Is the house of David good, and how is Jesus a part of it?

Q. Is the house of David good, and how is Jesus a part of it?

The expression “house of David” has several figurative meanings in the Bible.

It can mean, first of all, the descendants of David. That is what the expression means when the Bible says that “Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David.” Jonathan, David’s friend, made a covenant with him that he would always help and protect his descendants, and David promised the same thing to Jonathan. That is also what the expression means when Luke uses it to describe Joseph as a descendant of David: He says that Joseph “belonged to the house and line of David.”

The “house of David” can also mean all the people over whom David ruled as king. That is how the Bible uses the expression as it describes how David and his supporters fought against Ish-Bosheth, the son of Saul, to see who would be confirmed as king: “The war between the house of Saul and the house of David lasted a long time.”

But most often the expression refers to the royal dynasty of David, that is, the line of kings descended from David who succeeded him on the throne of Israel and then Judah. For example, a prophet said at one point, “A son named Josiah will be born to the house of David.” This meant, “A son named Josiah will be born in the line of succession in David’s royal dynasty.” God himself used the word “house” to mean “dynasty” when he told David, “The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you.”

At a certain point the kingdom that David ruled ceased to exist on earth. However, since God had promised to David, “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever,” the people of God expected that God would send a descendant of David—the Messiah—to re-establish his kingdom.

And Christians believe that Jesus is that Messiah. He is part of the “house of David” specifically by being a descendant of David (reckoned through his legal father Joseph) who came to claim the throne of David and re-establish his kingdom. The angel Gabriel told Mary, the mother of Jesus, “The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David.” The crowds on the first Palm Sunday greeted Jesus by saying, “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” They did not understand exactly how Jesus would renew David’s kingdom—Jesus did that in a spiritual sense, at least initially—but they understood correctly that he was the one would would do it.

So the house of David is good. It is ultimately the Messiah, the supreme successor of David’s dynasty, who will bring his rule of justice and peace to earth. And Jesus is part of the house of David by being that successor, the Messiah. He is already ruling in heaven with effects on earth, and we look forward to his return to establish justice and peace definitively throughout the earth.

Author: Christopher R Smith

The Rev. Dr. Christopher R. Smith is an an ordained minister, a writer, and a biblical scholar. He was active in parish and student ministry for twenty-five years. He was a consulting editor to the International Bible Society (now Biblica) for The Books of the Bible, an edition of the New International Version (NIV) that presents the biblical books according to their natural literary outlines, without chapters and verses. His Understanding the Books of the Bible study guide series is keyed to this format. He was also a consultant to Tyndale House for the Immerse Bible, an edition of the New Living Translation (NLT) that similarly presents the Scriptures in their natural literary forms, without chapters and verses or section headings. He has a B.A. from Harvard in English and American Literature and Language, a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and a Ph.D. in the History of Christian Life and Thought, with a minor concentration in Bible, from Boston College, in the joint program with Andover Newton Theological School.

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