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Bible Commentaries

Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible
1 Chronicles 21

 

 

Verses 1-8

1 Chronicles 21:1. And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.

Israel had greatly offended and grieved God, and it was to be punished. God punished one sin by another: the sin of David works for the chastisement of a sinful people.

1 Chronicles 21:2. 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.

He had got proud, he had begun to depend upon the number of his people. In truth, it was a large population under his sway, five millions or more, and he, that had been a shepherd lad, that in his early youth had trusted in his God, now thinking himself a great man, somewhat in the spirit of Nebuchadnezzar, begins to say, “Behold, this great kingdom that I have gathered and founded.”

1 Chronicles 21:3. 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?

It adds greatly to a wrong action if we are checked in it, and especially if we are checked in it by a man who has not any conscience to spare, but yet, notwithstanding his roughness, such as Joab had, nevertheless expostulates with you, “why do this?” The people generally understood that, when they were numbered, it was with a view to taxing them, it was with a view of showing David’s sovereignty over them. Now David was not their sovereign, the Lord God was their King; David was but the Viceroy, and when he began to count them as though they were his own, it was a source of great indignation to the most High. I am afraid when you and I begin to count up as we have done, begin to reckon upon how much we have given, or how much we have effected for God, we begin to appropriate a measure of glory to ourselves. We had better leave that alone, for although pride may not seem a great sin in the eye of men, it is assuredly that which bringeth the utmost wrath from the most High. He cannot endure pride, especially in those whom He has lifted up. He took David from the sheepfold, and if David has now become great, David must be brought down again.

1 Chronicles 21:4-6. Nevertheless the king’s word prevailed against Joab. Wherefore Joab departed, and went throughout all Israel, and came to Jerusalem. 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. But Levi and Benjamin counted he not among them: for the king’s word was abominable to Joab.

So he did no more of it than he could possibly help.

1 Chronicles 21:7-8. 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.

We read that David’s heart smote him. Although he had gone wrong, he was nevertheless a good man, and when an ambitious man sins it is a great sin, but it is not long that he continues in it: his conscience is awakened; the Spirit of God is in him. David’s heart smote him. That is a terrible blow when your own heart smites you; if you never feel any other person smiting you, you will feel that.


Verses 1-30

May the Lord instruct us while we read. Perhaps We shall understand it better if we begin in the 21st chapter at the 26th verse.

1 Chronicles 21:26-27. 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. And the LORD commanded the angel; and he put up his sword again into the sheath thereof.

“And David built there” — that is upon the threshing-floor of Ornan. The place of sacrifice was the place of salvation. The angel was smiting Jerusalem, but as soon as the sacrifice was offered the angel sheathed his sword.

1 Chronicles 21:28. At that time when David saw that the LORD had answered him in the threshing-floor of Ornan the Jebusite, then he sacrificed there.

Then came a sacrifice of thanksgiving, as there always should be after prayer is answered. Remember how the Psalmist puts it, “Then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar” — after the sin is pardoned and the transgression is put away.

1 Chronicles 21:29-30 and 1 Chronicles 22:1. For the tabernacle of the LORD, which Moses made in the wilderness, and the altar of the burnt offering, were at that season in the high place at Gibeon. But David could not go before it to inquire of God: for he was afraid because of the sword of the angel of the LORD. Then David said, This is the house of the LORD God, and this is the altar of the burnt offering for Israel.

The place where God had answered him, where the angel had appeared to him, where the fire had come down from heaven, he felt to be holiest, and that the Lord had directed him to it as the spot where his temple was to be built. It is very significant that it should be upon a threshing-floor, for surely the Church of God is God’s threshing-floor, where he gathereth his sheaves together, and separates between the wheat and the chaff. “I will winnow,” saith he, “my threshing-floor.” Oh! that we might ever recognize that Christ is the temple of God, and Christ is the sacrifice; Christ is the appearance of God that is better to us than the appearance of angels, and Christ is God’s answer to us by fire, and where Christ is, there is the burnt-offering.

1 Chronicles 21:2. And David commanded to gather together the strangers that were in the land of Israel; and he set masons to hew wrought stones to build the house of God.

It is very observable, not the Israelites, but the foreigners, the aliens, the strangers, the remaining Canaanites that were in the land, were set to hew the stones for the house of the Lord. I have heard very good people indeed object to the ungodly giving any money whatever to God’s cause. This is all against it; here are the aliens employed to hew the stones for the house of God, and why should not they? It will do them good, at least, to do some good thing or other in their lives. Let them have an opportunity so to do. But I see here an indication of the calling of the Gentiles, for whenever the Jews said the Gentiles had nothing to do with God, why the very stones of their temple spoke against them. Were not the timbers brought from Tyro by the Tyrians along in floats? Were not the stones quarried by aliens and foreigners? Oh! the Lord would have his people follow a large, and liberal, and prophetic policy in their dealing with mankind. God forbid that we should shut anybody out from anything that looks like good. Oh! let us not repel them; it may be that in repelling their offerings we may be hardening their hearts. David was a wiser man than that.

