The Davidic Monarchy in Jerusalem (III):Why Can't David Build the House of God (Part I)

  • Rav Yitzchak Levy
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Jerusalem in the Bible
Yeshivat Har Etzion


sHIUR #04:

THe Davidic monarchy in Jerusalem (III)

Why can't David build the House of GOd (part I)

Rav Yitzchak Levi

 

 

            In the previous shiur we dealt with David's bringing the Ark up to Jerusalem. Now, after the Ark has been housed in a tent in the City of David, the next stage arrives: David's request to build the house of God. God, however, answers David in the negative, that he cannot build the Temple. In this shiur we will try to examine some of the reasons.

 

I.          Permanent House for the Kingdom of flesh and blood – condition for building a permanent house for the Shekhina

 

We have already seen in various contexts how Chazal describe David and Shemuel as sitting in Nayot in the Rama (during the period when, according to the plain sense of the biblical text, David had escaped from Shaul who was trying to kill him), engaged in the beauty (noy) of the world – seeking the site of the Temple (Zevachim 54b). This search, conducted at a time that David was still very far from actual kingship (though he had already been anointed king), without a doubt teaches us that David's kingdom was rooted in the desire to connect his kingdom to the Temple. It is no surprise then that immediately after conquering Jerusalem, David brings the Ark up to Jerusalem and asks for permission to begin at once with the construction of God's Temple.

 

The timing of David's request is also understandable. Scripture testifies that God granted David rest from all his enemies (II Shemuel 7:1). David assumes, therefore, that the time has come to fulfill what is stated in Parashat Re'ei: "When He gives you to rest from all your enemies round about, so that you dwell in safety; then there shall be a place which the Lord your God shall choose to cause His name to dwell there; there shall you bring of that I command you…" (Devarim 12:10-11). Following his victory over the Philistines and his bringing up of the Ark to Jerusalem, David sits in his house and senses that circumstances testify that the time is right to come "to the rest and the inheritance."

 

The Midrash in Pesikta Rabbati 6 states:

 

Another explanation: "Do you see a man diligent in his business" (Mishlei 22:29) this is Shelomo. In what business? In the business of the Temple. You find that when he built his own house, he built it for thirteen years. But when he built the Temple he built it for seven years. "And it came to pass at the end of twenty years, etc." (I Melakhim 9:10), and similarly "And in the eleventh year, in the month Bul" (Ibid. 6:38), "But Shelomo spent thirteen years in building his own house" (Ibid. 7:1). Anyone who hears that he spent thirteen years building his own house and seven years building God's Temple, might think that his own house was larger than that of the Holy One, blessed be He. This is not so, but rather he was lazy about his own house, but about the house of the Holy One, blessed be He, he was not lazy. And furthermore, he put the glory of the Holy One, blessed be He, before his own glory. Therefore, Natan says to his father: "Shall you build Me a house" (II Shemuel 7:5), and elsewhere it says: "You shall not build" (I Divrei Ha-yamim 17:4). He said to him: You put your glory before My glory, for [only] when you saw yourself sitting in a house of cedars did you ask to build the Temple: "The king said to Natan the prophet, See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the Ark of God dwells within curtain" (II Shemuel 7:2; I Divrei Ha-yamim 17:1). But Shelomo puts My glory before his own glory: "And in the eleventh year, in the month Bul, was the house finished throughout all its parts, and according to all the fashion of it" (I Melakhim 6:38). And afterwards: "But Shelomo spent [thirteen years in] building his own house" (Ibid. 7:1). And because he displayed alacrity in the building of the Temple, he merited joining with the righteous kings.

 

            From the parallel between David and Shelomo, the Midrash learns that David had put his own glory before that of God, in that he built his own house before God's Temple. This criticism brings us back to the issue of the proper relationship between human kingdom and the kingdom of God.

 

            We have already noted previously that David formulates his request to build the Temple as a request to build a permanent house for the Ark, because from his perspective, the primary function of the Temple is causing the Shekhina to rest in the Ark, and it cannot be that he should live in a royal palace made of cedar trees when the Ark resides in a temporary dwelling. As stated above, the bottom line is that David was answered in the negative. [1] We shall now try to understand the content of God's answer, focusing on the prophecy in II Shemuel 7:5-15 (the answer appears also in I Divrei Ha-yamim 17 with slight changes:

 

Go and tell My servant David, Thus says the Lord, shall you build me a house for Me to dwell in? For I have not dwelt in any house since that time I brought up the Children of Israel out of Egypt, even to this day, but I have walked in a tent and in a tabernacle. In all the places where I have walked with all the Children of Israel, did I speak a word with any of the rulers of Israel, whom I commanded as shepherds of My people Israel, saying, Why do you not build me a house of cedar?

