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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary

1 Chronicles 17

Verses 1-27

CRITICAL NOTES.] This chapter coincides with 2 Samuel 7:0—records David’s purpose to build a house for God (1 Chronicles 17:1-2), and Nathan’s approval. God refuses to permit this, promises a perpetual kingdom in David’s line (1 Chronicles 17:3-15); grateful response to this promise (1 Chronicles 17:16-27).

1 Chronicles 17:1-2.—David’s purpose. Sat in splendour and rest. Curtains as a common tent. David probably fancied the time predicted (Deuteronomy 12:10-11) had come. Nathan followed his own impulse, and fell into mistakes like others (1 Samuel 16:6; 2 Kings 4:27).

1 Chronicles 17:3-15.—God’s refusal and promise. Thou (1 Chronicles 17:4), Hebrew emphatic, “Not thou shalt build,” but some one else. Tent to tent (1 Chronicles 17:5). “I was walking in a tent and in a dwelling,” from one place to another travelling and resting with his people. Judges, suitable antithesis to David. Cedars, costly materials. David elevated from low condition—“sheepcotes,” rude structures of mud walls—to govern Israel (1 Chronicles 17:7). Name (1 Chronicles 17:8) as warrior and king. Place (1 Chronicles 17:9) fixed. Settled kingdom, constant changes before. House (1 Chronicles 17:10), a family, a line of successors. 1 Chronicles 17:11. Go, promise now personal. Seed indefinite, not yet known which son. 1 Chronicles 17:12-14 refer to Solomon, and faithfully fulfilled to him. Mercy, alluding to Saul. Evermore (2 Samuel 7:16).

1 Chronicles 17:16-27.—David’s prayer and thanksgiving, which indicates teaching of deep significance and far-reaching promise. Sat (cf. 2 Samuel 7:18-29). House, dynasty, family—i.e., from David onward in remote future. Knowest (1 Chronicles 17:18), therefore no necessity for further expression of gratitude [Keil]. Servants for thy word’s sake (2 Samuel 7:0). Heart, all attributed to divine mercy. Let be estab. (1 Chronicles 17:24). Rather “And let thy name be established and magnified for ever;” that is to say, Let not only thy promise stand firm, but let thy name also stand firm (continue to be held in honour) and be magnified, &c. [Speak. Com.]. To bless (1 Chronicles 17:27). it hath pleased thee (marg). “For thou, O Lord, but blessed it, and may it be blessed for ever” (cf. 2 Samuel 7:29).


THE KING’S PROPOSAL.—1 Chronicles 17:1-10

David had established worship on its proper basis, reorganised the priesthood, and introduced music, yet not content. Gods of other nations had splendid temples, why not adorn Jerusalem with a house for God which should be the emblem of the nation’s consecration?

I. David’s proposal. “All that is in thine heart.”

1. A noble purpose. To build a house for God. Good to erect asylums and benevolent institutions, more useful to help to build houses for God. Such work needful, must be done, and greatly appreciated. He “hath built us a synagogue.”

2. A generous purpose. “I dwell in an house of cedars, &c.” He felt ashamed of the contrast between his house and the house of God. One substantial and costly, the other only a tent. Impropriety, injustice, and dishonour for him to have more costly surroundings than the ark of God. God should always have our best. Many have “an house of cedar” for worldly life—best talents, most time and money, keenest insight for business, but only meagre remnants for God.

3. A purpose commended by the prophet. Nathan here introduced for first time. The king opened his mind to him. Purpose reasonable, he commended it. “Do all, &c.” (1 Chronicles 17:2). But holy prophets did not know God’s will until revealed to them; often spoke as religious men, from human aspects, and found out their error. Kings and prophets have need to consult God.

II. God’s disapproval of David’s proposal. God not displeased with intention, did not condemn nor entirely reject, but forbade David to build. “Thou shalt not build” (1 Chronicles 17:4).

1. God knows all our purposes. David’s known “the same night” it was formed. He sees the heart and reads our inmost thoughts; knows whether our desires are mean or generous towards his house. “The Lord looketh on the heart.” A sincere heart better than finest gold, a beautiful life more than cedar.

