The House of David
by David Sielaff, August 2004
Read the accompanying Newsletter for August 2004
The phrase “House of David” is not surprisingly thought to mean the family or the descendants of David. It denotes the kingly line of Judah and all those who had David as their physical forefather. Jesus had David as His forefather and He was in line to occupy the Throne of David. 1 Clearly it does mean this in the majority of instances. It also means on occasion — quite surprisingly — something else. It specifies a location, a physical place, that has great importance, if understood correctly in context. This second meaning is the subject of this article.
The phrase “House of David” is used some 26 times in the Hebrew Old Testament and at other times with additional qualifying terms. 2 Most often the phrase means the family or clan or descendants of David, as in the following verses where the “house of David” is counterpoised to the “house of Saul”:
“Now there was long war between the house of Saul and the house of David: but David waxed stronger and stronger, and the house of Saul waxed weaker and weaker. ...
And it came to pass, while there was war between the house of Saul and the house of David, that Abner made himself strong for the house of Saul. ...
Then was Abner very wroth for the words of Ishbosheth, and said, ‘Am I a dog's head, which against Judah do show kindness this day unto the house of Saul your father, to his brethren, and to his friends, and have not delivered you into the hand of David, that you charge me to day with a fault ...
To translate the kingdom from the house of Saul, and to set up the throne of David over Israel and over Judah, from Dan even to Beersheba.”
2 Samuel 3:1, 6, 8, 10
This is the same sense and usage as when the phrases “house of Israel” or “house of Judah” are used.
However, other instances of “house of David” clearly means something different, such as when the Queen of Sheba visited Solomon in Jerusalem:
“And Solomon brought up the daughter of Pharaoh out of the city of David unto the house that he had built for her: for he said, ‘My wife shall not dwell in the house of David king of Israel, because the places are holy, whereunto the ark of the Lord has come.’”
2 Chronicles 8:11
Another example is when Nehemiah took a night tour around Jerusalem:
“At the fountain gate, which was over against them, they went up by the stairs of the city of David, at the going up of the wall, above the house of David, even unto the water gate eastward.”
In these last two passages the phrase “house of David” indicates a place or a structure, and not a group of people. While the simple Hebrew term beth is consistently translated “house,” the meaning and usage of “house” can vary. However, all the various meanings of house boil down to two categories: either (1) a group of people is meant or (2) a place, a structure of some kind, is meant. All instances of “house” fit into one of those two general meanings. I will examine the second meaning of “house” as a place or structure. The results are most surprising.
King David struck upon the idea that God should have a Temple rather than just a Tabernacle or tent as His dwelling place on earth. The complete story is found in 2 Samuel chapters 7 and paralleled closely in 1 Chronicles 17:1–27. David did not receive permission from God to build the Temple, but he was told it was for his son (at that time unborn) to build the House for God’s Name. 3 While Nathan the prophet of God gave King David an initial positive response, God later communicated to Nathan something else to tell David:
“And it came to pass that night, that the word of the Lord came unto Nathan, saying, ‘Go and tell my servant David,
Thus says the Lord, Shall you build me a house for me to dwell in? Whereas I have not dwelt in any house since the time that I brought up the children of Israel out of Egypt, even to this day, but have walked in a tent and in a tabernacle. In all the places wherein I have walked with all the children of Israel spoke I a word with any of the tribes of Israel, whom I commanded to feed my people Israel, saying, Why build ye not me an house of cedar? Now therefore so shall you say unto my servant David,
Thus says the Lord of hosts, I took you [David] from the sheepcote, from following the sheep, to be ruler over my people, over Israel: And I was with you whithersoever you went, and have cut off all your enemies out of your sight, and have made you a great name, like unto the name of the great men that are in the earth. 4 ... have caused you to rest from all your enemies.
Also the Lord [YHWH] tells you that he [YHWH] will make you a house.’”
2 Samuel 7:4–9, 11
Let me point out something that will make that last sentence of verse 11 clear. Almost as an aside God appears to add the last statement. Note also that where the King James Version has “he,” in the Hebrew the word YHWH is repeated. The Hebrew therefore reads: “Also YHWH tells you [David] that YHWH will make you [David] a house.” This is a vital and key statement.
Why is YHWH (the proper name for God in Israel) repeated here within so few words? It is done for emphasis. It denotes something important and the reader should pay attention. It is to indicate that YHWH is speaking to David, and not just through Nathan the Prophet. This is a direct and personal communication from YHWH to David that YHWH Himself will “make” a house for David. 5
David will not be allowed to build a house for God, but God will build a house for David. The house for God will be built by one of David’s sons.
“Also [YHWH] tells you that [YHWH] will make you a house.
And6 when your days be fulfilled, and you shall sleep with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, which shall proceed out of your bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever [olam, for the age].”
2 Samuel 7:11–13 (Hebrew in v. 11)
This passage in 2 Samuel 7 is an important milestone of time. It not only is the moment when God reiterates and reinforces His Covenant with Israel through David, but it has messianic implications as well. 7
God’s promise was to provide to David (future to that moment) a son who will build the Temple. God provided the plan for the Temple, David gathered the materials for the construction. 8 God promised David three things:
(1) to make or build him a house,
(2) to set up seed after him, and
(3) to establish his kingdom.
