Was Potential Sin by Christ Prophesied?
The inspired writer of Hebrews quotes a passage from 2 Samuel 7:14, “I will be his father, and he shall be my son” (Heb. 1:5). This is applied obviously to the Messiah. But the latter part of the verse in 2 Samuel 7:14 is somewhat confusing to me. The remainder of the verse says, “[I]f he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men.” I do not see how this part of the verse (if we have an accurate translation in the ASV and KJV) could apply to the Messiah. Could you give me your insights and thoughts on this verse?
Let us consider several different elements which will help us put this Old Testament prophecy into clearer focus.
Some prophecies had dual applications
There are prophecies in the Old Testament that have a dual application. That is, they have a rather immediate application to a more temporal circumstance. Then, they also have an ultimate fulfillment in a more far-reaching spiritual event.
Here is one example of that. In one of his psalms, David declared, “Yes, my own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, who did eat of my bread, has lifted up his heel against me” (Psa. 41:9).
Now here is the interesting thing. Jesus quotes from this passage in those dark hours before his death, affirming that it is “fulfilled” in the treachery of Judas (Jn. 13:18). However, in quoting the passage from David, the Lord omits the phrase, “my familiar friend, in whom I trusted.”
And what is the significance of that? Simply this. He never trusted Judas, knowing from the beginning of his ministry what the wayward apostle would do (see Jn. 6:64).
Here is the point. While the passage had an original import with reference to David
and those who had betrayed him (a portion of it applying exclusively to the king), it had an ultimate fulfillment in the Savior’s betrayal by Judas.
Consider David’s Son, Solomon
Having established the precedent of remote application and ultimate fulfillment, we are prepared, we believe, to make that same sort of application to the passage at hand—2 Samuel 7:12-16.
Read the entire text carefully. It is a prophecy conveyed by Nathan to David. We are confident that the context refers first partially to Solomon, David’s immediate son, and then, in part, finally to David’s more illustrious “son,” Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:1).
Note first that in some sense there is a reference to Solomon in the prophecy. This is clear from a later reference in 1 Chronicles 22:6ff, where David charged Solomon to build “a house for Jehovah” (i.e., the temple), and this very passage is cited in support of that commission (1 Chron. 22:10; cf. 1 Chron. 28:5; 2 Chron. 6:7ff).
Moreover, it is certain that God never anticipated that his beloved Christ would “commit iniquity,” and therefore possibly need “chastening” with the “rod of men” (2 Sam. 7:14). For example, Isaiah 53 affirms the utter perfection of Jehovah’s servant, Jesus Christ. This portion of 2 Samuel 7:14-15, therefore, obviously applies to Solomon alone.
The prophecy plainly encompasses, however, a far grander scope than that of Solomon’s day, as is suggested by the “last words” of David himself (2 Sam. 23:1ff) and the comments of several inspired New Testament writers.
The testimony of God’s angel to the virgin Mary clearly reflects the promise of 2 Samuel 7:12ff: “[T]he Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end” (Lk. 1:32-33). Peter’s testimony on the day of Pentecost also reflects the prediction of 2 Samuel 7 (see Acts 2:30).
Application to Christ
Finally, the inspired author of the book of Hebrews quotes from Nathan’s prophecy and makes the application to Christ (Heb. 1:5).
All of these facts, therefore, lead only to the conclusion that 2 Samuel 7:12-16 has a two-fold thrust. First there was a limited application to Solomon. Finally, there was to be a more glorious fulfillment in the Messiah’s reign.