Introduction to Jerusalem in the days of David (IV)/The Promise that the Davidic Monarchy will Continue Forever
Yeshivat Har Etzion
This shiur is dedicated in memory of Dr. William Major z"l.
Shiur #27: Introduction to
in the days of David (Iv)/
THe promise that the davidic monarchy will continue forever
Rav Yitzchak Levi
In this chapter, which concludes our introduction to the period of King David, we wish to examine the meaning of God's promise to David that his royal house will continue forever. Special attention will be paid to the question whether this promise is conditional or absolute.
I. The Eternal Monarchy of the House of David in Halakha
In Yaakov's blessing to Yehuda it is stated:
The staff shall not depart from Yehuda, nor the scepter from between his feet, until Shilo will come and the obedience of the people will be his. (Bereishit 49:10)
biblical commentators (ad loc.) deal at length with the meaning of this
promise, with respect to the issue of the status of
The Rambam writes in the first chapter of Hilkhot Melakhim as follows:
When a king is
appointed, he is anointed with the anointing oil, as it is stated: "Then Shemuel took a flask of oil, and poured it upon his head,
and kissed him" (I Shemuel 10:1). After a
king is anointed, he acquires it for himself and his descendants forever, for
the monarchy is an inheritance, as it is stated: "To the end that he may
prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of
The kings of
the House of David will stand forever, as it is stated: "Your throne shall
be firm forever" (II Shemuel 7:16).
If, however, a king is appointed from the rest of
Moreover, the Rambam in his Sefer Ha-mitzvot puts forward an exceedingly novel understanding of the Torah's prohibition: "You may not set a stranger (nokhri) over you, who is not your brother" (Devarim 17:15):
You already know from the books of prophecy that only the monarchy was acquired by David and his seed after him until the end of all the generations. There is no king for anyone who believes in the Torah of Moshe, master of all the prophets, but from the seed of Shelomo alone, and anyone who is not from that distinguished seed is called a "stranger" (nokhri) regarding the monarchy, just as all other seed other than the seed of Aharon is called a "stranger" (zar) regarding the [Temple] service. This is clear, there being no doubt about it. (Sefer Ha-mitzvot, negative precept no. 362)
The author of the Chinukh (mitzva 498) follows in the footsteps of the Rambam, though his wording is slightly more refined: "David and his seed have already acquired the monarchy of Israel forever, and it is no longer in our hands to change this, just as it is no longer in our hands to remove the priesthood from the seed of Aharon. As it is stated: 'Your throne shall be firm forever.'" In any event, the Rambam understands this promise as so far-reaching that anyone who is not from the seed of Shelomo is regarded as a "stranger" regarding the monarchy, just as one who is not from the seed of Aharon is regarded as a "stranger" regarding the Divine service.
In the framework of this shiur, it is not our intention to deal with the halakhic ramifications of this issue. Our primary focus will be on the scriptural verses and their meaning. The Rambam cites the following verses as proof for his position:
1) That monarchy is passed down by inheritance:
"To the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he,
and his children, in the midst of
should be remembered that the Rambam understands that
this applies not only to the kingship, but rather "all offices and all
2) That David and his descendants have acquired the monarchy:
Your throne will be firm forever. (II Shemuel 7:16)
3) That the monarchy will never be permanently removed from the seed of David:
If his children forsake My Torah, and walk not in My judgments; if they break My statutes, and keep not My commandments; then I will punish their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with strokes. Nevertheless I will not utterly take My steadfast love from him, nor suffer My faithfulness to fail. (ibid. 89:31-34).
Let us now analyze the verses that promise the kingdom in perpetuity to the House of David. Our primary interest is to examine the extent to which the promise made to David and his descendants was made conditional to their good deeds.
