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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
1 Chronicles 21

 

 

Verse 1

And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.

Satan stood up against Israel. God, by withdrawing His grace at this time from David, permitted the Tempter to prevail over him; and as the result of this successful temptation was the entail of a heavy calamity as a punishment from God upon people, it might be said that "Satan stood up against Israel." "Satan" has not hitherto been used in the sacred history as a name for the Devil. For the true meaning of the term, see the note at 2 Samuel 24:1.

Number Israel. In the act of taking the census of a people there is not only no evil, but much utility. But numbering Israel-that people who were to become as the stars for multitude-implying a distrust of the divine promise, was a sin; and though it had been done with impunity in the time of Moses, at that enumeration each of the people had contributed 'half a shekel toward the building of the tabernacle,' that there might be no plague among them when he numbered them (Exodus 30:12). Hence, the numbering of that people was in itself regarded as an undertaking by which the anger of God could be easily aroused; but when the arrangements were made by Moses for the taking of the census, God was not angry, because the people were numbered for the express purpose of the tax for the sanctuary, and the money which was thus collected. "the atonement money" (Exodus 30:16), appeased Him. Everything depended, therefore, upon the design of the census (Bertheau). The sin of David numbering the people consisted in its being either to gratify his pride, to ascertain the number of warriors he could muster for some meditated plan of conquest, or, perhaps, more likely still, to institute a regular and permanent system of taxation, which he deemed necessary to provide an adequate establishment for the monarchy, but which was regarded as a tyrannical and oppressive exaction-an innovation on the liberty of the people-a departure from ancient usage unbecoming a king of Israel.


Verse 2

And David said to Joab and to the rulers of the people, Go, number Israel from Beersheba even to Dan; and bring the number of them to me, that I may know it.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 3

And Joab answered, The LORD make his people an hundred times so many more as they be: but, my lord the king, are they not all my lord's servants? why then doth my lord require this thing? why will he be a cause of trespass to Israel?

Why will he be a cause of trespass to Israel? - or bring an occasion of punishment on Israel. In Hebrew the word sin is often used synonymously with the punishment of sin. In the course of Providence the people frequently suffer for the misconduct of their rulers.


Verse 4

Nevertheless the king's word prevailed against Joab. Wherefore Joab departed, and went throughout all Israel, and came to Jerusalem.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 5

And Joab gave the sum of the number of the people unto David. And all they of Israel were a thousand thousand and an hundred thousand men that drew sword: and Judah was four hundred threescore and ten thousand men that drew sword.

Joab gave the sum. It amounted to 1,100,000 men in Israel capable of bearing arms, inclusive of the 300,000 military (1 Chronicles 27:1-34 :), which, being already enlisted in the royal service, were not reckoned, 2 Sam 24:9, and to 470,000 men in Judah, omitting 30,000 which formed an army of observation stationed on the Philistine frontier (2 Samuel 6:1). The Syriac version gives the same number in this passage as is stated the parallel one, 2 Samuel 24:9. So large a population at this early period, considering the limited extent of the country, and comparing it with the earlier census (Numbers 26:1-65), is a striking proof of the fulfillment of the promise, Genesis 15:5.


Verse 6

But Levi and Benjamin counted he not among them: for the king's word was abominable to Joab.

Levi and Benjamin counted he not. If this census was ordered with a view to the imposition of taxes, this alone would account for Levi, who were not warriors (1 Chronicles 21:5), not being numbered (see the notes at Numbers 1:47-54 ). The population of Benjamin had been taken (see the notes at 1 Chronicles 7:6-11), and the register preserved in the archives of that tribe. This, however, was taken on another occasion, and by other agency than that of Joab. The non-numbering of these two tribes might have originated in the special and gracious providence of God, partly because Levi was devoted to His service, and Benjamin had become the least of all the tribes (Judges 21:1-25); and partly because God foresaw that they would remain faithful to the house of David in the division of the tribes, and therefore would not have them diminished. From the course followed in this survey (see the notes at 2 Samuel 24:4-8), it would appear that Judah and Benjamin were the last tribes that were to be visited, and that, after the census in Judah bed been finished, Joab, before entering on that of Benjamin, had to return to Jerusalem, where the king, now sensible of his great error, gave orders to stop all further proceedings in the business. Not only the remonstrance of Joab at the first, but his slow progress in the survey (2 Samuel 24:8), showed the strong repugnance, and even horror, of the old general at this unconstitutional measure.


Verse 7-8

And God was displeased with this thing; therefore he smote Israel.

No JFB commentary on these verses.