Now therefore so shall you say to my servant David, Thus says the Lord of hosts, I took you from the sheepfold, from following the sheep, to be ruler over My people, over Israel: And I was with you wherever you did go, and have cut off all your enemies out of your sight, and have made you a great name, like the name of the great men that are on the earth. Moreover I have appointed a place for My people, Israel, and planted them, that they may dwell in a place of their own, and be troubled no more: neither shall the children of wickedness torment them any more, as at the beginning, and as since the time that I commanded judges to be over My people Israel; but I will give you rest from all your enemies, and the Lord will tell you that He will make you a house. And when your days are fulfilled, and you shall sleep with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who shall issue from your bowels, and I will establish his kingdom.

He shall build a house for My name, and I will make firm the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be his father, and he will be My son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with such plagues as befall the sons of Adam: but My covenant love shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Shaul, whom I put away before you.

 

            The guiding word in the chapter is "house," which is repeated fifteen times in different senses: the house of the king, the house of God, and the royal dynasty. Later we shall try to understand the inner connection between these different meanings.

 

            The chapter is divided into three sections:

 

Section I vv. 5-7

God does not need a house.

Section II vv. 8-12

God's actions on behalf of David, a promise to establish a royal dynasty for David.

Section III vv. 13-15

David's desire will be materialized through his son who will build a house for God.

 

In the first section it is stated that God has no need whatsoever for a permanent house; during the period of Israel's sojourn in the wilderness He walked in a tent and a tabernacle, never asking for a house of cedars. Clearly, the intention is not that God has no interest whatsoever in a permanent house, for in the third section he informs David that his son will build a Temple. God's criticism relates to the timing of the building, the circumstances in which it will take place, and the identity of the builder, which will all be spelled out in the continuation of the prophecy.

 

It seems that the rhetorical question in verse 5 – "Thus says the Lord, shall you build me a house for Me to dwell in?"[2] – comes to negate the possibility of the king thinking that in his great goodness and lovingkindness, he will "arrange" a house for God. God has no desire at all for such a house. Part of the solution to this problem is the joint construction of the Temple by two kings, David and Shelomo, each one contributing his part; thus the situation will be avoided in which one king will "grant" God a place through the strength of his kingdom. [3]

 

The second section details the acts of lovingkindness that God had performed for David and Israel: taking David from the sheepfold to be ruler over Israel, his victories and fame, appointing a place for Israel and granting them rest from their enemies. Here Scripture continues: "And the Lord will tell you that He will make you a house. And when your days are fulfilled, and you shall sleep with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who shall issue from your bowels, and I will establish his kingdom" (vv. 11-12). Whereas in the first section Scripture explains why God has no need whatsoever for a house, in the second section it explains that instead of the house that David wishes to build for God, God will establish for David a permanent royal dynasty, and thus a permanent monarchal house will be build for him. In other words, David's request to build a permanent house for God earns David a permanent royal dynasty. [4]

 

In the third section it is stated that David's son will build God's house, and God will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. Here for the first time, and as reward for his request to build a house for God, David is promised an everlasting kingdom and that his son will build the Temple. It seems then that a condition for building God's house is the building of a house – a permanent royal dynasty – for David.

 

Rav Mordekhai Sabbato has demonstrated [5] that two seemingly contradictory principles are being applied here. One principle is described by the Midrash as follows:

 

Rabbi Yirmiya bar Rabbi Elazar said, "In the future a heavenly voice will ring out at the top of the mountains, saying: Whoever acted with God, let him come and receive his reward… The holy spirit says: 'Who has a claim on Me from before, that I should repay him?' (Iyyov 41:3). Who praised Me before I gave him a soul; who spoke in honor of My name before I gave him a male child; who built a parapet for Me before I gave him a roof; who affixed a ezuzah for Me before I gave him a house; who built Me a sukka, before I gave him the place; who prepared a lulav for Me before I gave him the money; who made tzitzit for Me before I gave him a shawl; who set aside pei'a before Me before I gave him a field; who set aside teruma for Me before I gave him a threshing floor; who set aside challa for Me before I gave him dough; who set aside a sacrifice for Me before I gave him an animal. (Vayikra Rabba 27, 2)

 

According to this principle, God will not receive a house from David before He builds a house for him. On the other hand, there is the principle of measure for measure: David will not receive a house from God before he builds Him a house. God, however, joins good intentions to deeds, and so in practice the order of events was as follows: David asked to build a house for God, God built a house for David, and David's son built a house for God.