II. The Davidic Monarchy Forever Unconditional?
1) Natan's prophecy to David:
And when the 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 forever. 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 And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you; your throne shall be firm forever. (II Shemuel 7:12-13)
And in the parallel passage in Divrei Ha-yamim:
He shall build Me a house, and I will establish his throne forever and I will not take My steadfast love away from him But I will settle him in My house and in My kingdom forever: and his throne shall be established forevermore. (I Divrei Ha-yamim 17:12)
2) In David's testament to Shelomo:
That the Lord may continue His word which He spoke concerning me, saying: If your children take heed to their way, to walk before Me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul, there shall not fail you (said He) a man on the throne of Israel. (I Melakhim 2:4)
3) In God's second appearance to Shelomo:
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
And in the parallel passage in Divrei Ha-yamim:
And for you, if you will walk before me, as David your father walked, and do according to all that I have commanded you, and shall observe My statutes and My judgments; then I will establish the throne of your kingdom, as I have covenanted with David your father, saying: There shall not fail you a man to be ruler in Israel. (II Divrei Ha-yamim 7:17-18)
4) In David's instructions to Shelomo
regarding the construction of the
But the word of
the Lord came to me saying
Behold, a son shall be born to you
He shall build
a house for My name; and he shall be My son, and I
will be his father, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom over
in the parallel passage to all the officers of
Moreover I will establish his kingdom forever, if he be constant to do My commandments and My judgments, as at this day. (ibid. 28:7)
5) In Achiya ha-Shiloni's prophecy to Yeravam:
And to his son
will I give one tribe, that David My servant may have a lamp always before Me
6) In Tehillim 89:
I have made a covenant with My chosen, I have sworn to David My servant, Your seed will I establish forever, and build your throne to all generations. (Sela.) I have found David My servant; with My holy oil have I anointed him I will keep My truth with him forevermore, and My covenant shall stand fast with him. His seed also will I make to endure forever, and His throne like the days of heaven. If his children forsake My Torah, and walk not in My judgment; if they break My statutes, and keep not My commandments; then I will punish their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with strokes. Nevertheless I will not utterly take My steadfast love from him, nor suffer My faithfulness to fail. My covenant I will not break, nor alter that which has issued from My lips. Once I have sworn by My holiness that I will not fail unto David. His seed shall endure forever, and his throne shall be like the sun before Me. It shall be established forever like the moon, and the witness in the sky is sure. (Sela.)
7) In Tehillim 132:
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 forevermore. (Tehillim 132:11-12)
8) Yirmiyahu 33:17-21:
For thus says the
Lord, David shall never lack a man sitting upon the throne of the house of
9) Hoshea 3:5:
10) Yishayahu 55:3:
Incline your ear, and come to Me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure loving promises of David.
11) Yechezkel 37:24-25:
And David My servant shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also follow My judgments, and observe My statutes, and do them. And they shall dwell in the land that I have given to Yaakov My servant, in which your father had dwelt; and they shall dwell there, they, and their children, and their children's children forever; and My servant David shall be their prince forever.
B) analysis of the sources:
An examination of all the sources leads to an important distinction. In some of the sources, the promise of perpetual monarchy is made without any conditions being attached to it, whereas in other sources the promise is made conditional on the observance of Torah and mitzvot. The biblical commentators do not appear to have related to the reason for this difference between the sources.
Most of the sources do not attach any conditions to the promise. This is true regarding the following: the first explicit promise to David concerning the establishment of his monarchy forever; Achiya Ha-Shiloni's prophecy to Yeravam when he left Jerusalem; Tehillim 89, which deals primarily with the question why this promise was not fulfilled; the promises mentioned in the books of Yishayahu, Hoshea, Yirmiyahu, and Yechezkel (in Yechezkel, the promise that David will be prince forever parallels the promise regarding the resting of the Shekhina forever); and as we have already seen at the beginning of the shiur, this is also the Rambam's ruling on the matter.
The sources that attach a condition include the following: David's testament to Shelomo (I Melakhim 2:4); David's instructions to Shelomo and the officers regarding the building of the Mikdash (I Divrei Ha-yamim 22 and 28); God's promise to David in Tehillim 132; and God's second appearance to Shelomo, following the dedication of the house of God and the house of the king (I Melakhim 9:4-5; II Divrei Ha-yamim 7:17-18).
