Here is an unconditional promise: "Your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever" (verse 16). Speaking of Solomon, David's son who was later to build the Temple his father had proposed (verses 12-13), God says that His "mercy shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from before you" (verse 15).
The prophet Jeremiah reaffirms that David's throne will rule Israel, and will do so forever: "For thus says the LORD: 'David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel'" (Jeremiah 33:17). Jeremiah's prophecy, which in context is part of a prophecy about Israel in the Millennium, emphasizes that there will always be a monarch ruling "the house of Israel." David's throne, the authority of his dynasty, is not limited to the tribe of Judah, whence David himself sprang, but extends over the entire house of Israel (see also II Chronicles 5:2). We should not expect, therefore, to find David's dynasty in a Gentile nation; God says it will rule Israel.
The promise of an eternal throne—an everlasting dynasty—is a reaffirmation of what Jacob by faith had come to understand centuries before. Speaking of Judah's descendents in the "last days," he prophesied that "the scepter shall not depart from Judah" (Genesis 49:10). There would be a period of time when Judah would not bear rule. However, once God placed the scepter in Judah's hand, we can expect that the house of David would rule ever after. Clearly, God placed the scepter in David's hand. We can therefore count on David's dynasty to rule over Israel in perpetuity.
The same faith that worked in Jacob was at work in David when he speaks confidently of God's steadfast love to his posterity. In Psalm 89:35-37, David says that God has "sworn by My holiness; I will not lie to David: His seed shall endure forever, and His throne as the sun before Me; it shall be established forever like the moon, even like the faithful witness in the sky. Selah."
God's promise of power to David and His promise of wealth to Joseph are not contradictory, for there is an important distinction between the birthright and the scepter. As we saw in the previous issue, God chose Joseph—specifically, Ephraim and Manasseh—to be the recipients of the great physical blessings associated with the birthright. We see this specifically in Jacob's blessing of Joseph's boys, recorded in Genesis 48:12-20, as well as the blessings listed in Deuteronomy 33:13-17. To use Jacob's words, the birthright blessing would be "up to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills" (Genesis 49:26). This is a promise of great wealth and prosperity.
God chose Judah, however, to serve as the scepter tribe, that is, the tribe that would bear rule over the descendants of Abraham. The psalmist Asaph writes that God "rejected the tent of Joseph, and did not choose the tribe of Ephraim, but chose the tribe of Judah, Mount Zion which He loved" (Psalm 78:67-68).
Asaph pinpoints David as the first king to come out of Judah: "He also chose David His servant, and took him from the sheepfolds; from following the ewes that had young He brought him, to shepherd Jacob His people, and Israel His inheritance" (verses 70-71).
Searching for Israel (Part Four): The Kingdom and the Key
When God promised David He would establish his throne forever, He also stipulated that, if his son sinned, He would "chasten him with the rod of men" (II Samuel 7:14). The word son refers not only to Solomon but also to any of David's descendants who would become king over Israel. Around 975 BC, Solomon died, having ruled Israel in unparalleled splendor for forty years (I Kings 11:42). "And Rehoboam his son reigned in his place" (I Kings 11:43).
Now was the time for chastening. God, having responded to Solomon's apostasy by committing Himself to ripping a part of his kingdom from his descendants, looked about for a suitable ruler of the remaining tribes. He found Jeroboam, a talented and ambitious Ephraimite whom Solomon had years before placed in charge of Joseph's labor force (I Kings 11:28). God, apparently recognizing potential in Jeroboam, made him two promises through the prophet Ahijah (I Kings 11:35-39). One of these promises is conditional, while the other is unconditional.
» Unconditional promise: "I will tear the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon and will give ten tribes to you" (verse 31). God goes on to explain that He will leave one tribe, Judah, under the Davidic monarchy in order "that My servant David may always have a lamp before Me in Jerusalem" (verse 36). God did this to honor His promise to David that He would "establish the throne of [Solomon's] kingdom forever" (II Samuel 7:12-13). Christ, the last King, descended from Judah and will sit on that throne forever.
» Conditional promise: ". . . if you heed all that I command you, walk in My ways, and do what is right in My sight, to keep My statutes and My commandments, as My servant David did, then I will be with you and build for you an enduring house, as I built for David, and will give Israel to you" (I Kings 11:38). This is a remarkable promise. God says He will establish in Jeroboam a permanent dynasty over ten tribes if he keeps His covenant.
Searching for Israel (Part Five): Solomon and the Divided Kingdom