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1 Chronicles 21:1 . Satan stood up against Israel; that is, the accuser, or calumniator.
1 Chronicles 21:3 . Why will my lord the king be a cause of trespass to Israel? Joab was struck with the sin, and in a way we can scarcely account for. Satan, who knew the elated state of Israel, and who knows how to catch men by their passions, availed himself of the popular humour of the king and the people, to draw them to a boasting and wanton pride.
1 Chronicles 21:5 . Joab gave the number, in a round sum. See 2 Samuel 24:9. Dr. Lightfoot accounts for the variation of the account, by the number of the allies being included in the one census, and not in the other.
1 Chronicles 21:11-12 . Choose thee, either three years’ famine, &c. Here is a sad choice of three sore temporal punishments for a temporal sin. Famine would diminish their boasted numbers by death and by exile; the sword would do the same; the pestilence would also do it. David wisely chose the plague, which happily operated in bringing him and the people to sit in the dust, after their soaring pride in meditated grasps at empire and dominion. Joab did not count Levi, being poor; nor Benjamin, not yet recovered from their almost total excision by the civil war.
1 Chronicles 21:25 . Six hundred shekels of gold. In 2 Samuel 24:24, it is “fifty shekels of silver.” As the shekels were of different weight and value, it is thought that David gave fifty shekels of gold for the threshingfloor, which would make about six hundred shekels of silver. Hence one word might easily be miswritten for another. David’s fall and family calamities are here omitted.
1 Chronicles 21:26 . The Lord answered by fire upon the altar. This was the highest mark of divine approbation; it was also accompanied by a revelation that the Lord had chosen that hill for the scite of his throne and sanctuary; and by consequence, that all the high places where the patriarchs had offered burnt-offerings, should for ever cease. See on 2 Kings 18:0; 2 Kings 18:0. The Persians and the Hindoos err in worshipping fire as a god, for he has veiled his presence in clouds, and in angelic figures, as well as in flames of fire; and he still accepts the offering of the heart by the holy fire of love. Luke 24:32. Romans 5:5.
But in addition to the former remarks on this important chapter, we may observe that Moses formed in the spirit a perfect idea of the character of his nation. “Jeshurun,” says he, “waxed fat and kicked.” The remark was highly predictive. This whole nation was intoxicated with the victories of their king, and with the vast accession of wealth, of territory, and of proselytes. Hence they boasted of their population, and gloried in their strength. Hence the anger of the Lord, it is said in Samuel, was kindled against Israel, and he permitted Satan to tempt them to sin, that their boasted numbers might be diminished by affliction. How mysterious is the hand of God, that he should often make those very accomplishments, in which the wicked peculiarly glory, the cause of their humiliation and shame.
To number the people for vain parade, that they might trust in the multitude rather than in the Lord, was revolting even to Joab. The task was insupportable; for he left Benjamin and Levi unpolled, and returned the gross number. And it is not improbable but Benjamin, who inhabited part of Jerusalem, was spared in the plague on that account. It is very mortifying when the leading persons in Christ’s church so act as to excite remonstrances from carnal and wicked men.
When a nation or a city weep and pray for the remission of sins, when they fast and humble their souls, they may expect the stern aspect of justice to soften into compassion. JEHOVAH, the angel, finding the city in sackcloth, dropped his avenging sword; but shunning the voluptuous houses of princes, he abode at the threshingfloor, and discovered himself to Araunah and his sons; for the well disposed heathen found more grace in the eyes of heaven than an Israelite elated with prosperity.
We have next, the deep humiliation and repentance of David, for his vain glory in numbering the people. He was not the only sinner; the nation at large were intoxicated with their conquests, and their wealth; yet he takes to himself the whole of the sin and of the punishment; and it was solely on account of his repentance that his life, and the lives of his people were saved from the plague. We here learn the character of true repentance. We must not justify ourselves, we must not diminish the atrocious circumstances of our sins, but lay down our neck to the stroke, and submit both body and soul to the gracious pleasure of Almighty God. He knows best how to act towards a guilty people. The placability, and compassion of God are very encouraging motives to repentance. He came to destroy Jerusalem; for that city was, no doubt, the foremost to glory and trust in an arm of flesh. But finding them in tears from the idea of the plague, and by the sermons of Gad, the Lord not only forbore the stroke, but chose his residence among them. He approached the industrious Jebusite and his four sons: for now, it would seem, they were proselytes to the Jewish religion, and required an atoning altar to be constructed there. Yea, he chose this most convenient spot for the scite of his temple, and honoured the sacrifice by accepting it with fire from heaven. Let no man therefore account his repentance complete, till God reveals a peace to his conscience which passeth all understanding, and a hallowing flame of love to his heart which passeth knowledge.
There is one circumstance more which seems to claim attention. Zion the fort, and Salem the city, were the metropolis of the Jebusites in the days of Abraham. Genesis 14:0. So it had continued till David took it by storm; but this humane conqueror had not dispossessed Araunah of his land, nor the poor of their dwellings; for true valour is characterized by humanity. This land David now purchased. Surely, if we may pay any regard to the many typical things not marked as such in the new testament, we have here a figure, that God would lay among the gentiles the great foundation of the christian church. Such was his wisdom, and such his sovereignty, to choose the place where the glories of his name should be recorded. May our souls, in like manner, so long the seat of vanity, become a habitation of God through the Spirit.
How happy were the Hebrews in having the oracle and holy prophets nigh at hand. The primitive christians long enjoyed this privilege. Why is it now almost lost. Oh, when will the Lord restore it to us again, as he has promised in the sacred scriptures.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Chronicles 21". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 22 / Ordinary 27