Reading through the Bible together
This chapter is a doublet chapter. It means that the Holy Spirit felt it wise to include a second account of David’s “Census of Israel and Judah” in 1 Chronicles 21. The Holy Spirit wanted to say something about the role of Satan in this Census. Only the doublet illustrates this clearly. Whereas the scribe in (v. 1) in this chapter said the “anger of the Lord burnt against Israel” the scribe in 1 Chronicles 21:1 said that “Satan stood up against Israel.” The Lord is not in cooperation with Satan but in conflict with him. Sin is against God and when He shows His anger it gives a free zone for Satan to step in and take action.
David was reckless in ordering this Census and when God stepped aside, David allowed the Evil one to control him and sinned by ordering the numbering of the children of Judah and Israel. God said that His children will multiply and David wanted to keep a check on God to see if He would keep His word. Also, David wanted to boast of God’s blessings to prove to himself that he was a great leader. Joab was totally against counting the people. But why do the numbers differ? In 2 Samuel 24:9 it speaks of 800 000 and 500 000 men but in 1 Chronicles 21: 5 it reads 1,100 000 and 470 000 men. The reason is giving in 1 Chronicles 21: 6 where it says that some numbers were withheld by Joab from David. God convicted David of his sin and David confessed to the Lord (2 Samuel 24:10) that he had sinned and asked to be forgiven.
In the morning the prophet Gad gave David three punishments to choose from because of his sin: 1) seven years of famine; 2) being pursued by your enemies; 3) three days of pestilence. David chose the latter and 70 000 people died. When the Angel of the Lord stretched out His hand over Jerusalem to destroy the city and David saw it, he spoke to the Lord and said, “I am the one who has sinned, not the people. Let Your hand be against me” (v. 17). Then the prophet Gad said to David, “Erect an altar to the Lord on this place. So David decided to buy the land where they were standing and to build an altar there. But the owner of the land wanted to give it to him for free. David refused because he did not want to offer the Lord something that did not cost him anything. The owner finally agreed to accept the David’s offer and he paid the owner for the animals and the land. There are two numbers given in 2 Samuel 24:25 and 1 Chronicles 21:24. The solution is found in carefully reading the same transaction the scribes reported: for the site 600 shekels of “gold” were paid (1 Chronicles 21:25) and for the oxen 50 shekels of “silver” (2 Samuel 24:25).
There are other differences between 2 Samuel 24 and the doublet in 1 Chronicles 21. But none of these events prevented the Holy Spirit to draw our attention to the problem of sin that brought suffering on the remnant. Nevertheless, the truth remained perfect and unblemished by the work of the Holy Spirit, who is the overall embracing Editor.
Lord Almighty who cannot stay away from imperfect humans, we adore You and love You with all our hearts. You hide nothing from anyone and we come to the astounding realization that no matter what others tell us, no matter what others say, no matter what othes do, (You, Lord, are saying to us): I believe in you. In Jesus name. Amen
Koot van Wyk
Kyungpook National University
Sangju, South Korea