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"Therefore, O Lord, God of Israel, keep for your servant, my father David, that which you promised him, saying, 'There shall never fail you a successor before me to sit on the throne of Israel, if only your children keep to their way, to walk in my law as you have walked before me.' Therefore, O Lord, God of Israel, let your word be confirmed, which you promised to your servant David." (2 Chronicles 6:16-17, NRSV)
Therefore, O Lord God of Israel, keep with thy servant David my father that which thou hast promised him, saying, There shall not fail thee a man in my sight to sit upon the throne of Israel; yet so that thy children take heed to their way to walk in my law, as thou hast walked before me. Now then, O Lord God of Israel, let thy word be verified, which thou hast spoken unto thy servant David. (2 Chronicles 6:16-17, KJV)
Solomon reminds God of his promise about a Davidic dynasty, but he knows that this promise is conditional on the people remaining faithful to the commandments. It's common in the Bible for people to remind God about various agreements he made, even to quote his own words back to him. Solomon's statement is part of a pretty dramatic moment: God had just descended into the Temple in a cloud and Solomon addresses him in front of the entire congregation of Israel. In this case, the reminder of the promise seems for the benefit of the people. Solomon's saying that if they want him and the rest of David's descendants to be blessed, they'd better follow the laws. Plus, Solomon is publicly affirming that, as David's son, he's the legitimate ruler. Just in case anyone forgot.
As for you, if you walk before me, as your father David walked, doing according to all that I have commanded you and keeping my statutes and my ordinances, then I will establish your royal throne, as I made covenant with your father David saying, "You shall never lack a successor to rule over Israel." (2 Chronicles 7:17-18, NRSV)
As for thee, if thou wilt walk before me, as David thy father walked, and do according to all that I have commanded thee, and shalt observe my statutes and my judgments; Then will I establish the throne of thy kingdom, according as I have covenanted with David thy father, saying, There shall not fail thee a man to be ruler in Israel. (2 Chronicles 7:17-18, KJV)
God comes right back at Solomon. He promises to keep the throne in the family—one of David's descendants will always be in charge in Israel. But is God prepared to stick with the family no matter how bad things get with these guys? It doesn't seem so. God makes it clear that Solomon needs to emulate his father and observe God's rules if he wants to establish the dynasty. Is God's assumption that any descendant of David is guaranteed to be faithful? Spoiler alert: DNA doesn't guarantee anything.
[Israel] answered the king, "What share do we have in David? We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse. Each of you to your tents, O Israel! Look now to your own house, O David." […] So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day. (2 Chronicles 10:16, 19, NRSV)
[Israel] answered the king, saying, What portion have we in David? and we have none inheritance in the son of Jesse: every man to your tents, O Israel: and Now David, see to thine own house […] And Israel rebelled against the house of David unto this day. (2 Chronicles 10:16, 19, KJV)
The 10 northern tribes feel free to rebel because they don't feel like they have any kinship ties with David and his tribe of Judah. They realize that as long as they stay in the unified kingdom, they'll never have one of their own on the throne.
[King Abijah] said, "Listen to me, Jeroboam and all Israel! Do you not know that the Lord God of Israel gave the kingship over Israel forever to David and his sons by a covenant of salt? Yet Jeroboam son of Nebat, a servant of Solomon son of David, rose up and rebelled against his lord; and certain worthless scoundrels gathered around him and defied Rehoboam son of Solomon, when Rehoboam was young and irresolute and could not withstand them. And now you think that you can withstand the kingdom of the Lord in the hand of the sons of David?" (2 Chronicles 13:4-8, NRSV)
[King Abijah] said, Hear me, thou Jeroboam, and all Israel; Ought ye not to know that the Lord God of Israel gave the kingdom over Israel to David for ever, even to him and to his sons by a covenant of salt? Yet Jeroboam the son of Nebat, the servant of Solomon the son of David, is risen up, and hath rebelled against his lord. And there are gathered unto him vain men, the children of Belial, and have strengthened themselves against Rehoboam the son of Solomon, when Rehoboam was young and tenderhearted, and could not withstand them. And now ye think to withstand the kingdom of the Lord in the hand of the sons of David. (2 Chronicles 13:4-8, KJV)
Among the Northern Kingdom's other sins is their refusal to accept God's choice of kings. Even though we're given a reason for Jeroboam's rebellion (Rehoboam increasing the work burdens and generally acting like a heartless jerk), Jeroboam and his followers are still seen as scoundrels. Like it or not, covenant of salt is a covenant of salt. BTW, it's been suggested that since salt is a preservative, it symbolized the long-lasting nature of a covenant. (Source)
Have you not driven out the priests of the Lord, the descendants of Aaron, and the Levites, and made priests for yourselves like the peoples of other lands? […] But as for us, the Lord is our God, and we have not abandoned him. We have priests ministering to the Lord who are descendants of Aaron, and Levites for their service. (2 Chronicles 13:9-10, NRSV)
Have ye not cast out the priests of the Lord, the sons of Aaron, and the Levites, and have made you priests after the manner of the nations of other lands? […] But as for us, the Lord is our God, and we have not forsaken him; and the priests, which minister unto the Lord, are the sons of Aaron, and the Levites wait upon their business. (2 Chronicles 13:9-10, KJV)
The priests in Israel don't come from the right family either. According to Exodus, only Aaron's sons and grandsons (and so on) could serve as high priests. No substitutions. It's the same with the Levites. There were Temple-related activities that only Levites were permitted to do, and using non-Levites to do those things could lead to trouble. These were very rigid bloodline rules.
