1 Kings 8:16 (ESV)

16 ‘Since the day that I brought my people Israel out of Egypt, I chose no city out of all the tribes of Israel in which to build a house, that my name might be there. But I chose David to be over my people Israel.’

Solomon’s words in these verses direct us to the establishment of the Davidic covenant that we find in 2 Samuel 7:1–17 and 1 Chronicles 17:1–15. We may ask how Solomon knew what transpired between the Lord speaking through the prophet Nathan and David, since the event took place before Solomon was born. There are three possible answers to this question. First, David might have told him so that David’s son could be made aware of the obligation that would rest upon him. Second, he might have learned of it from Nathan, who was still alive when Solomon began to reign. Third, it might have been by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that he was given such knowledge.

Verse 16 gives us a historical and theological reason for the delay in building a permanent structure for the service and worship of God. According to Solomon, God said that in all the history of Israel from the time of the entrance into the Promised Land to the time of David, the Lord had not chosen any city in Israel to be the place where his worship would be centred. Instead, Solomon quotes the Lord as saying that he had chosen David to reign over his people.

This statement raises a question that is not very easy to answer. Two acts of God are mentioned here. The first is the absence of the choice of any city among the tribes of Israel for a permanent place for his name to dwell. The second is God’s active choice of David to be the ruler of his people. Why are these matters put together? We might ask further, Are the translators correct in connecting the clauses with a but that suggests some kind of contrast?

Certainly, there is the contrast between not choosing a city and choosing David. Yet this does not seem to be the comparison of matters that are in the same category. The first concerns a place for God’s worship, while the second deals with the rule in Israel. It is not likely that he would say, I did not choose to eat breakfast this morning, but I chose to put on grey socks. What possible relationship would there be between not eating breakfast and wearing grey socks? Likewise, what is the relationship between not choosing a city for the temple and choosing David to be the ruler of Israel?

It was the Lord's choice of David that enabled Jerusalem to later be chosen by the Lord as a place for his name to be put. It was David who had conquered the city of Jerusalem and driven out the Jebusites who had been living there Therefore, there was a real sense that without David the temple would never have been built in Jerusalem.

We must not, however, take this to mean that the building of the temple was according to the choice of David. Instead, we are being taught that it is God’s initiative that brought David to the throne, and it is God’s initiative that caused the temple to be built in Jerusalem. David did not conquer Jerusalem by his own power or strength but by the power of God Almighty.