1 Chronicles 21:3-4. And David prepared iron in abundance for the nails for the doors of the gates, and for the joinings; and brass in abundance without weight; Also cedar trees in abundance: for the Zidonians and they of Tyre brought much cedar wood to David.

Here, again, was a kind of prophecy of what would happen in better days, when the poor Gentiles should be permitted to have a share in the building of the house of God. These Tyrians and Zidonians were amongst the worst of idolaters, and yet they were used in their due place and subservience to hew the trees and float them to the temple, as near as they could get by sea to Joppa.

1 Chronicles 21:5. And David said, Solomon my son is young and tender, and the house that is to be builded for the LORD must be exceeding magnifical, of fame and of glory throughout all countries: I will therefore now make preparation for it.

There is no way of helping young people to serve God like setting them a good example. Let the father feel, with regard to his son, that he is young and tender; he may not be able to begin, but if I begin, I shall get him in the mode of doing such things, and maybe he may carry out my design when I am sleeping in the grave. It was well, it was wise, it was splendid of David thus to make all preparations that Solomon might afterwards go on with the good work.

1 Chronicles 21:5. So David prepared abundantly before his death.

If you cannot do everything yourself — and who can? — is it not well to prepare abundantly before our death for somebody else to go on with the work? Thus shall we live after we are dead — live in our sons, if God be so good to us, live in our grandchildren, who knows? — live in someone we were the means of bringing to the Saviour’s feet by our ministry. Then he called to Solomon, his son. He had prepared everything, and now he speaks to him, and he charged him to build a house for Jehovah, the God of Israel.

1 Chronicles 21:6-8. Then he called for Solomon his son, and charged him to build an house for the LORD God of Israel. And David said to Solomon, My son, as for me, it was in my mind to build an house unto the name of the LORD my God: But the word of the LORD came to me, saying, Thou hast shed blood abundantly, and hast made great wars: thou shalt not build an house unto my name, because thou hast shed much blood upon the earth in my sight.

It was not an allusion to Uriah’s blood, as some have thought, for God said this to David long before David’s great sin. The wars in which David was engaged were honest wars for the defense and deliverance of the country, in which God had helped him, and yet even the best wax is bad in God’s esteem. When blood is shed, God delights not in it; and he sets his servant on one side without blaming him, and says, “No: a bloody hand is not fit for the building of my temple. Thou hast been called in the order of Providence to be a warrior and a conqueror; thou must be content with that; thou canst not build the temple to the God of Peace.”

1 Chronicles 21:9. Behold a son shall be born to thee, who shall be a man of rest.

That is a very sweet name for Solomon, “A man of rest.” I pray that many a believer here may be a man of that kind. Some believers have to be men of war. There they are, in a world of struggles, disputes, contentions, of their own ambitions — but happy is that man who is of a gentle and a tender spirit, a spirit of holy wisdom, and whom God gives the great privilege to be a man of peace.

1 Chronicles 22:9-10. And I will give him rest from all his enemies round about: for his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quietness unto Israel in his days. He shall build an house for my name and he shall be my son, and I will be his father; and I will established the throne of his kingdom over Israel for ever.

What a sweet benediction from an aged man’s mouth.

1 Chronicles 21:11-13. Now, my son, the LORD be with thee; and prosper thou, and build the house of the LORD thy God, as he hath said of thee. Only the LORD give thee wisdom and understanding, and give thee charge concerning Israel, that thou mayest keep the law of the LORD thy God. Then shalt thou prosper, if thou takest heed to fulfill the statutes and judgments which the LORD charged Moses with concerning Israel: be strong, and of good courage; dread not, nor be dismayed.

This was addressed to a young man and tender by an old man who had displayed much courage. They who have been courageous themselves can safely encourage others to be so. God make us all in every good cause to be free from fear. Like Bernard, the knight, may we be “without fear, and without reproach,” ever contending for God and his truth.

1 Chronicles 21:14. Now behold, in my trouble I have prepared for the house of the LORD an hundred thousand talents of gold,

Whatever sum that may have been, it could hardly have been a Babylonian talent, because that would have made him to have laid up one thousand millions sterling.

1 Chronicles 21:14. And a thousand thousand talents of silver; and of brass and iron without weight; for it is in abundance: timber also and stone have I prepared; and thou mayest add thereto.

A capital text for a collection, whenever there has been a good sum given already, “Thou mayest add thereto.” Next Sunday week we collect for the hospitals. Thou mayest add to the gold if thou canst; thou mayest add to the silver if thou canst; thou mayest add to the copper if thou canst not add to the silver or the gold.

