1 Chronicles Chapter 21

David had been chosen by the Lord and then prepared to become the king of Israel. The Lord had given rules and instruction to the kings, so that they could receive his blessing and continued guidance in leading the children of Israel. One of the instructions given, was that Israel was only to be numbered according to the commandment of the Lord. Numbering the people, was much like performing a census for today and it did things such as counting the number of men who would go to war for Israel. The kings of other nations would number the people whenever they desired. This chapter begins:

1 And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.
2 And David said to Joab and to the rulers of the people, Go, number Israel from Beer-sheba even to Dan; and bring the number of them to me, that I may know it.
3 And Joab answered, The Lord make his people an hundred times so many more as they be: but, my lord the king, are they not all my lord’s servants? why then doth my lord require this thing? why will he be a cause of trespass to Israel?
4 Nevertheless the king’s word prevailed against Joab. Wherefore Joab departed, and went throughout all Israel, and came to Jerusalem.

Satan tempted David to number Israel, which he did in his weakness. Joab and the rulers over the people were instructed to do it and report back to him. Joab, who knew the Lord would make so much more of the people then the number they were, asked why David would go against the Lord in this thing. Nonetheless, David’s command won out and Joab went and numbered the people as he had been told to do. When he was done, he returned to Jerusalem. (see also 2 Samuel 24)

5 And Joab gave the sum of the number of the people unto David. And all they of Israel were a thousand thousand and an hundred thousand men that drew sword: and Judah was four hundred threescore and ten thousand men that drew sword.
6 But Levi and Benjamin counted he not among them: for the king’s word was abominable to Joab.
7 And God was displeased with this thing; therefore he smote Israel.
8 And David said unto God, I have sinned greatly, because I have done this thing: but now, I beseech thee, do away the iniquity of thy servant; for I have done very foolishly.

Joab reported to David and the men who could bear arms totaled something like 1,100,000 men in Israel and 470,000 men in Judah. (This number is different then listed in 2 Samuel 24.) Joab found his duties were abominable, so he did not include the count for Levi or Benjamin. As a result of the numbering, God smote Israel. David recognized his sin against God and begged to be forgiven by the Lord.

9 And the Lord spake unto Gad, David’s seer, saying,
10 Go and tell David, saying, Thus saith the Lord, I offer thee three things: choose thee one of them, that I may do it unto thee.
11 So Gad came to David, and said unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Choose thee
12 Either three years’ famine; or three months to be destroyed before thy foes, while that the sword of thine enemies overtaketh thee; or else three days the sword of the Lord, even the pestilence, in the land, and the angel of the Lord destroying throughout all the coasts of Israel. Now therefore advise thyself what word I shall bring again to him that sent me.
13 And David said unto Gad, I am in a great strait: let me fall now into the hand of the Lord; for very great are his mercies: but let me not fall into the hand of man.

David had a seer named Gad, whom the Lord spoke to with a message for David. David was given a choice between three consequences for his sin. First, three years of famine (seven years according to 2 Samuel), second, three months of their enemies being allowed to over take them, or third, three days of fighting with the sword through all the land of Israel. Gad told David to think about it and tell him what he should tell the Lord. David knew he was in a difficult situation and he knew that the Lord could be merciful to him, so he asked to be dealt with by the Lord and not by the hands of men.

14 So the Lord sent pestilence upon Israel: and there fell of Israel seventy thousand men.
15 And God sent an angel unto Jerusalem to destroy it: and as he was destroying, the Lord beheld, and he repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed, It is enough, stay now thine hand. And the angel of the Lord stood by the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite.
16 And David lifted up his eyes, and saw the angel of the Lord stand between the earth and the heaven, having a drawn sword in his hand stretched out over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders of Israel, who were clothed in sackcloth, fell upon their faces.
17 And David said unto God, Is it not I that commanded the people to be numbered? even I it is that have sinned and done evil indeed; but as for these sheep, what have they done? let thine hand, I pray thee, O Lord my God, be on me, and on my father’s house; but not on thy people, that they should be plagued.

