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CHAPTER 21 Oct. 5 
David Numbers Israel
Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel. 2David said to Joab and to the princes of the people, Go, number Israel from Beersheba even to Dan; and bring me word, so that I may know the sum of them. 3Joab said, May Yahweh 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 for Israel? 4Nevertheless the king’s word prevailed against Joab. Therefore Joab departed, and went throughout all Israel, and came to Jerusalem. 5Joab gave up the sum of the numbering of the people to David. All those of Israel were one million one hundred thousand men who drew sword; and in Judah were four hundred and seventy thousand men who drew sword. 6But he didn’t count Levi and Benjamin among them; for the king’s word was abominable to Joab. 7God was displeased with this thing; therefore He struck Israel. 8David 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. 9Yahweh spoke to Gad, David’s prophet, saying, 10Go and speak to David saying, ‘Thus says Yahweh, I offer you three things. Choose one of them, that I may do it to you’. 11So Gad came to David and said to him, Thus says Yahweh, ‘Take your choice: 12either 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’ suffering the sword of Yahweh, even plague in the land, and the angel of Yahweh destroying throughout all the borders of Israel’. Now therefore consider what answer I shall return to Him who sent me. 13David said to Gad, I am in distress. Let me fall, I pray, into the hand of Yahweh; for His mercies are very great. Let me not fall into the hand of man. 14So Yahweh sent a plague on Israel; and seventy thousand men of Israel fell. 15God sent an angel to Jerusalem to destroy it. As he was about to destroy, Yahweh saw, and He relented of the disaster, and said to the destroying angel, It is enough; now stay your hand. The angel of Yahweh was standing by the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. 
David’s Intercession for Israel
16David lifted up his eyes, and saw the angel of Yahweh standing between earth and sky, having a drawn sword in his hand stretched out over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders, clothed in sackcloth, fell on their faces. 17David said to God, Isn’t it I who commanded the people to be numbered? It is even I who have sinned and done very wickedly; but these sheep, what have they done? Please let Your hand, O Yahweh my God, be against me, and against my father’s house; but not against Your people, that they should be plagued. 18Then the angel of Yahweh commanded Gad to tell David that David should go up, and make an altar to Yahweh in the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. 19David went up at the saying of Gad, which he spoke in the name of Yahweh. 20Ornan turned back, and saw the angel; and his four sons who were with him hid themselves. Now Ornan was threshing wheat. 21As 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. 22Then David said to Ornan, Give me the place of this threshing floor, that I may build thereon an altar to Yahweh. You shall sell it to me for the full price, that the plague may be stopped from afflicting the people. 23Ornan 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. 24King 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 Yahweh, nor offer a burnt offering without cost. 25So David gave to Ornan six hundred shekels of gold by weight for the place. 26David built an altar to Yahweh there, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings, and called on Yahweh; and He answered him from the sky by fire on the altar of burnt offering. 27Yahweh commanded the angel; and he put up his sword again into its sheath. 28At that time, when David saw that Yahweh had answered him in the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite, then he sacrificed there. 29For the tabernacle of Yahweh, which Moses made in the wilderness, and the altar of burnt offering, were at that time in the high place at Gibeon. 30But David couldn’t go before it to inquire of God; for he was afraid because of the sword of the angel of Yahweh.


21:1 ‘Satan’ is a Hebrew word meaning ‘adversary’. It has no evil connotation of itself. The parallel 2 Sam. 24:1 says that God provoked David to number Israel. God therefore worked as a satan, an adversary, to David. Good people like Peter can be termed ‘satan’ (Mt. 16:21-23); the greatest adversary to us is our own internal tendency to sin. There’s no sinful cosmic being called ‘Satan’.
21:3 It wasn’t a sin to take a census of the people, but each time they were numbered, they had to pay a tax to the tabernacle; if they refused, they would be plagued (Ex. 30:12-15). David’s desire to know how many soldiers he had was a trusting in human strength. But it was also wrong in that Joab knew that the people likely wouldn’t pay the tax, and therefore they would be plagued. David could’ve argued that this would be Israel’s problem, not his, if they chose to be disobedient. But we ought to be sensitive to the likely spiritual failures of others and not lead them into sin by forcing them into positions where they have to take choices which they will probably fail in. God was angry with Israel and therefore He punished them (:7)- because they failed to pay the temple tax.
21:13 God is more merciful than people. This thought is a great encouragement when we at times worry as to whether God will be merciful to us at the last day. One factor in such fears is that we have only visibly known human mercy, but this is far inferior in quality and extent to God’s grace.
21:15 He relented- God can change His planned judgments upon His people for the sake of the intercession of one faithful person who is willing to take their sin upon him; which is what David did in :16-:27. David pointed forward to Christ at this time.
21:17 David sinned only in the matter of Uriah and Bathsheba (1 Kings 15:5); the people were punished by plague because they hadn’t paid the tax required of them whenever a census was taken (Ex. 30:12-15). There are times when our conscience can smite us for things of which we are not fully guilt; but see on :3. 
21:24 We shouldn’t appear to make a sacrifice when actually it costs us nothing; e.g. to serve God in a way which naturally reinforces our natural interests and personality type. Sacrifice is to be after the pattern of Christ on the cross, and therefore has to involve real cost and pain for us; otherwise the concept of sacrifice loses any real meaning.