What Does It Mean That Jesus is the ‘Son of David’? Nine Stars in the Constellation of Jesus’s Kingdom

three kings figurines

This month, Track 2 in the Via Emmaus Reading Plan—which is going to get a refresh before the new year—takes us through the book of Luke. And as I reading Luke this month, I am also looking at Volume 6 in the Scripture and Hermeneutics Series, Reading Luke: Interpretation, Reflection, Formation. In one essay, “Kingdom and Church in Luke-Acts,” Scott Hahn traces the theme of Jesus’s Davidic kingship in Luke and Acts. Then bringing order to his observations, he identifies a “constellation of concepts, locations, and institutions that were immediately related to David, his legacy, and [to] one another” (299).

For those interested in studying the theme of Jesus as the Son of David, or knowing what Jesus kingship and kingdom are like, it is imperative to see how Scripture speaks of David, Jesus, and the Jesus relationship to David. As the New Testament declares with great emphasis and repetition, Jesus is David’s son and thus, it teaches us to see Jesus’s kingship as a fulfillment of David’s, only greater.

Thus to know Jesus as Scripture presents him requires a growing knowledge of David. In his essay, Hahn does the exegetical work in Luke-Acts to show where Luke identifies Christ with David (297–99, cf. Luke 1:27, 32–33, 69; 2:4, 11, 8–20; 3:21–22, 23–28; 6:1–5; 9:35; 18:35–43; Luke 22:29–30; 23:37–38; Acts 2:14–36, esp. vv. 25–36; 13:16–41. esp. vv. 22–23, 33–37; 15:13–21). Then, he outlines eight stars in the constellation of Christ’s kingship. Below, I share those with you, as they present in short order what David’s/Jesus’s kingdom is like. Then, I will add one more star to the constellation—the oft-neglected priestly nature of David’s kingship. From this ninth star, we will see why Christ’s kingship stands out against all the other kingdoms of the earth.

Eight Stars in Crown of King Jesus

Summarizing David’s kingship, Hahn writes, “Within the constellation, the following eight characteristics or elements have a claim to being the brightest stars:

(1) The Davidic monarchy was founded upon a divine covenant, the only human kingdom of the Old Testament to enjoy such a privilege.”

(2) The Davidic monarch was the Son of God. The filial relationship of the Davidide to God is expressed already in the foundational text of the Davidic covenant (2 Sam. 7:14), but it is also found in other Davidic texts.

(3) The Davidic monarch was the ‘Christ,’ that is, the ‘Messiah™ or ‘Anointed One.’ The anointed status of the Davidic king was so integral to his identity that he is frequently referred to simply as ‘the anointed one, or ‘the Lord’s anointed.’

(4) The Davidic monarchy was inextricably bound to Jerusalem, particularly Mt. Zion, which was the personal possession of David and his heirs (2 Sam. 5:9), and would have had no significant role in Israelite history had not David made it his capital (cf. Josh. 15:63; Judg. 1:21; 19:10—12; 2 Sam.

(5) The Davidic monarchy was inextricably bound to the temple. The building of the temple was central to the terms of the Davidic covenant from the very beginning, as can be seen from the wordplay on ‘house’ (‘temple or ‘dynasty’) in 2 Samuel 7:11-13.” Even after its destruction, the prophets remained firm in their conviction that YHWH would restore his temple to its former glory as an international place of worship.”

(6) The Davidic monarch ruled over all twelve tribes. It was only under David and the son of David, Solomon, that both Judah and all the northern tribes were united as one kingdom and freed from foreign oppression (2 Sam. 5:1-5; 1 Kgs. 4:1-19).” For this reason the Prophets associate the reunification of the northern tribes of Israel (“(Ephraim’) and the southern tribes of Judah with the restoration of the Davidic monarchy.”

(7) The Davidic monarch ruled over an international empire. David and Solomon ruled not only over Israel but also the surrounding nations. The Psalms theologically justify and celebrate this state of affairs, and the Prophets envision its restoration.»