Verse 9

And the LORD spake unto Gad, David's seer, saying,

The Lord spake unto Gad, David's seer. Although David was himself endowed with a prophetic gift, yet, in matters relating to himself or his kingdom, he was in the habit of consulting the Lord through the medium of the priests, and when he failed to do so, a prophet was sent on extraordinary occasions to admonish or chastise him. Gad, a private friend, was occasionally employed as the bearer of these prophetic messages.


Verse 10

Go and tell David, saying, Thus saith the LORD, I offer thee three things: choose thee one of them, that I may do it unto thee.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 11

So Gad came to David, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Choose thee

Choose thee ... To the three evils these correspond in beautiful agreement: three years, three months, three days (Bertheau). (See the note at 2 Samuel 24:13.)


Verse 12

Either three years' famine; or three months to be destroyed before thy foes, while that the sword of thine enemies overtaketh thee; or else three days 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 therefore advise thyself what word I shall bring again to him that sent me.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 13

And David said unto Gad, I am in a great strait: let me fall now into the hand of the LORD for very great are his mercies: but let me not fall into the hand of man.

Let me fall now into the hand of the Lord ... let me not fall into the hand of man. Experience had taught him that human passion and vengeance had no bounds, whereas our wise and gracious Father in heaven knows the kind, and regulates the extent, of chastisement which everyone needs.


Verse 14

So the LORD sent pestilence upon Israel: and there fell of Israel seventy thousand men.

So the Lord ...


Verse 15

And God sent an angel unto Jerusalem to destroy it: and as he was destroying, the LORD beheld, and he repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed, It is enough, stay now thine hand. And the angel of the LORD stood by the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite.

Sent an angel unto Jerusalem to destroy it. The infliction only of the pestilence is here noticed, without any account of its duration or its ravages. while a minute description is given of the visible appearance and menacing attitude of the destroying angel. (As to the reality of this angelic appearance, and the insuperable objections to the opinion that the "angel" was only a bold figure or poetical description of the pestilence, see the notes at 2 Sam.)

Stood by the threshing-floor of Ornan the Jebusite. Ornan was probably his Hebrew or Jewish, Araunah his Jebusite or Canaanite name. Whether he was the old king of Jebus, as that title is given to him, 2 Samuel 24:23, or not, he had been converted to the worship of the true God, and was possessed both of property and influence.


Verse 16

And David lifted up his eyes, and saw the angel of the LORD stand between the earth and the heaven, having a drawn sword in his hand stretched out over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders of Israel, who were clothed in sackcloth, fell upon their faces.

David lifted up his eyes, and saw the angel ... stand between the earth and the heaven. This vision was exhibited to David, that he might have time to offer up prayers for the city, which was going to have the infliction of the plague. So that the hovering of the angel was to show that there was room to pray for mercy, just as God was going to deal out the punishment. It was not as yet fallen on the land, nor yet had done any execution. 'When God's wrath is to be executed, the earthly and visible ministers of His judgments, and the unseen armies of heaven, are evermore leagued together. The natural eye sees only those; the spiritual eye beholds the other also behind. It is ever at such moments as it was with Israel of old. The multitude, to whom the purged spiritual eye was wanting, beheld only the outward calamity-the wasting pestilence; but "David lifted up his eyes, and saw the angel of the Lord stand between the earth and the heaven, having a drawn sword in his hand" (Trench, 'On the Parables,' p. 223).

David and the elders ... clothed in sackcloth, fell upon their faces. They appeared in the garb, and assumed the attitude, of humble penitents, confessing their sins and deprecating the wrath of God.


Verse 17

And David said unto God, Is it not I that commanded the people to be numbered? even I it is that have sinned and done evil indeed; but as for these sheep, what have they done? let thine hand, I pray thee, O LORD my God, be on me, and on my father's house; but not on thy people, that they should be plagued.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 18

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 in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite.

The angel of the Lord commanded Gad to say ... The order about the erection of an altar, as well as the indication of its site, is described, 2 Samuel 24:18, as brought directly by Gad. Here we are informed of the quarter whence the prophet got his commission. It is only in the later stages of Israel's history that we find angels employed in communicating the divine will to the prophets.

The threshing-floor of Ornan the Jobusite. It appears that long after David had taken the fortress of Jebus and fixed his residence there, Jerusalem was not the exclusive property of any one tribe. Judah and Benjamin continued without doubt to inhabit it, in brotherly communion, and the Jebusite lived there, as before, along with his new masters.


Verse 19

And David went up at the saying of Gad, which he spake in the name of the LORD. No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 20

And Ornan turned back, and saw the angel; and his four sons with him hid themselves. Now Ornan was threshing wheat.

