1 Chronicles 21 (New Living Translation)
The theme of the preparations for the building of the Temple continues. We have seen the promise to David that Solomon would be the builder (ch. 17), and how David’s wars would contribute to the project (18-20). Now, in chapter 21, the site of the Temple is located. There is so much other important material in this chapter that its central purpose can be missed at first reading. Yet the Chronicler has taken pains to show how all the events of the chapter serve that purpose. And in the end we see that the discovery of the location of the Temple site is only won through a scenario of sin, in all its mysteriousness, judgment and mercy.
–J. G. McConville
David Takes a Census
Satan rose up against Israel and caused David to take a census of the people of Israel.
“When Satan incites, he is interested merely in his own ends. He neither cares for righteous punishment nor looks for possible repentance, since they are as foreign to his nature as temptation to sin is to God’s.”
–Martin J. Selman, British Old Testament professor and author (born 1947)
2So David said to Joab and the commanders of the army, “Take a census of all the people of Israel—from Beersheba in the south to Dan in the north—and bring me a report so I may know how many there are.”
3 But Joab replied, “May the Lord increase the number of his people a hundred times over! But why, my lord the king, do you want to do this? Are they not all your servants? Why must you cause Israel to sin?”
4 But the king insisted that they take the census, so Joab traveled throughout all Israel to count the people.
The question here, I think, seems to be motivation. A census in itself is no sin; Moses conducted two such counts in the wilderness. It cannot be a sin in that it is for a military purpose, since God has been with David and brought him military victories. So did Satan cause David to be overly proud of himself as a military leader and place his reliance, and perhaps his ideas for future military action, on his own numerical strength? Was he forgetting God in this arena?
Then he returned to Jerusalem 5 and reported the number of people to David. There were 1,100,000 warriors in all Israel who could handle a sword, and 470,000 in Judah. 6 But Joab did not include the tribes of Levi and Benjamin in the census because he was so distressed at what the king had made him do.
The Levites were priests and therefore not warriors. The Benjamites were a tiny tribe, having been decimated after the incident with the concubine of Gibea (Judges 19-21).
Judgment for David’s Sin
7 God was very displeased with the census, and he punished Israel for it. 8Then David said to God, “I have sinned greatly by taking this census. Please forgive my guilt for doing this foolish thing.”
“The chief interest of this chapter for us lies in the revelation of the true character of David. His sins were the lapses and accidents of his life. This is not to condone them. It is, however, to emphasize that the habitual set of his life was far otherwise than these sins suggest, and the deepest truth concerning him is revealed, not by the failures, but by his action afterwards.”
–G. Campbell Morgan, British evangelist, preacher, and a leading Biblical scholar (1863-1945)
9 Then the Lord spoke to Gad, David’s seer. This was the message: 10 “Go and say to David, ‘This is what the Lord says: I will give you three choices. Choose one of these punishments, and I will inflict it on you.’”
11 So Gad came to David and said, “These are the choices the Lord has given you. 12 You may choose three years of famine, three months of destruction by the sword of your enemies, or three days of severe plague as the angel of the Lord brings devastation throughout the land of Israel. Decide what answer I should give the Lord who sent me.”
I offer you three things: God used David’s sin and the resulting chastisement to reveal David’s heart and wisdom. His choice of the following three options would test David:
- Three years of famine: This would surely be the death of some in Israel, but the wealthy and resourceful would survive. Israel would have to depend on neighboring nations for food
- Three months to be defeated by your foes: This would be the death of some in Israel, but mostly only of soldiers. Israel would have to contend with enemies among neighboring nations
- For three days . . . the plague in the land: This would be the death of some in Israel, but anyone could be struck by this plague — rich or poor, influential or anonymous, royalty or common
13 “I’m in a desperate situation!” David replied to Gad. “But let me fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is very great. Do not let me fall into human hands.”
David chooses the shortest punishment. He also trusts God, who even at a time like this is still gracious and merciful.
