1 Chronicles 21


Preparations for the Temple (21:1 – 29:30)

Designation of the Temple Site (21:1 – 22:1)

          • ESV Study Bible writes, “The account of David’s census and the plague it unleashes is moved from its location at the end of 2 Samuel (where it is only loosely connected to the narrative) to a pivotal place in Chronicles, standing between David’s wars (1 Chronicles 18-20) and his temple preparations (chs 22-29), into which it immediately leads (22:1-2). The purpose of the narrative here is not only to recount and explain David’s purchase of the temple site, but especially to expound the meaning of the temple itself as the place of God’s mercy and forgiveness, where sin is atoned for and its deadly consequences removed. Significantly, it is David, the principle model of ‘seeking God’ in this work, who exemplifies the need for forgiveness (see 2 Chron 6:36), as well as being the model penitent…”

David Takes a Census

      • An adversary rose up against Israel, inciting him to take a census of Israel. David told Joab and the army commanders, “Go and count the Israelites from Beer Sheba all the way to Dan then report back to me so that I’ll know how many there are.” Joab replied, “May Yahweh increase His people a hundred times as many as they are! My lord king, aren’t they all my lord’s subjects? Why does my lord want to do this? Why bring guilt on Israel?”

        • Verse 1 of this passage and its parallel in 2 Sam 24 are the subject of a very confusing alleged Bible contradiction. Who incited David to take this census? Yahweh, as it says in 2 Sam 24, or, Satan (here rendered as “an adversary”) as most English Bible translations render 1 Chron 21:1? We discussed this in great detail, so there is no need to rehash that here. The interested reader may refer to the notes for 2 Samuel 24 for that lengthy discussion and links to various articles on the topic. However, I will include NET Bible’s note explaining why they have opted for “an adversary” here [which I have followed above] rather then the traditional rendering of “Satan”:

          • The parallel text in 2 Sam 24:1 says, ‘The Lord’s anger again raged against Israel and he incited David against them, saying: “Go, count Israel and Judah!”’The version of the incident in the Book of 2 Samuel gives an underlying theological perspective, while the Chronicler simply describes what happened from a human perspective. Many interpreters and translations render the Hebrew…as a proper name here, ‘Satan’ (NEB, NASB, NIV, NRSV). However, the Hebrew term …which means ‘adversary,’ is used here without the article. Elsewhere when it appears without the article, it refers to a personal or national adversary in the human sphere, the lone exception being Num 22:22, 32, where the angel of the Lord assumes the role of an adversary to Balaam. When referring elsewhere to the spiritual entity known in the NT as Satan, the noun has the article and is used as a title, ‘the Adversary’ (see Job 1:6-9, 12; 2:1-4, 6-7; Zech 3:1-2). In light of usage elsewhere the adversary in 1 Chr 21:1 is likely a human enemy, probably a nearby nation whose hostility against Israel pressured David into numbering the people so he could assess his military strength. For compelling linguistic and literary arguments against taking the noun as a proper name here, see S. Japhet, I & II Chronicles (OTL), 374-75.”

      • Yet the king’s order prevailed over Joab. So Joab left and went all throughout Israel, then returned to Jerusalem. Joab reported the number of troops to David. In all of Israel there were 1,100,000 sword-wielding soldiers, and 470,000 in Judah. But Joab didn’t count Levi and Benjamin because he was so disgusted by the king’s command. The command was also evil in God’s eyes, so He afflicted Israel.

        • Guzik says, “This [the census] was dangerous because of a principle stated in Exodus 30:12: When you take the census of the children of Israel for their number, then every man shall give a ransom for himself to the LORD, when you number them, that there may be no plague among them when you number them. The principle of Exodus 30:12 speaks to God’s ownership of His people. In the thinking of these ancient cultures, a man only had the right to count or number what belonged to him. Israel didn’t belong to David; Israel belonged to God. It was up to the LORD to command a counting, and if David counted he should only do it at God’s command and receiving ransom money to ‘atone’ for the counting…Joab wasn’t afraid to speak to David when he thought the king was wrong. With the best interest of both David and Israel in mind, Joab tactfully asked David to reconsider this foolish desire to count the nation. Joab also hints at the motive behind the counting – pride in David. The this thing that David desired was the increase of the nation, and he perhaps wanted to measure the size of his army to know if he had enough force to conquer a neighboring nation…2 Samuel 24:4 tells us that it wasn’t only Joab who tried to tell David not to do this – the captains of the army also warned David not to count the soldiers in Israel. But David did so anyway.”

        • There is a discrepancy in the results of the census here and it the parallel passage in 2 Samuel for which there really is no explanation most consider satisfactory. The interested reader may refer to the notes for 2 Samuel 24 for a discussion on that topic.

