A few weeks ago I completed my first quarter at Iliff School of Theology. One of the first things I studied was the old testament, “Hebrew Bible I.” Which explains the reason for picking this text this week. I’ve already studied this text and have an idea of its history…yes, I’m taking the easy way out! Going with what I already know…
What I do know is that 2 Samuel 7 is part of the Deuteronomistic History, which is the books of Joshua, Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel and 1 & 2 Kings. These books are “history books,” maybe not exactly like we would find in history class but they do tell the history of Israel and Judah from the time the Hebrews entered Canaan until the Babylonian exile in 586 BCE. These books even have citations like a good history book should (The Chronicles of the Kings of Judah, The Chronicles of the Kings of Israel, The Chronicles of Solomon, The Chronicles of the Kings of Media and Persia…etc.)
2 Samuel 7
King David moved the capital and the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem in 2 Samuel 6. In 2 Samuel 7, David has moved into his new kingly palace and tells Nathan, his prophet, that he would like to build a house for God. Nathan, saying “go for it,” but God does not approve, so they put the building of the temple on hold for later generations. God establishes the Davidic dynasty, the ancestors of David will always be king over Israel.
It is interesting that David wants to build a temple for God but God very clearly says “no.” God never asked for a temple, he didn’t want one (2 Samuel 5-7).
Did you know that Homer Simpson bought Marge a bowling ball for her birthday one year? With his name on it, of course. The gift was not for her, not really. I am sure I’ve done it, bought a gift for someone, a gift that I fell in love with…but failed to actually consider if the receiver would love it. I know I’ve received gifts that the giver loved but…ya, I know how Marge felt! Maybe this “gift” of a house for God was the same. God said no, God didn’t need a temple, never asked for one…God was not interested.
If we only had verses 5-7, we would know that God did not want a “house.” But that is not all we have, we also have verse 13…”[your child] will build a house to honor me.” Did God not want a temple or did he not want David to build it for him? It is a little confusing. The different voices from different times comes through this text. One voice is clear, “no temple”. Another voice, later in the tradition probably, comes through and adds “yet.” “No temple, yet.”
Even in these few short versus, the depth and complexity of this text shines through. A temple was not just voted upon, built and accepted by all people through all Israel’s history. There is a wrestling here in the text, questions that people are asking.
- Where will God live now that we have settled in our new land?
- Who has access to God (Royal Ideology)?
- How do we, as the Hebrew people, live in our land as a United Kingdom?
Add to that…the authors/editors that pulled these books together into their final form
What do you write now that you are in exile…away from your temple and land? How does a historian write about their history, and promises made, while living in the present, with seemingly broken promises?
Add to that…the fact that this is a couple of thousand years later!
How do we read this text today? Knowing that a temple was built, destroyed, rebuilt, and destroyed again? Hearing the stories of Jesus, from the line of David, the anointed one, do we hear “your throne will be established forever” and hear, not the story of an ancient people, but instead our story? The story of Christ?
We wrestle with the things of God all the time. Is it really a surprise that thousands of years ago, they wrestled too? For me, it makes these people more real, it makes God more real.