One Chronicles Twenty One

by Dr. Henry M. Morris

(taken from the Defender's Study Bible)

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

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.

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?

1 Chronicles 21:4 Nevertheless the king's word prevailed against Joab. Wherefore Joab departed, and went throughout all Israel, and came to Jerusalem.

1 Chronicles 21:5 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.

1 Chronicles 21:6 But Levi and Benjamin counted he not among them: for the king's word was abominable to Joab.

among them. See note on 2 Samuel 24:9 for the apparent differences between the numbers in this passage and those recorded in 2 Samuel.

1 Chronicles 21:7 And God was displeased with this thing; therefore he smote Israel.

1 Chronicles 21:8 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.

I have sinned greatly. David's sin was not in the specific act of ordering the census, for God had twice told Moses to number the people (Numbers 1:2; 26:2). It was his motive—that of pride in the extent of his accomplishments—that was sinful, especially since God had not ordered this numbering, as He had in those taken by Moses.

1 Chronicles 21:9 And the LORD spake unto Gad, David's seer, saying,

Gad, David's seer. Gad was another prophet, like Nathan, whom the Lord also used in David's life. Like Nathan, Gad also wrote a book of some sort (see 1 Chronicles 29:29), and his book also may have been a source from which the writer of Chronicles drew information about David. Gad had been with David since long before he became king (1 Samuel 22:5).

1 Chronicles 21:10 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.

three things. God judges and punishes sin, and He must even judge this sin of David's, though David was greatly loved of God. Perhaps because God knew David deeply loved Himself, He offered David a choice of punishments—the only occasion recorded in Scripture where He offered any such choice.

1 Chronicles 21:11 So Gad came to David, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Choose thee

1 Chronicles 21:12 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.

1 Chronicles 21:13 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.

a great strait. The “strait” was between three years of famine, three months of military defeat or three days of pestilence (1 Chronicles 21:12), and David chose the latter. The parallel account (2 Samuel 24:13) says the first option was seven years of famine. However, the two offers may have been made on two different occasions.

1 Chronicles 21:14 So the LORD sent pestilence upon Israel: and there fell of Israel seventy thousand men.

1 Chronicles 21:15 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.

1 Chronicles 21:16 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.

clothed in sackcloth. The donning of sackcloth, a rough garment of goat's hair, was used to express mourning and repentance.

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 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.

1 Chronicles 21:18 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.

1 Chronicles 21:19 And David went up at the saying of Gad, which he spake in the name of the LORD.

1 Chronicles 21:20 And Ornan turned back, and saw the angel; and his four sons with him hid themselves. Now Ornan was threshing wheat.

1 Chronicles 21:21 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.

1 Chronicles 21:22 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.

1 Chronicles 21:23 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.

1 Chronicles 21:24 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.

1 Chronicles 21:25 So David gave to Ornan for the place six hundred shekels of gold by weight.

six hundred shekels of gold. The parallel passage (2 Samuel 24:24) says that David paid Ornan fifty shekels of silver for his threshing floor. However, this amount was only for David's sacrifices. Evidently the six hundred shekels was agreed on later by David to purchase the site for the temple (2 Chronicles 3:1). The site, on Mount Moriah, was also significant as the place where Abraham had been asked to offer his son Isaac (Genesis 22:2).

1 Chronicles 21:26 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.

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

commanded the angel. According to Psalm 103:20-21, God's angels “excel in strength,” “do His commandments,” “hearken to the voice of His word,” and “do His pleasure.” Thus, this particular “angel of the Lord” (1 Chronicles 21:12), was “sent” by God (1 Chronicles 21:15), wielded “the sword of the Lord” (1 Chronicles 21:12) in a destroying pestilence, gave instructions from God to the prophet Gad (1 Chronicles 21:18), and finally obeyed God's command to sheath his sword (1 Chronicles 21:27). These verses thus provide certain significant insights into God's use of angels to accomplish His will with His people.

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

1 Chronicles 21:29 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.

which Moses made. It is noteworthy that the original tabernacle and altar, constructed in the wilderness after the children of Israel left Egypt, were still in use. They had been moved from Gilgal to Shiloh to Nob and finally to Gibeon, continuing in use until Solomon built his temple.

1 Chronicles 21:30 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.