Is David's Throne
in Existence Today?
by Ernest L. Martin, PH.D
A 1974 Exposition, revised by David Sielaff, August 2002
Read the accompanying Newsletter for August 2002
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Nathan the prophet gave David his first promise that God would establish "the throne of his kingdom forever." This promise was guaranteed despite the sins he and his descendants would commit (2 Samuel 7:13). "Your throne shall be established forever" (verse 16). These verses clearly promise a continued and perpetual existence to the throne of David.
The doctrine of British-Israelism has been supported by these promises. With the destruction of the Davidic throne in Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar (a fact no one denies) we are directed by British-Israelites to look elsewhere for the continued existence of David’s throne, lest those promises of God are made of none effect. So Ireland, then Scotland, and finally London are made the areas where David’s throne continued and will continue until the second coming of Christ, whereupon it will be returned to Jerusalem. It is maintained that if the foregoing is not true, then God’s promises of perpetuity of the Davidic throne are invalidated.
Psalm 89 also has some of these wonderful promises reiterated. It seems to be a reaffirmation that David’s throne would continue uninterruptedly for all time. Truly, the statements of the Psalm seem unassailable. Notice the dogmatic and clear account of the Psalmist,
"I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David my servant, your seed will I establish forever, and build up your throne to all generations."
"My mercy will I keep for him [David] forevermore, and my covenant shall stand fast with him. His seed also will I make to endure for ever, and his throne as the days of heaven."
"My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips. Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David. His seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before me."
With such plain and unequivocal statements could anyone who believes in the Word of God ever suggest that God would make VOID such promises to David?
Let us be careful with Psalm 89, however. All of it must be read. While the Psalmist is precise in recording all of the promises God made to David about the continuance of his throne in the first 37 verses of the Psalm, he is also very adamant in the last 15 verses in telling us how God made void every one of them! There is no mistaking it—he says that God had seemingly made void those promises. Does this seem absurd? Read the Psalm—all of it!
The Psalmist collated all the major promises to David in the first 37 verses. He begins verse 38, however, with an exception, "But ..." and continues in verse 39, "You [God] have made VOID the covenant of your servant [David]: you have profaned his crown by casting it to the ground." Verse 44, "You have made his glory to cease, and cast his [David’s] throne down the ground." So sure was the psalmist that God had made void and utterly profaned His holy covenant with David that he finally cried out, "Lord, where are thy former loving kindnesses, which you swore unto David in your truth?" (verse 49).
The Psalmist’s conclusion to Psalm 89 is a complete pessimism and a feeling that God had not kept his word. There is no escaping this meaning, as any unbiased reader of the Psalm will attest. God supposedly had not kept his word that David’s throne would remain in perpetual existence. It seemed as though God had apparently made void His covenant to David (verse 39).
The occasion for the writing of the Psalm is easy to ascertain. Verse 38 begins the dirge division of the Psalm with a statement that God has cast off and abhorred his anointed. This anointed one was a king because his crown (verse 39) and throne (verse 44) were cast to the ground. This king was killed in battle (verse 43) and was of relatively young age (verse 45). This was a time when the country’s "hedges and strongholds" were now open to complete ruin (verse 40). The Psalmist was convinced that what had happened to the king was a sure sign that God had made void His covenant with David and his descendants (verse 39)
The king was certainly not David or Solomon (they did not die in battle nor in their youth). Of Judah’s nineteen kings since Solomon, five had died unnaturally, but only one died in battle and this one was also of relatively young. 1 Only one king of Judah met all the factors: Josiah! This king lived in the time of Jeremiah he was killed at the relatively young age of 39 in the Battle of Megiddo (2 Chronicles 35:20–27). Josiah’s death brought into Judah the Babylonians who finally broke down Judah’s hedges and strongholds and who finally demolished David’s throne in Jerusalem and which, according to the Psalmist, helped to make "void the covenant of your servant [David]" (verse 39).
