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Saturday, June 22nd, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
1 Chronicles 21

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

Verses 1-30

Chapter 21

In chapter twenty-one.

And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel. And David said to Joab and to the rulers of the people, Go, and number Israel from Beersheba even to Dan; and bring the number of them to me, that I may know it ( 1 Chronicles 21:1-2 ).

Now this was a sin on David's part, and no doubt a sin of pride. David had, as I said, this is a record of the final conquest of David in chapter twenty. David had been very victorious over their enemies. They had subdued their enemies, and I wanted to point out the one thing. It would appear that David cut them up with axes and swords or plows and so forth. Actually the Hebrew text is that David put them to work with these things. He actually more or less made slaves out of the people, rather than cutting them up with saws and axes and all.

This is a sin of pride. David's desire to number Israel in order that he might know how great an army of people he had behind him. And it was only those who were able to go to war that were really numbered. It was sort of a military registration or census that was taken. Men that were capable of going out to battle. And was sort of a failure on David's part, definitely a sin. David later confesses the sin before the Lord, that of pride. I have an army of so many and so forth. And that of boasting in the military strength.

Now David later, or earlier had written psalms concerning that we were not to trust in horses or trust in the armies, but to trust in the living God. And David knew this. That the strength did not lie in the number of military personnel in the nation. But his real strength lay in the Lord and in the power of the Lord and in his trusting in the Lord. And yet David, human as he was, as we all are, decided that he would take a census of the military men.

Now Joab, his general, who was a rascal for the most part, Joab objected to David's desire to take a census. "Don't do this thing, David; it's not good. Why should you bring the people into reproach and so forth by doing this thing?" But David overruled the objections of Joab and insisted that this census be taken of all of the men of Israel. And so they brought to David the number, and there were one million, a hundred thousand from the tribes of Israel; four hundred and seventy thousand from the tribe of Judah. But Joab did not count the tribes of Levi and Benjamin among them because he actually detested the order that David had given to number them.

And God was displeased with this thing; therefore he smote Israel. And David said unto God, I have sinned greatly, because I have done this thing: but now, I beseech thee, do away the iniquity of thy servant; for I have done very foolishly ( 1 Chronicles 21:7-8 ).

So after having insisted overruling Joab, God was displeased. And David immediately confessed his sin unto God and his own folly. Now it is interesting that the Bible-and I'm glad that it does-relates to us the sins and the failure of the great men, as well as their successes. So often when we are telling stories about our accomplishments, we don't like to include in our stories our failures. We like to sort of tell of our successes, and make it appear that everything we do is successful. But if we were perfect, then how discouraging it would be for those who are not perfect.

If David was a perfect man, if he never did anything wrong, then we would all of us be prone to say, "Yes, but David was perfect. I can see why God would use David. I could see why God blessed David, because he was such a perfect man. But God can't bless me and God can't use me, because I'm so imperfect." So God is very careful to record for us the mistakes and the sins of these men that He used in such a mighty way in order that we would not be excusing ourselves and saying, "Well, God can't use me." For God can use you and wants to use you in spite of the fact that you have failed, and in spite of the fact that you're far from perfect.

Abraham, the man of faith, had great lapses of faith. There were times when he sought to take things into his own hand. Deceiving the kings concerning Sarah, his relationship. "She's my sister." He didn't trust in the Lord to be able to preserve him from Abimelech or from the Pharaoh. Taking things into his own hands as far as an heir because he didn't trust God to give him a son through Sarah. The man of faith.

Elijah, the great prophet of God, the man of faith, hiding in a cave clear down in the Sinai, mount Horeb because Jezebel had threatened his life. Here is the guy that had upset all the prophets of Baal, took them down to the river and wiped them out, and now he's running because some woman is threatening to get him.

And so the Bible records these for us so that you'll know that though Elijah was a man of great dynamic power, great faith, a prophet of God, yet he had these times where he ran and failed and was fearful and the whole thing. In order that, as James said, Elijah was a man of like passions, even like you and me. And yet, he prayed and it rained not for the space of three years. Now he wasn't some super saint. He wasn't some Clark Kent. He was a plain ordinary person just like you and me. And yet, God was able to use him because God uses plain, ordinary people. And God uses people who make mistakes, and God uses people who fail. And God uses people who sin. Because sin was not the chief characteristic of David's life; righteousness was the chief characteristic of his life, though he did sin.

Now it is possible for us to love the Lord, to be living for the Lord, to serve the Lord, and still be guilty of sin. David was such a man. He loved the Lord. Now as soon as he realized God's displeasure, and though he had been warned by Joab, "Don't do this thing," as soon as he, it was brought to his attention, this has displeased God, David repented. He confessed. And that's what sets David apart. So many times when we are faced with our guilt, we try to justify it. We try to give the explanations. "Well, I did it because." We're so often like Adam. "Well, Lord, the woman that You gave me to be my wife, she did tempt me and I did eat." And I'm trying to explain to God my reason for doing it, rather than just confess and say, "God, I sinned. I was wrong."

Now God doesn't want an explanation. God doesn't want you to justify your position. All God wants you to do is confess it so He can forgive it. As soon as you confess, then God has the grounds for forgiveness. And that's what He's seeking, just a confession of guilt. And so David confessed his sin. He said, "Lord, I've done foolishly in doing this thing." And David recognized and acknowledged his sin before God. That ugly, horrible sin of pride that all of us find so difficult to deal with in our own lives. The sin by which Satan fell. It was a Cromwell flee pride, for by this sin the angels fell. Flee ambition. The idea of pride.

