1 CHRONICLES CHAPTER 21
The Census of the Nation.
DAVID'S SIN AND ITS CONSEQUENCES. — V. 1. And Satan stood up against Israel and provoked David to number Israel. From the parallel passage, 2 Sam. 24, 1, we learn that this was due to the fact that the Lord at this time withdrew His grace from David, and permitted the Tempter to prevail over him. V. 2. And David said to Joab and to the rulers of the people, Go, number Israel from Beersheba, on the extreme southern boundary, even to Dan, in the extreme north, and bring the number of them to me that I may know it. While the taking of a census in itself was not sinful, the one contemplated by David was the work of proud boastfulness and wicked haughtiness, an overemphasizing of his political power. V. 3. And Joab answered, realizing that the king's motive was not pure, The Lord make His people an hundred times so many more as they be; but, my lord, the king, are they not all my lord's servants? Why, then, doth my lord require this thing? Why will he be a cause of trespass to Israel? Joab wisely tried to keep David from transgression, whether it was merely due to an attack of pride, or whether he contemplated some tyrannical innovation. V. 4. Nevertheless, the king's word prevailed against Joab, he insisted upon having his will carried out. Wherefore Joab departed and went throughout all Israel, and came to Jerusalem. Cp. 2 Sam. 24, 5-8. It is expressly stated that Joab did not finish his work, nor was the total number put in the account of the chronicles of King David, chap. 27, 24. V. 5. And Joab gave the sum of the number of the people unto David. And all they of Israel were a thousand thousand and an hundred thousand men that drew sword; and Judah was four hundred threescore and ten thousand men that drew sword. The apparent discrepancy between this passage and 2 Sam. 24, 9 is due to the fact that this later account includes all those who would be available in war, while the other evidently speaks only of such as had had training in war. V. 6. But Levi and Benjamin counted he not among them, for the king's word was abominable to Joab. It seems that the tribe of Benjamin would have been the last to be numbered, and that Joab, before visiting this territory, after his circuit trip through the country, returned to Jerusalem, where his disgust finally had some influence in causing David to change his mind. V. 7. And God was displeased with this thing, the entire proceeding was evil in His eyes; therefore He smote Israel, the manner in which His anger took effect on Israel being described below. V. 8. And David said unto God, I have sinned greatly because I have done this thing; but now, I beseech Thee, do away, that is, forgive, the iniquity of Thy servant; for I have done very foolishly. It was a full and free confession of sin, which, as usual, however, did not eliminate the punishment that was bound to follow. V. 9. And the Lord, in answering David's confession of sin, spake unto Gad, David's seer, Nathan apparently having died before this, saying, v. 10. Go and tell David, saying, Thus saith the Lord, I offer thee three things, laying them out for the king's choice; choose thee one of them that I may do it unto thee. V. 11. So Gad came to David and said unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Choose thee, making his choice of one of the three, v. 12. either three years' famine, or three months to be destroyed before thy foes, while that the sword of thine enemies overtaketh thee, persecuted by his enemies and his men slain all around him, or else three days the sword of the Lord, even the pestilence, in the land, and the angel of the Lord destroying throughout all the coasts of Israel. Any one of these three forms of punishment was bound to show David his utter helplessness, his entire dependence upon God for everything pertaining to his rule, and the foolishness of pride. Now, therefore, advise thyself what word I shall bring again to Him that sent me. V. 13. And David said unto Gad, I am in a great strait, the entire matter now oppressed him severely. Let me fall now into the hand of the Lord, for very great are His mercies; but let me not fall into the hand of man. Experience had taught David that human passion and desire for vengeance has no bounds, while the wise and gracious Father in heaven knows the kind, and regulates the amount, of punishment as everyone of His children needs it and can bear it. V. 14. So the Lord sent pestilence upon Israel; and there fell of Israel seventy thousand men. V. 15. And God sent an angel unto Jerusalem to destroy it, to let the ravages of the disease take their toll here; and as he was destroying, the Lord beheld, and He repented Him of the evil, spoken according to the way men look at matters, and said to the angel that destroyed, It is enough; stay now thine hand. To this day we have no explanation for the virulence of certain epidemics but that of a special visitation of the Lord. And the angel of the Lord stood by the threshing-floor of Ornan (or Araunah) the Jebusite, one of the surviving members of that nation, who had accepted the God of Israel. V. 16. And David lifted up his eyes, and saw the angel of the Lord stand between the earth and the heaven, made visible to him by the Lord, having a drawn sword in his hand stretched out over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders of Israel, who were clothed in sackcloth, as a sign of deep mourning and repentance, fell upon their faces, in terror and supplication. V. 17. And David said unto God, Is it not I that commanded the people to be numbered? Even I it is that have sinned and done evil indeed, in causing the census to be taken with such a sinful motive; but as for these sheep, the great mass of the people, what have they done? His interest in his subjects was that of a true and faithful ruler, who is filled with sympathy for all their misfortunes. Let Thine hand, I pray Thee, O Lord, my God, be on me and on my father's house, but not on Thy people, that they should be plagued. This is a fine example of an unselfish intercession. Note also how severely God hates sin in every form, and how seriously He punishes it at times.
