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David: Some Things of David in the New Testament

Michael Hardt

David’s name occurs around 1,100 times in the Bible — not only in the Old Testament historical books but also across the poetical writings (Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes), the prophets, the Gospels, the epistles, and the Revelation. The sheer number of times his name is granted a place in God’s word conveys to us an impression of the central place and importance of this personage.

But apart from frequent references to David there are certain expressions in the New Testament (I found nine) where certain things (or individuals) are said to be ‘of David’ and in this manner bring out the deeper meaning behind the story of David and the role attributed to him in God’s counsel. In particular, they bring out the fact that David is linked in a special manner with the one greater than David, and he comes to represent Christ.

The Son of David

Right in the first verse of the New Testament we come across the first instance of the attribution ‘of David’: ‘Book of the generation of Jesus Christ, Son of David, Son of Abraham.’ The Old Testament had told the story of man under responsibility and closed with a curse. The New Testament opens with a wonderful presentation of a Saviour, ‘Jesus’. Matthew presents Him as ‘Son of David’, not only a descendant (see the comments on ‘seed’ and ‘offspring’ below), but the Son, bringing out the dignity of who He was.

In this way Matthew presents the Messiah, the coming King. He would come as Son of David to bring blessing to Israel. The Syrophenician woman had to learn that she had no claim on Him as ‘Son of David’ (Matt. 15:22) but still tasted His grace (v. 28). Throughout the Lord’s life many a needy soul turned to Him as Son of David, imploring Him for mercy (Matt. 9:27; 20:30–31, etc.).

The throne of David

At first sight one would take the expression ‘the throne of David’ to refer to David’s reign in around 1,000 BC. However, Luke uses this expression in a way that demonstrates how much wider its scope is. He tells us how Gabriel announced the coming of Christ as a Saviour, and then goes on to say: ‘He shall be great, and shall be called Son of the Highest; and the Lord God shall give him the throne of David his father’ (Luke 1:32). Clearly, in this verse, the ‘throne of David’ refers to the millennial reign of Christ. This is confirmed by the use of the name of ‘the Highest’ (or ‘Most High’), a title used for God in connection with the millennium. David’s reign foreshadowed the reign of Christ.

This time of Christ’s reign has not yet come. He has not yet taken his throne. At present, Christ is sitting on the Father’s throne (Rev. 3:21). When He subdues His enemies He will be sitting on the throne of David, the man of war (1 Chr. 28:3). Once the enemies are subdued He will reign as Solomon, the man of peace.

The house of David

In Luke 1 we come across another reference to David: ‘and raised up a horn of deliverance for us in the house of David his servant’ (v. 69). Evidently, the house of David does not designate a physical house but the family of David including his descendants throughout the generations. This is borne out by many Old Testament references as well (e.g. 1 Ki. 12:19, 20; 13:2), including some made centuries after the time of David (e.g. Isa. 7:2, 13).

What was so special about this ‘house of David’? Mainly the fact that God had given a special promise to it: ‘But Jehovah would not destroy the house of David, because of the covenant that he had made with David, and as he had promised to give to him always a lamp, and to his sons’ (2 Chr. 21:7).

Today there is no king reigning in the house of David. But when the times of the Gentiles are completed this will change. In Christ there will be a successor and a testimony (a lamp) for the house of David, and this will last as long as sun and earth exist.

In our reference in Luke 1, Zacharias, filled with the Holy Spirit, declares that God had visited his people and wrought redemption and raised up a horn of deliverance in the house of David. As yet, the deliverance had not yet been effected, and even the deliverer had not been born. But Zacharias looks beyond the birth of John the Baptist to the one whom John would announce and who would bring deliverance to ‘the house of David’. How would this come to pass? Essentially in three steps:

  • the foundation would be laid through Christ’s work on the cross;
  • the house of David would repent and receive Him as their Messiah (Zech. 12:10);
  • at this point Christ would deliver the house of David from their enemies, and He would begin to reign over them (12:7, 8).

The faithful mercies of David

In Acts 13 we find Paul in Antioch of Pisidia. He enters the synagogue and is given the opportunity to address his audience. In the course of this highly interesting speech he refers to the ‘faithful mercies of David’ (v. 34). He begins by presenting a brief history of the people of Israel, quickly leading up to the point that God fulfilled his promise to his people Israel by giving them Christ in incarnation (vs. 32–33). But Israel rejected and killed their Messiah. Humanly speaking, at this point, all was lost. But what did God do? He ‘raised him from among the dead, no more to return to corruption, he spoke thus: I will give to you the faithful mercies of David’. God had promised that David would have a descendant to sit on his throne (2 Sam. 7:16). This promise is absolutely certain, sure and inalterable. In order that it be fulfilled, God raised up Christ from among the dead.