2. God often hinders the accomplishment of our purposes. They may be selfish and not for his glory. We may ignore God in forming them. “If the Lord will, ye should say.” God may seek to save us from spiritual pride and self-dependence; to increase reverence, faith, and purity; to withhold one thing to give a better. “Oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, but was let (hindered) hitherto” (Romans 1:13). “My purposes are broken off” (Job 17:11).

III. Reasons for God’s disapproval of David’s proposal. Some given here and others found elsewhere.

1. It was something entirely new. No such building had ever existed, perhaps not possible in Israel’s wanderings; nor had God ever commanded the erection of a temple as he did the tabernacle. No suggestion had been given to tribe, judge, or leader. God had shared the pilgrim lot and unsettledness of his people.

2. It was untimely in its beginning. Time for building not yet. Present condition of the people not fit, must be improved. They were surrounded by hostile nations, had no permanent rest, therefore God’s sanctuary must still be a tent. Not in David’s reign, but in Solomon’s must plan be accomplished. God’s time always best. We delay, act before the time, or become too hasty in plan and purpose. Enter upon great engagements with much thought and prayer.

3. David was not the right man to build. War a necessary evil in his life. The temple, significant of peace, must not be built by a man of war. Kings in Middle Ages desired to atone for a wicked life by erection of a church or monastery. God will choose his own men and fix his own terms. “Thou shalt not build a house unto my name, because thou hast shed much blood upon the earth in my sight” (1 Chronicles 22:8; 2 Chronicles 2:3).


1 Chronicles 17:3-6. Nathan’s message.

1. Its form. “All this vision” (1 Chronicles 17:15).

2. Its contents, showing that God seeks to correct mistakes of his servants, that he alone is fit judge of what is pleasing to him, and that not even a prophet must step in between.

1 Chronicles 17:5. From tent to tent. Not like heathen gods, confined to localities, and carried about from place to place. The Heb. Mithhallek a travelling God. An active, constant companion of his people, going when they go, resting when they tent. Learn—

1. God’s condescension.
2. God’s providence.
3. God’s help in all its adaptations to camp or tent, synagogue or city. Happy in mean accommodations if God be with us!

1 Chronicles 17:5-6. God’s house in relation to man’s condition.

1. It is not required by God himself. The Most High dwells not in temples made with hands (Acts 7:4), neither worshipped with men’s hands (Acts 17:24). Hence the purity and spirituality of Bible religion. Other religions mean in thought, indicate that God needs temples and gifts.

2. It is required only by man, as a dependent spiritual being, craving for God, for a “tabernacle of witness,” that God concerns himself with man, and will hearken to prayer. God’s dwelling-place the human heart; not sacred groves, consecrated temples, or grand cathedrals. “Ye are the temples of the Holy Ghost.”

1 Chronicles 17:9-10. Israel’s well-being from God.

1. A place appointed for them. So for us in habitations and Christian work.
2. Settlement in the appointed place. “I will plant” as a tree, and they shall grow (a) without disturbance. “Children of wickedness shall waste,” afflict, or injure them no more; (b) without termination. “Shall be moved no more,” at least until important ends are answered. “These gradually advancing manifestations of the Lord’s favour to David look to the well-being of the people of Israel.

(1) He thereby prepared a place for them; that is, by subduing their enemies, made room for a safe, unendangered expansion in the promised land;

(2) Planted them; that is, on the soil thus cleansed and made safe He established a firm, deep-rooted national life;

(3) They dwell in their (own) place, their life-power unfolds itself within the limits secured them by the Lord;

(4) They shall no longer be affrighted by restless enemies. In these words the discourse turns to the future of the people. The sense is: after all these manifestations of favour in the past up to this time, the Lord will for the future assure his people a position and an existence, wherein they shall no more experience the affliction and oppression that they suffered from godless nations” [Lange].


GOD IN PERSONAL LIFE.—1 Chronicles 17:7-8; 1 Chronicles 17:11

God’s grace wonderfully magnified in David’s history. Every age and every nation its prominent men with special mission, proving the possibilities of personal life and the providence of God in their development.

