The initial statement of the Davidic covenant also contains an indication that the Davidic Messiah would reign over more than Israel alone. In reflecting on God’s promises, David said, “This is instruction for mankind, O Lord GOD!” (2 Sam. 7:19). Dumbrell summarizes Walter Kaiser’s seminal study:
W. C. Kaiser has shown clearly that v. 19b must be taken as a statement, and that the Heb. phrase concerned serves to introduce or to summarize (as here) a set of instructions. Under ‘this’ the promises of the first half of the chapter are being referred to, while under ‘law of man’ their implications as David understood them are contained. . . . With more than some probability Kaiser suggests that the sense given to 2 Sam. 7:19b is, ‘This is the charter by which humanity will be directed.’ That is to say, in the oracle delivered to him, David rightly sees the future and destiny of the human race involved. [Creation and Covenant, 151-52.]
Gentry notes the significance: “Since the God whom the Davidic king represented was not limited to a local region or territory, but was the creator God and Sovereign of the whole world, the rule of the Davidic king would have repercussions for all the nations, not just for Israel” [Kingdom through Covenant, 400].
The same expansion of the territory Messiah’s kingdom can be seen in the Psalms. The Father says to the Son in Psalm 2, “Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession” (2:8). Psalm 72:8 says of the Messianic king, “May he have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River,” one of the boundaries of the promised land, “to the ends of the earth!” Less explicitly, but still in keeping with these promises, David speaks of the Messiah’s rule over Moab, Edom, and Philistia in addition to Israel (Ps. 108:7-9). Psalm 110 reveals that Lord seated at the right hand of Yhwh will one day “shatter kings on the day of wrath” (110:5) and will “execute judgment among the nations” (Ps. 110:6). [For an recent argument for seeing the Messiah in several of these Psalms, see Gordon Wenham, The Psalter Reclaimed, 163-64.]
Examples of the Davidic Messiah ruling over the nations can be found elsewhere in Scripture. (For instance, Gentry argues that the “sure mercies of David” [Isa. 55:3, NKJV] refers to the steadfast love shown by the Davidic Messiah. In context, these mercies would be shown to the peoples or nations [Isa. 55:4][Kingdom through Covenant, 406-21].) But these passages sufficiently establish was is needed for the argument: when Paul said that God promised that Abraham “would be heir of the world” (Rom. 4:13), he has firm exegetical basis in the Old Testament for seeing the extension of the land promise to the entire world (see Martin, Bound for the Promised Land, 134-36).*
A number of conclusions should be drawn from these explicit promises of the extension of the land promise noted in this and in the previous post.
First, it is important to see that the Messiah is the key person through whom the land promise is expanded. It is through his reign that this expansion takes place. There would be no argument from Progressive Covenantalists on this point. But this claim has an entailment that they do not seem to reckon with, namely, that the Messiah is a Davidic king who rules from Zion over Israel and from there to the ends of the earth (Ps. 2:6; 72:8). Thus the expansion of the land promise to encompass the world does not negate the promises to Israel in particular about the land.
Second, the fact that these expansive promises sit alongside more specific promises to Israel about its particular land means that the two should not be pitted against each other. The reality of the expansion of the land promise to encompass the world is not the negation of the center from which the expansion takes place. The enjoyment by the nations of lands that are caught up in the land promise in the new creation does not negate Israel’s enjoyment of the land promise in its own nation.
Third, the expansion of the land promise rests primarily on these implicit and explicit promises rather than primarily on typology. Though Progressive Covenantalists recognize the promises, they place the weight of their argument on typology.
*Nelson Hsieh argues that contextually Paul defines the promise that Abraham would be “heir of the world” (Rom. 4:13) “in terms of Abraham becoming the father of many nations and having innumerable descendants (vv. 17-18).” To be heir of the world thus means that Abraham is heir of a seed from many nations who have faith in God as he did. Hsieh argues that not only does this reading make better sense of the context, but it is also a promise that Abraham believed. Abraham knew of the promise that he would be the father of many nations. Abraham did not know (and thus could not believe) in an expanded land promise. Hsieh closes his article by making the case that κόσμος and κληρονόμος can refer to seed and need not point to the land promise. Nelson S. Hsieh, “Abraham as ‘Heir of the World’: Does Romans 4:13 Expand the Old Testament Abrahamic Land Promises?” Master’s Seminary Journal 26, no. 1 (Spring 2015): 95-110. Whether or not Oren Martin or Hsieh is correct regarding Romans 4, the expansion of the land promise to the world is found in numerous Old Testament texts.
This is part of a serise of posts on Progressive Covenantalism and the land theme in Scripture.
Progressive Covenantalism and the Land: Making Land Relevant (Part 1)
Progressive Covenantalism and the Land: Progressive Covenantalism’s View (Part 2)
The Theological Importance of the Physical World
Eden, the New Jerusalem, Temples, and Land
Rest, Land, and the New Creation
Distinguishing the Kingdom Jesus Announced and the Sovereign Reign of God over All