1 Chronicles 21: David
counts the fighting men
Notes: Perhaps still on the subject of David and his
army, we are now faced with a strange incident that may have had
a twofold cause:
David's pride, perhaps as he grew in power,
The undoubted sin of Israel that existed that God is addressing
in this incident – see 2 Sam 24:1. We are not told the cause of
the Lord's anger against Israel but – in line with subsequent
history – it almost certainly involved idolatry by the ordinary
anguish over what happened is perhaps a reflection of the Lord's
anguish over His unfaithful people and what was necessary to redeem
them. We also see how the reality of the sacrificial law still
David's pride causes him to instruct Joab to number the army
rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel.
David said to Joab and the commanders of the troops, ‘Go and count
the Israelites from Beersheba to Dan. Then report back to me so
that I may know how many there are.'
David overrules Joab's objection
Joab replied, ‘May the Lord
troops a hundred times over. My lord the king, are they not all
my lord's subjects? Why does my lord want to do this? Why should
he bring guilt on Israel?'
king's word, however, overruled Joab; so Joab left and went throughout
Israel and then came back to Jerusalem.
Joab obeys and then David repents
reported the number of the fighting men to David: in all Israel
there were one million one hundred thousand men who could handle
a sword, including four hundred and seventy thousand in Judah.
Joab did not include Levi and Benjamin in the numbering, because
the king's command was repulsive to him.
command was also evil in the sight of God; so he punished Israel.
David said to God, ‘I have sinned greatly by doing this. Now,
I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a
very foolish thing.'
Through Gad, God gives David three choices
said to Gad, David's seer,
and tell David, “This is what the Lord
says: I am
giving you three options. Choose one of them for me to carry out
Gad went to David and said to him, ‘This is what the Lord
years of famine, three months of being swept away before your
enemies, with their swords overtaking you, or three days of the
sword of the Lord
of plague in the land, with the angel of the Lord
part of Israel.” Now then, decide how I should answer the one
who sent me.'
David chooses and the Lord acts
said to Gad, ‘I am in deep distress. Let me fall into the hands
of the Lord,
for his mercy is very great; but do not let me fall into human
sent a plague on Israel, and seventy thousand men of Israel fell
David intercedes on behalf of Jerusalem
God sent an angel to destroy Jerusalem. But as the angel was doing
so, the Lord
saw it and
relented concerning the disaster and said to the angel who was
destroying the people, ‘Enough! Withdraw your hand.' The angel
of the Lord
was then standing
at the threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite.
looked up and saw the angel of the Lord
heaven and earth, with a drawn sword in his hand extended over
Jerusalem. Then David and the elders, clothed in sackcloth, fell
said to God, ‘Was it not I who ordered the fighting men to be
counted? I, the shepherd, have sinned and done wrong. These are
but sheep. What have they done? Lord
my God, let
your hand fall on me and my family, but do not let this plague
remain on your people.'
David builds an altar & offers sacrifices
the angel of the Lord
to tell David to go up and build an altar to the Lord
on the threshing-floor
of Araunah the Jebusite.
David went up in obedience to the word that Gad had spoken in
the name of the Lord.
Araunah was threshing wheat, he turned and saw the angel; his
four sons who were with him hid themselves.
David approached, and when Araunah looked and saw him, he left
the threshing-floor and bowed down before David with his face
to the ground.
said to him, ‘Let me have the site of your threshing-floor so
that I can build an altar to the Lord,
that the plague on the people may be stopped. Sell it to me at
the full price.'
said to David, ‘Take it! Let my lord the king do whatever pleases
him. Look, I will give the oxen for the burnt offerings, the threshing-sledges
for the wood, and the wheat for the grain offering. I will give
King David replied to Araunah, ‘No, I insist on paying the full
price. I will not take for the Lord
what is yours,
or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.'
David paid Araunah six hundred shekels of gold for the site.
built an altar to the Lord
sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. He called
on the Lord,
and the Lord
with fire from heaven on the altar of burnt offering.
The Lord holds back His judgment
spoke to the angel, and he put his sword back into its sheath.
that time, when David saw that the Lord
him on the threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite, he offered
tabernacle of the Lord,
which Moses had made in the wilderness, and the altar of burnt
offering were at that time on the high place at Gibeon.
David could not go before it to enquire of God, because he was
afraid of the sword of the angel of the Lord.
Comment: Perhaps we should view the terribleness of
what happens here in the light of the Lord's words through Ezekiel
[Ezek 18:23,32], that this was not an easy judgment, but one brought
only after much anguish, and one that was halted when the sacrificial
law for sin was applied. The outworking of it was a fresh awareness
of the fear of the Lord.]