Here is an unconditional promise: "Your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever" (verse 16). Speaking of Solomon, David's son who was later to build the Temple his father had proposed (verses 12-13), God says that His "mercy shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from before you" (verse 15).
The prophet Jeremiah reaffirms that David's throne will rule Israel, and will do so forever: "For thus says the LORD: 'David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel'" (Jeremiah 33:17). Jeremiah's prophecy, which in context is part of a prophecy about Israel in the Millennium, emphasizes that there will always be a monarch ruling "the house of Israel." David's throne, the authority of his dynasty, is not limited to the tribe of Judah, whence David himself sprang, but extends over the entire house of Israel (see also II Chronicles 5:2). We should not expect, therefore, to find David's dynasty in a Gentile nation; God says it will rule Israel.
The promise of an eternal throne—an everlasting dynasty—is a reaffirmation of what Jacob by faith had come to understand centuries before. Speaking of Judah's descendents in the "last days," he prophesied that "the scepter shall not depart from Judah" (Genesis 49:10). There would be a period of time when Judah would not bear rule. However, once God placed the scepter in Judah's hand, we can expect that the house of David would rule ever after. Clearly, God placed the scepter in David's hand. We can therefore count on David's dynasty to rule over Israel in perpetuity.
The same faith that worked in Jacob was at work in David when he speaks confidently of God's steadfast love to his posterity. In Psalm 89:35-37, David says that God has "sworn by My holiness; I will not lie to David: His seed shall endure forever, and His throne as the sun before Me; it shall be established forever like the moon, even like the faithful witness in the sky. Selah."
God's promise of power to David and His promise of wealth to Joseph are not contradictory, for there is an important distinction between the birthright and the scepter. As we saw in the previous issue, God chose Joseph—specifically, Ephraim and Manasseh—to be the recipients of the great physical blessings associated with the birthright. We see this specifically in Jacob's blessing of Joseph's boys, recorded in Genesis 48:12-20, as well as the blessings listed in Deuteronomy 33:13-17. To use Jacob's words, the birthright blessing would be "up to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills" (Genesis 49:26). This is a promise of great wealth and prosperity.
God chose Judah, however, to serve as the scepter tribe, that is, the tribe that would bear rule over the descendants of Abraham. The psalmist Asaph writes that God "rejected the tent of Joseph, and did not choose the tribe of Ephraim, but chose the tribe of Judah, Mount Zion which He loved" (Psalm 78:67-68).
Asaph pinpoints David as the first king to come out of Judah: "He also chose David His servant, and took him from the sheepfolds; from following the ewes that had young He brought him, to shepherd Jacob His people, and Israel His inheritance" (verses 70-71).