These are three separate promises that God is making. Most readers of Scripture, in fact most all scholars, equate the first as a restatement of the second, that God making David a house is the same as setting up the seed. David’s response in 2 Samuel 7:18–29 and Psalm 89 are seen as reinforcing that almost universal understanding. However, all three are unique promises of different things. It is important that they be kept separate and distinct from each other. 9
David’s response to God’s announcement in 2 Samuel 7:18–28 shows confusion and anger far beyond the disappointment of not being allowed to build a Temple to God. He expresses shock and does not understand what is happening. It appears almost as if he has been cursed by God. In fact, David has been judged and sentenced to death by God! David’s reaction to this death sentence shows first dismay, then questioning, and then finally acceptance of his fate. What is going on here?
The house that God will build for David is a Tomb. I make this statement without doubt. That a tomb can be designated as a house can quickly be established.
“[In old age] desire shall fail: because man goes to his long [olam, age-lasting] home [beth, house], and the mourners go about the streets. ... Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.”
Ecclesiastes 12:5, 7
“All the kings of the nations, even all of them, lie in glory, every one in his own house [beth, house]. But you are cast out of your grave like an abominable branch, and as the raiment of those that are slain, thrust through with a sword, that go down to the stones of the pit; as a carcass trodden under feet. You shall not be joined with them [the kings] in burial ...”
“And [Nehemiah] said unto the king, ‘Let the king live for ever: why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place [beth, house] of my fathers' sepulchers, lie waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire?’”
In these passages the word “house” indicates a location (not a people) and “house” can and does mean sepulcher or tomb. In 2 Samuel 7:11 the word “house” means sepulcher. In fact it is referring to the sepulcher of David in that verse, and in other occurrences of the phrase “house of David.” God building a house for David meant that God created or constructed a natural structure, a cave, for David’s burial.
One scholar properly understands this key passage of Scripture and authored an entire book concerning 2 Samuel chapter 7 about God’s message to David and David’s response. Professor Lyle Eslinger in House of God or House of David: The Rhetoric of 2 Samuel 7 correctly explains fully what the text means. As Eslinger explains,
“Having revealed to David that God would be the one to make a ‘house’ for his covenant partner and not vice versa, Yahweh proceeds to talk about time after David. This house will be a house for the dead!”
Eslinger, House of God or House of David, p. 43 10
– underlining mine
Here is Eslinger's evidence for his claim:
“Yahweh’s choice of phrasing, to anyone familiar with Israel’s best known traditions is double damnation: ‘for (kî) when your days have been filled and you lie down with your fathers ...’ Such words were spoken only once before (by God or anyone else). When Moses overstepped his bounds he was refused the pleasure of the view of the promised land from within the bounds of that most desired place (Num 20.8–13, 27.12–14; Deut 4.22). In Deut 31:14, on the eve of the entrance into the land, God says to Moses, ‘Your time to die has drawn nigh.' Then, in v.16 we hear the same phrase ‘You are lying down with your fathers. ...’”
Eslinger, House of God or House of David, p. 44 
– underlining mine
This is remarkable. Moses and David have a notable connection here. 12 The great lawgiver and the great king are the only two men (to that point) to have a sentence of death from God Himself. Eslinger continues:
“These are the only places in the Bible in which God pronounces the death of a man … But the allusion goes further: … Yahweh’s dying David is a second Moses who to his grave must go before the promised land is gotten.”
Eslinger, House of God or House of David, p. 44
– underlining mine
This being the case, consider David’s position. David is at the height of his power as leader over Israel and Judah. In fact he is great among men and has world-wide power. He knows that he had God’s blessing throughout his life, as God reminded him. 13 He had just brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem and placed it at the Gihon Spring (2 Samuel chapter 6). He initially receives God’s approval to build the Temple. Then God makes the sudden and unexpected Covenant promise to David of posterity and kingdom, but He also makes the announcement about David’s gravesite and death. David is greatly shocked and upset.
Read how David carefully words his prayer in reaction to God’s pronouncement. I will insert the word “tomb” in brackets where the word “house” occurs:
“Then went king David in, and sat before the Lord, and he said,
‘Who am I, O Lord God? and what is my house [tomb], that you have brought me hitherto? And this was yet a small thing in your sight, O Lord God; but you have spoken also of your servant's house [tomb] for a great while to come. And is this the manner of man, O Lord God? And what can David say more unto you? for you, Lord God, know your servant. For your word's sake, and according to your own heart, have you done all these great things, to make your servant know them. Wherefore you are great, O Lord God: for there is none like you, neither is there any God beside you, according to all that we have heard with our ears.”
2 Samuel 7:18–22
David is dismayed and is asking the question “Who am I? ... and what is my house that you have brought me hitherto?”, to this point in my life through so much toil and trouble for Israel, Now you just send me to my grave? Was all this a trifling matter to you, O God? Yet David knows that God had “done all these great things” for the sake of His word. After questioning God, David reviews Israel’s past (as God did), and David then expresses his realization that God’s will must be done, and that he shall do the part assigned to him, whatever the future may bring. David notes that Israel shall be a people “for the age,” just as David’s house (his tomb) also shall be “for the age.” Note how God’s own words are restated back to Him, as David understands them, in an appropriate and respectful manner.
