1 Chronicles 21


David is tempted by Satan to take the numbers of the people of

Israel and Judah, 1, 2.

Joab remonstrates, but the king is determined, and Joab pleads

in vain, 3, 4.

He returns, and delivers in the number to the king, but reckons

not Levi and Benjamin, 5.

The Lord is displeased, and sends Gad to offer David his choice

of three great national calamities; famine, war, or pestilence,


David submits himself to God, and a pestilence is sent, which

destroys seventy thousand, 13, 14.

At David's intercession the destroying angel is restrained at

the threshing-floor of Ornan, 15-17.

He buys the piece of ground, builds an altar to the Lord and

offers sacrifices, and the plague is stayed, 18-30.


Verse 1. And Satan stood up against Israel]

See Clarke on 2Sa 24:1, &c.

Verse 5. All they of Israel were a thousand thousand-Judah was

four hundred threescore and ten thousand] In the parallel place,

2Sa 24:9, the men of Israel are reckoned

eight hundred thousand, and the men of Judah five hundred

thousand: see the note there.

Verse 6. Levi and Benjamin counted he not] The rabbins give the

following reason for this: Joab, seeing that this would bring down

destruction upon the people, purposed to save two tribes. Should

David ask, Why have you not numbered the Levites? Joab purposed to

say, Because the Levites are not reckoned among the children of

Israel. Should he ask, Why have you not numbered Benjamin? he

would answer, Benjamin has been already sufficiently punished, on

account of the treatment of the woman at Gibeah: if, therefore,

this tribe were to be again punished, who would remain?

Verse 12. Three days-the pestilence in the land] In 2Sa 24:13,

seven years of famine are mentioned: see the note there.

Verse 13. David said-I am in a great strait] The Targum reasons

thus: "And David said to Gad, If I choose famine, the Israelites

may say, The granaries of David are full of corn; neither doth he

care should the people of Israel die with hunger. And if I choose

war, and fly before an enemy, the Israelites may say, David is a

strong and warlike man, and he cares not though the people of

Israel should fall by the sword. I am brought into a great strait;

I will deliver myself now into the HAND of the WORD of the LORD,

beyad meymera dayai, for his mercies are many; but

into the hands of the children of men I will not deliver myself."

Verse 15. And God sent an angel] Thus the Targum: "And the WORD

of the LORD sent the angel of death against Jerusalem to destroy

it; and he beheld the ashes of the binding of Isaac at the foot of

the altar, and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, which he

made in the Mount of Worship; and the house of the upper

sanctuary, where are the souls of the righteous, and the image of

Jacob fixed on the throne of glory; and he turned in his WORD from

the evil which he designed to do unto them; and he said to the

destroying angel, Cease; take Abishai their chief from among them,

and cease from smiting the rest of the people. And the angel which

was sent from the presence of the Lord stood at the

threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite."

Verse 20. Ornan turned back, and saw the angel] The Septuagint

say, And Orna turned, καιειδετονβασιλεα, and saw the KING.

The Syriac and Arabic say, David saw the angel; and do not

mention Ornan in this place. Houbigant translates the same reading

hammalech, the king, for hammalach, the angel,

and vindicates his version from the parallel place, 2Sa 24:20,

where it is said, he saw David: but there is no word of his seeing

the angel. But the seeing David is mentioned in 1Ch 21:21; though

Houbigant supposes that the 20th verse refers to his seeing the

king while he was at a distance; the 21st, to his seeing him when

he came into the threshing-floor. In the first instance he and his

sons were afraid when they saw the king coming, and this caused

them to hide themselves; but when he came into the

threshing-floor, they were obliged to appear before him. One of

Kennicott's MSS. has the king, instead of the

angel. Some learned men contend for the former reading.

Verse 24. For the full price] That is, six hundred shekels full

weight of pure gold.

Verse 26. He answered him-by fire] In answer to David's prayers,

God, to show that he had accepted him, and was now pacified

towards him and the people, sent fire from heaven and consumed the


Verse 30. Because of the sword of the angel] This is given as a

reason why David built an altar in the threshing-floor of Ornan:

he was afraid to go to Gibeon, because of the sword of the

destroying angel, or he was afraid of delaying the offerings so

long as his going thither would require, lest the destroying angel

should in the mean while exterminate the people; therefore he

hastily built an altar in that place, and on it made the requisite

offerings, and by the fire from heaven God showed that he had

accepted his act and his devotion. Such interventions as these

must necessarily maintain in the minds of the people a full

persuasion of the truth and Divine origin of their religion.

For a more circumstantial account of these transactions, see the

notes on 2Sa 24:1, Ac., in which several difficulties of the text

are removed.

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