1 Chronicles chapter 21

David foolishly orders a census. Immense suffering due to David.





VERSE 1. Satan stood up against Israel, and moved David to take a census of Israel.

Satan. The Hebrew word is שָׂטָ֖ן (“śā·ṭān”). It means adversary, accuser. It is also the proper name of the chief of demons.

stood up. This Satan arises.

against Israel. It opposes Israel.

moved David to take a census. Satan opposes the nation by inspiring its leader to do a terrible thing.


VERSE 2. David said to Joab and to the princes of the people, “Go, count Israel from Beersheba even to Dan; and bring me word, that I may know how many there are.”


VERSE 3. Joab said, “May the LORD make his people a hundred times as many as they are. But, my lord the king, aren’t they all my lord’s servants? Why does my lord require this thing? Why will he be a cause of guilt to Israel?”


VERSE 4. Nevertheless the king’s word prevailed against Joab. Therefore Joab departed and went throughout all Israel, then came to Jerusalem.


VERSE 5. Joab gave the sum of the census of the people to David. All those of Israel were one million one hundred thousand men who drew a sword; and in Judah were four hundred seventy thousand men who drew a sword.

one million one hundred thousand men. Israel has 1.1 million men of military age.

four hundred seventy thousand men. Judah has 470,000 men of military age.

men who drew a sword. David’s motive in ordering the census is to assess his military strength.

This displeases the LORD God. That is because David is relying on his own military strength rather than relying on the LORD God.


VERSE 6. But he didn’t count Levi and Benjamin among them, for the king’s word was abominable to Joab.

the king’s word was abominable to Joab. Joab sees this situation correctly.

The king had ordered him to do a thing which is opposed to the will of the LORD God. It is repugnant.




VERSE 7. God was displeased with this thing; therefore he struck Israel.


VERSE 8. David said to God, “I have sinned greatly, in that I have done this thing. But now put away, I beg you, the iniquity of your servant, for I have done very foolishly.”

I have sinned greatly. David was relying on military capabilities instead of the sheer power of the LORD God.


VERSE 9. The LORD spoke to Gad, David’s seer, saying,

seer. The Hebrew word is חֹזֵ֥ה (“ḥō·zêh”). It means seer, seers, prophets.


VERSE 10. “Go and speak to David, saying, ‘The LORD says, “I offer you three things. Choose one of them, that I may do it to you.” ’ ”


VERSE 11. So Gad came to David and said to him, “The LORD says, ‘Take your choice:


VERSE 12. either three years of famine; or three months to be consumed before your foes, while the sword of your enemies overtakes you; or else three days of the sword of the LORD, even pestilence in the land, and the LORD’s angel destroying throughout all the borders of Israel. Now therefore consider what answer I shall return to him who sent me.’ ”


VERSE 13. David said to Gad, “I am in distress. Let me fall, I pray, into the LORD’s hand, for his mercies are very great. Don’t let me fall into man’s hand.”

Don’t let me fall into man’s hand. David selects three days of pestilence, probably because it will not affect him personally.


VERSE 14. So the LORD sent a pestilence on Israel, and seventy thousand men of Israel fell.

seventy thousand men of Israel fell. Because David foolishly ordered the military census of the nation, 70,000 people die.


VERSE 15. God sent an angel to Jerusalem to destroy it. As he was about to destroy, the LORD saw, and he relented of the disaster, and said to the destroying angel, “It is enough. Now withdraw your hand.” the LORD’s angel was standing by the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.

God sent an angel to Jerusalem. This angel may have been the pre-incarnate Christ.

the threshing flood of Ornan the Jesuit. It was at Mount Moriah.

Mount Moriah was an important location for Abraham, David, and Solomon. Great events took place there. Today we know it as the Temple Mount. Read more »


VERSE 16. David lifted up his eyes, and saw the LORD’s angel standing between earth and the sky, having a drawn sword in his hand stretched out over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders, clothed in sackcloth, fell on their faces.

David lifted up his eyes, and saw. David is given the ability to see into the invisible realm. He sees one angel.

With a single gesture, it will annihilate Jerusalem from the face of the earth.

David the mighty warrior is so terrified that he falls to the ground.

This terror will never leave David for the rest of his life.

We see one instance of that fear in verse 30 below.


VERSE 17. David said to God, “Isn’t it I who commanded the people to be counted? It is even I who have sinned and done very wickedly; but these sheep, what have they done? Please let your hand, O LORD my God, be against me and against my father’s house; but not against your people, that they should be plagued.”

let your hand, O LORD my God, be against me. Until this point, everyone else was suffering the consequences of David’s action.

Now David is finally willing to share in the consequences of his own action


VERSE 18. Then the LORD’s angel commanded Gad to tell David that David should go up and raise an altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.

angel commanded Gad to tell David. There is a separation of powers:

  • David is the king
  • Gad tells David the will of the LORD God


VERSE 19. David went up at the saying of Gad, which he spoke in the LORD’s name.


VERSE 20. Ornan turned back and saw the angel; and his four sons who were with him hid themselves. Now Ornan was threshing wheat.


VERSE 21. As David came to Ornan, Ornan looked and saw David, and went out of the threshing floor, and bowed himself to David with his face to the ground.

bowed himself to David with his face to the ground. It is baffling that the holy people of the LORD God are bowing to a mere human being.


VERSE 22. Then David said to Ornan, “Sell me the place of this threshing floor, that I may build an altar to the LORD on it. You shall sell it to me for the full price, that the plague may be stopped from afflicting the people.”


VERSE 23. Ornan said to David, “Take it for yourself, and let my lord the king do that which is good in his eyes. Behold, I give the oxen for burnt offerings, and the threshing instruments for wood, and the wheat for the meal offering. I give it all.”


VERSE 24. King David said to Ornan, “No, but I will most certainly buy it for the full price. For I will not take that which is yours for the LORD, nor offer a burnt offering that costs me nothing.”


VERSE 25. So David gave to Ornan six hundred shekels of gold by weight for the place.

six hundred shekels. A shekel is about 10 grams or about 0.32 Troy ounces, so 600 shekels was about 6 kilograms or about 192 Troy ounces.


VERSE 26. David built an altar to the LORD there, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings, and called on the LORD; and he answered him from the sky by fire on the altar of burnt offering.


VERSE 27. Then the LORD commanded the angel, and he put his sword back into its sheath.

Then. It is only AFTER David fully repents that the lethal threat is removed.


VERSE 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.


VERSE 29. For the LORD’s tabernacle, which Moses made in the wilderness, and the altar of burnt offering, were at that time in the high place at Gibeon.


VERSE 30. But David couldn’t go before it to inquire of God, for he was afraid because of the sword of the LORD’s angel.

he was afraid. In verse 16 above, David was given the ability to see into the invisible realm. He witnessed one angel.

David the mighty warrior was so terrified that he falls to the ground. This terror never left David for the rest of his life.


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Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations on this page are from the World English Bible and the World Messianic Edition. These translations have no copyright restrictions. They are in the Public Domain.


Author: todd

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