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Bible Commentaries
1 Chronicles 21

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 2986. B.C. 1018.

David causes Joab to number the people, 1 Chronicles 21:1-6 . He repents, 1 Chronicles 21:7 , 1 Chronicles 21:8 . God gives him his choice of three judgments, and he chooses the pestilence, 1 Chronicles 21:9-13 . The havoc made thereby: Jerusalem spared, 1 Chronicles 21:14 , 1 Chronicles 21:15 . David’s prayer, 1 Chronicles 21:16 , 1 Chronicles 21:17 . His sacrifice and staying of the plague, 1 Chronicles 21:18-30 .

Verse 1

1 Chronicles 21:1. Satan stood up against Israel Before the Lord and his tribunal, to accuse David and Israel, and to ask God’s permission to tempt David. Standing is the accuser’s posture before men’s tribunals; and consequently the Holy Scriptures (which use to speak of the things of God after the manner of men, to bring them down to our capacities) elsewhere represent Satan in this posture. See 1 Kings 22:21; Zechariah 3:1. In 2 Samuel 24:1, it is said, The anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he moved David, or rather, there was who moved David; namely, Satan, as is here stated, by God’s permission. The righteous judgments of God are to be observed and acknowledged even in the sins and unrighteousness of men. But we are sure God is not the author of sin, and that, strictly speaking, he tempts no man, James 1:13. That passage, therefore, must be explained by this. But of this particular, and of the contents of this whole chapter, and of the variations and seeming contradictions between this narrative and that in Samuel, see notes there.

Verse 3

1 Chronicles 21:3. Why will he be Or, why should this be; a cause of trespass Or, an occasion of punishment; (Hebrew words, which signify sin, being often used for the punishment of sin,) to, or against Israel? Why wilt thou provoke God by this sin to punish Israel? He speaks thus because God commonly punishes the people for the sins of their rulers, the people being for the most part guilty of their rulers’ sins, in one kind or other.

Verse 6

1 Chronicles 21:6. Levi and Benjamin counted he not Partly for the following reason, and principally by God’s gracious providence to Levi, because they were devoted to his service; and to Benjamin, because they were the least of all the tribes, having been almost extinct, (Judges 21:0.,) and because God foresaw that they would be faithful to the house of David in the division of the tribes, and therefore he would not have them diminished. And Joab also presumed to leave these two tribes unnumbered, because he had specious pretences for it; for Levi, because they were no warriors, and the king’s command reached only of those that drew sword; and for Benjamin, because they, being so small a tribe, and bordering upon Jerusalem, might easily be numbered afterward.

Verse 7

1 Chronicles 21:7. God was displeased with this thing Because it was done without any colour of necessity, and out of mere curiosity and ostentation, as David’s own conscience afterward told him, which therefore smote him, as is related 2 Samuel 24:10. Therefore he smote Israel As is particularly related in the following verses. Undoubtedly God did this because Israel concurred with David in the act of numbering the people, and approved of it, as well as because of all their other sins.

Verse 8

1 Chronicles 21:8. I have done very foolishly I see plainly, and acknowledge, that I have been very foolish in thinking to found my security on the number of my people, instead of depending solely on thy almighty power and sovereign help.

Verses 12-13

1 Chronicles 21:12-13. Either three years of famine In 2 Samuel 24:13, it is said the prophet propounded to David seven years of famine, concerning which see the note there. Let me fall now into the hand of the Lord The pestilence is more properly called the hand, or sword of the Lord, than other common calamities. For they have visible causes, but none know whence this sudden destruction comes, unless immediately from the hand or stroke of God.

Verse 14

1 Chronicles 21:14. There fell of Israel He was proud of the number of his people, but God took a course to make them fewer. Justly is that which we are proud of taken from us, or imbittered to us.

Verses 15-16

1 Chronicles 21:15-16. God sent an angel unto Jerusalem to destroy it, &c. This seems to import that there were more angels than one employed to effect this destruction in different parts of the country: and that the angels, sent to Jerusalem, had begun to slay some of its inhabitants. The Lord beheld, and repented him of the evil Probably because he beheld their serious repentance. David and the elders clothed in sackcloth That is, in mourning garments; fell on their faces Humbling themselves before God for their sins, and deprecating his wrath against the people.

Verse 18

1 Chronicles 21:18 . The angel commanded that David should go and set up an altar This command was a blessed token of reconciliation. For if God had been pleased to kill him, he would not have commanded, because he would not have accepted, a sacrifice at his hands.

Verse 20

1 Chronicles 21:20. His four sons with him hid themselves Because of the glory and majesty in which the angel appeared, which men’s weak natures are not able to bear; and from the fear of God’s vengeance, which now seemed to be coming to their family.

Verse 25

1 Chronicles 21:25. David gave six hundred shekels of gold, &c. How this is reconciled with 2 Samuel 24:24, where it is said, David bought the thrashing-floor, &c, for fifty shekels of silver, see note there.

Verse 26

1 Chronicles 21:26. He answered him from heaven by fire Hebrew, by fire from heaven; which was a sign of God’s acceptance. The fire that might justly have fastened on the sinner, fastened upon the sacrifice and consumed it. Thus Christ was made sin and a curse for us, and it pleased the Lord to bruise him, that through him God might be to us, not a consuming fire, but a reconciled Father.

Verse 28

1 Chronicles 21:28. Then he sacrificed there When he perceived that his sacrifice offered there was acceptable to God, he proceeded to offer more sacrifices in that place, and did not go to Gibeon, as otherwise he should have done.

Verse 30

1 Chronicles 21:30. David could not go before it Did not dare to go before the tabernacle, where the altar stood. To inquire of God Hebrew, לדרשׁ , lidrosh, to seek God, or humbly to entreat his favour by prayer and sacrifice. For he was afraid because of the sword of the angel of the Lord That is, when he saw the angel stand with his drawn sword over Jerusalem, he durst not go away to Gibeon, lest the angel in the mean time should destroy Jerusalem: for the prevention whereof he thought it proper to worship God in that place, which he had consecrated by his special presence and acceptance.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Chronicles 21". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/1-chronicles-21.html. 1857.
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