I. God elevates men from the lowest to the highest station in life. David, “from the sheepcote to the throne;” Amos, from flocks of Tekoah to prophetic office; fishermen, from their nets to be heralds of the gospel. History full of illustrations of God selecting, qualifying, and in due time raising men to fill their place as reformers, preachers, and rulers. “He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory.”

II. God helps men to do the work for which they are elevated. This special work not left undone. No failure in God’s plans. “Faithful is he who calleth you, who also will do it.”

1. By his constant presence. “I have been with thee whithersoever thou hast walked.” David, Daniel, Luther never left to themselves.

2. By continual victories. Much opposition to overcome. If God with us, opposition disarmed; “enemies cut off.” None can prevent us rising, none frustrate our work. “I will work, and who shall let (hinder) it?” (undo it. Horsley) (Isaiah 43:13). “The Lord of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it?” (Isaiah 14:27).

III. God honours men for faithful performance of the work to which they are elevated. David greatly honoured in his own life and that of his posterity.

1. Honoured in reputed life. “Made thee a name like the name of the great men that are in the earth.” Names are made, as well as fortunes, by God. Many ambitious for a name, but get one of ill-repute. Love of fame, not love of virtue; often becomes a passion, and tramples on the rights of humanity and sheds innocent blood. Byron sought fame, pronounced it worthless: “ ’tis nothing but cold snow.” “A good name rather to be chosen”—renders more useful and gains more respect—“than great riches.” This we may register in the annals of the Church and “in the book of life.”

2. Honoured in peaceful death. “When thy days be expired, thou must go to be with thy fathers” (1 Chronicles 17:11). Days gradually drawing to an end. Then go to lie with thy fathers (Deuteronomy 31:16). Death a sleep, quiet and peaceful to the Christian. Not “an eternal sleep”! A family gathering hereafter, “with thy fathers.” As Strafford disrobed and prepared himself for the block, he said, “I thank God that I am nowise afraid of death, nor am daunted with any terrors; but do as cheerfully lay down my head at this time as ever I did when going to repose.”

GOD’S PROMISES TO DAVID.—1 Chronicles 17:11-15

More given to David than acceptance of his proposal. The spiritual superior to the material. The political throne falls, but a kingdom is established for ever. Here are three things chiefly—

I. The erection of the house of God by the seed of David. Seed raised up, one of his sons should succeed him and build. David lived on in Solomon, who used the materials his father collected, and carried out the plans that his father suggested. Death never cuts off the influence nor destroys the work of a good man. “When thy days be fulfilled and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom” (2 Samuel 7:12-13).

II. The elevation of David’s seed to sonship with God. “I will be his father, and he shall be my son.” God a father to Solomon in early life and reign. Tender love and providential care ever displayed. Mercy not taken from him as from Saul. He became popular, wealthy, and wise. What a privilege to take the place and receive the honour of sons! In bestowment of the blessing a display of love and grace beyond expression, and calls forth admiration from all who partake. “Behold what manner of love, &c.”

III. The establishment of everlasting dominion in David’s seed. Promise added to promise, embracing present and all future time. “God’s thoughts not as our thoughts.” David dies, Solomon succeeds, the family prospered and remained in power 400 years; but “his throne shall be established for evermore” in the Messiah, David’s seed and son.

DAVID’S RECEPTION OF THE NEWS.—1 Chronicles 17:16-27

David sat before the Lord in waiting attitude and devout meditation; received the message from Nathan with admiring wonder, and petitioned for its accomplishment in himself, family, and kingdom.

I. In grateful praise. “The content of this thanksgiving prayer is like a clear glass, wherein we see into the innermost depths of David’s heart. His soul wholly taken up with the divine revelation and promise, expresses itself in the utterances which follow one another quickly, in accordance with internal excitement of feeling.”

1. In spirit of deep humility. “Who am I?” (1 Chronicles 17:16). An expression of deep feeling of nothingness in contrast to God’s greatness and goodness. Divine loftiness and human lowliness (cf. Psalms 8:5; Psalms 144:3).

2. In astonishment for personal favours (1 Chronicles 17:17-19). (a) Favour to his house. (b) Favour for the future. If unworthy to receive former mercies, how should I feel in regard to promises reaching in the far future—“a great while to come”? Silence most befitting and eloquent, for language fails to express feeling. “What can David speak more?”