Thus, David was called the man after God's own heart, because he was a man, when he realized his guilt, was willing to confess and seek the forgiveness of his sin.

So the LORD spoke to Gad, the prophet, and said to him, Go to David, and tell him that he has three choices: either [three months of famine in the land; or] three years rather of famine in the land; or three months to be destroyed before your enemies, while the sword of your enemies overtake you; or three days of the sword of the LORD, even the pestilence, in the land, and the angel of the LORD destroying throughout all the coasts of Israel. Now the prophet said to David, Advise me what I'm to tell the Lord who sent me to you. And so David said, I choose to throw myself on the mercy of God. I'll take the three days of God's pestilence in the land because I know He's merciful ( 1 Chronicles 21:9-10 , 1 Chronicles 21:12-13 ).

My enemies, no way. I know that they're not merciful. If I'm delivered into their hands for three months, that will be it. So I'll take the three days for I know that God is merciful.

And so the angel of the LORD went throughout the land of Israel [beginning to slay the men]: and seventy thousand of them fell by the pestilence [in the three days]. And the angel of the LORD came to Jerusalem to destroy it: and David saw the angel of the LORD with the drawn sword ( 1 Chronicles 21:14-16 ).

Now this must have been really something for David. He saw up there in the sky the angel of the Lord with a drawn sword. It must have been a very frightening experience, to say the least.

And David lifted up his voice, and he cried unto the LORD, the angel of the LORD who was standing there between the heaven and the earth, having the sword that was drawn stretched out over Jerusalem ( 1 Chronicles 21:16 ).

And David said, "Hey, I'm the one that sinned, not these innocent people. Don't destroy them." And so we find that,

David said unto God [verse seventeen, declared], Is it not I that commanded the people to be numbered? even I it is that have sinned and done this evil indeed; but for these sheep, what have they done? let your hand, I pray thee, O LORD my God, be upon me, and my father's house; but not on thy people, that they should be plagued ( 1 Chronicles 21:17 ).

Now I think that probably one of the hardest things concerning sin is to see the effect that sin has on innocent people. My sins. To see the hurt that it brings to innocent people is always very hard. And no man lives unto himself. I've had a lot of people say, "Well, I may be doing wrong, but I'm only hurting myself." That's not true. No man lives to himself. Others are always affected by what you do, and sometimes in a very great way. And David was seeing the consequence of his sin, the damage that it was doing to these sheep. And he said, "Lord, bring it on me. Let me suffer for my own sins, not these innocent ones." But unfortunately, there are always those innocent sufferers for our wrongdoings; as well as, of course, our own suffering many times.

So 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 there in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite ( 1 Chronicles 21:18 ).

Because David saw the angel standing above the area there of mount Moriah where a Jebusite had a threshingfloor in a field. And so the Lord commanded that David should build an altar there and offer a sacrifice unto the Lord. So David came to Ornan the Jebusite and he said, "I want to buy this threshingfloor, this field in order that I might offer to the Lord a sacrifice in this place." And Ornan said, "Hey, you can have it. And take my cattle and use them for the sacrifices, and use the plow for the wood and so forth. And go ahead, you can have it." And David said, "No, I will not give unto the Lord that which cost me nothing. Because it isn't a true sacrifice if it doesn't cost me something."

God really doesn't want our castoffs. How many times people give to the Lord that which cost them nothing. But as we said this morning, the measurement by which God measures our gifts to Him are never in the monetary value of the gift, but in the cost of the gift. What did it cost you to give to God? Because you see, you may give God a million dollars, but it would be totally meaningless if you, say, have two million in your bank account, because you can get by very well on one million dollars. Whereas someone else, if they give God a dollar, that could mean, you know, their bread for this week that they are going to have to go without food this week; a certain part of their food because they gave that dollar to God. Thus, because the dollar really cost them, in God's measurement, the gift of a dollar is greater than the gift of a million dollars. Because the amount is irrelevant as far as God is concerned, because He really doesn't need our money. But it's the cost. The cost of the gift demonstrates the real value, because it demonstrates the depth of my love and my consecration unto God.

So David bought this field. Now it says, for six hundred shekels.

And David gave to Ornan for the place six hundred shekels of gold by weight ( 1 Chronicles 21:25 ).

Now again, the Bible critics have found another error in the Bible. Because in Samuel where this same incident is recorded, in Second Samuel, chapter twenty-four, it says that David gave him fifty shekels of gold. And now here it says six hundred shekels of gold. And thus, the Bible contradicts itself and thus, the Bible could not be the Word of God if it contradicts itself. And thus, there is no reason to believe the Bible and so forth. And this is one of the supposed contradictions that those who are looking for problems in the Bible always find.

But as I said, these contradictions usually have a very simple explanation, and the study of the Hebrew text will help you in the explanation of this particular problem. Because in the Hebrew, we are told the Hebrew word used where he bought the threshingfloor is one word in Hebrew. Here the word is maqowm, which means the whole area around; he bought the whole field. Now he paid fifty shekels of gold for the threshingfloor, and then he gave him six hundred shekels for the whole field that was around the place. Because he bought the whole thing because he decided that he was going to build a temple for God here. So there's really no contradiction at all. He made two separate purchases. One of the threshingfloor, and then one of the place. And the word place being the Hebrew word maqowm; he bought the whole place for six hundred shekels of gold, and fifty shekels of gold for the threshingfloor. Another contradiction dissolves and the Bible still stands.

Aren't you glad? "

Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on 1 Chronicles 21". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/1-chronicles-21.html. 2014.
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