Is There Any
Common Grace in II Samuel 7:15?
explain II Samuel 7:15: 'but my mercy shall not depart away
from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before
thee' (I Chronicles 17:13 is a parallel passage). Does this
teach common grace?”
Answer by Prof. David Engelsma
superficial reading, it would seem that II Samuel 7:15
states that God once had mercy on Saul but later removed it
from him and, therefore, there is common grace.
that, if the text actually teaches that God once had mercy
on Saul but later removed it from him, it is not teaching a
common grace of God for the wicked but it is stating that
Jehovah's deep, rich mercy, His steadfast covenant love (hesed),
is not only for King David and his son, Jesus Christ, but
also for the wicked and reprobate Saul. The mercy of II
Samuel 7:15 is the mercy God has for David, Solomon and
Christ Jesus. The “him” in the text is Solomon as the type
and Jesus as the reality, for both are sons of God (in
different senses) and God is their Father (in different
senses, as per John 20:17), according to II Samuel 7:14.
however the text is explained, it has nothing to do with
common grace and is no proof of common grace. The grace of
God towards Solomon and Christ is not a common grace by
Samuel 7:15 teaches that God takes His grace away from
someone to whom that grace was truly given, it teaches that
one can lose particular, saving grace. Then the
Arminians are right and we lose the biblical truth of the
preservation and perseverance of the saints, which is taught
in the Reformed creeds and precious to God's people (Canons
of Dordt V:15)!
explanation of the text begins with noticing that the word
“it” in the King James Version (KJV) or Authorised Version
(AV) is not in the original Hebrew text. Thus the word “it”
appears in italics in the KJV/AV.
7:15 actually reads, “But my mercy shall not depart away
from him, as I took from Saul,” etc. What God took away from
Saul was not mercy but the kingship of Israel. God will not
take mercy away from Solomon and Jesus Christ, as He
took the kingship away from Saul.
not take His steadfast love away from anyone upon whom it
has once been bestowed (John 10:28-29; Phil. 1:6). The text
explicitly teaches this. God's mercy shall never be taken
from Christ, the reality of King Solomon. Since all the
elect are in Christ and are represented by Him, God will
never take His mercy away from any one of those who are in
Christ and belong to Him. To take grace away from one of the
elect would be the same as to take it away from Christ
does take away positions of honour and authority in the
kingdom from wicked men who misuse their positions, for
example, the office of minister or elder or deacon and the
position of member of a true church. This is a warning to us
instead of teaching common grace, the passage is a beautiful
prophecy of Solomon and Christ whom he typifies and His
everlasting kingdom and temple; an unshakable promise that
we will never lose God's mercy because Christ our head never
will; and a calling to be faithful in our offices in the
Answer (enlarged from an article
by Herman Hoeksema in the Standard Bearer)
question asks us to face this argument: Saul was a wicked,
reprobate man; he was the object of God's mercy; ergo, there
is common grace. With this we cannot agree because the
Scriptures teach that God hates the wicked and is angry with
them every day (e.g., Ps. 5:4-6; 7:11; 11:5-6; Rom. 9:13;
etc.). Moreover, Jehovah's mercy is not merely temporal,
like earthly human mercy, stopping after a few years, for
this is the psalmist's praise: “thy mercy, O Lord, endureth
forever” (Ps. 138:8), since “his mercy is everlasting” (Ps.
100:5). A massive twenty-six times, we read in Psalm
136:1-26 that “his mercy endureth for ever.” These words of
worship are repeated in eight more places in God's inspired
Word: “his mercy endureth for ever” (I Chron. 16:34, 41; II
Chron. 5:13; 7:3; 20:21; Ps. 106:1; 107:1; 118:1).
central issues are: What is that mercy of which the text
speaks? Does it mean that God had been merciful to Saul
personally and that He had withdrawn His mercy from him
personally? Or is it dealing with something else?
3. Let us
consider the question first from a biblical perspective.
wanted to build a house (bayit) for Jehovah to dwell
in, namely, a temple (cf. II Sam. 7:2), as the Lord well
knew (vv. 5, 6, 7). But God's Word to David through the
prophet Nathan is that He will build a house (bayit)
for David, that is, a royal dynasty (vv. 11, 16). Jehovah
would continue (v. 29) and establish (vv. 12, 13, 16, 26)
the kingdom of David's seed (v. 12), which comes out of his
loins (v. 12), “for a great while to come” (v. 19), even
“for ever” (vv. 16, 25). For this promised house (bayit)
or dynasty, David thanks the Lord (vv. 19, 25, 26, 27, 29).
Thus the key to the texts referred to in the question is
that they, and the chapters in which they are found (II
Samuel 7 and I Chronicles 17), deal with the generations of
the royal house (bayit) or dynasty.
- On the
other hand, even before David ascended the throne, Saul knew
that he would have no dynasty (I Sam. 20:31; 23:17), since
God had told him this through the prophet Samuel (I Sam.
4. Let us
address the issue from a more theological perspective. If we
study the texts in II Samuel 7 and I Chronicles 17, we will
find the following elements (compare also Psalm 89, that
refers to this same mercy):
Samuel 7:15 and I Chronicles 17:13 refer to the “mercy” of
God's everlasting covenant with David and his seed,
centrally Christ, as the Servant of Jehovah. “I will make an
everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of
David. Behold, I have given him [i.e., the promised Messiah]
for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the
people” (Isa. 55:3-4). It is the covenant that David's
throne shall be forever, and of his seed One shall sit upon
the throne of Jacob unto all eternity (Luke 1:32-33).
“mercy” is with David's seed from generation to generation
until it culminates in Christ, in whom the promise shall be
fulfilled. The passage in II Samuel 7:12-15, therefore, does
not refer to Solomon alone but to the generations to come. A
comparison with Psalm 89 makes this very evident. It is a
mercy that concerns David's house or dynasty.
- In the
same sense it must be understood when the text tells us that
God had taken something away from Saul. It refers to the
throne on which
Saul's generations would not sit. Historically, the kingdom, the
theocratic kingdom, that was to culminate in the Messiah had
first been established with Saul. But God had taken the
kingdom away from Saul's generations and transferred it to
the generations of David. This is in harmony with the
everlasting covenant of the Triune God.