The dividing line between the conditional promise and the unconditional promise seems to pass between David and Shelomo. The promise to David which relates to Shelomo is forever, and it is closely connected to the promise regarding the building of the Mikdash. With the transition to Shelomo, the promise of eternal monarchy begins to be conditioned on the observance of Torah and mitzvot. This begins with God's promise to David which relates already to his seed, and not to David himself continues with David's words to Shelomo and the officers and his testament to Shelomo, and once again with God's appearance to Shelomo following the dedication of the two houses.
There is one exception to this rule Achiya ha-Shiloni's prophecy to Yeravam. It seems that this was intended to prevent any misunderstanding on Yeravam's part regarding the meaning of the division of the monarchy. The monarchy's division was marked by a clear restriction of the scope of the rule of the Davidic house, and a transfer of most of the kingdom ten tribes to the rule of Yeravam. Yeravam was liable to conclude from this that the promise regarding the eternity of the Davidic monarchy had been canceled, and that he had replaced the house of David. In order to avoid these mistakes, the principle of the eternity of the Davidic monarchy was formulated in Achiya's prophecy as it had been stated to David himself as unconditional. That is to say: Even though the scope of the rule of the House of David had been greatly diminished, in essence this regime is a continuation of the Davidic monarchy and a fulfillment of the Divine promise to David regarding the eternity of his kingdom. This formulation also stands the kingdom of the House of Yeravam against the kingdom of the House of David, and rules out the possibility that the monarchy of the House of Yeravam would replace that of the House of David. Even though the Davidic house received only "one tribe," this was intended "that David My servant may have a lamp," that is to say, in order to maintain the eternity of the Davidic monarchy. Yeravam, in contrast, received a kingdom of ten tribes, but this only emphasizes the incompleteness of his kingdom (kingship over most of the people, but by no means over all of the people) and its temporariness.
Why does Scripture distinguish between David, about whom the promise of an eternal kingdom is unconditional, and Shelomo, about whom the promise was made conditional on actions?
David is the paradigm of the penitent sinner of a sinner who is capable of accepting responsibility and rectifying the situation. The enormous upheaval that he experienced during his lifetime from a shepherd who tended his flock to a king who ruled over all of Israel and his being pursued by Shaul after having been anointed as king, taught him to recognize in the depths of his being how absolutely dependent upon God he was, both as a human being and as the king. Therefore, even in his sins and stumblings, he was able to repent and rectify his traits and actions.
This special quality of repentance of the ability to repair is what made possible the promise of everlasting monarchy. We are not dealing here with a promise that David's successors would all be righteous. Rather, the possibility of repair means that stumbling is not the final word, and that it is possible to start again from the beginning. In this sense there is something eternal in the very monarchy of the Davidic house. And it is precisely for this reason that the promise of everlasting monarchy is made to David, a promise that is directly related to his most striking traits: his lowliness, his humility, and his readiness to accept full responsibility for his actions. His dependence on the tribes, his building his house in the middle of the City of David though in the upper portion of the city, above the fortress, nevertheless within the city - all these well express these traits.
This basic eternal quality, deeply implanted in the personality of David as a repentant sinner, well accounts for the timeless connection between the Davidic monarchy and Jerusalem. This quality also explains the fact that the first Divine promise regarding the eternalness of the kingdom of the House of David was given in connection with the establishment of God's Shekhina in the Mikdash in Natan's prophecy to David in the wake of his request to build the Mikdash. Repentance makes it possible to renew the connection with God after sin, and therefore there is a clear connection between repentance and the Mikdash the place that God chose to rest His Shekhina and that He designated also for atonement and repair. This correspondence between the eternalness of the Davidic House and this fixation of the appearance of the Shekhina and the revelation of God's kingdom in the Mikdash testifies that permanence and eternalness are essential elements of David.
III. Aspects of David's Life and Personality which Account for his Being Chosen to Reign Forever
The Gemara in Yoma (22b) states:
Rav Yehuda said in the name of Shemuel: Why did the kingdom of the House of Shaul not continue? Because he had no faults. For Rabbi Yochanan said in the name of Rabbi Shimon ben Yehotzadak: A leader may only be appointed over the community if a basket of reptiles hangs behind him, so that if he becomes arrogant, we can say to him: Turn around.
