflict them any more; as before-time, and as since the time that I commanded judges to be over Israel: and I HAVE CAUSED thee to rest from all thine enemies.

"Objection the second is founded on a mistake in the sense. David indeed has proposed to build a house for God, which God did not permit. Yet, approving the piety of David's intention God was pleased to reward it by promising that he would make a house for DAVID; which house to be thus erected by God, was certainly not material, or made of stones, but a spiritual house, or family, to be raised up for the honour of God, and the salvation of mankind. And this house, which God would make, was to be built by David's SEED; and this seed was to be raised up AFTER David slept with his fathers; which words clearly exclude Solomon, who was set up and placed upon the throne BEFORE David was dead. This building promised by God, was to be erected by one of David's descendants, who was also to be an everlasting king; and indeed the house and the kingdom were both of them to be established forever. Now that this house or spiritual building was to be set up, together with a kingdom, by the Messiah, is clear from Zechariah; who very emphatically says, (6:12-13) Behold the man whose name is The Branch; HE SHALL BUILD THE TEMPLE of the Lord. Even HE SHALL BUILD THE TEMPLE of the Lord; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his THRONE, etc. Observe also the language of the New Testament. In I Cor. 3:9-17, Paul says, Ye are God's BUILDING — Know ye not that YE are the temple of God — the temple of God is holy, which temple YE are. And the author of the epistle to the Hebrews seems to have his eye upon this very promise in Samuel concerning a son to David, and of the house which he should build; when he says, (3:6) CHRIST, AS A SON OVER HIS OWN HOUSE, WHOSE HOUSE ARE WE.

"As to the third and greatest difficulty, that also may be removed by a more just translation of verse 14; for the Hebrew words do not properly signify what they are now made to speak. It is certain that the principal word, behaavotho, is not the active infinitive of kal. It is also certain that a verb, which in the active voice signifies to commit iniquity, may, in the passive signify to suffer for iniquity; and hence it is that nouns from such verbs sometimes signify iniquity, sometimes punishment. The way being thus made clear, we are now prepared for abolishing our translation, if he commit iniquity; and also for adopting the true one, even in his suffering for iniquity. The Messiah, who is thus the person possibly here spoken of, will be made still more manifest from the whole verse thus translated: I will be his father, and he shall be my son: EVEN IN HIS SUFFERING FOR INIUITY, I shall chasten him with the rod of men, (with the rod due to men), and with the stripes (due to) the children of Adam. And this construction is well supported by Isaiah 53:4-5: He hath carried OUR SORROWS, (i. e. the sorrows due to us, and which we must otherwise have suffered), he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. Thus, then, God declares himself the Father of the Son here meant; (see also Heb. 1:5); and promises that, even amidst the sufferings of this Son, (as they would be for the sins of others, not for his own), his mercy should still attend him: nor should his favour be ever removed from this king, as it had been from Saul. And thus (as it follows) thine house (0 David) and thy kingdom shall, in Messiah, be established forever before ME: (before God): thy throne shall be established forever. Thus, the angel, delivering his message to the virgin mother, Luke 1:32-33, speaks as if he was quoting from this very prophecy: The Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David, and he shall reign over the house of Jacob FOREVER: and of his kingdom there shall be no end. In verse 16 lephaneycha is rendered as lephanai, on the authority of three Hebrew MSS., with the Greek and Syriac versions; and, indeed, nothing could be established forever in the presence of David, but in the presence of God only.

"Having thus shown that the words fairly admit here the promise made to David, that from his seed should arise Messiah, the everlasting king; it may be necessary to add that, if the Messiah be the person here meant, as suffering innocently for the sins of others, Solomon cannot be; nor can this be a prophecy admitting such double sense, or be applied properly to two such opposite characters . . . one reason is, because the description does not agree to Solomon; and therefore Solomon being necessarily excluded in a single sense, must also be excluded in a double. Lastly, if it would be universally held absurd to consider the promise of Messiah made to Abraham as relating to any other person besides Messiah; why is there not an equal absurdity in giving a double sense to the promise of Messiah thus made to David?

"Next to our present very improper translation, the cause of the common confusion here has been — not distinguishing the promise here made as to Messiah alone, from another made as to Solomon alone: the first brought by Nathan, the second by Gad; the first near the beginning of David's reign, the second near the end of it; the first relating to Messiah's spiritual kingdom, everlasting without conditions, the second relating to the fate of the temporal kingdom of Solomon, and his heirs, depending entirely on their obedience or rebellion, 1 Chron. 22:8-13, 28:7. Let the first message be compared with this second in I Chron. 22:8-13, which the Syriac version (at verse 8) tells us was delivered by a prophet, and the Arabian says by the prophet Gad. This second message was after David's many wars, when he had shed much blood; and it was this second message that, out of all David's sons, appointed Solomon to be his successor. At the time of the first message Solomon was not born; it being delivered soon after David became king at Jerusalem: but Solomon was born at the time of this second message. For though our translation very wrongly says. (I Chron. 22:9), a son SHALL be born to thee — and his name shall be Solomon; yet the Hebrew text expressly speaks of him as then born — Behold a son, (natus est), IS BORN to thee: and therefore the words following must be rendered, Solomon IS his name, and I will give peace in his days: he shall build a house for my name, etc.

"From David's address to God, after receiving the message by Nathan, it is plain that David understood the Son promised to be THE MESSIAH: in whom his house was to be established forever. But the words which seem most expressive of this are in this verse now rendered very unintelligibly: And is this the manner of man? (verse 19). Whereas the words vezoth torath haadam literally signify, and this is (or must be) the law of the man, or of the Adam; i.e., this promise must relate to the law or ordinance made by God to Adam, concerning the seed of the woman; the man, or the second Adam; as the Messiah is expressly called by Paul, I Cor. 15:45,47. This meaning will be yet more evident from the parallel place, I Chron. 17:17, where the words of David are now miserably rendered thus: And thou hast regarded me according to the estate of a man of high degree; whereas the words ureithani kethor haadam hammaalah literally signify, and thou haat regarded me according to the order of the ADAM THAT IS FUTURE, OR THE MAN THAT IS FROM ABOVE: (for the word hammaalah very remarkably signifies hereafter as to time, and from above as to place): and thus Paul, including both senses — THE SECOND MAN IS THE LORD FROM HEAVEN — and Adam is the figure of him that was to come, or the future, Rom. 5:14 . . . 'The speech of David (II Sam. 7:1829) is such as one might naturally expect from a person overwhelmed with the greatness of the promised blessing: for it is abrupt, full of wonder, and fraught with repetitions. And now what can David say unto thee? What, indeed! For thou Lord God knowest thy servant — thou knowest the hearts of all men, and seest how full my own heart is. For thy word's sake — for the sake of former prophecies, and according to thine own heart — from the mere motive of thy wisdom and goodness, hast thou done all these great things, to make thy servant know them. I now perceive the reason of those miraculous providences which have attended me from my youth up; taken from following the sheep, and conducted through all difficulties to be ruler of thy people; and shall I distrust the promise now made me? Thy words be true.' If the preceding remarks on this whole passage be just and well grounded, then may we see clearly the chief foundation of what Peter tells us (Acts 2:30) concerning DAVID: that 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, etc."