“For you have confirmed to yourself your people Israel to be a people unto you for ever [olam, for the age]: and you, Lord, are become their God. And now, O Lord God, the word that you have spoken concerning your servant, and concerning his house [tomb], establish it [prepare the house] for ever [olam, for the age], and do as you have said. And let your name be magnified for ever [olam, for the age], saying, ‘The Lord of hosts is the God over Israel: and let the house [tomb] of your servant David be established [prepared] before you.’”
2 Samuel 7:24–26
David acknowledges that as God’s word for Israel was true, so too God will establish David and his Tomb “for the age” just as He says (restated in 1 Chronicles 17:24). David continues his heartfelt prayer to God:
“For you, O Lord of hosts, God of Israel, have revealed to your servant, saying, ‘I will build thee an house [tomb]: therefore has your servant found in his heart to pray this prayer unto you. And now, O Lord God, you are that God, and your words be true, and you have promised this goodness unto your servant: Therefore now let it please you to bless the house [tomb] of your servant, that it may continue for ever [olam, for the age] before you: for you, O Lord God, have spoken it: and with your blessing let the house [tomb] of your servant be blessed for ever [olam, for the age].”
2 Samuel 7:27–29
What God revealed to David was a revelation, something totally new. That revelation was that God will build David a house. In spite of his initial reaction, David “found in his heart to pray,” he found the courage to accept what God had said about the house even though he did not understand the purpose.
There is a great deal of repetition in this passage but it is intentional. By the end of David’s prayer he fully accepts whatever God has in store for him. It was in moments like these in David’s relationship to God that David proved he was as described, a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14; 1 Kings 15:3, 5; and Acts 7:45). 14 Ezekiel 33:11–21 shows the attitude God demands. David is an example of that proper attitude.
The 30th Psalm is most interesting. A direct reference to the House of David is given in the title. 15 The purpose of Psalm 30 is to dedicate the house of David that God built. No doubt David had the interior finished out, perhaps with cedar, with belongings, artifacts and mementos of David and his reign. 16 The subject of Psalm 30 is David’s praise of God for deliverance and asking others to join him in that praise (vv. 1–5). Undue confidence in David’s own abilities brought on his problems, but fervent prayer brought his deliverance from death (vv. 6–10). Praise is renewed as a conclusion (vv. 11–12). The possibility of death permeates throughout Psalm 30, exactly as God threatened and David responded in 2 Samuel chapter 7.
Read this Psalm in light of 2 Samuel chapter 7 where David is refused permission to build the Temple and then God announces He will build a house for David, a house that was to be a tomb. David prayed to God in confusion and then acceptance. Psalm 30 was written for the dedication of house or tomb that God built for David.
“A Psalm and Song at the dedication of the house of David.
I will extol you, O Lord; for you have lifted me up, and have not made my foes to rejoice over me. O Lord my God, I cried unto you, and you have healed me. O Lord, you have brought up my soul from the grave [sheol]: you have kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit.
Sing unto the Lord, O you saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance [or memorial, meaning the house] of his holiness. For his anger endures but a moment; in his favor is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.
And in my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved. Lord, by your favor you have made my mountain to stand strong: you hid your face, and I was troubled. I cried to you, O Lord; and unto the Lord I made supplication.
What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit [after death]? Shall the dust praise you? shall it declare your truth? Hear, O Lord, and have mercy upon me: Lord, be you my helper. You have turned for me my mourning into dancing: you have put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness; To the end that my glory may sing praise to you, and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks unto you for ever [olam, for the age].”
David made the occasion of “the dedication of the house of David” into a remembrance, a memorial, of God’s holiness. No ordinary house would fill that requirement. While it is still unclear to David what God would accomplish by this remembrance, he was willing to accept and praise God for it. He also praised God for keeping him alive and continuing His protection long after the pronouncement of 2 Samuel 7.
The “profit” and “praise” mentioned at the end of Psalm 30 begins to occur after David’s death later in the time of Peter, when comparisons are made between David and Jesus (in Acts 2) immediately after Jesus’ resurrection. It may be fulfilled in another way when prophecies of Zechariah begin to occur.
Upon his death King David was buried in Jerusalem, as it says: “So David slept with his fathers, and was buried in the City of David” (1 Kings 2:10). In fact all of the good kings of Judah were buried in Jerusalem. “Solomon slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David his father” (1 Kings 11:43; 2 Chronicles 9:31). Note particularly what is said about King Hezekiah’s burial: “And Hezekiah slept with his fathers, and they buried him in the chiefest [or highest or on the ascent] of the sepulchers of the sons of David” (2 Chronicles 32:33). There were several family tombs of David in the City of David. 17 Note the following points:
According to Josephus, King David had immense wealth buried with him in his Tomb (Antiquities 7.15.2 ¶391). The next mention in the Bible where the context of “house of David” means a place or a location is in the time of Hezekiah when the Assyrians threatened Judah, God says to Isaiah:
“And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah: And I will clothe him with your robe, and strengthen him with your girdle, and I will commit your government into his hand: and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah. And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.”