3. In adoration of God’s greatness (1 Chronicles 17:20-21). He is great; the incomparable God—“none like thee;” the only God—none “beside thee.” Let his attributes and lovingkindness awaken our gratitude and praise; prompt us to adore his excellence and glory.

4. In remembrance of national mercies. David passes from present blessings to review the past—“rises from his personal experience to the whole line of God’s glorious manifestations in the history of his people” (Hengs.). Israel the only nation redeemed by its God. This redemption incomparable and peculiar, an act which separated them, and made them independent. Deeds of “greatness and terribleness” followed. Nations expelled to make room for Israel, whom he claimed as specially his own, adopted them that he “might become their God.”

II. In earnest prayer (1 Chronicles 17:23-27). Connected with thanksgiving for present and past, David prays for the future.

1. For the fulfilment of the promise. “Do as thou hast said.” Royal dignity set up, “establish it for ever.” Everlasting continuance promised, let the word become deed.

2. For the glorification of God’s name. This the design or consequence of the fulfilled word. Not the honour of his house, not the glory of his people, but solely the honour of God had David in view.

3. For the continuance of the blessing. The blessing secures the continuance. Neither posterity nor power without this. “Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it” (literally, its builders labour in vain in it) (Psalms 127:1). Needful to pray for families, temples, and churches. “Let it please thee to bless the house of thy servant, &c.” (1 Chronicles 17:27).


We briefly fill up an adapted sketch from Lange (2 Samuel 7:18).

I. They infinitely surpass human desert. “Who am I, and what is mine house?” David’s gifts and graces eminent, his honour, success, and reputation great. His house of the royal tribe, and allied to the best families, but no worthiness in family or head.

II. They fill all times from remotest past to distant future. “For a great while to come.” From beginning of David’s reign to end of the world, through David’s seed. From the fall of man to his redemption in glory.

III. They spring from sovereign mercy. “According to thine own heart, hast thou done all this greatness.” People made great not by their own deeds, but by works which God in free sovereign mercy performs for and in them.

IV. They are beyond all human comprehension. What can David say more? (1 Chronicles 17:18). Words cannot express our obligations, and even a sense of obligation. As heaven is high above the earth, so are God’s thoughts above our thoughts.

TRUE PRAYER.—1 Chronicles 17:23-27

Founded upon God’s promise and declared purpose. David honoured God’s faithfulness, expressed his heart’s desire, and becomes a model to us in this prayer.

I. It is grounded on God’s promise. “Thou hast spoken.” Without this darkness and uncertainty—no hope, no encouragement to pray. The labourer in the field, the soldier in the army, and the maidservant in the family animated by promise. The Bible filled with promises well adapted to our moral condition, and reveals “exceeding great and precious promises.”

II. It regards God’s honour solely. “That thy name may be magnified” (1 Chronicles 17:24). This shall be the sum and aim of all our prayers. Magnify self less and God more. Both as “Lord of hosts and God of Israel,” that is as universal Ruler and covenant God let him be glorified.

III. It ascribes all to God’s free grace. “Thou hast told thy servant.” The beginning, the revelation from thee. None could have guessed, been assured, or predicted without thy word. All of God’s good pleasure, whose name is mentioned no less than eight times in these few verses (cf. parallel passage, 2 Samuel 7:24-29).

IV. It appeals to God’s faithfulness. “Thou art God,” unchangeable, powerful, and fit to be trusted. “Thy words are truth” (2 Sam.), never fail, and their accomplishment may be relied upon. The Bible invites unbounded trust in God’s character and procedure—represents it to be the grand duty and joyous privilege of all men.

V. It receives the fulness of God’s blessing. God blesses now, and his blessing cannot be revoked (1 Chronicles 17:27). Independent of future mercies, prayer is a training, discipline, and dignity—the appointed means for our spiritual and future good, and the needed preparation to attain it. Never in vain. Good to draw near now to receive that blessing, “which maketh rich, &c.”


1 Chronicles 17:13. I will be his father and he shall be my son. This true—

(1) of Solomon and other descendants of David who were kings of Judah;

(2) of Christ, “the son of David” (Hebrews 1:5);

(3) of every one who is a believer in Christ and thus a child of God (1 John 3:1; 1 John 5:1) [Lange].

