1Ch 21:1-13. David Sins in
Numbering the People.
1. Satan stood up against Israel—God, by
withdrawing His grace at this time from David (see on 2Sa 24:1), permitted the tempter to prevail over him. As
the result of this successful temptation was the entail of a heavy
calamity as a punishment from God upon the people, it might be said
that "Satan stood up against Israel."
number Israel—In the act of taking the
census of a people, there is not only no evil, but much utility. But
numbering Israel—that people who were to become as the stars for
multitude, implying a distrust of the divine promise, was a sin; and
though it had been done with impunity in the time of Moses, at that
enumeration each of the people had contributed "half a shekel towards
the building of the tabernacle," that there might be no plague among
them when he numbered them (Ex 30:12).
Hence the numbering of that people was in itself regarded as an
undertaking by which the anger of God could be easily aroused; but when
the arrangements were made by Moses for the taking of the census, God
was not angry because the people were numbered for the express purpose
of the tax for the sanctuary, and the money which was thus collected
("the atonement money," Ex 30:16)
appeased Him. Everything depended, therefore, upon the design of the
census [Bertheau]. The sin of David
numbering the people consisted in its being either to gratify his pride
to ascertain the number of warriors he could muster for some meditated
plan of conquest; or, perhaps, more likely still, to institute a
regular and permanent system of taxation, which he deemed necessary to
provide an adequate establishment for the monarchy, but which was
regarded as a tyrannical and oppressive exaction—an innovation on
the liberty of the people—a departure from ancient usage
unbecoming a king of Israel.
3. why will he be a cause of trespass to
Israel?—or bring an occasion of punishment on Israel. In
Hebrew, the word "sin" is often used synonymously with the
punishment of sin. In the course of Providence, the people frequently
suffer for the misconduct of their rulers.
5. Joab gave the sum of the number of the children
of Israel—It amounted to one million one hundred thousand men
in Israel, capable of bearing arms, inclusive of the three hundred
thousand military (1Ch 27:1-9), which, being already enlisted in the
royal service, were not reckoned (2Sa 24:9), and to four hundred seventy thousand
men in Judah, omitting thirty thousand which formed an army of
observation stationed on the Philistine frontier (2Sa 6:1). So large a population at this early
period, considering the limited extent of the country and comparing it
with the earlier census (Nu 26:1-65), is a striking proof of the fulfilment
of the promise (Ge 15:5).
6. Levi and Benjamin counted he not—If
this census was ordered with a view to the imposition of taxes, this
alone would account for Levi, who were not warriors (1Ch 21:5), not being numbered (see on Nu 1:47-54). The population of Benjamin had been taken
(see on 1Ch 7:6-11), and the register preserved
in the archives of that tribe. This, however, was taken on another
occasion, and by other agency than that of Joab. The non-numbering of
these two tribes might have originated in the special and gracious
providence of God, partly because Levi was devoted to His service, and
Benjamin had become the least of all the tribes (Jud 21:1-25); and partly because God foresaw
that they would remain faithful to the house of David in the division
of the tribes, and therefore He would not have them diminished [Poole]. From the course followed in this
survey (see on 2Sa 24:4-8), it would appear that
Judah and Benjamin were the last tribes that were to be visited; and
that, after the census in Judah had been finished, Joab, before
entering on that of Benjamin, had to return to Jerusalem, where the
king, now sensible of his great error, gave orders to stop all further
proceedings in the business. Not only the remonstrance of Joab at the
first, but his slow progress in the survey (2Sa 24:8) showed the strong repugnance and even
horror of the old general at this unconstitutional measure.
9. the Lord spake unto Gad, David's
seer—Although David was himself endowed with a prophetic
gift, yet, in matters relating to himself or his kingdom, he was in the
habit of consulting the Lord through the medium of the priests; and
when he failed to do so, a prophet was sent on extraordinary occasions
to admonish or chastise him. Gad, a private friend, was occasionally
employed as the bearer of these prophetic messages.