 

Psalm 132 in Tehillim also deals with our issue:

 

A Ma'I poem. Lord, remember to David's favor all his afflictions: how he swore to the Lord, and vowed to the mighty God of Ya'akov. Surely I will not come into the tabernacle of my house, nor go up into my bed; I will not give sleep to my eyes, slumber to my eyelids, until I find out a place for the Lord, a habitation for the mighty One of Yaakov. Lo, we hear of it at Efrat: we found it in Sede-Ya'ar. We will go into His dwelling places; we will worship at His footstool. Arise, O Lord, to Your resting place; You, and the Ark of Your strength. Let Your priests be clothed with righteousness; and let Your pious ones shout for joy. For Your servant David's sake do not turn away the face of Your anointed.

The Lord has sworn in truth to David; he will not turn from it. One of the sons of your body will I set upon your throne. If your children will keep My covenant and My testimony that I shall teach them, their children shall also sit upon your throne for evermore. For the Lord has chosen Zion: He has desired it for His habitation. This is My resting place forever; here will I dwell, for I have desired it. I will abundantly bless her provisions: I will satisfy her poor with bread. I will also clothe her priests with salvation, and her pious ones shall shout aloud for joy. There will I make the horn of David to shoot up; I have set up a lamp for My anointed. His enemies I will clothe with shame, but upon himself his crown will flourish.

 

            The psalm describes two parallel oaths. The first section opens with David's oath to God and describes his efforts to find a site for God's Temple; the second section records God's oath to David (in response to his efforts) to grant him an everlasting kingdom.

 

            There are many internal parallels between the two sections: "Until I find out a place for the Lord" (v. 5) – "For the Lord has chosen Zion" (v. 13); "Arise, O Lord, to Your resting place" (v. 8) – "This is My resting place forever" (v. 14); "Let Your priests be clothed with righteousness" (v. 9) – "I will also clothe her priests with salvation" (v. 16); "For Your servant David's sake do not turn away the face of Your anointed" (v. 10) – "There will I make the horn of David to shoot up" (v. 17). In the second section itself there is also a parallel between, "Their children shall also sit upon your throne for evermore" (v. 12) and, "This is My resting place forever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it" (v. 15). And here too, as in II Shemuel 7, the promise regarding the permanence of David's kingdom precedes the selection of the site of the Temple:

 

The Lord has sworn in truth to David; he will not turn from it. One of the sons of your body will I set upon your throne.

If your children will keep My covenant and My testimony that I shall teach them, their children shall also sit upon your throne for evermore.

For the Lord has chosen Zion: He has desired it for His habitation.

 

WHY IS THE CONSTRUCTION OF A PERMANENT HOUSE FOR GOD CONDITIONED ON THE ESTABLISHMENT  OF A PERMANENT ROYAL HOUSE IN ISRAEL?

 

1.         the kingdom of Israel – the throne of GOd's kingdom in the world

 

The first answer is that the kingdom of Israel allows for the revelation of God's kingdom in the world. The verse that best illustrates this principle relates to Shelomo: "And Shelomo sat on the throne of the Lord as king instead of David his father" (I Divrei Ha-yamim 29:23); the king of Israel sits on God's throne. The kingdom of Israel is itself God's throne, the instrument of sovereignty through which God's kingdom in the word is revealed – and therefore it must precede the building of God's house.

 

2.         Appointment of a king – wiping out of Amalek – construction of the temple

 

Many sources describe the fulfillment of the collective obligations in the Land of Israel in the following order: appointment of a king, wiping out of Amalek, and construction of the Temple.[6] Thus we find in Sifrei to Parashat Re'ei:

 

"But when you traverse the Jordan and dwell in the land" (Devarim 12:10). Rabbi Yehuda says: Three commandments were given to Israel when they entered the Land: to appoint a king, to build a Temple, and to wipe out the seed of Amalek. I do not know which comes first: whether to appoint a king, or to build the Temple, or to destroy the seed of Amalek. Therefore the verse states: "Because the Lord has sworn by His throne that the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation" (Shemot 17:16). After the king sits on the throne of God, you destroy the seed of Amalek. And from where do we know that the throne of God is the king? As it is stated: "And Shelomo sat on the throne of the Lord as king" (I Divrei Ha-yamim 29:23). But I still don't know what comes first – to build the Temple or to destroy the seed of Amalek. Therefore the verse states: "Which the Lord your God gives you to inherit" (Devarim 12:10), and it says: "And it came to pass, when the king sat in his house, and the Lord had given him rest round about," and it says: "The king said to Natan the prophet, See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the Ark of God dwells within curtain" (II Shemuel 7:1-2). (Sifrei Devarim, 67).