THE SACRIFICE ON ORNAN'S THRESHING-FLOOR. — V. 18. Then the angel of the Lord commanded Gad to say to David that David should go up and set up an altar unto the Lord in the threshing-floor of Ornan the Jebusite, this being located on the summit of what was afterward known as Mount Zion, the place where the Temple was built. V. 19. And David went up at the saying of Gad which he spake in the name of the Lord. V. 20. And Oman turned back, he turned around while busy with his work, and saw the angel; and his four sons with him hid themselves. Now, Ornan was threshing wheat, on an open threshing-floor, as is the custom in the Orient. V. 21. And as David came to Ornan, Ornan looked and saw David, and went out of the threshing-floor, and bowed himself to David with his face to the ground, showing his sovereign all proper respect according to the Fourth Commandment. V. 22. And David said to Ornan, Grant me the place of this threshing-floor, he needed the entire area for what he had in mind, that I may build an altar therein unto the Lord. Thou shalt grant it me for the full price that the plague may be stayed from the people. V. 23. And Ornan said unto David, Take it to thee, and let my lord the king do that which is good in his eyes, this offer agreeing with the Oriental custom of doing business; lo, I give thee the oxen also for burnt offerings, and the threshing-instruments, the rough sledge with its rollers, for wood, and the wheat for the meat-offering; I give it all. Ornan was anxious to have the plague stayed as soon as possible, and so his offer was made for instant use. V. 24. And King David said to Ornan, Nay; but I will verily buy it for the full price; for I will not take that which is thine for the Lord, nor offer burnt offerings without cost. It was David's transgression, and he wanted to bear the full expense of the sacrifice. V. 25. So David gave to Ornan for the place six hundred shekels of gold by weight (almost $6,000), paying fifty shekels of silver for the cattle and the threshing-sledge alone, 2 Sam. 24, 24. V. 26. And David built there an altar unto the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings, both in atonement for his sin and to restore the proper fellowship with the Lord, and called upon the Lord; and He answered him from heaven by fire upon the altar of burnt offering. Cp. Lev. 9, 24; 1 Kings 18, 21-23; 2 Kings 1, 12. V. 27. And the Lord commanded the angel; and he put up his sword again into the sheath thereof, thus staying the plague. V. 28. At that time, when David saw that the Lord had answered him in the threshing-floor of Ornan the Jebusite, then he sacrificed there, brought offerings of thanksgiving and dedicated this spot to the Lord, the Temple being erected there afterward. V. 29. For the Tabernacle of the Lord which Moses made in the wilderness and the altar of the burnt offering were at that season in the high place at Gibeon, chap. 16, 39, and one of the high priests officiated there until after the dedication of Solomon's Temple. V. 30. But David could not go before it to enquire of God; for he was afraid because of the sword of the angel of the Lord; the appearance of the angel and the great toll of the slain had left an impression of awful holiness of the place where the Lord usually revealed Himself. Note: The believers of the New Testament have a better sacrifice of atonement than that of David; for the blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, cleanses us from all sins, takes away the guilt of our transgressions, and stays the plague of eternal damnation.