The “house of David” was a special place, a physical location, which in the time of King Hezekiah needed to be locked with a key held by a trusted servant of the king. The situation was that Eliakim, an official of King Hezekiah’s court, was commissioned to replace a man named Shebna 18 (who sought to carve “a sepulcher on high” for himself like a king of Judah, Isaiah 22:15–17). Eliakim was given the authority that Shebna formerly had, indicated by mention of the robe and girdle in v. 21, and an additional responsibility to maintain the key that opened the lock to the “house of David.” 19 I propose that this “key of the house of David” opened the door that led to the Tombs of David. Those Tombs were accessible in Isaiah’s time. Isaiah 22:22 is directly referenced by Christ:
“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘These things says he that is holy, he that is true, he that has the key of David, he that opens, and no man shuts; and shuts, and no man opens; I know your works: behold, I have set before you an open door, and no man can shut it: for you have a little strength, and have kept my word, and have not denied my name.”
Christ Jesus has the key referred to in Isaiah 22:22, with one significant change. Revelation 3:7 refers to “the key of David” and not the “key of the house of David.” The phrase “the house of” is missing. This is because “the house of” is a tomb, and in Revelation 3:7 a tomb has no place there. Resurrection is in view as is the return of Christ Jesus. Christ has no connection to a tomb any longer. In fact, He has the keys to David’s (and everyone else’s) resurrection.
When Israel returned from captivity in Babylon Nehemiah was appointed governor over the people of Judah. Nehemiah made two inspection tours around the city of Jerusalem 12 years apart. The first was chronicled in Nehemiah chapter 3, discussing repairs to the walls of Jerusalem. Note them carefully:
“But the gate of the fountain repaired Shallun the son of Colhozeh, the ruler of part of Mizpah; he built it, and covered it, and set up the doors thereof, the locks thereof, and the bars thereof, and the wall of the pool of Siloah by the king's garden, and unto the stairs that go down from the city of David. After him repaired Nehemiah the son of Azbuk, the ruler of the half part of Bethzur, unto the place over against the sepulchers of David, and to the pool that was made, and unto the house of the mighty.”
The Nehemiah’s second tour is told in Nehemiah chapter 12:
“And at the fountain gate, which was over against them, they went up by the stairs of the city of David, at the going up of the wall, above the house of David, even unto the water gate eastward.”
The perspective of Nehemiah 3 is from the top looking down. The perspective of Nehemiah chapter 12 is from the bottom looking up. Four identifications can be made in these passages:
(1) “The gate of the fountain” corresponds to “the fountain gate”
(2) “Stairs ... from the city of David” corresponds to “stairs of the city of David”
(3) “Sepulchers of David” corresponds to “House of David”
(4) “Pool that was made” corresponds to “the water gate” which opened to the water source.
The relationships become even clearer when put side by side in chart form:
Nehemiah 12:37 (12 yrs later)
“The gate of the fountain repaired Shallun ...,
... and unto the stairs that go down from the city of David. ...
over against the sepulchers of David and
to the pool that was made ...”
“At the fountain gate, ... they went up
by the stairs of the city of David, at the going up of the wall,
above the house of David,
even unto the water gate upward.”
The sepulchers of David are clearly identified with the House of David in these passages. Nehemiah made these identifications, not me. I merely point them out. There is no doubt that the same scene is being described from two different perspectives, separated by a dozen years.
Approximately 300 years after the time of Nehemiah the Maccabean King John Hyrcanus entered the Tomb of David and took out 3,000 talents of silver (Antiquities 7.15.3 ¶393 and 13.8.4 ¶249). About 80 years after that Josephus records that King Herod tried to enter the Tomb of David again to plunder its treasure (Antiquities 7.15.3 ¶394 and 16.7.1 ¶¶179–182). Herod was successful in entering some of the outer chambers, and removed furniture and other items, but he failed to enter where the bodies were located. After his failure King Herod put a monument at the entrance to the Tomb of David (Antiquities 16.7.1 ¶182).
These citations indicate, according to the Bible and the record of Josephus, that the location of the sepulchers of David, identified in the Bible as the “house of David,” were known in the time of Isaiah and Hezekiah, the time of John Hyrcanus, and the time of Herod. The location of David’s Tomb, the house of David, was also well known in the time of Peter.
The location of the Tomb of David was also known at Pentecost in 30 C.E. when Peter spoke to the people of Jerusalem who responded to tumult resulting from the Holy Spirit coming upon the apostles. As spokesman of the apostles Peter addressed the crowd and quickly came to the subject of King David. He began by quoting Psalm 16:8–11:
“For David speaks concerning him [Jesus],
‘I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: Because you will not leave my soul in hell, neither will you suffer your Holy One to see corruption. You have made known to me the ways of life; you shall make me full of joy with your countenance.
Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulcher is with us unto this day. Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; He seeing this before spoke of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. This Jesus has God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he has shed forth this, which you now see and hear.
For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he says himself, ‘The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit you on my right hand, Until I make your foes your footstool.’ Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God has made that same Jesus, whom you have crucified, both Lord and Christ.’”
To be sure, the focus and object of Peter’s speech was Christ Jesus raised from the dead, not King David or his Tomb. However, the factual information that Peter gave indicates several key points about David and his Tomb.
(1) King David was dead — at that moment. He was not alive in some altered or disembodied state. He ceased to exist and his nonexistence will continue until the resurrection from the dead.
(2) David’s body was buried. The body had not been disturbed in any way in spite of the intrusions into the Tomb by John Hyrcanus and King Herod. 20
(3) The Tomb of David was known and present at the time Peter was speaking. Everyone knew that fact. One senses from the text that Peter was gesturing to a close-by location.
