Rethinking The “Sure Mercies Of David” In Isaiah 55:3 -- By: Peter J. Gentry

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 69:2 (Fall 2007)
Article: Rethinking The “Sure Mercies Of David” In Isaiah 55:3
Author: Peter J. Gentry


Rethinking The “Sure Mercies Of David” In Isaiah 55:3

Peter J. Gentry

Peter J. Gentry is Professor of Old Testament Interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Louisville, Ky.

I. Introduction

Debate has raged for some time over the interpretation of the phrase ḥasdê dāwīd in Isa 55:3—an extremely important text in relation to understanding both the Davidic Covenant and the New Covenant in Scripture. This article engages the major players in the debate and challenges the standard view by rethinking the evidence from the grammar of the Hebrew language and from the versions. The “sure mercies” are by David rather than for David as in the consensus view. Moreover, by locating the text in a proper canonical and theological trajectory from Gen 1 through Deut 17 and 2 Sam 7, the passage in Isaiah can be interpreted as applying 2 Sam 7:19 to the future Davidic Servant King who brings about the everlasting covenant in Isa 53–54. The citation in Acts 13 is seen as providing strong support for this interpretation.

II. The Construct Phrase In Scholarly Debate

In 1965 Caquot challenged the standard view1 that dāwīd is to be construed as object in the bound noun phrase ḥasdê dāwīd in Isa 55:3 and argued instead that David is to be understood as the subject of the acts of covenant kindness and love.2 His analysis was adopted and developed further by Beuken in 1975,3 but rejected in 1978 by Williamson4 and by Walter Kaiser in 1989.5 Recent

commentators follow Williamson directly or simply maintain the standard view.6

First, Williamson scrutinizes the ancient versions and concludes that the LXX, contrary to claims by Caquot, in fact supports construing David as objective genitive. He further maintains that not only the Vulgate, as Caquot admits, but also the Targum preserves the ambiguity of the Hebrew. Only the Peshitta ...

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