Without doubt, the theme of the matter section of Psalm 89 was clearly occasioned by Josiah’s death and the subsequent destruction of the Davidic Dynasty in Judah. The whole tenor of the Psalm suggests that Jeremiah (who was a prophet, a priest, and an advisor to the Davidic throne) was the author. If not, the theme was certainly relevant to the time of Jeremiah. There are some Hebrew words in the Psalm that are found nowhere else in the Bible but in Lamentations which, of course, was written by Jeremiah. So it looks as though Jeremiah was the pessimistic and doubting author of the latter section of Psalm 89. And why not? Jeremiah on one other occasion was so discouraged when God seemed to be failing him that he complained to God,
"Will you [God] be altogether [in every way] unto me as a liar, and as waters that fail?"
This is what Jeremiah said, and God had to rebuke him for it. He commanded him to repent or else! Jeremiah did repent as any man of God would, but first he let God know that he had thought that God had certainly failed him. From this, it should not be surprising that Jeremiah could pessimistically say, as did the author of Psalm 89, that God had made void the very Davidic covenant which He had promised would always remain (verse 39).
Of course, God had not lied, but to the Psalmist it seemed so. After all, the throne had fallen and finally ceased altogether in Jerusalem. How could God keep his word to David? One way to meet the problem and see a solution is to say the throne was transferred away from Jerusalem to some distant land, such as Ireland. Did not the king’s daughters go to Egypt with Jeremiah, and could not David’s throne be perpetuated somewhere else? Yes, one could suppose such a thing possible if there were Scriptures to support it. Was this the answer to the problem which Jeremiah saw in Psalm 89? No! What God finally told Jeremiah was something else entirely—and the problem was solved completely. Jeremiah was satisfied.
Jeremiah was later given a revelation which showed him what God meant when He promised David that his throne would continue forever. It was not as many people have interpreted it. Notice what God finally told Jeremiah (the author of Psalm 89) who thought God had made his covenant to David void.
"Thus says the Lord; if you can break my covenant of the day and my covenant of the night, and that there should not be day and night in their season [this uses the same words a Nathan’s original prophecy, a reiteration in Psalm 89] then may also my covenant be broken with David my servant, that he should not have a son to reign upon his throne."
The only difference between the original promise given to David and this particular promise shown to Jeremiah concerns the throne. While David was told that his throne would last forever, God told Jeremiah what that prophecy meant. It meant that David would not lack a man to reign on that throne—not that the physical throne itself would exist forever.
The whole matter about the throne was a figure of speech, not to be taken absolutely literally. I do not mean that the promise was not valid or that its meaning was watered down’ Far from it! When God makes a promise, He means it. He means it literally! But often it is the meaning that must be taken literally and not what may be indicated by the words.
For example, Christ told the disciples to beware the leaven of the Scribes and Pharisees. Even the disciples made the mistake of thinking Christ meant their bread. It was not the literal bread (or leaven) He was referring to, but rather, their doctrine. Likewise, when Paul described the Passover service he said, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood" (1 Corinthians 11:25), are we to suppose that the cup itself was really the new covenant or was it properly the wine in the cup? Of course, it is not the cup, but the wine. But I suppose some literalists, not knowing the use of figures of speech—of which there are thousands in the Bible—could insist that the Word of God says the cup is the token of the New Covenant and begin to call the cup itself one of the Passover emblems to take into the mouth and swallow! After all, he would have the Word of God on his side. But seriously, anyone should know that it is not the cup but what is in the cup that counts.
Likewise with David’s throne. It was not the throne—the physical throne itself or the sovereign government which it sometimes represented—that God meant was never to end. He really meant that David would never lack a man to sit on a throne.
If the author of Psalm 89 had understood the promise as a normal figure of speech, he could never have said that God had made his covenant with David void. But it is easy to misunderstand figurative speech—even Christ’s apostles did this several times. Yet there was no need to misinterpret even the original promise God made to David. Why? Because Solomon, his son (long before the time of Jeremiah) never had any problem whatever with interpreting the original promise. Notice how he understood it,
"Now therefore, O YHWH God of Israel, keep with your servant David my father that which you have promised him, saying, there shall not fail you a man in my sight to sit upon the throne of Israel."
