I Kings 8’s Transformation of II Samuel 7

I said yesterday that I would discuss how I Kings 8:15-29 interacts with II Samuel 7. This post is my meager attempt to do that, and I’ll be revisiting it as I prepare to write my paper.

Yesterday’s post was somewhat of a breakthrough in terms of my paper, for I got some clarity about what I want to accomplish. The class relates to Intertextuality, how one biblical text interacts with another biblical text. The intertextual part of my paper will occur when I discuss how I Kings 8:15-29 treats II Samuel 7. But part of my assignment is also to look at the Deuteronomic emendations of II Samuel 7 and I Kings 8:1-30. To identify a Deuteronomic emendation, I’ll need to write a section about Deuteronomic ideology, particularly the element that says God’s name dwells in the central sanctuary, meaning God himself does not literally live in a building. And, for that section, I should probably take a look at what Deuteronomy (and maybe the Deuteromistic History) has to say. So maybe I’ll need to do a little more work before my topic attains order, but I’m pleased that clarity is starting to emerge, at least in my own mind!

I use the NRSV.

I Kings 8:15-29
15 He said, “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who with his hand has fulfilled what he promised with his mouth to my father David, saying, 16 ‘Since the day that I brought my people Israel out of Egypt, I have not chosen a city from any of the tribes of Israel in which to build a house, that my name might be there; but I chose David to be over my people Israel.’ 17 My father David had it in mind to build a house for the name of the LORD, the God of Israel. 18 But the LORD said to my father David, ‘You did well to consider building a house for my name; 19 nevertheless you shall not build the house, but your son who shall be born to you shall build the house for my name.’ 20 Now the LORD has upheld the promise that he made; for I have risen in the place of my father David; I sit on the throne of Israel, as the LORD promised, and have built the house for the name of the LORD, the God of Israel. 21 There I have provided a place for the ark, in which is the covenant of the LORD that he made with our ancestors when he brought them out of the land of Egypt.” 22 Then Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands to heaven. 23 He said, “O LORD, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and steadfast love for your servants who walk before you with all their heart, 24 the covenant that you kept for your servant my father David as you declared to him; you promised with your mouth and have this day fulfilled with your hand. 25 Therefore, O LORD, God of Israel, keep for your servant my father David that which you promised him, saying, ‘There shall never fail you a successor before me to sit on the throne of Israel, if only your children look to their way, to walk before me as you have walked before me.’ 26 Therefore, O God of Israel, let your word be confirmed, which you promised to your servant my father David. 27 “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Even heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, much less this house that I have built! 28 Regard your servant’s prayer and his plea, O LORD my God, heeding the cry and the prayer that your servant prays to you today; 29 that your eyes may be open night and day toward this house, the place of which you said, ‘My name shall be there,’ that you may heed the prayer that your servant prays toward this place.

According to P. Kyle McCarter, the earliest document in II Samuel 7 says that David wants to build God a house, so God rewards David by promising to build David a house: a royal dynasty. In this earliest document, the “offspring” is collective and refers to Solomon and David’s descendants. Then, a prophetic voice inserted a portion that said God never wanted to live in a temple in the first place. Finally, the Deuteronomist puts in the brief remark that Solomon would build a house for God’s name (v 13).

Later this week, I may discuss whether this division of sources is necessarily true, or if there is another plausible way to see the chapter. But I’ll go with it in this post. As I said yesterday, I Kings 8:15-29 has themes that McCarter labels as Deuteronomic. For McCarter, the Deuteronomist inserted v 13 into II Samuel 7, and v 13 says that David’s son will build a house for God’s name. In I Kings 8:15-29, that’s the message that is emphasized: God has fulfilled the promise that he made to David in II Samuel 7, for Solomon has built a temple for God’s name. A brief Deuteronomic verse in II Samuel 7 becomes the main idea of I Kings 8:15-29.

In I Kings 8’s interpretation of II Samuel 7, everything in II Samuel 7 is subordinated to that particular theme. In II Samuel 7, we see the following order:

1. David feels bad about living in a palace and wants to build God a temple.
2. Nathan tells David “Go for it!”
3. Nathan then says that God doesn’t want David to build a temple, since God never wanted a temple, from the time of the Exodus.
4. God promises to build David a house, or a perpetual dynasty.
5. v 13 says Solomon will build the house for God’s name.
6. Vv 14-15 say that God will discipline David’s son but will never remove his love from him, as God did with Saul, presumably by ending his dynasty. These verses may refer to David’s dynasty in general, to Solomon specifically, or to both. God disciplined Solomon for his sins, yet God did not remove his dynasty, for descendants of David continued to rule. Throughout the Deuteromistic History is the statement that God kept a descendant of David on the throne for David’s sake, despite the Davidic king’s sin. Meanwhile, God ended dynasties in his punishment of Northern Israel.
7. After God’s reaffirmation that David’s dynasty will last forever, David thanks God and discusses God’s intervention on behalf of Israel, from the Exodus through the Conquest.

In I Kings 8:15-29, the primary focus is that God is fulfilling his promise because Solomon is building a house for God’s name. We see the following order:

1. Solomon says that God has fulfilled his promise to David that very day.
2. Solomon quotes God as saying that, from the time of the Exodus, God did not pick a city for a temple, but God did choose David to be over Israel.
3. Solomon then says that David wanted to build a house for God’s name.
4. According to Solomon, God then told David that his desire was good, but David would not build the house. Rather, Solomon would.
5. Solomon affirms that this promise is being fulfilled at that moment, since Solomon is dedicating the temple that he just built.
6. Solomon asks God to confirm his promise to David that he might have a perpetual dynasty, provided David’s children obey God.
7. Solomon reaffirms that God will not live in a house, but he asks God to listen to prayers made at the temple.

In II Samuel 7, the emphasis is “David wanted to build God a house, so God will build David a house, a perpetual dynasty.” In I Kings 8, the focus is, “Solomon has built the temple in fulfillment of God’s promise, so may God grant David his perpetual dynasty, which he also promised.”

II Samuel 7 has David wanting to build a temple and God responding that he never wanted a temple in the first place. But II Kings 8 reverses the order and somewhat nullifies the prophetic, anti-temple voice of II Samuel 7. Solomon says that God has fulfilled his promise to David, presumably that Solomon would build the temple, then he quotes some version of the anti-temple passage. Solomon says that, from the Exodus, God never picked a city for a temple where he could place his name, but he did choose David. The implication seems to be, “God never picked a city for his name…until now.” The anti-temple spiel also precedes David wanting to build the temple and being denied by God. It ceases to be God’s answer for why David shouldn’t build the temple and becomes an introduction to the story of David wanting to build the temple, being denied by God, and being told that Solomon would do it instead.

I’ll leave it here. Until next time!

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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