God’s Kingdom Through His Priest-King

Though many studies have probed the significance of the Davidic Covenant (2 Sam 7:1-17) within the biblical canon, few have endeavoured to explore its significance within the narrative of Samuel. The various allusions to the Davidic Covenant woven throughout the books of Samuel suggested to the author of this thesis that it would be profitable to explore the text of Samuel with the following question in mind, “how has the author of 1 and 2 Samuel used the Davidic Covenant to fulfill his narrative purpose?” This thesis presents the findings of such a query: it is argued that by weaving references to God’s promises made to David (collectively known as the Davidic Covenant) throughout his narrative, the author of Samuel reveals God’s will to strip away all human pretension by bringing His promises to fulfillment through the lowly David, whose ascension to kingship and endurance therein is owing all to God. In this way, the author fulfills his purpose to demonstrate God’s sovereign working in history to establish His kingdom on earth through His chosen priest-king, a descendant of David, in fulfillment of the promises He made beforehand.

Setting aside historical and text-critical issues for the most part, this thesis presents a close reading of the passages in Samuel where allusions to the Davidic covenant are found, expounding the influence the covenant promises have on the surrounding narrative. Chapter 1 considers 2 Samuel 7, chapter 2 the Davidic Covenant as it appears in the account of God’s promises unfolding (1 Sam 1 – 2 Sam 5), and chapter 3 the Davidic Covenant as it appears in the account of God’s promises being tested (2 Sam 8-24). In the fourth chapter, the threads of this exegesis are brought together in a synopsis of the book of Samuel, presenting an outline of the book and an overview of its overall purpose, themes, style, and canonical placement (thus, a literary-canonical synopsis).

Endorsements

In the present environment of high interest in the Book of Samuel, this contribution by James Rutherford is most welcome. Rutherford is well versed in current scholarship on Samuel, but his work moves well beyond this scholarship to contribute fresh insights, not least in respect of the priestly character of King David. And concerning its structure, Rutherford argues that the Book of Samuel as a whole is arranged and narrated so as to draw attention to the centrality of the Davidic Covenant of 2 Samuel 7. Having myself studied 1 and 2 Samuel for decades now, I was nevertheless benefitted at numerous points from Rutherford’s creative interpretive suggestions. His is a work well conceived, well written, and worthy of a serious read.

– V. Philips Long, Professor of Old Testament, Regent College (Retired)

This thesis argues that by weaving references to God’s promises made to King David throughout his narrative, the author of Samuel reveals God’s will to strip away all human pretension by bringing his promises to fulfillment through a lowly man whose ascension to kingship and endurance therein is entirely owing to God. In this way, the Samuel author fulfils his purpose of demonstrating God’s sovereign working in history to establish his kingdom on earth through his chosen priest-king, a descendant of David. The thesis represents an excellent piece of work that does a great job of bringing together into one coherent argument, focused on the Davidic covenant, much of the best recent narrative-critical research on 1-2 Samuel, and from this point of view represents a distinctive contribution to the field of Samuel studies.

– Iain Provan, Marshall Sheppard Professor of Biblical Studies, Regent College