1 Chronicles 17:17-22. A model of devout thanksgiving. I. Over that he rejoices.

1. Over great blessings received in the past.

2. Over yet greater blessings promised in the future (1 Chronicles 17:17). II. In what spirit he regards these favours.

1. As utterly undeserved by himself (1 Chronicles 17:16).

2. As the gift of God’s sovereign grace [Ibid.].

1 Chronicles 17:20-22. God’s relation to his people. Let us for the illustrating of these words consider—I. The relation which God bears to his people.

1. He has chosen them out of the world, which lieth in wickedness.
2. He has given himself to them in a peculiar way.
3. He avows that relation to them before the whole universe. II. Inquire what, under that relation, we may expect at his hands.
1. The care of his providence.
2. The communications of his grace.
3. The manifestations of his love.
4. The possession of his glory. III. What, under that relation, he is entitled to expect from us.
1. That we “be a people to him.”
2. That we give ourselves to him, as he has given himself to us. Conclude with two proposals—
(1) That we at this very hour accept Jehovah as our God;
(2) That we now consecrate ourselves to him as his people [C. Simeon, M.A.].

1 Chronicles 17:23-27. The relation, between God’s promise and prayer. I. The promise prompts to prayer. The character of him who makes the promise, the value of the blessing promised stir up and never prevent prayer. II. The promise assures success in prayer. It is not a mere venture, presumption, or uncertainty, but confident hope of God’s blessing. Characteristics of true prayer. “The prayer of David after the reception of the Lord’s promise of favour bears testimony to the unexpected, joyfully surprising revelation that was made to him and mirrors his childlike humility, fervid devotion, and unshakable confidence towards his God.” To this prayer, which proceeds from a joyfully shocked and deeply moved heart, applies (so far as is possible from the Old Testament standpoint) what Bernard of Clairvaux says of true prayer: “If the way to God’s throne is to stand free and open to our prayer, and it is there to find ready acceptance and hearing, it must proceed from an humble, fervid, and trusting heart. Humility teaches us the necessity of prayer, fervour gives it flight and endurance, trust provides it with an unmovable foundation” [Lange]. “This thanksgiving confirms anew the fact that the only foundation on which the true godliness and everlastingness of the kingdom can rest is the purity and holiness of an humble heart, and therefore the hearty and living humility of David’s thanksgiving may give us the strongest assurance that here is really enthroned the culmination of all royal rule” [Baumgarten].


1 Chronicles 17:7. From the sheepcote. Be not ashamed of your origin. It is well for the great who have risen to be reminded of the humble place which they once occupied. At one of Napoleon’s grand imperial receptions, where his brothers and sisters were, all of them elevated to high rank, and some of them with royal titles, it is reported that one of them said to another, “What would our father and mother have said if they had seen us as we are now?” [S. S. Teacher].

1 Chronicles 17:11. Days expired. God respects not so much after what manner we die, as what manner of death we die [Augustine]. Is that a death-bed where a Christian dies? Yes; but not his—“ ’tis Death itself that dies” [Coleridge].

1 Chronicles 17:16-19. What speak more. Debt to grace. When a friend observed to Rev. John Brown, of Haddington, that we must run deeper and deeper into grace’s debt, he replied, “Oh, yes; and God is a good creditor; he never seeks back the principal sum, and indeed puts up with a poor annual rent” [Life of, &c.].

1 Chronicles 17:20-26. A great God to trust in. Wesley, preaching at Doncaster, said, a poor Romanist woman, having broken her crucifix, went to her priest frequently crying out, “Now I have broken my crucifix, I have nothing to trust in but the great God.” Wesley exclaimed, “What a mercy she had a great God to trust in!” A Romanist present was powerfully affected—“the great God to trust in” touched his heart. He was very deeply convinced of his need of salvation, and joined the Methodist Society, and became an ornament to religion [Bib. Museum].

1 Chronicles 17:26. Promised.

“The thing surpasses all my thought,

But faithful is my Lord;

Through unbelief I stagger not,

For God hath spoke the word.”

[John Gill].

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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 1 Chronicles 17". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.