        • HCSB points out, “Here is evidence that the Chronicler had no intention of ‘whitewashing’ David or any other character about whom he wrote. David had his faults, but not every existing story about them served the author’s purpose. The Chronicler included this story of the census, but omitted the Bathsheba affair…”

Judgment for David’s Sin

      • Then David said to God, “I have sinned greatly by doing this! Now, please remove Your servant’s guilt because I have acted foolishly.” Then Yahweh told Gad, David’s seer, “Go and tell David, ‘This is what Yahweh says: “I’m offering you three choices. Choose one of them and I will do it.”’” So Gad went to David and said, “This is what Yahweh says: ‘Pick one of these: 3 years of famine, 3 months of devastation by your foes with the swords of your enemies overtaking you, or 3 days of Yahweh’s sword- a plague in the land with the angel of Yahweh bringing destruction throughout all of Israel.’ Now, decide which one I should tell the One who sent me.” David said to Gad, “I’m in great distress! Let me fall into Yahweh’s hands because His mercy is very great, but don’t let me fall into the hands of men.” So Yahweh sent a plague on Israel and 70,000 Israelite men died.

      • God sent an angel to Jerusalem to destroy it, but as the angel was about to destroy it, Yahweh saw and relented concerning the destruction. He told the angel who was destroying, “It is enough! Withdraw your hand!” Now at that time the angel of Yahweh was standing by the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. David looked up and saw the angel of Yahweh standing between the earth and heaven with a drawn sword in his hand extended over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders, wearing sackcloth, fell down with their faces to the ground. Then David said to God, “Wasn’t I the one who gave the order to count the people? I am the one who has sinned and acted wickedly. But these sheep, what have they done? O Yahweh, my God, let Your hand fall on me and my family, but don’t let this plague be on Your people.”

        • On the name “Ornan” NET Bible points out, “In the parallel text in 2 Sam 24:16 this individual is called …(ʾaravnaʾ, “Aravna”), traditionally ‘Araunah.’ The form of the name found here also occurs in vv. 18-28.”

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “These verses provide a more detailed description of the angel and of David’s response that the parallel text (2 Sam 24:17). The sight of the angel carrying out his mission inspired David to plead on the behalf of the people.”

David Builds an Altar

      • So the angel of Yahweh instructed Gad to tell David to go up and build an altar to Yahweh on Ornan the Jebusite’s threshing floor. So David went up at Gad’s command, which he had spoken in the name of Yahweh.

        • HCSB mentions that, “in 2 Sm 24:18 it is Gad who gave the message pf the Lord to David, with no mention of the Angel of the Lord.”

      • While Ornan was threshing wheat, he turned and saw the angel, and he and his four sons hid themselves. Then David approached, and when Ornan looked and saw him, he left the threshing floor and bowed with his face to the ground. David said to Ornan, “Sell me the threshing floor so I may build an altar to Yahweh on it so that the plague on the people will be stopped. I’ll pay full price.” Ornan replied to David, “You can have it! My master, the king, may do whatever he wants. Look, I’m giving you the oxen for burnt offerings, the threshing sledges for wood, and the wheat for the grain offering. I will give all this.” But King David answered Ornan, “No, I insist on paying full price. I will not take for Yahweh what belongs to you or sacrifice a burnt offering that has cost me nothing.” So David paid Ornan 15 pounds of gold for the site. David built an altar to Yahweh there and offering burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. He called out to Yahweh, and He responded by sending fire from heaven on the altar of burnt offering. Then Yahweh spoke to the angel and he put his sword back into its sheath.

  • On verse 20, Pulpit Commentary notes, “This verse is not found in the parallel place. The Septuagint reading of ‘king’ in this verse, in place of ‘angel,’ is no doubt an error. The drift of this and the following verse is plain and continuous. Ornan and his sons had hidden themselves on the apparition of the angel, but came out on the advent of David, to welcome him.”

        • As I discussed in the notes for 2 Samuel 24, there is a very large discrepancy in the amount paid for the threshing floor in these two parallel passages. The interested reader may refer to those notes for a detailed discussion of the reconciliation options.

      • At that time, when David saw that Yahweh had answered him at Ornan the Jebusite’s threshing floor, he offered sacrifices there. Now at that time, Yahweh’s tabernacle, which Moses had made in the wilderness, and the altar of burnt offering were located at the high place in Gibeon. But David couldn’t go before it to inquire of God because he was afraid of the sword of the angel of Yahweh.

        • On 21:28-22:1, ESV Study Bible writes, “This material is not found in 2 Samuel 24. It explains why David did not go to Gibeon to offer a sacrifice and why he concluded that God had authorized the transfer of that sanctuary to the new site in Jerusalem (see 2 Chron 1:3-6; 5:5).”

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