 

            In other words, first an earthly kingdom must be established; through the power of that kingdom, Amalek must be wiped out, and peace achieved; and then the time to build the Temple will arrive.

 

3.         Kingdom – Touching eternity

 

Since the Temple (in comparison to the Mishkan) is God's permanent and eternal house, it can only be built by a permanent and eternal earthly kingdom, and the permanence of human kingdom expresses itself in a royal dynasty.[7]

 

Thus writes the Malbim on Tehillim 132:10:

 

For choosing the Temple for His eternal habitation was for the sake of David and because of his merit, and it was by virtue of his service of God and because he had been chosen and anointed. As it is stated: "I have found David My servant; with My holy oil have I anointed him" (Tehillim 89:21). Only afterwards comes the verse regarding the choosing of Zion, "For the Lord has chosen Zion: He has desired it for His habitation." For the choice of the seed of David was for the purpose of choosing Zion.

 

            It is interesting to note that when God reveals Himself to Shelomo in the second night vision, following the dedication of the Temple (I Melakhim 9:2-9), He also draws a connection between the kingdom of Shelomo and the resting of the Shekhina in the Temple:

 

And the Lord said to him, I have heard your prayer and your supplication, that you have made before Me: I have hallowed this house, which you have built, to put My name there for ever; and My eyes and My heart shall be there perpetually. And if you will walk before Me, as David your father walked, in integrity of heart, and in uprightness, to do according to all that I have commanded you, and will keep My statutes and My judgments. Then I will establish the throne of Your kingdom upon Israel for ever, as I promised to David your father, saying, There shall not fail you a man upon the throne of Israel. (Ibid. vv. 3-5)

 

            God promises that if Shelomo will conduct himself in according with His statutes and judgments, his kingdom over Israel will be established forever, and God will forever rest His name in the house that Shelomo had built for him. If, however, he fails to keep those laws – neither of these promises will be fulfilled (as is stated there in the continuation).

 

4.         Kingdom – unity that allows for the resting of God's Shekhina

 

Last year (in Lesson #20 – "Jerusalem During the Period of Conquest and Settlement (part I) – The Status of Jerusalem and of the Temple During this Period"), we saw the Rambam's position that the construction of the Temple is conditioned upon the unity of the people, and that of the Radak who conditions it on the kingdom. We see then that a unifying kingdom is a condition for the revelation of the site of the Temple and its construction, and this is yet another reason that the earthly kingdom had to be established prior to the building of a house for the kingdom of God.

 

II.        A world of peace and Tranquility

 

When Shelomo asks Chiram, King of Tzor, to supply him with cedars from the Lebanon, he explains why David had been prevented from building the Temple as follows:

 

You know how David my father could not build a house to the name of the Lord his God on account of the war with the nations which were about him on every side, until the Lord put them under the soles of my feet. [8] But now the Lord my God has given me rest on every side, so that there is neither adversary nor evil hindrance. And behold, I purpose to build a house to the name of the Lord my God, as the Lord spoke to David my father, saying, Your son, whom I will set upon your throne in your place, he shall build the house to My name. (I Melakhim 5:17-19)

 

            The Radak explains (ad loc.): "He did not want to reveal to him the reason that God had prevented him, because he was not like David his father, and he gave him this reasonable explanation." In other words, Shelomo preferred to give the reasonable explanation of the wars, and refrain from mentioning other reasons that could dishonor David.

 

As for this reason itself, we already intimated above that the Temple must only be built when Israel enjoys rest from its enemies, as the Torah states:

 

For you are not as yet come to the rest and to the inheritance, which the Lord your God gives you. But when you traverse the Jordan, and dwell in the land which the Lord your God gives you to inherit, and when He gives you rest from all your enemies round about, so that you dwell in safety; then there shall be a place which the Lord your God shall choose to cause His name to dwell there; there shall you bring all that I command you (Devarim 12:9-11)

 

            The order is essential: [9] rest from the surrounding nations serves as a condition for the building of God's house. Since in David's day wars were still being fought and rest had not yet arrived, the Temple could not yet be built.