2 Chronicles 6:16
In the original promise all that was said related to the perpetualness of the throne, but Solomon saw the figure of speech and knew how to interpret it. The real meaning of the promise was understood by Solomon as God later told Jeremiah.
"For thus says YHWH; David shall never want a man to sit on the throne of the House of Israel."
It does not say "David shall never want a throne" but it does say that "David shall never want a man to sit on the throne."
The original promise was misinterpreted by some who thought God meant the throne, whereas it was not the literal ivory throne nor the sovereign government it represented that God meant. Rather, He was making a promise concerning the descendants of David who would sit on that throne.
And to further prove this, notice the corollary to the expression in Jeremiah that David would never want a man to sit upon the throne of Israel,
"Neither shall the priests the Levites want a man before me to offer burnt offerings, and to kindle meat offerings, and to do sacrifice continually."
Everyone knows that when the altar and the temple were destroyed, there could be no more continual sacrifices. The Temple has gone long ago! The altar has disappeared! But have the priests been destroyed? No! We still have our Cohens, Kahns, Conns, and so forth. But there is no temple! Has God kept his promise? Certainly! No temple is needed for the promise to be fulfilled for the present. When a temple is back in existence, the priests will be there to perform their duties. God promises it!
We likewise have descendants of David still with us today. Many Jewish people are able to prove their Davidic ancestry today. Some of David’s descendants are very much around. There is no want of a man to sit on the throne if it were here. But, there need be no throne (i.e., a literal physical throne) in existence on earth today for God to be faithful to his promise to David. Solomon knew what the original promise entailed and Jeremiah clarified it. If we insist that the throne still exists today, then why not also insist that a temple exists with the priests sacrificing in it? If the throne was transferred to Ireland and perpetuated there (later in Scotland and England) then was the temple also to be perpetuated there? Did the Levitical priests become the Druids and carry on pagan sacrifices to God? No!
The throne itself came to an end with Zedekiah, just as the temple did. And there is a prophecy to show this fact,
"And you profane wicked prince of Israel [Zedekiah] ... remove the diadem [from Zedekiah] and take off the crown ... I will overturn, overturn, overturn [Hebrew: perverted, perverted, perverted] and it [the crown] shall be no more [it will no more be in existence] until he comes whose right it is, and I will give it [the crown] to him."
The crown was to be taken from Zedekiah’s head—it was to become perverted (ruined and destroyed) with a triple force, and be no more (cease to exist) until Christ will come to wear it!
The triple words, "perverted, perverted, perverted," have excellent meaning to them. The verb "to pervert" means, according to the dictionary,
"to divert from a proper use or function; to misdirect or misapply; to twist from proper meaning, give wrong significance to, misconstrue; to turn from true belief, allegiance, morality, etc.; give a wrong or distorted view to."
All of these things Zedekiah had done to David’s throne. The throne was meant to help the oppressed, to feed the poor, to show righteousness to Israel and to all. But Zedekiah had perverted (three times over) its original intention. He had perverted it so thoroughly that the Davidic throne had become the very antitheses of what God had intended. So, God finally had to say,
"It [the throne] shall be no more, until he comes whose right it is."
The throne had become so perverted that God brought it to an end with Zedekiah, and it will not be reinstituted, according to the Word of God, until Christ’s second coming.
This is God’s word. It fulfills all prophecy concerning David’s throne completely. God did not void his covenant with David—He is faithful. David will never lack a man to sit on the throne. And that throne will be in Jerusalem, nowhere else!
Ernest L. Martin
1 None of the kings of the northern kingdom of Israel qualifies because the overthrowing of their thrones did not make void a covenant with David. None of them was a descendant of David.
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