2 Sam 7: 1-11,16
At Advent we anticipate the coming of the One who in his own person (John 2.20-22) and in the community of his people (1 Cor 3.16; Eph 2.21-22, etc) constitutes the authentic Temple of God, that is, the true meeting place of Deity and Humanity.
In combination with the altogether positive, pro-Davidic verses of Ps 89, 2 Sam 7 tempts one to overlook certain subtle but important aspects of a negative nature in the 2 Sam 7 pericope.
The thrust of vs 5-7 is precisely to forbid David from building a temple, and indeed to upbraid David for presumption. As McCarter (Anchor Bible pp 197f) states: ". . .a temple turns out to be unnecessary and unwanted. That David should propose such a grandiose gesture of patronage toward Yahweh-- who is, as he has always been (cf. vv. 8-9a) David's patron--is an affront. Yahweh has always moved about freely in a tent, never taking up residence in a temple. David's concern about the lack of a temple (v.2) is groundless, as should be obvious from the fact that Yahweh has never chastised any of Israel's previous leaders for failing to provide one." (p.197) "Yahweh is indignant that David should propose to build a temple that is not wanted or needed. . .by reference to the fact that Yahweh is David's patron, not the reverse." (p.198). The original intent of the oracle is to forbid building a temple, which, in the surrounding nations was the customary practice of a successful monarch as a political statement to publicize the partnership between himself and the deity. Authentic YHWH faith forbids such a thing.
Solomon defied the prohibition and built a temple, which, upon later reflection, the Deuteronomic school viewed positively (given the fact that the temple actually existed, it *must* have had divine approval!). 2 Sam 7 shows strong evidence of Deuteronomistic editing. 7.13a -- "He shall build a house for my name" -- interrupts the connection between 7.12b and 7.13b: "I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever."
When Solomon dedicated his temple he said: "The LORD has said that he would dwell in thick darkness. I have built you an exalted house, a place for you to dwell in forever" (1 Kings 8.12-13). In "The Prophetic Faith" Martin Buber writes that in these words "we meet the unreserved expression of the aim of the early kingdom to confine YHVH's sovereignty within the cultic sphere alone. . ." (p 82). This temple became such an obstacle to true religion that Jeremiah called it a gangster's hideout and predicted its destruction (Jer 7.11-15). The prophecy was fulfilled within 25 years.
The Second Temple of post exilic Jews was built and its cult directly supported by the imperial power of Persia (Ezra 6.1-13; 7.11-26), again with strong political implications of support for the status quo. This included exemption of the priests from taxation and authority to impose the death penalty on any who refused to obey the law of God, i.e., to maintain order. In the time of Jesus King Herod totally renovated the Second Temple for political purposes, and it was this temple whose destruction Jesus foretold, using words from Jeremiah 7.11. More than anything else, Jesus' attack on the Temple consolidated the opposition which led to his death.
At Advent we should reflect deeply upon the Coming of the One in whose person we discover the true temple (meeting place of Deity and Humanity). We should reflect upon the negative aspects of church building complexes, the tremendous tieup of money and resources in such real estate, and the extent to which they aid or hinder the proclamation of the good news of Jesus to the hungry and homeless.
We should reflect, too, upon the very real threat of violence against the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem as the fervor of millennial excitement builds toward the end of this century. Extremely conservative Jews and Christians, promoting mutually contradictory purposes, unite their resources and their plans (plots?) to accomplish the construction of the Third Temple upon the very ground occupied by the venerable Dome of the Rock. In our Christian eschatalogical expectation, the Holy City, New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from God, has no temple.
Psalm 89 & Luke 1: 47-55
By selecting Ps 89.1-4 & 19-26 the Lection Committee tempts the preacher to take a simplistic, "they lived happily ever after" approach to the text. Everything is so positive regarding the cozy relationship between YHWH and David. Following the old pre-critical naivete which directly applied the psalms to Jesus Christ, the authentic original situation falls completely out of view, and we get a dangerously truncated, misleading theology.
The altogether positive section, vs 19-31, ends with these words:
- 34 I will not violate my covenant, or alter the word that went forth from my lips. 35 Once and for all I have sworn by my holiness; I will not lie to David. 36 His line shall continue forever, and his throne endure before me like the sun. 37 It shall be established forever like the moon, an enduring witness in the skies."
- 38 But now you have spurned and rejected him; you are full of wrath against your anointed. 39 You have renounced the covenant with your servant; you have defiled his crown in the dust. 40 You have broken through all his walls; you have laid his strongholds in ruins.
All of this is to say nothing of the fact that in vs 5-18 the psalmist uses ancient polytheistic mythological language and metaphor to extol the power of YHWH to overcome primeval chaos monsters and bless his chosen people.
Concerning Mary's Song (Luke 1.47-55): Where is the evidence today supporting the praise of God expressed in the following:
- 51 He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; 53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.
ARCH TAYLOR (HR) is a former missionary to Japan and a Bible student/teacher from Louisville, KY. He may be contacted at email@example.com.