King David: The High Point of Old Testament Typology

For the last few weeks I have been considering the subject of typology and Christology in the OT, asking the question: Is there a progressive and increasing nature to the conception of typology in the Old Testament?  Looking particularly at personal types of Christ in the OT (i.e. Adam, Noah, Abraham, David, etc…), I believe that there is an element in which the mediatorial leaders marked out by the Spirit in the OT do in fact show more and more likeness to the Christ as redemptive history moves forward towards Christ.  So that, we can say that David depicts Christ in a more full way than does Abraham or Adam.   That is my hypothesis, at least. 

I have found some very illuminating and helpful contributions to this subject, but perhaps no more succinct and enriching as Herman Bavinck’s consideration of David as the highpoint of OT typology (and Christology).  He writes in general of typology,

The Old Testament does not contain just a few isolated messianic texts; on the contrary, the entire Old Testament dispensation with its leading persons, and events, its offices and institutions, its laws and ceremonies, is a pointer to and movement toward the fulfillment in the New Testament (Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Volume 3: Sin and Salvation in Christ [trans. J. Vriend; Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006], 243).

Then he highlights Davidic typology as the zenith of the OT revelation for the person of Christ to come,

Especially the office of king achieved such typical [i.e. typological] significance in Israel.  The theocratic king, embodied especially in David with his humble beginnings, many sided experience of life, deep emotions, poetic disposition, unflinching courage, and brilliant victories, was a Son of God (2 Sam. 7:14; Pss. 2:6-7; 89:27), the anointed one par excellence (Pss. 2:2; 18:50).  People wished for him all kinds of physical and spiritual blessings (Pss. 2:8f; 21, 45, 72), and he was even addressed as “Elohim” (Ps. 45:6).  The king is the bearer of the highest–of divine–dignity on earth.  Theocratic kingship…found its purest embodiment in David; for that reason the kingship will remain in his house (2 Sam. 7:8-16).  This promise to David, accordingly, is the foundation and center of all subsequent expectation and prophecy (244).

Bavinck’s comprehensive survey of Davidic typology affirms what the entire OT is seeking demonstrate–the coming of a Davidic son who will reign on the throne.  From Genesis to 1-2 Samuel, the Spirit of Christ is inspiring Biblical writers to anticipate David:  The covenantal promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob point to the emergence of mighty king (Gen. 17:6, 16; 35:11; 49:9-12); Deuteronomy 17 makes legal preparations for the rule of this king; Numbers 24:15-24 announces a scepter who will rise from Israel who will rule over the nations; in Judges the nation of Israel spirals out of control without a king in Israel (21:25); while the book of Ruth chronicles YHWH’s providential control of history that results in a Davidic genealogy (4:18-22).  Moreover, when David comes onto the seen in 1-2 Samuel (and Chronicles), his life is a divinely-intended adumbration of the Christ who is to come.  In this, the account of David’s life is genuinely historical.  Yet, all the while, it typifies the life of Christ to come.

In his treatment of this subject, Bavinck arrticulates how preexilic and postexilic prophets develop this Davidic typology.  Moving from the historic David to the more excellent prophecies about his greater Son, Bavinck points out that the prophecies consistently take on a Davidic shape, 

Prophecy, which is added to interpret typology, looks out from the past and present to the future and ever more clearly portrays the — to be expected — son of David in his person and work.  To the degree that kingship in Israel and Judah answered less to the idea of it, to that degree prophecy took up the promise of 2 Samuel 7 and clung to it (Amos 9:11; Hosea 1:11; 3:5; Mic. 5:1-2; Isa. 9:6-7; 11:1-2, 10; Jer. 23:5; 30:9; 33:17, 20-22, 26; Ezek. 34:23-24; 37:22-24).  This anointed king will arise from the dynasty of David when–in utter decay and thrust from the throne–it will resemble a hewn trunk (Isa. 11:1-2; Mic. 5:1-2; Ezek. 17:22).  God will cause him to grow as a branch from David’s house (Jer. 23:5-6; 33:14-17), so that he himself will bear the name “Branch” (Zech. 3:8; 6:12).  Despite his humble birth, he will be the true and authentic theocratic king.  Coming from despised little Dethlehem, where the royal house od Savid origniated and to which, driven from the throne, it withdrew (Mic. 5:2; cf. 3:12; 4:8, 13), the Messiah will nevertheless be a ruler over Israel; his origins as ruler–proceeding from God–go back to the distant past, to the days of old.  He is God-given, an eternal king, bears the name Wonderful, Counselor, mighty God (cf. Isa. 10:21; Deut. 10:17; Jer. 32:18), everlasting Father (for his people), Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6-7).  He is anointed with the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, of counsel and courage, of knowledge and the fear of the Lord (Isa. 11:2) and laid as a tested, precious foundation stone in Zion (Isa. 28:16).  He is just victorious, meek, a king riding on a donkey; as king he isnot proud of his power but sustained by God (Jer. 33:17, 20, 22, 26; Zech. 9:9f.), a king whom the people call and acknowledge as “the Lord our righteousness” (Jer. 23:6f–cf. 33:16, where Jerusalem is called the city in which Yahweh causes his righteous to dwell).  he will be a warrior like David, and his house will be like God, like the angel of the Lord who at the time of the exodus led Israel’s army (Zech. 12:8; cf. Mal. 3:1).  He will reign forever; found a kingdom of righteousness, peace, and prosperity; and also extend his domain over the Gentiles to the ends of the earth (Pss. 2, 45, 72; Ezek. 37:25; Zech. 6:13; 9:10; etc.) (244-45).

All in all, I believe that the entire OT finds organic, covenantal ties (historically) and inscripturated revelation (textually) that point to or build off David’s person and kingdom.  Resultantly, it seems legitimate to conclude that one of the reasons why Jesus can say that all Scripture speaks of him (John 5:39), is because of David’s central role in the canon of the OT.  Since Jesus is the greater David, he fulfills in a more exalted way, the mediatorial role (i.e. prophet, priest, and king) lived out by Israel’s first true king, thus fulfilling the typological life of David in the OT, as well as all the other covenantal mediators in th OT.  In this way, David is the greatest personal type of Christ in the Old Testament, or at least that is what I am arguing.  Would love to hear your thoughts.

If this Davidic typology peaks your interest, I encourage you to listen or read  Jim Hamilton’s “The Typology of David’s Rise to Power: Messianic Patterns in the Book of Samuel.”

Sola Deo Gloria, dss

2 thoughts on “King David: The High Point of Old Testament Typology

  1. I think the quote you led with by Bavinck — The OT moving toward a fulfillment in the NT — is right on. This can be seen clearly in 2 Cor. 1:19-20; 2 Tim. 3:14-15 (Paul telling Timothy to continue in what he had learned and firmly believed — which includes and largely entails the OT); Luke 24:25-27, 44-47; and Gal. 4:4 (God sending His Son at the fullness of time, among other places).

    The more I read the OT from the perspective of it pointing toward fulfillment in Christ, the more it makes sense. I am not very far into this pilgrimage, but the journey has been sweet so far and biblically sound from what I can tell.

    I can’t speak much to whether typology heightens as you progress through redemptive history. This seems plausible, but is not something I have examined.

    The ideal Israelite king was one who both kept the law (Deut. ??, and then picked up in the Psalms) and exposed the people to the reading of the law, while Abraham was a more generic “you will be a blessing to many nations and through you God’s people will receive land, seed, blessing.” I suppose this could be a heightening of typology.

  2. I jumped off a high point at the swimming pool when I was a kid. It was the high dive. It was a was a high point in my life. Plus I think you’re right about the typology thing, I concur.

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