A Look at the Eternal Son of David
When it comes to the question as to whether Jesus is the Messiah, both Christians and Jewish people agree that the Messiah has to be a descendant of David. The area of disagreement is when Christians make the claim that Jesus is the divine, Son of God. What Christians tend to forget is that when Jewish people think of the Davidic King as the Son of God, it has very little to do with thinking the Son of God is the second person of the Trinity. In other words, at the time of Jesus, “Son of God” didn’t necessarily denote divinity. Even though divine sonship appears in the Jewish Scriptures with regards to persons or people groups such as angels (Gen 6:2; Job 1:6; Dan 3:25), and Israel (Ex. 4:22-23; Hos 11;1; Mal. 2:10), the category that has special importance to the Son of God issue is the Davidic king. While God promised that Israel would have an earthly king (Gen. 17: 6; 49:6; Deut.17: 14-15), he also promised David that one of his descendants would rule on his throne forever (2 Sam.7:12-17; 1 Chr.17:7-15). In other words, David’s line would eventually reach it’s climax in the birth of a person who would guarantee David’s dynasty, and throne forever. Here we see a promise of a coming king:
“When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me; when he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men, but My lovingkindness shall not depart from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever.” In accordance with all these words and all this vision, so Nathan spoke to David.”-2 Samuel 7: 12-17.
Note the promise that there will always be a king on the Davdic throne. If we think of a king that will reign forever, “Eternity” here can’t be an attribute of the individual kings. After all, Davidic kings die. It is the line of these kings that is “eternal.” Thus, the promise that David will never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel” takes us to Romans 1:1-5:
Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints:Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
The promises to be fulfilled after the death of David are also three: (1) an eternal house, (2) kingdom, and (3) throne. There are two ways in which God could give David an eternal house. It could be that every descendant would be successful in producing a male heir—something which has always created problems for every human royal house. Or it could be that someday, a descendant would be born who would never die. According to the New Testament, this is what happened: the eternal house/seed is fulfilled in Jesus Christ, a descendant of David who according to his resurrection is an eternal person.(1)
Regarding the Romans text, Paul says through the resurrection, Jesus is installed (by God) as the Son of God (Rom. 1:4). Paul is not saying Jesus is being appointed as The Son of God is a change in Jesus’ essence. Thus, Jesus is “designated” or “declared” as the Son of God, the Lord—the anti-type of the previous “sons” in the Old Testament (Adam, David, Israel).”4 Paul’s goes on to reference Jesus as the incarnate Son who dies and is raised from the dead (see Rom. 5:10; 8:3, 29, 32; Gal. 1:16; 4:4–6; Col. 1:13; 1 Thess. 1:10).
The lesson here is that God keeps his promises. May we have a greater appreciation of the Davidic King!
1. P.J. Gentry and S.J. Wellum, Kingdom through Covenant: A Biblical-Theological Understanding of the Covenants (Wheaton: Crossway. 2012), 421.
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