Messiah Son of David

“Save me, O God, for the waters are come in unto my soul.
I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing:
I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me.
I am weary with my crying; my throat is dried:
My eyes fail while I wait for my God.
They that hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of my head:
they that would cut me off, being my enemies wrongfully, are mighty …
Let not those that seek You be brought to dishonour through me, O God of Israel;
because for your sake I have borne reproach; shame hath covered my face.
I am become a stranger unto my brothers, and an alien unto my mother’s children.
For the zeal of Your house has eaten me up, and the reproaches of them that reproach You are fallen upon me.
When I wept, and chastened my soul with fasting, that was to my reproach.
When I made sackcloth my clothing, I became a byword unto them.
They that sit in the gate talk of me, and I am the song of the drunkards.

Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness:
I looked for some to take pity, but there was none, and for comforters,
but I found none.
They gave me also gall for my food, and in my thirst they gave me
vinegar to drink.”   

(the words of David from Psalm 69:1-21, ASV)

Jewish and Christian expositors agree that the messianic title, ‘Son of David’, suggests more than physical descent. While Messiah must certainly ‘be born of David’s line’ it has also been said that he should “study the Torah and occupy himself with its commandments – as his father David did” (Maimonides, Yad haHazaqa). I.e. Messiah is expected to follow the life pattern of his predecessor.

The Son of David should thus also emerge as a mighty conqueror to lead Israel in victory. Messiah “will restore the kingship of David to its ancient condition” (Maimonides, op. cit.). But conquest is merely the final detail of the ‘pattern’. It is not how David’s life began.

David wrote Psalm 69 while an outcast and fugitive. In the Midrashim on this psalm, the rabbis attribute David’s anguish to the rejection and persecution he suffered from his own family and people. “This Psalm describes the life of a poor, despised and lowly individual who lacks even a single friend to comfort him. It is the voice of a tormented soul who has experienced untold humiliation and disgrace. Through no apparent cause of his own, he is surrounded by enemies who wish to cut him down; even his own brothers are strangers to him, ravaging and reviling him. Amazingly, this is the voice of the mighty King David, righteous and beloved servant of G-d, feared and awed by all …

“What caused King David to face such an intense ignominy, to be shunned by his own brothers in his home (‘I have become a stranger to my brothers’), by the Torah sages who sat in judgment at the gates (‘those who sit by the gate talk about me’), and by the drunkards on the street corners (‘I am the taunt of drunkards’)? What had King David done to arouse such ire and contempt?” (Chana Weisberg, ‘Nitzevet, Mother of David – The Bold Voice of Silence’, drawing from the Yalkut HaMairi and the Sefer Hatoda’ah (sections on Sivan and Shavuot. Article available on the Chabad website at this link.)

Compare, in relation to Jesus of Nazareth, with John 7:5 (‘for even his own brothers did not believe in him’) and John 15:5, (‘they hated me without reason’).

According to Jewish legend, David was conceived while his mother and father were separated. David’s birth was thus tainted by suspicions over his mother’s fidelity, and for this David was ostracised from birth.

“[David’s] family greeted his birth with utter derision and contempt. As David describes quite literally in the Psalm, ‘I was a stranger to my brothers, a foreigner to my mother’s sons … they put gall in my meal and gave me vinegar to quench my thirst’. David was not permitted to eat with the rest of his family, but was assigned to a separate table in the corner. He was given the task of shepherd because ‘they hoped that a wild beast would come and kill him while he was performing his duties’ and for this reason was sent to pasture in dangerous areas full of lions and bears. (Chana Weisberg, op. cit., citing Siftei Kohen, Vayeishev.)

David was vindicated when Samuel anointed him king. At this moment – also according to rabbinic commentary– David’s mother proclaimed to her other sons: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone!’ (Psalms 118:22) “Humbled, they responded, ‘This has come from G-d; it was hidden from our eyes'” ( Chana Weisberg, op. cit.).

A new form of persecution started with David’s anointing. While the Seder Olam Rabbah(chapter 13) states that King Saul ruled for only three years (i.e. that he ceased to be king as soon as God deposed him), Saul did not graciously vacate his palace or his throne. While David was already king in God’s eyes, he lived as a fugitive from Saul and the Israelite armies, who sought his life. In these years, only the apparent outcasts of Jewish society gathered around David: “All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their leader” (1 Samuel 22:2).

Did Jesus fulfil the typology of David?

Up to this point, there is a striking correspondence between the life of Jesus of Nazareth and that of his father David.

The rabbis have inadvertently added to this by casting a similar slur on Jesus’ legitimacy – suggesting of him also, that he was conceived and born under shameful circumstances (Toldoth Yeshua; Bab. Sanhedrin 67a; etc.).

The Gospel narratives show Jesus of Nazareth anointed as king while not yet ruling over Israel, but rather suffering persecutions at the hand of the deposed religious authority of his day.

Christians who hold that Jesus is yet to come as ‘the Son of David,’ i.e. that he will only fulfil the Davidic type in his second coming, thus ignore how closely Jesus followed the early details of David’s life.

What is allegedly lacking from the type of David, is Messiah’s victorious rule. But here we must understand the essential difference between the typology and the intended reality of Messiah’s reign.

The Prophet Daniel envisioned Messiah enthroned in heaven: “He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14).

In this, Daniel clearly foresaw the fulfilment of God’s promise to David: “I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son … I will set him over my house and my kingdom forever; his throne will be established forever'” (1 Chronicles 17:11-14).

The apostle Paul writes of the fulfilment of this: “he humbled himself and became obedient to death even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:8-11). I.e. Messiah’s throne has been established beyond the reach of all earthly powers.

Messiah’s rule is nonetheless on earth, even though it is from heaven. He rules his subjects by the Holy Spirit which moves in them “to will and act according to his good purpose” (Phil. 2:13). Messiah’s subjects are bound to him as David’s were – by bonds of love – and serve him faithfully to extend his kingdom ‘on earth as it is in heaven’.

What then of David’s conquests and victories?

The military campaigns of David’s rule foreshadowed the battle for the hearts, the campaign in which the nations are conquered, not by force but by the knowledge of God and a mighty display of His love and saving power. The book of Acts is a record of the glorious victories of Messiah’s reign – in their earliest beginnings. His kingdom has been advancing for two thousand years and will culminate in the vision of Revelation 7:9: “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.”

In this manner the Son of David conquered the world, and David’s prophetic type is perfectly fulfilled.