Rashi (ad loc.) explains:
For he had no family blemish, and the kings who would issue from
his seed would conduct themselves with arrogance over
David's descent from Ruth the Moabite was a blemish in his genealogy. But it is precisely this constant dependency that is the secret of his eternity.
The Maharal of Prague offers a similar explanation to the expression "the fallen tabernacle (sukka) of David" (Amos 9:11):
Know that the kingdom of the House of David is called a sukka (tabernacle). Forevery kingdom is called a bayit (house) because of the strength and permanence that a kingdom has The kingdom of the House of David was therefore called a sukka, because the kingdom of the House of David was a Divine kingdom, unlike other kingdoms which are profane. Therefore it was not called a bayit, which denotes a permanent structure like the natural things that are permanent in the world. But Godly things are not permanent in this world, but rather temporary like a sukka And it says: "On that day I will raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen" (Amos 9:11), for when a house falls its original state is gone, and if he rebuilds it, it is a new house, and we don't say that he raised up his fallen house, for the house is gone. Rather, it is as if he built a new house from scratch. But a sukka, which is not a house, namely, a permanent structure, and can easily be reconstructed, therefore, if it falls, it can be raised, and easily restored to its original state. And similarly, the kingdom of the House of David, which can be raised after the fall of the kingdom, is called the "fallen tabernacle of David"
That which Rav Nachman called the messiah by the name "Bar Nefali" (Sanhedrin 96b) comes to teach about what the verse says: "The staff shall not depart from Yehuda" (Bereishit 49:10), that the messiah is called "Bar Nefali," because the kingdom fell and will be raised Since this is so, the staff did not depart from Yehuda, for when the messianic king arrives, he will merely raise the fallen tabernacle of David it will not be a new kingdom He will merely raise it up, and it will still have its original name, so that the staff did not depart from Yehuda. (Netzach Yisrael, chap. 35)
The Maharal explains that the Davidic monarchy is likened to a sukka, and not to a house, because when a house collapses, the house that is built in its place is regarded as a new house, whereas when a sukka falls, it can easily be reconstructed, and it is regarded as a continuation of the previous sukka. This explanation also takes note of the essential connection found in the Davidic monarchy between transience and temporariness, on the one hand, and permanence and eternity, on the other.
Rav Kook also relates to this issue in his discussion regarding the mention of the Davidic monarchy in the blessing over the new moon:
David the king
The secret of the eternalness of the Davidic monarchy lies in its following the governance of the heavenly kingdom across the generations. It is interesting that King David is mentioned in the blessing over the new moon, which is likened to the trait of Malkhut (kingdom), which "has nothing of itself" (Zohar Bereishit 181a). The light of the moon is a reflection of the light of the sun, but it gives light during the day and during the night, and this is the secret of its eternalness. All of the qualities of David that we noted above his lowliness and modesty, his origins as a shepherd, the recognition that his life was a gift of God, the blemish in his genealogy and his being a repentant sinner all these allow us to understand why his entire life was connected to the governance of the heavenly kingdom, and thus to eternity.
Shelomo starts out from an entirely different point. Shelomo was born into a royal house in circumstances that approach perfection on all levels: on the military plain there is peace ("For his name shall be Shelomo, and I will give peace and quietness in Israel in his days"; I Divrei Ha-yamim 22:9); on the political plane the people of Israel rule over a large expanse of land, the entire world recognizes the wisdom of Shelomo, and his kingdom constitutes a paradigm, the neighboring countries offer him tribute, he develops a connection with Egypt and marries the daughter of Pharaoh, he enters into a treaty with Tyre and marries many other foreign women as part of pacts that he makes with many countries; on the economic plain the land is filled with abundance, silver is as plentiful as rocks, and cedars as sycamores, and in Eretz Israel in general and in Jerusalem in particular royal construction proceeds on a grand scale. Within all this a house of God is built, and alongside it the house of the king, which is built above the city and adjacent to the house of God. "Then Shelomo sat on the throne of the Lord as king" (I Divrei Ha-yamim 29:23).