(4) David had not ascended into heaven (as some philosophers thought happened to god-like men), nor did David’s resurrection occur at the time of Jesus’ resurrection.
(5) David in his Tomb was figuratively “seated” at God’s right hand, in fulfillment of Psalm 110. This verse, written by David, applied to himself as a human being. The greater fulfillment was through Jesus Christ.
As Ernest Martin noted from biblical and Jewish sources, the Jews began moving the bones of most of the Judean kings from their original location in the City of David, to positions on the slope of the Mount of Olives. This process began about 36 B.C.E. and continued through the time of Jesus. In Secrets of Golgotha Martin shows a photograph from the Israel Museum of a well-known tomb slab from the tomb of Uzziah, the leper king of Jerusalem. The inscription reads, “Hither were brought the bones of Uzziah, King of Judah — do not open.” Jesus refers to the process of placing the bones of the kings of Jerusalem into an ossuary or stone box and then moving the bones, in Matthew 23:27–29 and Luke 11:47–48. 21
Not all the kings were moved. King David and his immediate family (perhaps including Solomon) were not moved and reburied. In addition, the tomb of the Huldah the Prophetess was not moved. The Jewish sage Rabbi Akiba (b.40 C.E. and d.135) notes this in the Tosefta, Baba Bathra 1:11–12. It is important to realize that R. Akiba indicated this after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 C.E. This means that the situation described by Rabbi Akiba existed from the last mention of the Tombs or house of David by the apostle Peter in 30 C.E., through the Roman destruction of Jerusalem, up to the time of Rabbi Akiba. 22 The immediate issue referred to concerns a grave encompassed later by an expanding town. Akiba gives his judgment and the responses are presented:
“All sepulchers should be cleared away, except the sepulcher of a king and the sepulcher of a prophet. Rabbi Akiba says: ‘Even the sepulcher of a king and the sepulcher of a prophet should be cleared away.’ He was told, ‘But there were at Jerusalem the sepulchers of the House of David and the sepulcher of Huldah the prophetess and nobody ever touched them’: to which he [R. Akiba] replied: ‘Do you adduce these as evidence? There was a tunnel in them through which the uncleanness went forth to the Valley of Kidron.’”
Tosefta, Baba Bathra, 1.11–12
The plural is used when referring to the “sepulchers of the House of David.” None of those sepulchers were moved. The Tosefta passage specifically states that the sepulchers had not been touched, just as Peter earlier indicated. (It means the Romans did not pillage the sepulchers.) There was a tunnel close to the sepulchers, “where the uncleanness went forth.” This uncleanness was a reference to the offal and blood from the butchered animals of the Temple. 23 The sepulchers of David and Huldah are in close to the Temple waste water. It may also mean the waste water from Temple purifications of the priests and people. In any case there was a tunnel nearby to the Temple where the uncleanness of the Temple flowed. 24
This understanding about the Tombs of David was reiterated by the Jewish sage Maimonides in the late 12th century. In a discussion about geographical holiness in the city of Jerusalem proceeding by degree to the most holy place, the Holy of Holies, Maimonides writes:
“All graves might be removed except that of a prophet or a king [must be removed], ... graves might not be kept therein, except the graves of the House of David and the graves of Hulda (the prophetess), which were there from the days of the early prophets.”
Maimonides, Book of Temple Service, p. 32 25
Strong Jewish tradition continued to show that bodies in the House of David were not moved — just as Peter said about David — when the other kings of Israel were disinterred, moved and reburied.
It is interesting to note that the Mishna says: “There were five gates to the Temple enclosure: the two gates of Huldah from the south, which served for entrance and for exit” (Middoth 1.3, Danby Translation). It would not be surprising if the gates of Huldah point and lead in the direction of the graves of Huldah and the sepulchers of David.
Zechariah chapters 12, 13 and 14 are one continuous prophecy, often called the little apocalypse. It shows a sequence of events leading to the Day of the Lord (Zechariah 14:1) when Christ returns to the Mount of Olives. Before that moment many other events must occur, some of which involve the “house of David.”
The phrase “house of David” occurs five times in the prophecy of Zechariah 12:7–13:2 given below. 26 I have italicized occurrences of “in that day” which occur like a drumbeat repeated throughout this passage. In fact, the phrase “in that day” marks natural breaks of thought in the passage.
“The Lord also shall save the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem do not magnify themselves against [above] Judah.
8 In that day shall the Lord defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David; and the house of David shall be as God [Elohim], as the angel of the Lord [YHWH] before them.
9 And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. 10 And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.
11 In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon. 12 And the land shall mourn, every family apart; the family of the house of David apart, and their wives apart; the family of the house of Nathan apart, and their wives apart; 13 The family of the house of Levi apart, and their wives apart; the family of Shimei apart, and their wives apart; 14 All the families that remain, every family apart, and their wives apart.
13:1 In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness.
2 And it shall come to pass in that day, says the Lord of hosts, that I will cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they shall no more be remembered: and also I will cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to pass out of the land.
The “house of David” plays an important role in this prophetic passage, a role not normally considered because it is assumed that the descendants of David are meant. Reread carefully the passage and where “house of David” occurs, insert the thought of tomb instead of people where the word “house” is used. It is always important to distinguish things as presented. The distinctions are there for a reason. Note that “inhabitants of Jerusalem” must be distinguished from “house of David” in this immediate context.
