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Bible Commentaries
1 Chronicles 21

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

Verses 1-30

God’s provision of a place for Israel ch. 21

Chapter 21 records the fulfillment of God’s second personal promise to David, namely, that He would appoint a place where Israel could dwell securely (in rest, 1 Chronicles 17:9). This was a promise of peace for Israel, but as the verses following 1 Chronicles 17:9 make clear, God had more than this in mind. He intended to dwell among His people in the house Solomon would build (1 Chronicles 17:11-12). God’s presence was the real source of Israel’s security. By giving Israel a place, God would provide for Himself a place where He would dwell, specifically the temple. Chapter 21 records God’s choice of the place where He would dwell, the site of the temple. There David’s successor would build a house for Yahweh (1 Chronicles 17:12).

"It may also be said that having empowered Israel to defeat their human foes, God provided a place of atonement and divine manifestation whereby they could defeat (or hold at bay) their nonhuman enemy, Satan." [Note: Thompson, p. 160.]

The writer gave much attention to detail and background events because of the importance of the temple site. All these events point to God’s ultimate purpose for the temple: that it would draw the Israelites and the Gentiles to Himself.

"Here, by divine command, is to be the site of the temple. It is a gift not from Ornan but from God. The grace of God, in giving this to His people as the place where ark and altar are to be brought together, is a thing to be wondered at." [Note: Wilcock, p. 95.]

Apparently David’s lack of faith in God’s ability to save His people led him to number the people (1 Chronicles 21:1-7). God did not approve of this attitude, and even though David confessed his sin and God removed his guilt, the consequences of his sin followed (1 Chronicles 21:8-12). David’s words to Gad again model a proper response to God (1 Chronicles 21:13). By referring to Gad as a "seer," the writer implied that Gad served David primarily by getting divine revelation for him (cf, 1 Samuel 22:5; 2 Samuel 24:11-19). In contrast, the "prophet" Nathan’s primary role appears to have been announcing messages from the Lord to the king (cf. 2 Samuel 7:2-17; 1 Chronicles 17:1-15). [Note: See Leon J. Wood, The Prophets of Israel, pp. 169-257, for discussion of each of the prophets mentioned during Israel’s monarchy.] God’s compassion is also evident in His relenting and reducing His originally intended judgment (1 Chronicles 21:15; cf. Exodus 32:14; et al.). David volunteered to bear God’s judgment in place of the innocent Israelites (1 Chronicles 21:16-17). However, God instructed him to build an altar at the place of God’s judgment and to offer the sacrifice that the Mosaic Law required. That was the site God chose for His house (1 Chronicles 21:18 to 1 Chronicles 22:1). That place forever after, as long as Israel occupied the land, would be where the priests would atone for the Israelites’ sins by sacrifice. God demonstrated His approval of David’s offerings by sending fire from heaven (1 Chronicles 21:26; cf. Leviticus 9:24; 1 Kings 18:38). The primary reason for including this incident involving David’s sin was that it explains the site chosen for the temple. [Note: Thompson, p. 160.]

The Hebrew word transliterated "Satan" (satan; 1 Chronicles 21:1) means adversary. Adversary would be a better translation here. This is the first time in Scripture the word appears without the definite article as a proper noun. It seems that the adversary God permitted to worry David into numbering the people was a foreign enemy (1 Chronicles 21:12; cf. 1 Samuel 29:4; 2 Samuel 19:23; 2 Samuel 24:1-25; 1 Kings 5:4; 1 Kings 11:14; 1 Kings 11:23; 1 Kings 11:25). [Note: See Sarah Japhet, I & II Chronicles, pp. 374-75; Robert B. Chisholm Jr., "Does God Deceive?" Bibliotheca Sacra 155:617 (January-March 1998):22-23; and Sydney H. T. Page, "Satan: God’s Servant," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 50:3 (September 2007):449-65.] Of course Satan played a role in this temptation, but it was evidently fear of one of his neighbors that disturbed David’s mind. [Note: See John H. Sailhamer, "1 Chronicles 21:1-A Study in Inter-biblical Interpretation," Trinity Journal 10NS:1 (Spring 1989):42-43.]

"The major reason for taking a census in Israel was to lay the basis for levying taxes (Exodus 30:12; Numbers 3:40-51) or registering men for military service (Numbers 26:1-4)." [Note: Thompson, p. 160. Cf. 21:4-7.]

"The version of the incident in the Book of 2 Samuel [1 Chronicles 24:1] gives an underlying theological perspective, while the Chronicler simply describes what happened from a human perspective." [Note: The NET Bible note on 21:1.]

David’s response to Gad’s instructions indicated his true repentance. He left the decision about punishment entirely in God’s hands and did not seek to control it.

"Perhaps the one thing that impresses more than David’s sins in his life are his repentances (cf. 2 Samuel 12:13 ff., and, associated in its heading with the same incident, Psalms 51). We do well to let his willingness to come fully to terms with his deficiencies inform our own responses to our moral failures before God." [Note: McConville, p. 71.]

Chapters 17-21 give the writer’s first account of what God promised David in the Davidic Covenant. The things that God promised, He provided in David’s lifetime and shortly after that. They included victory in battle, expanded influence, and a glorious reputation. The record of this promise is in 1 Chronicles 17:8, and the fulfillment is in chapters 18-20. The second promise was a secure, peaceful place for Israel that made necessary a place for Yahweh to dwell among His people in fellowship. The record of this promise is in 1 Chronicles 17:9-12, and chapter 21 guarantees its fulfillment. These promises and their fulfillments would have given the original readers of Chronicles great confidence. They would have encouraged them that Yahweh would yet fulfill those promises in the Davidic Covenant that had not yet materialized but were still future for them. The record should have the same effect on us today.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 Chronicles 21". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/1-chronicles-21.html. 2012.
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