1 Chronicles 21:15. Moreover there are workmen with thee in abundance,

David had foreseen all that was wanted, and had got a list of the men of skill and art throughout all his land.

1 Chronicles 21:15. Hewers and workers of stone and timber, and all manner of cunning men for every manner of work.

You remember that text, “The Lord showed me four carpenters,” and so when the Lord wants carpenters there will be carpenters. Whatever kind of men he requires for his service, that kind of men shall be forthcoming in the day of need — “All manner of cunning men for every manner of work.”

1 Chronicles 21:16. Of the gold, the silver, and the brass, and the iron, there is no number. Arise, therefore and be doing, and the LORD be with thee.

That is his word to Solomon.

1 Chronicles 21:17. David also commanded all the princes of Israel to help Solomon his son, saying,

What a grand thing it is when a man has true-hearted helpers, men who are ready to stint themselves, annihilate themselves, as it were, to help some other man to do the work of the Lord, quite satisfied to be themselves unknown, so long as the house of the Lord is built, and God’s name is glorified!

1 Chronicles 21:18. Is not the LORD your God with you? and hath he not given you rest on every side? for he hath given the inhabitants of the land into mine hand; and the land is subdued before the LORD, and before his people.

So then they had not to fight, but to work. If Jesus Christ has conquered all our foes, and routed all our sins; if sin, and death, and hell lie prostrate at his feet, what can we do but devote our rest and peace to his service?

1 Chronicles 21:19. Now set your heart and your soul to seek the Lord your God; arise therefore, and build ye the sanctuary of the LORD God, to bring the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and the holy vessels of God, into the house that is to be built to the name of the LORD.


Verses 7-30

1 Chronicles 21:7. And God was displeased with this thing;

This numbering of Israel, which David had carried out in spite of Joab’s protest: “God was displeased with this thing:” —

1 Chronicles 21:7-15. 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. And the LORD spake unto Gad, David’s seer, saying, 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. So Gad came to David, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Choose thee 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. 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. So the LORD sent pestilence upon Israel and there fell of Israel seventy thousand men. 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.

See the power of the mercy of God; even when the angel has drawn his sword, and is already executing the Lord’s just judgments, God’s mercy interposes, and holds back the blade of death. Should we not love the Lord for his great longsuffering toward us? “He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.”

1 Chronicles 21:15-16. And the angel of the LORD stood by the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite. 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.

This was the very best clothing and the very best posture for men who were under the chastising hand of God; they had put on sackcloth, and they had fallen upon their faces. O guilty sinner, if God’s sword of vengeance is drawn against you, you cannot do better than put sackcloth upon your soul, if not upon your body, and prostrate yourself before the Most High.

1 Chronicles 21:17. 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 those 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.

Here we see David at his best; and what a true patriot he is! He interposes himself, willing rather that he should be destroyed than that the people should die. This was the spirit of Moses when he said to the Lord, “If thou wilt forgive their sin — — ; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written.” And this was the spirit of Paul, when he wrote, “I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” There are times when our great love for others will overflow all bounds of moderation, when we shall say, and say from our hearts, what we should not have dared to utter in cooler moments.

1 Chronicles 21:18-27. Then the angel of the LORD commanded Gad to say to David, that David should go up, and set up as altar unto the LORD in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite. And David went up at the saying of Gad, which he spake in the name of the LORD. And Ornan turned back, and saw the angel; and his four sons with him hid themselves. Now Ornan was threshing wheat. 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. Then David said to Ornan, Grant me the place of this threshingfloor, that I may build as altar therein unto the LORD: thou shalt grant it me for the full price: that the plague may be stayed from the people. And Ornan said unto David, Take it to thee, and let my lord the king do that which is good is 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. 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. So David gave to Ornan for the place six hundred shekels of gold by weight. 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. And the LORD commanded the angel; and he put up his sword again into the sheath thereof.

See what was done by David’s intercession and sacrifice; and remember that there is a greater David who, with a richer sacrifice and mightier intercession, sheathes the sword of God, so that his people are spared.

1 Chronicles 21:28-30. At that time when David saw that the LORD had answered him in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite, then he sacrificed there. For the tabernacle of the LORD, which Moses made in the wilderness, and the altar of the burnt offering, were at that season in the high place at Gibeon. But David could not go before it to inquire of God: for he was afraid because of the sword of the angel of the LORD.

(This exposition consisted of readings from 1 Chronicles 21:7-30: And 22.)


Verses 9-30

1 Chronicles 21:9-11. And the LORD spake unto Gad, David’s seer, saying, 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. So Gad came to David, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Choose thee—

One of them, that I may do it unto thee. David was to choose where there was no choice, for everything proposed to him seemed to be equally bitter.