In verse 8, the inhabitants of Jerusalem are “as David,” in other words, very dynamic and powerful. The “house of David” is compared to God Himself, and as a messenger from God. The “house of David” shall go before “the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (v. 8). How could that be? How could the descendants of David be “as Elohim, as an angel of YHWH before them” to the people of Jerusalem? The answer is simple if the “house of David” was a location, say an unopened Tomb or series of chambers, that would contain artifacts and writings that confirm the Word of God to “the inhabitants of Jerusalem.” That may indeed be the case.
The comparison of the “house of David” to Elohim and to an angel of YHWH is not a comparison of power and might, but of knowledge and understanding. The fountain that shall be “opened to the house of David.” It will be a fountain of knowledge about God: “For with you is the fountain of life: in your light shall we see light.” (Psalm 36:9). It will result in a proper fear of God.:
“In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge. The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death.
“For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.
“O Lord, the hope of Israel, all that forsake you shall be ashamed, and they that depart from me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living waters. Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved: for you are my praise.”
An angel of God is a messenger, an entity who communicates knowledge about God. The house of David shall be like an angel of God. It will communicate. The inhabitants of Jerusalem will not have great power in themselves. Only by submitting to God and looking to Him will they witness God’s power as He destroys nations that come against Jerusalem (v. 9). God will defend them, but not by their power (v. 8). They will see physical salvation from God only when they accept Him “whom they have pierced.”
I cannot go into detail here regarding the mourning in verses 10–14, except to say that the “houses” mentioned can also be tombs, and that “the spirit of grace and supplication” to be poured out will be the direct cause of the mourning. The shock and bitterness to the inhabitants of Jerusalem shall be as powerful as was news of the death of King Josiah (2 Kings 23:28–30 and 2 Chronicles 35:20–27).
I have written elsewhere about Hosea 3:4–5, 27 but the passage has relevance here to show the condition of the children of Israel at present, and what they shall do in the latter days. They shall seek David their king:
“For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim: Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their king; and shall fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter days.”
The children of Israel will seek David their king after many days, after the children of Israel return, and in the latter days. The seeking has not happened in history. It is not happening now; it will happen in the future.
The present situation of the children of Israel has continued for “many days” since the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E. 28 Some time “afterward” they will honestly seek “the Lord their God” and “David their King” in the latter days. They will be successful! Israel will learn to fear the Lord. They will have awe and wonder of Him and His goodness. This is exactly the scenario of grace and supplication as expressed in Zechariah 12:10 above.
There is an equally intriguing passage in Isaiah. This verse is repeated virtually verbatim in Micah 4:2:
“And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, ‘Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.’”
This verse is ordinarily thought to take place after Christ returns to earth. The context is a future “house of the God of Jacob” that is future to us today. However, many elements of this passage could take place before Christ’s return. Remember that before the 2nd Coming of Christ, the world will acknowledge that
After acknowledging these things, the world will be deceived into accepting the wrong Christ and the laws of God will be perverted. Before the deception and before the perversion, the elements of Isaiah 2:2–3 will be fulfilled as part of the “restitution of all things.”
How could these things possibly occur? They can occur in a way that relates to the mountain of the Lord, the house of the God of Jacob (meaning the Temple), and the teaching from God that will come “out of Zion” that will relate to the law, the teaching, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. I believe this relates directly to the passage in Zechariah chapters 12–14. Something about the “house of David” would have such an impact on “the inhabitants of Jerusalem” that they quickly acknowledge “him who they have pierced” as their Messiah. 29 The apostle John clearly shows that this is Jesus:
“But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water. ... these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, ‘A bone of him shall not be broken.’ And again another scripture says, ‘They shall look on him whom they pierced.’”
Rabbis cited in the Babylonian Talmud understood that the house of David in Zechariah (particularly verse 13:1) was a place. In fact, the house of David was a place that had an entrance, and they knew where that entrance was. Let me use the same quote that Dr. Martin used in his article “Water Management in the Temple.” The description is of a water system of the purest of water and how that water flowed to an exit 30:
"R. Phinehas in the name of R. Huna of Sepphoris said:
‘The spring that issues from the Holy of Holies in its beginning resembles the antennae of locusts [water (dew) on very fine filaments like the diameter of spiders’ webs]; as it reaches the entrance to the Sanctuary [“the Place for the Going Down of the Waters” in the western wall] it becomes as the thread of the warp [a slightly larger filament]; as it reaches the Ulam, it becomes as the thread of the woof [slightly larger still]; as it reaches the entrance to the [Temple] court, it [the channel] becomes as large as the mouth of a small flask [other feeder pipes for drainage increased its volume], that is meant by what we learned:
R. Eliezer b. Jacob said:
‘[Hence] go forth the waters which will bubble forth from under the threshold of the Sanctuary. From there onwards it becomes bigger, rising higher and higher, until it reaches the entrance to the House of David [at the bottom of the Ophel slope where David pitched his “House” (Tabernacle) for the Ark at the Gihon Spring]. As soon as it reaches the entrance to the house of David [at the Gihon Spring], it becomes even as a swiftly running brook, in which men and women afflicted with gonorrhea, menstruating women, and women after childbirth bathe, as it is said:
In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for purification and for sprinkling.’”