Jehoshaphat slept with his ancestors and was buried with his ancestors in the city of David; his son Jehoram succeeded him. He had brothers, the sons of Jehoshaphat: Azariah, Jehiel, Zechariah, Azariah, Michael, and Shephatiah; all these were the sons of King Jehoshaphat of Judah. Their father gave them many gifts, of silver, gold, and valuable possessions, together with fortified cities in Judah; but he gave the kingdom to Jehoram, because he was the firstborn. When Jehoram had ascended the throne of his father and was established, he put all his brothers to the sword, and also some of the officials of Israel. (2 Chronicles 21:1-4, NRSV)
Jehoshaphat slept with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the city of David. And Jehoram his son reigned in his stead. And he had brethren the sons of Jehoshaphat, Azariah, and Jehiel, and Zechariah, and Azariah, and Michael, and Shephatiah: all these were the sons of Jehoshaphat king of Israel. And their father gave them great gifts of silver, and of gold, and of precious things, with fenced cities in Judah: but the kingdom gave he to Jehoram; because he was the firstborn. Now when Jehoram was risen up to the kingdom of his father, he strengthened himself, and slew all his brethren with the sword, and divers also of the princes of Israel. (2 Chronicles 21:1-4, KJV)
Apparently rules of family descent didn't mean you had to like your family. Once the requirement was fulfilled—i.e., a Davidic king was on the throne—the other brothers are dispatched. This obviously wasn't what Jehoshaphat had in mind because he made bequests to all his sons. The favored firstborn is a theme throughout the Bible, but it's just as often turned upside-down, like when Jacob stole the birthright from Isaac or when Joseph ended up as way more powerful than all his older brothers. Some of the Davidic kings are firstborns and others aren't, for a variety of reasons.
[King Jehoram] did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. Yet the Lord would not destroy the house of David because of the covenant that he had made with David, and since he had promised to give a lamp to him and to his descendants forever. (2 Chronicles 21:6-7, NRSV)
[King Jehoram] wrought that which was evil in the eyes of the Lord. Howbeit the Lord would not destroy the house of David, because of the covenant that he had made with David, and as he promised to give a light to him and to his sons for ever. (2 Chronicles 21:6-7, KJV)
Okay, so King Jehoram is bad, but not so bad that God breaks the promise he made with David's family. We'd guess God is having some serious buyer's remorse at this point. He allows Jehoram to continue ruling, but he's paying very close attention. What goes around will eventually come around.
Then the whole assembly made a covenant with the king in the house of God. Jehoiada said to them, "Here is the king's son! Let him reign, as the Lord promised concerning the sons of David" […] Then he brought out the king's son, put the crown on him. (2 Chronicles 23:3, 11, NRSV)
The congregation made a covenant with the king in the house of God. And he said unto them, Behold, the king's son shall reign, as the Lord hath said of the sons of David […] Then they brought out the king's son, and put upon him the crown. (2 Chronicles 23:3, 11, KJV)
When Queen Athaliah takes over, she's not only a murderous idol-worshipper, she also comes from the wrong family. Here, her plan to snuff out David's bloodline is foiled when it's revealed that the king's son still lives. The queen had tried to get rid of all the possible descendants of David, but it looks like she missed one. God will go to great lengths to keep his promises to this family.
O people of Israel, return to the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel […] Do not be like your ancestors and your kindred, who were faithless to the Lord God of their ancestors, so that he made them a desolation, as you see. Do not now be stiff-necked as your ancestors were, but yield yourselves to the Lord and come to his sanctuary. (2 Chronicles 30:6-8, NRSV)
Ye children of Israel, turn again unto the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel […] be not ye like your fathers, and like your brethren, which trespassed against the Lord God of their fathers, who therefore gave them up to desolation, as ye see. Now be ye not stiffnecked, as your fathers were, but yield yourselves unto the Lord, and enter into his sanctuary. (2 Chronicles 30:6-8, KJV)
Here, King Hezekiah asks the tribes from Israel to come back into the fold and appeals to their shared family history. Since everyone in Israel is descended from the same person—Abraham—that means they all share a common ancestry. These enemies are more alike than they think.
Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign; he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem. He did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the ways of his ancestor David; he did not turn aside to the right or to the left. For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was still a boy, he began to seek the God of his ancestor David. (2 Chronicles 34:1-3, NRSV)
Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned in Jerusalem one and thirty years. And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the ways of David his father, and declined neither to the right hand, nor to the left. For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet young, he began to seek after the God of David his father. (2 Chronicles 34:1-3, KJV)
Success means following in your forefather's footsteps. Kings that turned away from David and his faithful ways failed miserably. But monarchs who kept it in the family usually turned out all right. Sixteen generations later, Josiah still refers to David as his father and role model.
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