All this, however, brought Shelomo to the strong feeling of security and permanence, and to the thought (as his prayer testifies) that the Mikdash is universal and eternal: a temple intended to serve the entire world and that will stand forever. This feeling brought Shelomo to acquire many wives and horses and much silver and gold (that is, the very opposite of the Torah's approach to kingship), and led him to arrogance, resulting from wisdom on the one hand, and the military, political and economic situation on the other. The feeling of permanence is the very opposite of the feeling of dependence, and it led, to a certain degree, to a break from the kingdom of God, and a blurring of the proper boundaries between earthly kingdom and the kingdom of God, the result of which was the erection of idolatrous bamot.
Such a kingdom cannot be an eternal kingdom, and its repair lies in its division, in the diminishment of its breadth and influence, and also in the assertion that the eternal kingdom of the Davidic house will indeed be established, but only "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" (I Melakhim 9:4). This was the condition that came into being with the descendants of Shelomo to ensure the eternalness of the Davidic monarchy.
We see then
that it is precisely the feeling of unconditional permanence that paradoxically
severs the kingdom of man from the
* * *
Thus, we have
concluded our overall examination of the process of the selection of
God willing, our next shiur will summarize the series.
 R. Shelomo Goren analyzed the halakhic implications of this assertion at length in his chapter on "The Kingdom of the House of David in Light of Halakha," in his Torat Ha-mo'adim, Jerusalem, 1996 (new, expanded edition), p. 453ff.
 The parallel passage is found in I Divrei Ha-yamim 17:14: "His throne shall be established forevermore."
 The use of the term nasi ("prince") in the chapters of Yechezkel dealing with redemption indicates that when the Shekhina rests on the entire world, there will be a change in the standing of the leader before God. This point requires expansion, but this is not the forum for such a discussion.
 One might get the impression
from what is stated here that the
 In this context, the
eternalness of the Davidic monarchy may play an additional role. Emphasizing
the connection between the eternal kingdom of the House of David and the
eternal Divine selection of
 An instructive example of
this is the anointing of Shelomo as king. Following
David's sin with Bat-Sheva and Uriya,
David's functioning as king is exceedingly faulty (see the incidents involving
Tamar and Amnon, Avshalom, Shimi ben
 We dealt with the details of this parallelism in shiur #25, "The Divine Selection of Jerusalem."
 Let us note in this context how Midrash Tehillim (Shochar Tov) on Tehillim 62 explains (in a manner that is different than the simple reading of the scriptural passages) why David was prevented from building the Mikdash: "It is revealed and known to me that Israel will sin and I will release My anger on [the Mikdash] and Israel will be saved. But if you [David] build it, it will stand and never be destroyed. He said to Him: Surely it is beautiful. He said to him: Better that I should release My anger on it and destroy it, so that they should be saved." This Midrash is based on the idea that David contains within him the element of eternity.
 This is well illustrated in the aggada according to which David had originally been allotted only three hours of life, and his seventy years he received as a gift from Adam (Yalkut Shimoni Bereishit, 41). In other words, David's very life was a total gift. It is precisely this feeling of absolute dependence that expresses, in a paradoxical manner, eternity.
 These ideas are complex and
profound, and we cannot discuss them here in greater length. Let us merely note
the words of Rabbenu Bachya
in his commentary on the names of Peretz and Zerach (Bereishit 38:30):
Zerach corresponds to the sun that shines (zorachat) at all times in equal manner, and Peretz corresponds to the moon which at times is full and
at times is defective (nifretzet). Therefore,
the kingdom of the House of David issuing from Peretz
will sometimes exist and sometimes not
And since the kingdom of the House of
David comes from Peretz, and Peretz
corresponds to the moon, the true Sages mentioned with regarded to the new
moon: 'And he sent him a sign: David the king of
 The following Midrash (Shir Ha-shirim Rabba 1, 10)
illustrates the meaning of the reduction of the
 We have presented here the
essence of the difference between the
(Translated by David Strauss)