Babylonian Talmud, Yoma 77b–78a
[quoting Zechariah 13:1]
The “house of David” was understood as a place with an entrance near to the flow of waste water (the Tosefta passage) and the waste purification water (Yoma 77b–78a), both from the Temple. The phrase “the entrance to the house of David” is repeated twice within a short space for emphasis. There was indeed an entrance to a place called “the house of David.” John Hyrcanus entered it and 80 years later Herod entered it and sealed it up. The Romans never entered it. Remember what the Tosefta passage said about the relationship of the uncleanness and the sepulchers of David?
“... But there were at Jerusalem the sepulchers of the House of David ... There was a tunnel in them through which the uncleanness went forth to the Valley of Kidron.’”
Tosefta, Baba Bathra, 1.11–12
Both Jewish writings mention the house of David. Both mention water flowing from the Temple. The house of David was clearly close to the Temple.
There is a direct relationship of the house of David to the Temple. The information I present here makes no sense unless the proper location of the Temple above and west of the Gihon Spring is known and taken into account. Any contribution made here is based on the groundwork of Dr. Ernest Martin and Gary Arvidson, who fully accepts Dr. Martin’s Temple location. When that Temple location is considered, everything fits. Dr. Martin’s proper identification of the Temple site may have consequences far beyond what we can imagine, except as revealed in Scripture. The house of David is still there. What Peter said in 30 C.E. is still true today: “he [David] is both dead and buried, and his sepulcher is with us unto this day” (Acts 2:29).
David Sielaff, August 2004
2 “House of David”: 1 Samuel 20:16; 2 Samuel 3:1, 6; 1 Kings 12:19f, 26, 13:2, 14:8; 2 Kings 17:21; 1 Chronicles 17:24; 2 Chronicles 8:11, 10:19, 21:7; Nehemiah 12:37; Psalms 30:1, 122:5; Isaiah 7:2, 13, 22:22; Jeremiah 21:12; Zechariah 12:7f, 10, 12, 13:1. I include in this list the phrase “House of My servant David” which occurs twice: 2 Samuel 7:26 and in the New Testament in Luke 1:27.
4 David deserves to be called great, as in “King David the Great,” unlike lesser men, such as Alexander the Great or Suliman the Great. It is not an opinion of men that makes this judgment, but God Himself who said David would be called “Great” (2 Samuel 7:9). David was, is, and will be known around the world. Gary Arvidson first noted this in his book In Search of King David’s Lost Tomb & Treasure, 2nd edition (Kings Mountain, NC: Gary Arvidson, 2001), p. 142. Contact the World Care Organization, P.O. Box 442, Dallas, NC 28034, phone: 704-923-0777.
5 The entire section about God’s covenant with David from 2 Samuel 7:1–17 is repeated in 1 Chronicles 17:1–15. Repetitions also indicate importance. Note that in 1 Chronicles 17:10 the word used is not ’asah, “to make” as in 2 Samuel 7:11, but is banah, “to build” as in construction. Distinctions of words can also have significance. David uses banah, “build” in 2 Samuel 7:27. The house God said He would build for David was not the house of cedar that David had as his palace. That had already been built (2 Samuel 5:11; 2 Samuel 7:2, 1 Chronicles 17:1). King Hiram of Tyre built it for David (1 Chronicles 14:1).
6 There is no “And” in Hebrew. The thought continues without pause or use of a connecting word.
7 Peter identifies Christ as the ultimate result of this seed in Acts 2:30, calling David a Prophet of God. We will turn to Peter’s speech at Pentecost later.
8 See my article “The Pattern of the Temple” at http://www.askelm.com/temple/t031102.htm, which explains that the “pattern” of the Temple came from God. God established David in His Kingdom and then God chose the location, the design, and a son of David to build His Temple. The Temple was, as much as possible, prefabricated, with most of the materials gathered by the time of David’s death.
9 When judgment is brought upon Joab, David’s military chief, King Solomon repeats the three elements of the promise. Note that the “seed” and the “house” are separate here also:
“Their blood shall therefore return upon the head of Joab, and upon the head of his seed for ever [olam, for the age]: but upon David, and upon his seed, and upon his house, and upon his throne, shall there be peace for ever [olam, for the age] from the Lord.”
1 Kings 2:33
10 Sheffield Academic Press, 199), pp. 42–43. This was Professor Eslinger’s 3rd book for Sheffield, a major scholarly press. His other book was Kingship of God in Crisis. A Close Reading of 1 Samuel 1–12 (Sheffield and Decatur, GA: Almond Press, 1985).
11 Note the clear parallel between the two following verses:
“And the Lord said unto Moses, ‘Behold, your days approach that you must die’ ... And the Lord said unto Moses, ‘Behold, you shall sleep [literally “lay down”] with your fathers; and this people will rise up, and go a whoring after the gods of the strangers of the land ...”
Deuteronomy 31:14, 16
“And when your days be fulfilled, and you shall sleep [literally “lie down”] with your fathers, I will set up [literally “rise up”] your seed after you, which shall proceed out of your bowels, and I will establish his kingdom.”