But how is this possible? If Israel had crucified the very One who was to bring them blessing, and if they had broken the covenant that promised them blessing, how could God still bless them? This could only become true out of pure grace and mercy. In using this expression ‘the faithful mercies of David’, Paul alludes to a verse in Isaiah 55 which confirms this thought and sheds further light on what exactly was meant by the ‘sure mercies of David’: ‘Incline your ear, and come unto me; hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, the sure mercies of David’ (v. 3). This verse links the sure mercies of David with the new covenant, a covenant of pure grace where God takes all the obligations and Israel receives all the blessing (Jer. 31:31). There is only one foundation on which this covenant can be established: the shedding of the blood of Christ (Matt. 26:28; see also Isa. 54:10).

But why is it called the ‘sure (or faithful) mercies of David’? This expression brings out two points: 1) this blessing is brought in as special recognition of David and the life he led with and for his God; and 2) this covenant or blessing is not merited but will be given out of pure mercy.

The tabernacle of David

Moving on through the New Testament in our quest to find things of David we come to Acts 15:16: ‘After these things I will return, and will rebuild the tabernacle of David which is fallen, and will rebuild its ruins, and will set it up’.

The word ‘tabernacle’ is sometimes used for a temporary dwelling place (which can be new — see Matt. 17:4) and at other times for a dwelling place in ruins. So it is here: the ‘house of David’ (see the comments above) has ‘fallen’, namely into a state of ruin: David’s descendants lived under Roman occupation, they had no king, etc. But God would rebuild ‘its ruins’.

This promise is based on the prophecy of Amos (Amos 9:11). But note that Amos says it will be rebuilt ‘as in the days of old’ whereas Paul omits these words. As a matter of fact, the ‘tabernacle of David’ will be built up to a state far better and higher than ‘in the days of old’ under the millennial reign of Christ when all enemies will be subdued and He will reign in righteousness and peace.

The seed of David

When it comes to the ‘seed of David’ the finger is laid on the Old Testament promise that the Messiah would be a descendant of David. This comes out in the three New Testament references to the seed of David:

  1. Even those among the crowds in Jerusalem who did not recognise Christ said: ‘Has not the scripture said that the Christ comes of the seed of David’ (John 7:42).
  2. In Romans 1 Paul sums up the theme of the gospel by stating that it is the gospel ‘concerning his Son (come of David’s seed according to flesh)’ (v. 3). This sheds new light on that descendant of David’s: He was God and man in one person — Son of God and yet truly man.
  3. In his final letter Paul encourages Timothy in his service. True, Timothy had to take his share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ, but the battle cry was one of victory: ‘Remember Jesus Christ raised from among the dead’ and, it is added, ‘of the seed of David, according to my glad tidings’. Christ was risen, and in Him the old promise had been fulfilled: He was ‘of the seed of David’ (2. Tim. 2:3, 8).

The key of David

The next reference takes us to the book of Revelation. The Lord presents Himself to the assembly in Philadelphia as ‘he that has the key of David’ (3:7). This expression is based on Isaiah’s prophecy: ‘And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; and he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open …’ (Isa. 22:22). This prophecy, which relates to Eliakim in the first instance (see v. 20), will find its ultimate fulfilment in Christ. He will hold the key — that is, He will have the right of administration. This right will be unimpeded: ‘he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open’.

The way this prophecy is used in the letter to Philadelphia is very interesting and instructive. Although it will be in the millennium that the true Eliakim will hold the key of the house of David, there is a moral principle here that is designed to encourage the faithful ones in Philadelphia. They only had ‘a little strength’ and there were those who opposed them (the ‘synagogue of Satan’), but Christ was the one who was really in control. This goes to show how we can benefit and take courage from the way Christ is presented in prophecy.

In Isaiah the ‘key’ is linked to the ‘house’: ‘the key of the house of David’. Here the blessing is in view of David’s natural descendants. It seems that in Revelation the scope is widened so that the ‘key of David’ is an encouragement to Christian believers today.

The root of David

In Revelation 5:5 we see Christ as ‘the lion which is of the tribe of Juda, the root of David’. True as it is that Christ is of the ‘seed of David’, He is also the ‘root of David’: not a mere descendant but also the originator of David and all the blessings to come.[1]

The offspring of David

On the last page of Scripture we find the final ‘of David’: ‘I am the root and offspring of David, the bright and morning star’ (Rev. 22:16). Here, root and offspring are mentioned in one breath — at first sight a paradox, but resolved in the deity and humanity of Christ.

The thought of ‘offspring’ is close to that of the ‘seed of David’ but emphasises that Christ is of the same ‘kind’ (genos) as David. He has the character of David; He is the man after God’s heart.


The New Testament uses at least nine expressions where something or someone, is said to be ‘of David’. These are highly significant in that they shed light on the deeper meaning behind the life and person of David: he is a type of Christ, and the recipient of the promise and privilege that God would deign to bring the Man according to his own heart into this world as a descendant of David.




[1] For further detail see the article ‘Root, as well as Shoot’ by F B Hole.