1 Chronicles 21:12-13. 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. And David said unto Gad, I am in a great strait: let me fall now into the hand the LORD for very great are his mercies: but let me not fall into the hand of man.

It shows how he was broken down. David’s proud heart was humbled, he was entirely submissive to the will of God, he wished to fall into the hands of the Lord.

1 Chronicles 21:14-15. So the LORD sent pestilence upon Israel and there fell of Israel seventy thousand men. And God sent an angel unto Jerusalem to destroy it: and as he was destroying, the LORD beheld,--

It is a very beautiful word,-the Lord looked steadfastly on what was being done.

1 Chronicles 21:15. 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 threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.

One of the old inhabitants of the land, who had escaped destruction, and had his possession on the top of Mount Morah.

1 Chronicles 21:16-17. 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. 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.

Here the great heart of the man who had sinned comes out again: he is no tyrant after all, he is a worthy man to be the Viceroy of the Most High. He has the same spirit that Moses had, when he cried, “If not, blot my name out of the Book of Life.” He offers himself, not the innocent for the guilty, but, indeed, the guilty for the guilty; as far as he can, he will bear the consequences of his sin.

1 Chronicles 21:18-20. 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. And David went up at the saying of Gad, which he spake in the name of the LORD. And Ornan turned back, and saw the angel;

He was busy at his threshing, and he saw the angel standing by his own threshingfloor.

1 Chronicles 21:20. And his four sons with him hid themselves.

There are great caverns hard by the spot, and, no doubt, they ran into one of them.

1 Chronicles 21:20-23. Now Ornan was threshing wheat. 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. Then David said to Ornan, Grant me the place of this threshingfloor, that I may build an altar therein unto the LORD: thou shalt grant it me for the full price: that the plague may be stayed from the people. 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.

And as we are told in the other narrative, as a king giveth to a king, so did Araunah unto David. Probably he had been a king, and David had dispossessed him in his conquest of Jebus, but now he proves that he had a royal heart, and he offers to give all to King David.

1 Chronicles 21:24-25. And king David said to Ornan, Nay; but I will verily buy it for the full price: for I will no take that which is thine for the LORD, nor offer burnt offerings without cost. So David gave to Ornan for the place six hundred shekels of gold by weight.

Not paid there and then, for he did not carry that amount with him, but fifty shekels of silver were paid that moment to bind their bargain, according to the narrative in the 2nd Book of Samuel.

1 Chronicles 21:26-27. 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. And the LORD commanded the angel; and he put up his sword again into the sheath thereof.

That God had already done in his own intent and purpose, now he does it actually, just as before Jesus Christ, our great sacrifice, was offered. God, in the eternal purpose, had stayed the sword of vengeance from his redeemed people, and then actually did it when Christ their sacrifice was presented.

1 Chronicles 21:28-30. At that time when David saw that the LORD had answered him in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite, then he sacrificed there. For the tabernacle of the LORD, which Moses made in the wilderness, and the altar of the burnt offering, were at that season in the high place at Gibeon. But David could not go before it to inquire of God: for he was afraid because of the sword of the angel of the LORD.


Verses 25-30

David was commanded to go to Ornan, or Araunah, the Jebusite, to rear an altar unto the Lord in his threshingfloor. There had been a terrible plague in Jerusalem, in consequence of David’s great sin in numbering the people; and they were falling in thousands by the sword of the angel of vengeance David went up to the threshingfloor or Ornan on Mount Moriah. Ornan was willing to give it to him, but he determined to buy it. We read in the twenty-fifth verse; —

1 Chronicles 21:25-28. So David gave to Ornan for the place six hundred shekels of gold by weight. 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. And the LORD commanded the angel; and he put up his sword again into the sheath thereof. At that time when David saw that the LORD has answered him in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite, then he sacrificed there.

There was the place for the temple, where the angel sheathed his sword. Christ Jesus, in his great atonement, is the corner-stone of the temple where divine justice sheathes its sword. There let the house of God be built. Every true Church of God is founded on the glorious doctrine of the atoning sacrifice. It was a threshingfloor, too; and God has built his Church on a threshingfloor. Depend upon it, the flail will always be going in every true Church, to fetch out the wheat from the chaff. We must have tribulation if we are in the Church of God. The threshingfloor will always be needed until we are taken up to the heavenly garner above.

1 Chronicles 21:29-30. For the tabernacle of the LORD, which Moses made in the wilderness, and the altar of the burnt offering, were at that season in the high place of Gibeon. But David could not go before it to inquire of God; for he was afraid because of the sword of the angel of the LORD.

(This exposition consisted of readings from 1 Chronicles 21:25-30; 1 Chronicles 22.)

 


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Bibliography Information
Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on 1 Chronicles 21:4". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/spe/1-chronicles-21.html. 2011.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, June 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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