2 Samuel 7:12
12 For a list of comparisons of Moses and David, see Appendix 7 of Arvidson’s King David’s Lost Tomb & Treasure, pp. 375–379. Note also that Moses received a “pattern” of the Tabernacle, just as David received a “pattern” (same Hebrew word) of the Temple to be built by one of David’s sons. See my article “The Pattern of the Temple” in footnote 8 above.
13 “I was with you wheresoever you went, and have cut off all your enemies out of your sight, and have made you a great name” (2 Samuel 7:9). David apparently even had hegemony over the seas and rivers according to God’s statement in Psalm 89:25.
14 Psalm 89 is a commentary on this Davidic covenant. God and apparently other speakers alternate in a poetic chorus. Note that there is discussion about seed and kingdom, but no mention of “house” or tomb anywhere in Psalm 89. David’s death sentence is not an issue in this Psalm.
15 There is no question from the context in the title of Psalm 30 that the phrase “house of David” does not indicate a group of people or David’s descendants. Nor does it refer to David’s palace, the house of cedar (2 Samuel 5:1, 7:2), which had no need to be dedicated. The Temple could not be meant because it was not completed until David’s death.
16 Such is the evidence from Josephus in Antiquities 7.15.2 ¶391 who wrote that David had immense wealth and even furniture buried with him.
17 Whether this includes the Tomb of Solomon cannot be known. All three, and others, were buried in the city of David. Most of the kings of Judah were buried in the city of David through the reign of Hezekiah. After him no other Kings of Judah were buried in the City of David. None of the Kings of Israel were buried in Jerusalem and none were descendants of David. Note the promise God made to Jeroboam when God told him the 10 tribes of Israel would be separated and Jeroboam was to be their king:
“And it shall be, if you will hearken unto all that I command you, and will walk in my ways, and do that is right in my sight, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as David my servant did; that I will be with you, and build you a sure house, as I built for David, and will give Israel unto you.”
1 Kings 11:38
God made a promise to Jeroboam similar to the one that He made to David, complete with a promise of a house provided for him by God Himself. Unlike King David, Jeroboam failed and did not keep or do what God commanded. The biblical text does not say that God ever built a “house” for Jeroboam. It may have been conditional upon Jeroboam’s acceptance.
18 Cf. 2 Chronicles 16:13–14 where King Asa “made” (Hebrew: dug) a sepulcher for himself. It is the same understanding of the rabbis as shown in the Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 26a: “[Later, when] Shebna went to hew out for himself a sepulcher among the sepulchers of the house of David, the Prophet came and said to him: What hast thou here and whom hast thou here that thou hast hewn here a sepulcher? Behold, the Lord will hurl thee down as a man is hurled” (citing Isaiah 22:16).
19 In the Bible keys were typically large enough to be carried on one’s shoulders. Later they became smaller. Note other uses of keys in Judges 3:25 and 1 Chronicles 9:27 (where the term “opening” can also be “key” in Hebrew). The word “key,” singular or plural, is used in Matthew 16:18–19; Luke 11:52; and Revelation 1:18, 9:1, and 21:1. Keys not only keep things “in” but they also keep things “out.”
20 Josephus specifically states that Herod did not reach the bodies although he sought to do so (Antiquities 16.7.1 ¶¶181–182).
21 See Ernest Martin, Secrets of Golgotha (Portland, OR: ASK, 1996), chapter 20, “Burial Grounds in Jerusalem,” pp. 274–287. The new sepulchers of the kings were whitened (whitewashed) so that visitors to Jerusalem for the feasts would not touch a new tomb at night and become ritually impure for ceremonies the next day. Regarding the king Uzziah inscription see J.A. Thompson, The Bible and Archaeology (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1982), p. 336. Uzziah was not buried with the other kings of Judah in the City of David, but outside the city walls. However, his bones also needed to be moved “outside the camp.” (Martin, p. 277).
22 This passage is cited from the Tosefta (a secondary Jewish compilation of the oral law of the Jews, compiled after the Talmud.
23 It was necessary for that offal and blood to be sent away from the holiness of the Temple, both for the sake of ritual purity, but also for the sake of hygiene and potential disease from unburned animal waste.
24 The Temple is not on or near the Haram esh-Sharif. But if it were, then wastewater from the Temple would flow nearby and over the source of water for the entire city of Jerusalem, the Gihon Spring. This is unlikely. However, with the Temple located above and west of the Gihon Spring (as discovered by Dr. Martin), it makes perfectly good sense that the uncleanness R. Akiba refers to exits from the Temple to the south of and below the Gihon Spring. Akiba’s tunnel must have been south of the starting point for Hezekiah’s Tunnel.
25 The Code of Maimonides, Book 8, The Book of Temple Service, trans. By Mendell Lewittes (New Have, CT: Yale University Press: 1957). Note that Maimonides uses the plural for both graves. He is likely quoting the Akiba passage from the Tosefta.
28 Most Christian commentators think the children of Israel are seeking Jesus Christ as their Messiah in Hosea 3:4–5. The ordinary sense of the verse is that Israel will seek to know all they can about David their king because something will cause them to do so. They will discover Jesus is the Messiah, as Peter taught in Acts chapter 2 and as Paul taught in Acts 13.
30 Words in bold brackets are part of the English translation text from Yoma 77b–78a. Unbold bracketed words are Dr. Martin’s comments. I am citing this directly from Dr. Martin’s article at http://www.askelm.com/temple/t011113.htm.
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