11, 12. Choose thee, &c.—To the
three evils these correspond in beautiful agreement:
three years, three months, three days [Bertheau]. (See on 2Sa
13. let me fall now into the hand of the Lord
… let me not fall into the hand of man—Experience had
taught him that human passion and vengeance had no bounds, whereas our
wise and gracious Father in heaven knows the kind, and regulates the
extent, of chastisement which every one needs.
14, 15. So the Lord … sent an angel unto
Jerusalem to destroy it—The infliction only of the pestilence
is here noticed, without any account of its duration or its ravages,
while a minute description is given of the visible appearance and
menacing attitude of the destroying angel.
15. stood by the threshing-floor of Ornan the
Jebusite—Ornan was probably his Hebrew or Jewish, Araunah his
Jebusite or Canaanitish, name. Whether he was the old king of Jebus, as
that title is given to him (2Sa 24:23),
or not, he had been converted to the worship of the true God, and was
possessed both of property and influence.
16. David and the elders … clothed in
sackcloth, fell upon their faces—They appeared in the garb
and assumed the attitude of humble penitents, confessing their sins,
and deprecating the wrath of God.
1Ch 21:18-30. He Builds an
18. the angel of the Lord commanded Gad to
say—The order about the erection of an altar, as well as the
indication of its site, is described (2Sa 24:18) as brought directly by Gad. Here we are
informed of the quarter whence the prophet got his commission. It is
only in the later stages of Israel's history that we find angels
employed in communicating the divine will to the prophets.
20, 21. Ornan was threshing wheat—If the
census was entered upon in autumn, the beginning of the civil year, the
nine and a half months it occupied would end at wheat harvest. The
common way of threshing corn is by spreading it out on a high level
area, and driving backwards and forwards upon it two oxen harnessed to
a clumsy sledge with three rollers and some sharp spikes. The driver
sits on his knees on the box, while another person is employed in
drawing back the straw and separating it from the grain underneath. By
this operation the chaff is very much chopped, and the grain threshed
23. I give thee … the threshing instruments
for wood—that is, to burn the sacrifice of the oxen. Very
little real import—the haste and the value of the
present offered—can be understood in this country. The offering
was made for instant use. Ornan, hereby hoping to terminate the
pestilence without a moment's delay, "gave all," oxen, the large
threshing machine, and the wheat.
25. David gave … for the place six hundred
shekels of gold—At first he bought only the cattle and the
threshing instruments, for which he paid fifty shekels of silver (2Sa 24:24); afterwards he purchased the
whole property, Mount Moriah, on which the future temple stood. High in
the center of the mountain platform rises a remarkable rock, now
covered by the dome of "the Sakrah." It is irregular in its form, and
measures about sixty feet in one direction and fifty feet in the other.
It is the natural surface of Mount Moriah and is thought by many to be
the rock of the threshing-floor of Araunah, selected by David, and
continued by Solomon and Zerubbabel as "the unhewn stone" on which to
build the altar [BARTLETT, Walks about Jerusalem; Stanley].
26. David built there an altar—He went
in procession with his leading men from the royal palace, down Mount
Zion, and through the intervening city. Although he had plenty of space
on his own property, he was commanded, under peremptory
direction, to go a considerable distance from his home, up Mount
Moriah, to erect an altar on premises which he had to buy. It was on or
close to the spot where Abraham had offered up Isaac.
answered him by fire from heaven—(See
Le 9:24; 1Ki 18:21-23; 2Ki 1:12; 2Ch 7:1).
28. when David saw that the Lord had answered him
…, he sacrificed there—or, "he continued to sacrifice
there." Perceiving his sacrifice was acceptable, he proceeded to make
additional offerings there, and seek favor by prayer and expiatory
rites; for the dread of the menacing angel destroying Jerusalem while
he was absent in the center of worship at Gibeon, especially reverence
for the Divine Being, led him to continue his adorations in that place
which God (2Ch 3:1) had
hallowed by the tokens of His presence and gracious acceptance.