22 December, 2019

II Samuel 7:15—“… my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul …”

I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men: But my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee (II Sam. 7:14-15).

“In II Samuel 7:15, God says ‘… but my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee’ (cf. I Chron. 17:13). Does this not teach common grace? God seems to be saying that reprobate Saul was once an object of divine ‘mercy.’”


Prof. David J. Engelsma

On a superficial reading, it would seem that II Samuel 7:15 states that God once had mercy on Saul but later removed it from him and, therefore, there is common grace.
But notice that, if the text actually teaches that God once had mercy on Saul but later removed it from him, it is not teaching a common grace of God for the wicked but it is stating that Jehovah’s deep, rich mercy, His steadfast covenant love (hesed), is not only for King David and his son, Jesus Christ, but also for the wicked and reprobate Saul. The mercy of II Samuel 7:15 is the mercy God has for David, Solomon and Christ Jesus. The “him” in the text is Solomon as the type and Jesus as the reality, for both are sons of God (in different senses) and God is their Father (in different senses, as per John 20:17), according to II Samuel 7:14.
Thus, however the text is explained, it has nothing to do with common grace and is no proof of common grace. The grace of God towards Solomon and Christ is not a common grace by anyone’s reckoning!
If II Samuel 7:15 teaches that God takes His grace away from someone to whom that grace was truly given, it teaches that one can lose particular, saving grace. Then the Arminians are right and we lose the biblical truth of the preservation and perseverance of the saints, which is taught in the Reformed creeds and precious to God’s people (Canons of Dordt V:15)!
The correct explanation of the text begins with noticing that the word “it” in the King James Version (KJV) or Authorised Version (AV) is not in the original Hebrew text. Thus the word “it” appears in italics in the KJV/AV.
II Samuel 7:15 actually reads, “But my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took from Saul,” etc. What God took away from Saul was not mercy but the kingship of Israel. God will not take mercy away from Solomon and Jesus Christ, as He took the kingship away from Saul.
God does not take His steadfast love away from anyone upon whom it has once been bestowed (John 10:28-29; Phil. 1:6). The text explicitly teaches this. God’s mercy shall never be taken from Christ, the reality of King Solomon. Since all the elect are in Christ and are represented by Him, God will never take His mercy away from any one of those who are in Christ and belong to Him. To take grace away from one of the elect would be the same as to take it away from Christ Himself!
But Jehovah does take away positions of honour and authority in the kingdom from wicked men who misuse their positions, for example, the office of minister or elder or deacon and the position of member of a true church. This is a warning to us all!
In short, instead of teaching common grace, the passage is a beautiful prophecy of Solomon and Christ whom he typifies and His everlasting kingdom and temple; an unshakable promise that we will never lose God’s mercy because Christ our head never will; and a calling to be faithful in our offices in the church.



Herman Hoeksema (1886-1965)

[Source: The Standard Bearer, vol. 12, no. 11 (March 1, 1936), p. 263]

1. The question asks us to face this argument: Saul was a wicked, reprobate man; he was the object of God’s mercy; ergo, there is common grace. With this we cannot agree because the Scriptures teach that God hates the wicked and is angry with them every day (e.g., Ps. 5:4-67:1111:5-6Rom. 9:13; etc.). Moreover, Jehovah’s mercy is not merely temporal, like earthly human mercy, stopping after a few years, for this is the psalmist’s praise: “thy mercy, O Lord, endureth forever” (Ps. 138:8), since “his mercy is everlasting” (Ps. 100:5). A massive twenty-six times, we read in Psalm 136:1-26 that “his mercy endureth for ever.” These words of worship are repeated in eight more places in God’s inspired Word: “his mercy endureth for ever” (I Chron. 16:3441II Chron. 5:137:320:21Ps. 106:1107:1118:1).

2. The central issues are: What is that mercy of which the text speaks? Does it mean that God had been merciful to Saul personally and that He had withdrawn His mercy from him personally? Or is it dealing with something else?

3. Let us consider the question first from a biblical perspective.

(a) David wanted to build a house (bayit) for Jehovah to dwell in, namely, a temple (cf. II Sam. 7:2), as the Lord well knew (vv. 5, 6, 7). But God’s Word to David through the prophet Nathan is that He will build a house (bayit) for David, that is, a royal dynasty (vv. 11, 16). Jehovah would continue (v. 29) and establish (vv. 12, 13, 16, 26) the kingdom of David’s seed (v. 12), which comes out of his loins (v. 12), “for a great while to come” (v. 19), even “for ever” (vv. 16, 25). For this promised house (bayit) or dynasty, David thanks the Lord (vv. 19, 25, 26, 27, 29). Thus the key to the texts referred to in the question is that they, and the chapters in which they are found (II Samuel 7 and I Chronicles 17), deal with the generations of the royal house (bayit) or dynasty.

(b) On the other hand, even before David ascended the throne, Saul knew that he would have no dynasty (I Sam. 20:3123:17), since God had told him this through the prophet Samuel (I Sam. 13:13-1415:28).

4. Let us address the issue from a more theological perspective. If we study the texts in II Samuel 7 and I Chronicles 17, we will find the following elements (compare also Psalm 89, that refers to this same mercy):

(a) II Samuel 7:15 and I Chronicles 17:13 refer to the “mercy” of God’s everlasting covenant with David and his seed, centrally Christ, as the Servant of Jehovah. “I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David. Behold, I have given him [i.e., the promised Messiah] for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people” (Isa. 55:3-4). It is the covenant that David’s throne shall be forever, and of his seed One shall sit upon the throne of Jacob unto all eternity (Luke 1:32-33).

(b) This “mercy” is with David’s seed from generation to generation until it culminates in Christ, in whom the promise shall be fulfilled. The passage in II Samuel 7:12-15, therefore, does not refer to Solomon alone but to the generations to come. A comparison with Psalm 89 makes this very evident. It is a mercy that concerns David’s house or dynasty.

(c) In the same sense it must be understood when the text tells us that God had taken something away from Saul. It refers to the throne on which Saul’s generations would not sit. Historically, the kingdom, the theocratic kingdom, that was to culminate in the Messiah had first been established with Saul. But God had taken the kingdom away from Saul’s generations and transferred it to the generations of David. This is in harmony with the everlasting covenant of the Triune God.



More to come! (DV)

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