I mentioned in a recent roundup the strange quirk of publication timing that saw three of my articles published in one week. None of the three are about biblical archaeology or geography, but all are subjects I’ve been studying for some years, and all are very important to me. (Might that go without saying?) I’ll introduce the first one today, and save the second and third for the coming weeks.
My article on “The Date of the Davidic Covenant” was published in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (65.1). In this article, I argue that the Davidic Covenant was made with David early in his reign. This may sound obvious to one reading the narratives of 2 Samuel (where it occurs two chapters after his coronation in Jerusalem) or 1 Chronicles (also early in the narrative), but I haven’t been able to find one scholar in the last thirty years who has defended that view.
The chronology of David’s life was flipped in a proposal made by Eugene Merrill in the 1980s. He argued that since the rule of Hiram king of Tyre only overlapped with the final years of David’s life, he must have built David’s palace in those final years (2 Sam 5). Since the palace was built before the ark was transferred to Jerusalem (2 Sam 6), and the ark was transferred before the eternal covenant was made with David (2 Sam 7), all of these events occurred within a few years prior to David’s death. This quickly became the consensus view among conservative historians and commentators.
My article challenges this view by showing two things. First, the biblical text demands that the palace-ark-covenant events occurred early in David’s reign. It is not just one or two indicators, but multiple indicators that all consistently place these events soon after David conquered Jerusalem.
Second, I explain that the only evidence that provides the dates for Hiram’s reign is found in Josephus, a historian who lived 1,000 years later. I try to show why this data is insufficient to overturn the testimony of the biblical text.
I will be interested to see if my argument is deemed persuasive by the experts in the field. In circulating an earlier draft, I received positive feedback from Eugene Merrill and several other scholars.
Why does this matter? And why am I so passionate about it, particularly when teaching a course on the Psalms? The first thing is that I want to interpret the biblical text accurately. Second, I believe that it affects how you read David’s writings. If David received God’s promise to raise up a son to reign on his throne near the end of his days, he had relatively little time to reflect on that covenant. But if he was promised an eternal dynasty early on, it is most reasonable to expect that he wrote songs about his coming son and for his coming son. This chronology is an important basis for seeing a significant messianic component in many Davidic psalms, including Psalms 2, 16, 17, 18, 20, 21, 22, 24, 26, 69, 101, 109, 110, 144, and others.
Members of ETS can view the entire issue online here, and others can view my article via my Academia page (or with this direct link).
Comments are appreciated, either here or by direct correspondence.