(8) The Davidic monarchy was to be everlasting. One of the most prevalent emphases in the Psalms and Deuteronomic history is that the Davidic dynasty will be eternal (2 Sam. 7:16; 23:5; Ps. 89:35—36). Not only the dynasty, but also the lifespan of the reigning monarch himself, was described as everlasting (Pss. 21:4; 72:5, 110:4). (300–01, emphasis his)

From these eight observations, Hahn concludes,

When read synchronically, the Old Testament — in the Prophets (both Former and Latter) and the Psalms — gives a composite picture of the Davidic monarchy in which the Son of David, anointed as Son of God by divine covenant, rules eternally from Jerusalem over all Israel and the nations, gathering them to worship at the temple. For theological interpretation, it is important to see each element of this composite picture not in isolation but in its relationship to the entire Davidic ‘constellation.’ (301)

Hahn is exactly right. If we want to know Christ, we must understand him as Scripture presents him. And in the Bible, we learn that Christ is a Son of David, which means he is the long-promised king who will bring peace to the earth. At Christmas, this is what we celebrate, the birth of God’s Son, who came from the line of David. Yet, our celebration would be nullified, if Jesus is the king, was not also Jesus the priest. And importantly, Christ’s priesthood is not an office independent from his kingship, rather as Psalm 110 indicates, David’s Lord would also be a priest.

A Ninth Star: The Davidic King is a Royal Priest

Royal priesthood is not something strange to David and his kingdom. As Carl E. Armerding (“Were David’s Sons Really Priests?” in Current Issues in Biblical and Patristic Interpretation, 75–86) and Eugene H. Merrill (Royal Priesthood: An Old Testament Messianic Motif,” 50–61) have observed, David and his sons acted as a kings with priestly devotion. For instance, David brings the ark to Jerusalem (2 Sam. 6:12–15; cf. Josh. 3:3; 8:33), offers sacrifices (6:17), and blesses the people (2 Sam 6:19). Likewise, David wears the priestly ephod in 2 Sam. 6:14. Thus, David’s kingship is not merely a rule of power like the Gentiles (or like Saul), it is a rule of priesthood (like Melchizedek).

In Luke, this theme is prominent—perhaps, even more prominent than any other Gospel. In my book on the priesthood, I bring out this point in full detail. For sake of space let me make only one observation. After beginning his Gospel with Zechariah serving in the temple, we see that Luke uses the book of 1 Samuel as a template for introducing Jesus as a priestly Son of David. Consider a few connections between Luke and 1 Samuel.

In 1 Samuel the sins of Israel’s priests (Eli and his sons) prompted their removal and the promise of a new priesthood (1 Sam. 2:35). Recalling this previous change, Luke begins his Gospel with many allusions to 1 Samuel. For instance, Mary’s Magnificat (Luke 1:46–56) echoes in form and content Hannah’s prayer (1 Sam. 2:1–10). Then, it says of John the Baptist, he “grew up and became strong in spirit” (Luke 1:80), just like Samuel (1 Sam. 2:26; 3:19). Most importantly though, “God’s purpose in Samuel was to cut the corrupt line of Eli, Hophni, and Phinehas, and raise up ‘a faithful priest who will do according to what is in My heart and in My soul.’” In 1 Samuel, Hannah bore a son who would prepare the way for David, Israel’s priestly king. In Luke, this promise has been fulfilled to its greatest degree, as John the Baptist comes to prepare the way for Jesus, who will be king and priest foretold in 1 Sam. 2:35. (Royal Priesthood and the Glory of God)

Indeed, John the Baptist is an heir to the Aaronic priesthood. But in his prophetic ministry, he points to Jesus as the One who will forgive sins—a thoroughly priestly action! In this way, the John the Baptist, a priest in his own right, forsakes his priestly heritage in order to make way for the Lord, the son of David, who will become the priest who inaugurates a new covenant with a greater promise of forgiveness. All in all, Jesus is not a king like the nations, one who will take for himself (see 1 Samuel 8). He is a king like David, one after God’s own heart who seeks to establish true worship on earth, as it is in heaven. All of this is to say, Jesus is a priestly king.

Hahn, for all that he has written about priesthood, doesn’t make this point in Luke. Maybe that’s because it doesn’t fit his Catholic beliefs; maybe it is because Jesus’s priesthood is a debated point in the Gospels; or maybe it is because space did not permit a ninth star in his constellation. Whatever the reason, it needs to be seen that Jesus, as David’s greater son, is a priestly king. Thus, Jesus’s Davidic kingdom is not only oriented towards the temple and the new covenant, it is also oriented toward a new priesthood too.

In this season of advent, this is what we celebrate—not just that God came to earth, but that the Son of God became a man to be a priest for us (Heb. 2:10–18). This is the kind of king that Jesus is and the kind of kingdom that he has brought. Jesus’s kingdom, in keeping with promises to David, is full of grace and forgiveness and peace. This is why the coming of Christ is good news. Jesus is the true king of heaven and the high priest who has brought peace to earth. For that we marvel and we sing with the angels, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14).

Soli Deo Gloria, ds