1 Chronicles 21:1-30 NIV
David Counts the Fighting Men
1 Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel. 2So David said to Joab and the commanders of the troops, “Go and count the Israelites from Beersheba to Dan. Then report back to me so that I may know how many there are.”
3But Joab replied, “May the Lord multiply his troops a hundred times over. My lord the king, are they not all my lord’s subjects? Why does my lord want to do this? Why should he bring guilt on Israel?”
4The king’s word, however, overruled Joab; so Joab left and went throughout Israel and then came back to Jerusalem. 5Joab reported the number of the fighting men to David: In all Israel there were one million one hundred thousand men who could handle a sword, including four hundred and seventy thousand in Judah.
6But Joab did not include Levi and Benjamin in the numbering, because the king’s command was repulsive to him. 7This command was also evil in the Sight of God; so he punished Israel.
8Then David said to God, “I have sinned greatly by doing this. Now, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing.”
9The Lord said to Gad, David’s seer, 10“Go and tell David, ‘This is what the Lord says: I am giving you three options. Choose one of them for Me to carry out against you.’ ”
11So Gad went to David and said to him, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Take your choice: 12three years of famine, three months of being swept awaya before your enemies, with their swords overtaking you, or three days of the sword of the Lord—days of plague in the land, with the angel of the Lord ravaging every part of Israel.’ Now then, decide how I should answer the one who sent me.”
13David said to Gad, “I am in deep distress. Let me fall into the Hands of the Lord, for His Mercy is very great; but do not let me fall into human hands.”
14So the Lord sent a plague on Israel, and seventy thousand men of Israel fell dead. 15And God sent an angel to destroy Jerusalem. But as the angel was doing so, the Lord saw it and relented concerning the disaster and said to the angel who was destroying the people,
“Enough! Withdraw your hand.”
The angel of the Lord was then standing at the threshing floor of Araunahb the Jebusite.
16David looked up and saw the angel of the Lord standing between heaven and earth, with a drawn sword in his hand extended over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders, clothed in sackcloth, fell facedown.
17David said to God, “Was it not I who ordered the fighting men to be counted? I, the shepherd,c have sinned and done wrong. These are but sheep. What have they done? Lord my God, let Your hand fall on me and my family, but do not let this plague remain on Your people.”
David Builds an Altar
18Then the Angel of the Lord ordered Gad to tell David to go up and build an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. 19So David went up in obedience to the Word that Gad had spoken in the Name of the Lord.
20While Araunah was threshing wheat, he turned and saw the angel; his four sons who were with him hid themselves. 21Then David approached, and when Araunah looked and saw him, he left the threshing floor and bowed down before David with his face to the ground.
22David said to him, “Let me have the site of your threshing floor so I can build an altar to the Lord, that the plague on the people may be stopped. Sell it to me at the full price.”
23Araunah said to David, “Take it! Let my lord the king do whatever pleases him. Look, I will give the oxen for the burnt offerings, the threshing sledges for the wood, and the wheat for the grain offering. I will give all this.”
24But King David replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying the full price. I will not take for the Lord what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.”
25So David paid Araunah six hundred shekelsd of gold for the site. 26David built an altar to the Lord there and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. He called on the Lord, and the Lord answered him with fire from heaven on the altar of burnt offering.
27Then the Lord spoke to the angel, and he put his sword back into its sheath. 28At that time, when David saw that the Lord had answered him on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite, he offered sacrifices there. 29The Tabernacle of the Lord, which Moses had made in the wilderness, and the altar of burnt offering were at that time on the high place at Gibeon. 30But David could not go before it to inquire of God, because he was afraid of the sword of the angel of the Lord.
Census in Pride
Numbering the people, one would think, was no bad thing. Why should not the shepherd know the number of his flock? But God does not see as man sees. It is plain it was wrong in David to do it, and a great provocation to God, because he did it in the pride of his heart; and there is no sin that has in it more of contradiction and therefore more of offence to God than pride. The sin was David’s; he alone must bear the blame of it. But here we are told;
How active the tempter was in it (v. 1): Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to do it. It is said (2 Samuel 24:1) that the Anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and He moved David to do it. The righteous judgments of God are to be observed and acknowledged even in the sins and unrighteousness of men. We are sure that God is not the author of sin—He tempts no man to sin; and therefore, when it is said that He moved David to do it, it must be explained by what is intimated here, that, for wise and holy ends, He permitted the devil to do it.
Here we trace this foul stream to its foundation. That Satan, the enemy of God and all good, should stand up against Israel, is not strange; it is what he aims at, to weaken the strength, diminish the numbers, and eclipse the glory of God’s Israel, to whom he is Satan, a sworn adversary. But that he should influence David, the man of God’s own heart to do a wrong thing, may well be wondered at.
One would think him one of those whom the wicked one touches not. No, even the best saints, till they come to heaven, must never think themselves out of the reach of Satan’s temptations. Now, when Satan meant to do Israel a mischief, what course did he take? He did not move God against them to destroy them (as Job, chapter 2:3), but he provoked David, the best friend they had, to number them, and so to offend God, and set him against them.
Note the followings;
1. The devil does us more mischief by tempting us to sin against our God than he does by accusing us before our God. He destroys none but by their own hands,
2. The greatest spite he can do to the church of God is to tempt the leaders of God’s church to pride; for none can conceive the fatal consequences of that sin in all, especially in church leaders. You shall not be so;
“But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.”