The Son of David

The Gospel of Matthew calls Jesus the “Son of David.” In his life and death, he demonstrated what it meant to be the King of Israel and the “Son of God.” Traditionally, this last designation was linked to the House of David; but in Matthew’s account, the old understanding of the Messiah is altered radically. The Greater “Son of David” is far more than the Ruler of Israel or the Nations. He is a King and Messiah of a very different kind.

Matthew’s account presents Jesus as the Messiah and royal heir to David’s Throne by applying scriptural citations and allusions to him, even though he was destined to die on the Roman cross.

Cross Mountains - Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash
[Cross Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash]

For example, at his baptism, the Spirit descended on him “
like a dove,” and the voice from heaven declared: “This is my Son, the beloved, in whom I delight.” The description combines words from two messianic passages:

  • (Psalm 2:7) – “Yahweh said to me: YOU ARE MY SON; this day have I begotten you.”
  • (Isaiah 42:1) – “Behold, my servant, whom I uphold; my chosen, IN WHOM MY SOUL DELIGHTS. I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the Gentiles.”

However, Matthew does not simply accumulate proof texts to validate his genealogical credentials. By combining these prophecies, a messianic figure emerges who fulfills the roles of King and Servant of Yahweh, the latter from the Book of Isaiah.

First, he is the “Son of David” destined to reign from Zion. Second, he is the “Suffering Servant” described in Isaiah, the one who is “cut off out of the land of the living for the transgression of my people.”

One role cannot be understood apart from the other. Though they appear incompatible, they are inextricably linked. The same words are heard again at the Transfiguration when “a voice out of the cloud declares, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear him!” – (Isaiah 53:8, Matthew 17:5).

In the New Testament, the Second Psalm is applied to Jesus in his present role as the Messiah who reigns at God’s “right hand,” the promise that one of David’s descendants would reign from Mount Zion. However, he attained this exalted position through the humiliation and horror of the Cross - (Psalm 2:1-9).


As predicted in the Second Psalm, Jesus endured the conspiracy to overthrow God’s “Anointed One” when the religious leaders of Israel plotted to destroy him - The “chief priests and the whole council sought false witness against Jesus that they might put him to death - (Matthew 26:59, 27:1).

This is also how the early church interpreted the Second Psalm. For example, after enduring threats from the priests and Sadducees, Peter prayed:

  • O Lord, you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that in them iswho by the Holy Spirit, by the mouth of our father David your servant, did say, Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples imagine vain things? THE KINGS OF THE EARTH SET THEMSELVES IN ARRAY, AND THE RULERS WERE GATHERED TOGETHER, AGAINST THE LORD, AND AGAINST HIS CHRISTfor of a truth in this city against your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, were gathered together, to do whatsoever thy hand and thy council foreordained to come to pass” - (Acts 4:24-28).

Peter also combined the image of the Suffering Servant with the royal figure from the Second Psalm. It was not just the nations of the Earth that raged “against Yahweh and His Anointed,” but especially the priestly leaders of Israel. Since they rejected and persecuted God’s Anointed One, they were no better than pagan Gentiles.

His murder was anticipated in Christ’s parable about the vineyard and its tenants. At harvest time, the owner sent several servants to “receive the fruit” that was due. However, the “tenants” abused and even killed his agents. Then he sent his “son,” expecting them to respect the heir. But the “tenants” were determined to “seize the inheritance” for themselves, so they murdered him - (Matthew 21:33-45).

The parable echoes the words in the Second Psalm that describe the conspiracy against the Messiah. This parable was directed against the very ones who were plotting the death of Jesus: “When the chief priests and Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking of them.


Jesus certainly was the heir of David, but before his exaltation, he suffered for his people as the Servant of Yahweh.” He was exalted and given “all power in Heaven and on Earth” but only after his death and resurrection. Paradoxically, he conquered his enemies by enduring an unjust death, dying for his enemies rather than slaying them.

Since his resurrection, he has reigned on the Davidic Throne as the Messiah and the “Ruler of the Kings of the Earth.” This is why ever since he has been sending his disciples as his envoys to herald his Good News “to the uttermost parts of the earth” – (Psalm 2:12, Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 1:6-9).

Cross on mountain - Photo by Xavier von Erlach on Unsplash
[Photo by Xavier von Erlach on Unsplash]

The final act in the Gospel of 
Matthew is the “commissioning” of the disciples by Jesus. The picture is not of a political revolutionary or dictator dispatching his armies to destroy his opponents, but of an already ruling monarch sending his heralds throughout his domain to announce his victory and reign – (Matthew 28:18-20).

Thus, Jesus of Nazareth is the heir to the Throne, the “Son of David.” However, he first became the “Servant of the LORD” who suffered and “gave his life as a ransom for many,” for the royal road to Mount Zion must pass through Golgotha.

  • His Name is Jesus - (Jesus’ means ‘Yahweh saves.’ In the man from Nazareth, the salvation promised by the God of Israel arrived in all its glory)
  • Son of Abraham - (Jesus is the true Son of Abraham, the heir of the promises, the Anointed One who fulfills and implements the inheritance for his people)
  • Servant and King - (Following his baptism in the Jordan, the voice from heaven identified Jesus as the Son of God and the Servant of Yahweh)



The Living Word

The Suffering Servant