The Role of the King in Old Testament Worship

Featuring Worshipedia Posted on June 9, 2010

As the anointed representative of the Lord, the Judean king was seen by Old Testament writers as a mediator of the covenant between the Lord and his people. The prophet Nathan announced a special covenant relationship between the Lord and the dynasty of David (2 Samuel 7:5–17), proclaiming that his house and kingdom would endure before the Lord. This covenant, however, was made with David as "ruler over my people Israel" (2 Samuel 7:8). David understood "that the Lord had established him as king over Israel and had exalted his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel" (2 Samuel 5:12). Thus the Davidic covenant was a localized manifestation of the basic covenant between Yahweh and his worshipers, with the king serving in the role of mediator. This role was most adequately filled by David himself, but the theology of the Davidic covenant continued to undergird the Judean monarchy and was foundational to the work of the major Judean prophets in their vision of the maintenance and restoration of the covenant (cf. Isaiah 9:6–7; Jeremiah 30:8–9; 33:14–26; Ezekiel 34:23–24; 37:24–28) so that the postexilic prophet Zechariah could proclaim that "the house of David will be like God, like the Angel of the LORD going before them" (Zechariah 12:8).

Accordingly, despite the restrictions placed on the king as an officiant in sacrifice, the biblical history records occasions when the Judean king legitimately exercised personal leadership in the worship of the Lord. David is most remarkable for his intimate devotion to Yahweh, expressed in his dancing before the ark (2 Samuel 6:14) as it was being brought, at his direction, to Zion, or in his composition of worship materials as the "sweet psalmist of Israel" (2 Samuel 23:). David instituted and organized the Levitical, prophetic worship of the ―tent of David‖ and had the vision for the erection of the house of the Lord (2 Samuel 7:2; 1 Chronicles 22). It was left to Solomon, his son, to carry out the actual construction of the temple (1 Kings 5–7; 2 Chronicles 2–4). As a priestly king, Solomon personally officiated at the dedication of the sanctuary (1 Kings 8:12–21; 2 Chronicles 5), offering extended prayer (1 Kings 8:22–61; 2 Chronicles 6) and sacrifices (1 Kings 8:62–66; 2 Chronicles 7:1–11).

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