 

III.       THE QUALITY OF JUSTICE AND DAVID'S HARD HEART

 

In the seventh chapter of Shemoneh Perakim, the Rambam writes as follows:

 

Prophecy is not conditional upon the prophet having achieved all virtues to perfection, to the extent that he has no flaws whatsoever, for … David, peace be upon him, was a prophet… and we find that he had a hard heart. And even though he used it against the nations and to kill heretics and he was compassionate regarding Israel, it is explained in Divrei Ha-yamim that God found him unfit to build the Temple because of the many people he had killed. And He said to him: "You shall not build a house to My name, because you have shed much blood, etc." (I Divrei Ha-yamim 22:8)

 

            The Ramban in his commentary to Bamidbar 16:21 also writes that it was David's personality traits that prevented him from building the Temple: "But David… was a man of judgment holding firm to the quality of justice, and unfit for the house of mercy, [10] and therefore the building was delayed all the days of David."

 

Summary

 

            In this shiur we began to examine to reasons that David was prevented from building a house for God. We related to the absence of a permanent monarchy and a situation of rest, and to David's personality traits. In the next shiur we shall examine additional reasons offered in Scripture and by Chazal, and we shall discuss the relationship between the various reasons.

 

FOOTNOTES:

 

[1] We will not deal here with the change in the prophet Natan's answer from the affirmative to the negative.

 

[2] In the parallel in I Divrei Ha-yamim 17:4, the formulation is: "It is not you who shall a house for Me to dwell in."

 

[3] According to the way that we explained the story of the bringing up of the Ark to Jerusalem, it may be suggested that in this manner God warns David to maintain the purity of his intentions for building the Temple.

 

[4] There is an interesting connection between David's argument with Mikhal, daughter of Shaul, at the end of chapter 7, where it becomes clear that the kingdom of Israel will not continue in the house of Shaul, and the conditioning of the building of God's house upon the establishment of the kingdom of Israel in our chapter.

 

[5] Rav Mordekhai Sabbato, "Mi Hikdimani va-Ashalem," Alon Shevut 95.

 

[6] Thus is it stated in Sanhedrin 20b, and so was the law decided by the Rambam, Hilkhot Melakhim 1:1-2. Interesting in this context is the formulation found in Sefer Mitzvot ha-Gadol (Semag), positive commandment 163: "In chapter Kohen Gadol it is taught: 'Three commandments were given to Israel when they entered the Land: to appoint a king, to wipe out the seed of Amalek, and after God grants them rest from all their enemies round about, to build a Temple. As it is stated: 'But when you traverse the Jordan and dwell in the land' (Devarim 12:10)… The time of this mitzva of building the Temple did not arrive until the days of David. And so it is stated regarding David: 'And it came to pass, when the king sat in his house, and the Lord had given him rest round about, the king said to Natan the prophet, See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the Ark of God dwells within curtain' (II Shemuel 7:1-2)."  The Semag does not justify his assertion that the time to build the Temple did not arrive until the days of David. This assertion stands in opposition to the view of the Ramban in his commentary to Bamidbar 16:21, where he writes that it would have been possible to build the Temple much earlier. We shall deal with this issue at greater length in the next shiur.

 

[7] Regarding the idea of a permanent kingdom, see for example Horayot 12a: "Our Rabbis taught: Kings are only to be anointed at a spring, so that their kingdom will continue. As it is stated: 'And the king said to them, Take with you the servants of your lord, and cause Shelomo my son to ride upon my own mule, and bring him down to Gichon' (I Melakhim 1:33)." In our context, it is interesting that the Baraita adduces proof from the anointing of Shelomo – the first king to be anointed at a spring. See also last year's shiur #27: "The Promise that the Davidic Monarchy will Continue Forever."

 

[8] Interesting is the relationship between the way the word is written, "raglo, his feet," i.e., David's feet, and the way the word is read, "ragli, my feet," i.e., Shelomo's feet.

 

[9] As we saw above, section I, 2, and in note 6.

 

[10] Interesting is the Ramban's designation of the Temple – "house of mercy" – which relates to the essence of the altar, which brings peace between Israel and their Father in heaven, and all the elements of peace and mercy in the Temple. This is not the forum to expand on this issue at greater length.

 

(Translated by David Strauss)