14 So the Lord sent a plague upon Israel, and 70,000 people died as a result. 15 And God sent an angel to destroy Jerusalem. But just as the angel was preparing to destroy it, the Lord relented and said to the death angel, “Stop! That is enough!” At that moment the angel of the Lord was standing by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.
16 David looked up and saw the angel of the Lord standing between heaven and earth with his sword drawn, reaching out over Jerusalem. So David and the leaders of Israel put on burlap to show their deep distress and fell face down on the ground. 17 And David said to God, “I am the one who called for the census! I am the one who has sinned and done wrong! But these people are as innocent as sheep—what have they done? O Lord my God, let your anger fall against me and my family, but do not destroy your people.”
David Builds an Altar
18 Then the angel of the Lord told Gad to instruct David to go up and build an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.
“The decision of God to establish his altar and temple at Moriah in Jerusalem has affected all history (cf. Revelation 11:1); for this mountain became the focus of the Holy City, where His Son was crucified. And it will continue to affect history; for from this ‘city he loves’, he will some day rule the nations of the earth (Isaiah 2:2-4).”
–David F. Payne
19 So David went up to do what the Lord had commanded him through Gad. 20 Araunah, who was busy threshing wheat at the time, turned and saw the angel there. His four sons, who were with him, ran away and hid. 21When Araunah saw David approaching, he left his threshing floor and bowed before David with his face to the ground.
22 David said to Araunah, “Let me buy this threshing floor from you at its full price. Then I will build an altar to the Lord there, so that he will stop the plague.”
23 “Take it, my lord the king, and use it as you wish,” Araunah said to David. “I will give the oxen for the burnt offerings, and the threshing boards for wood to build a fire on the altar, and the wheat for the grain offering. I will give it all to you.”
24 But King David replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on buying it for the full price. I will not take what is yours and give it to the Lord. I will not present burnt offerings that have cost me nothing!” 25 So David gave Araunah 600 pieces of gold in payment for the threshing floor.
“Where there is true, strong love to Jesus, it will cost us something.
Love is the costliest of all undertakings . . .
But what shall we mind if we gain Christ?
You cannot give up for Him
without regaining everything you have renounced,
but purified and transfigured.”
–F. B. Meyer, contemporary and friend of D. L. Moody
“All to Jesus I Surrender” HERE by Selah.
26 David built an altar there to the Lord and sacrificed burnt offerings and peace offerings. And when David prayed, the Lord answered him by sending fire from heaven to burn up the offering on the altar. 27 Then the Lord spoke to the angel, who put the sword back into its sheath.
The sending of fire from heaven answered a question that had burned in the heart of David for a long time. For many years, he had wondered where God wanted the temple to be built, and he sought for that place, as shown in Psalm 132:1-5:
Lord, remember David
And all his afflictions;
How he swore to the Lord,
And vowed to the Mighty One of Jacob:
“Surely I will not go into the chamber of my house,
Or go up to the comfort of my bed;
I will not give sleep to my eyes
Or slumber to my eyelids,
Until I find a place for the Lord,
A dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob.”
28 When David saw that the Lord had answered his prayer, he offered sacrifices there at Araunah’s threshing floor. 29 At that time the Tabernacle of the Lord and the altar of burnt offering that Moses had made in the wilderness were located at the place of worship in Gibeon. 30 But David was not able to go there to inquire of God, because he was terrified by the drawn sword of the angel of the Lord.
1 Then David said, “This will be the location for the Temple of the Lord God and the place of the altar for Israel’s burnt offerings!”
Exactly as Moses had told them!
Deuteronomy 12:10-11 (English Standard Version)
But when you go over the Jordan and live in the land that the LORD your God is giving you to inherit, and when he gives you rest from all your enemies around, so that you live in safety, then to the place that the LORD your God will choose, to make his name dwell there, there you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution that you present, and all your finest vow offerings that you vow to the LORD.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.