Thursday, August 15, 2013

CLXIV - I Chronicles 21 - The Census

This passage in I Chronicles parallels II Samuel 24 and following.  As mentioned before, the two books of Chronicles reports a few events in further detail than does II Samuel and Kings, but they do not give full accounts of all events mentioned in the previous three books.  We studied much of David's conquests in the last post.  If we match up events with II Samuel, we see that more than fifteen years of David's reign was omitted as we pick up the account of the census David decided to take.  (Not to be redundant, but that is one of the many reasons Chronicles is difficult to teach.  So please bear with me.)

Unlike the previous account, the first verse of the 21st chapter makes it very clear that the devil influenced David's decision to call for a census of soldiers and able-bodied men who could serve in the military.   {I often wondered why God was so upset about David taking a census.  It has taken much research, and the only comment I could find on it that made any sense to me was the old Hebrew thought that Israel belonged to God, not to David.  The reason anything, including people, were counted was make recompense or a portion of which is to be given or dedicated to the Lord.  According to this traditional wisdom, David had no right and no acceptable purpose to take a census.  God always led David into battle and made certain the number of soldiers was sufficient for the purpose at hand.  In fact, in most instances the number of soldiers was insignificant.}  Note that in verse 3 that none other than Joab (David's military commander) tried to talk David out of this census.  Even Joab knew this was wrong.  {If you do a close character study of Joab, you would never have guessed him to be the one to give David council about the Lord.  Joab was a loyal servant to David, but violent in nature.  Joab's dealings off the battle field were hardly ever Godly, and never does one see Joab as an advocate for God or His Law.}  But David overruled Joab and therefore the census was taken.  Note in verse 6 that Joab could never make peace with it.  {Just this last comment about the census and we'll move on:  The Scripture doesn't tell us exactly why David wanted to take the census in the first place.  By this time David had secured the Promised Land from foreign invaders, and most of the Canaanites had been driven out or placed into bondage for service to Israel.  This question about David's motives brings to mind what Samuel warned Israel about when they insisted on having a king rather than a judge.  He told them a king would tax them and place their sons into military service.  Was this David's motive?  Perhaps.}

To save you the trouble of counting them up, the census results was 1,100,000 able-bodied men.  This included the 300,000 who were already serving in David's army.  But it did not include any from the tribes of Levi or Benjamin.

21:7-17  -  God Punishes David and Israel

In vss 7-8 God reveals his displeasure and David repents.  Then God did something He very rarely has done:  He gives David a choice as to the punishment that will be exacted on Israel.  The three choices are:

1.  Three years of famine
2.  Three months of fleeing from enemies
3.  Three days of plague

David chose the third, and the Lord then punished Israel with a plague which killed 70,000 men from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south.  The angel of death that God had sent was just getting started when God repented and told him to withdraw his hand, thus ending the plagues of death on Israel.  {Bear in mind this is only ONE angel who slayed these 70,000 men in Israel.  God has MILLIONS.  We do not want these holy creatures to be our enemies.  I will continue to comment on angels throughout this study.  They are not the beautiful winged feminine creatures that have been depicted in pictures for centuries.  Most of these angels in the Bible are frightening creatures, indescribably powerful, and blood-thirsty when sent on a mission by God Himself to administer punishment.  By the time we finish this Bible study, you will have a whole new appreciation for angels, and hopefully a whole new awareness of their existence all over this universe.}

Vss 18-30  -  The remaining verses of this chapter is a recount of the last passage in the book of II Samuel.  David had repented and understood the error he had made.  He felt desperate to make amends.  So the angel of the Lord spoke to David through the prophet Gad, telling David to build an altar.  He was specific with his instructions, even telling David where to build it.  He wanted him to build the altar on the threshing floor owned and being used by Araunah.  Araunah was still using this threshing floor, but he was to stop the threshing process and give it to David for the altar.  {A threshing floor was the first method of milling and winnowing wheat.  The way they prepared grain was to spread it out on the special floor that was flat and hard.  There was a man who was driving a pair of oxen.  These oxen pulled wooden boards on which the driver sat.  The oxen went back and forth over the wheat, dragging the boards.  The boards had three large wooden tubes with sharp points all over them. These tubes turned as the boards moved.  Another person drew back the straw to separate it from the grain. They discarded the straw and threw what remained up in the air (winnowing). The bits of chaff that were not grain blew away. This left only the grain on the floor. So the grain was now clean from the chaff, ready to be stored.}

When Araunah saw David he and his sons stopped the work process.  When David told him of his intentions to build the altar on the threshing floor, Araunah wanted to give it to David, but David insisted on purchasing it for "full price"  He ended up paying Araunah gold valued today at about $400,000.  So David proceeded to build the altar at that location and offered sacrifices (vs 26-29)

{You might be wondering why this particular location was specified.  The property that Araunah owned
was on Mount Moriah. Mount Moriah is the place where Abraham went to sacrifice Isaac (Genesis 22:2).  Solomon would later build the temple there, which was prophesied by David in the first verse of chapter 22.}

Next post  -  The Levites


  1. Did the author in 2 Samuel talk about God giving David a choice of punishment? Really interesting!

  2. As I stated in the blog, this is a very rare occurrence. The writer did not expound on this. In my research, I was more interested in:
    1-Why God was so angry about the census
    2-Why David wanted the census taken
    3-Why David chose the punishment he did (I would have chosen the same one)