Ornan turned back, and saw the angel , [The Septuagint has: kai epestrepsen Orna, kai eide ton basilea, and Ornan turned back, and saw the king. This is the reading in 2 Samuel 24:20.]

Ornan was threshing wheat , [ chiTiym (Hebrew #2406), plural, grains of wheat; daash (Hebrew #1758), was treading out wheat; Septuagint, een alooon purous, was bruising, crushing wheat]. In later times the Jews appear to have used threshing instruments (cf. Isaiah 41:15), [and the verb [ daash (Hebrew #1758)], was treading, may have been retained in common use, merely from the early custom of triturating by oxen (Sir G. Wilkinson, in Rawlinson's 'Herodotus,' 2:, p. 22). If the census was entered upon in autumn, the beginning of the civil year, the nine and a half months it occupied would end at wheat harvest. The common way of threshing grain is by spreading it out on a high level area, and driving backwards and forwards upon it two oxen harnessed to a clumsy sledge with three rollers and some sharp spikes. The drive sits on his knees on the box, while another peasant is employed in drawing back the straw and separating it from the grain underneath. By this operation the chaff is very much chopped, and the grain threshed out.


Verse 21-22

And as David came to Ornan, Ornan looked and saw David, and went out of the threshingfloor, and bowed himself to David with his face to the ground.

No JFB commentary on these verses.


Verse 23

And Ornan said unto David, Take it to thee, and let my lord the king do that which is good in his eyes: lo, I give thee the oxen also for burnt offerings, and the threshing instruments for wood, and the wheat for the meat offering; I give it all. I give thee ... the threshing instruments for wood - i:e., to burn the sacrifice of the oxen. Very little of the real import-the haste, and the value of the present offered-can be understood in this country. The offering was made for instant use. Ornan, hereby hoping to terminate the pestilence without a moment's delay, 'gave all'-oxen, the large threshing machine, and the wheat.


Verse 24

And king David said to Ornan, Nay; but I will verily buy it for the full price: for I will not take that which is thine for the LORD, nor offer burnt offerings without cost.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 25

So David gave to Ornan for the place six hundred shekels of gold by weight.

David gave ... for the place six hundred shekels of gold. At first he bought only the cattle and the threshing instruments, for which he paid 50 shekels of silver (2 Samuel 24:24); afterward he purchased the whole property, mount Moriah, on which the future temple stood. Although gold is frequently mentioned in the early books of Scripture, it is only as jewels and ornaments. It was not used as a medium of trade or commerce. The purchase of Araunah's threshing-floor is the first transaction in which it is recorded that gold was used as money. -High in the center of the mountain platform rises a remarkable rock, now covered by the dome of 'the Sakrah.' It is irregular in its form, and measures about 60 feet in one direction and 50 feet in the other. It is the natural surface of mount Moriah, and is thought by many to be the rock of the threshing-floor of Araunah, selected by David, and continued by Solomon and Zerubbabel, as 'the unhewn stone' on which to build the altar (Bartlett's Walks about Jerusalem;' Stanley).


Verse 26

And David built there an altar unto the LORD, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings, and called upon the LORD and he answered him from heaven by fire upon the altar of burnt offering.

David built there an altar. He went in procession with his leading men from the royal palace, down mount Zion, and through the intervening city; and, having plenty of space on his own property, he was commanded, under peremptory direction, to go a considerable distance from his home, up mount Moriah, to erect an altar on premises which he had to buy. It was on or close to the spot where Abraham had offered up Isaac.

And offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. 'I would remark, on this sole decided instance of a peace offering being made away from the sanctuary, that it is mentioned as extraordinary: the special circumstances of the case, and the revealed will of God, occasioned a departure from the otherwise constant rule' ('Israel after the Flesh,' p. 148: see the note at 2 Samuel 24:25).

Answered him from heaven by fire - (see Leviticus 9:24; 1 Kings 18:21-23; 2 Kings 1:12; 2 Chronicles 7:1.)


Verse 27

And the LORD commanded the angel; and he put up his sword again into the sheath thereof.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 28

At that time when David saw that the LORD had answered him in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite, then he sacrificed there.

When David saw ... he sacrificed there - or he continued to sacrifice there. Perceiving his sacrifice was acceptable, he proceeded to make additional offerings there, and seek favour by prayer and expiatory rites; for the dread of the menacing angel destroying Jerusalem while he was absent in the center of worship at Gibeon, especially reverence for the Divine Being, led him to continue his adorations in that place which God (2 Chronicles 3:1) had hallowed by the tokens of His presence and gracious acceptance.

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 Chronicles 21:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/1-chronicles-21.html. 1871-8.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, October 23rd, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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