The Lord allowed pestilence to effect the land of Israel, and they lost 70,000 of their men. An angel was sent by the Lord, to destroy Jerusalem, and when he saw that their was sincere repentance in Jerusalem, the angel was stopped. (see also Joseph Smith Translation 1 Chronicles 21) David saw the angel near the land of Ornan the Jebusite, with his sword prepared to destroy Jerusalem. (Side note: Jebus was the ancient name of Jerusalem, so a Jebusite was likely one who natively lived in Jerusalem.) David and the elders of Israel, who were in mourning, fell down upon their faces. David recognized that the sin was upon him, for his commandment to number the people, and he prayed for the Lord to punish him and his family, not the people of Israel.

18 Then the angel of the Lord commanded Gad to say to David, that David should go up, and set up an altar unto the Lord in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite.
19 And David went up at the saying of Gad, which he spake in the name of the Lord.
20 And Ornan turned back, and saw the angel; and his four sons with him hid themselves. Now Ornan was threshing wheat.
21 And as David came to Ornan, Ornan looked and saw David, and went out of the threshingfloor, and bowed himself to David with his face to the ground.
22 Then David said to Ornan, Grant me the place of this threshingfloor, that I may build an altar therein unto the Lord: thou shalt grant it me for the full price: that the plague may be stayed from the people.
23 And Ornan said unto David, Take it to thee, and let my lord the king do that which is good in his eyes: lo, I give thee the oxen also for burnt offerings, and the threshing instruments for wood, and the wheat for the meat offering; I give it all.
24 And king David said to Ornan, Nay; but I will verily buy it for the full price: for I will not take that which is thine for the Lord, nor offer burnt offerings without cost.
25 So David gave to Ornan for the place six hundred shekels of gold by weight.
26 And David built there an altar unto the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings, and called upon the Lord; and he answered him from heaven by fire upon the altar of burnt offering.
27 And the Lord commanded the angel; and he put up his sword again into the sheath thereof.

The angel gave instruction to Gad, to tell David that he was set up an altar to the Lord in the land belonging to Ornan. David went as instructed. Ornan and his four sons were working on his threshingfloor. The sons saw the angel and hid, while Ornan had his back turned and was working with his wheat. Ornan saw David approaching and left his work to meet him. Ornan bowed to the ground. David requested the use of Ornan’s threshingfloor to build an altar to the Lord. He would buy it at full price and hopefully the Lord would then have mercy on the people of Isreal. Ornan offered the place to David as well as oxen for a burnt offering, tools to prepared the wood and wheat to go along with the meat offereing, without asking for a price. Daivd told him he would pay him full price for it, because it was to belong to the Lord and not to David himself. He paid Ornan and did as he had been instructed in building an altar. David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings as he prayed to the Lord. The Lord responded with fire upon the altar. In accepting the offering, the Lord commanded that the angel put away his sword against Israel. (As a side note: This location would be the future site of the temple built by Solomon – see 2 Chronicles 3:2.)

28 At that time when David saw that the Lord had answered him in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite, then he sacrificed there.
29 For the tabernacle of the Lord, which Moses made in the wilderness, and the altar of the burnt offering, were at that season in the high place at Gibeon.
30 But David could not go before it to inquire of God: for he was afraid because of the sword of the angel of the Lord.

David made a sacrifice upon the altar when he saw that his prayer had been answered. He did it at the threshingfloor of Ornan because the tabernacle of the Lord was quite a distance away in Gibeon (about five miles north of Jerusalem). David was not willing to go there, in the presence of the Lord, for fear of the destruction of the angel of the Lord.

The events of this chapter occurred after David had committed great sins against the Lord. It is likely that David was not living in a way that would have allowed for the spirit to be as strong of an influence to him. In this state, David had allowed himself to be tempted by the adversary to do those things that he knew were against the statutes of the Lord. He may have justified his need to know the number of men who would go to battle for Israel, but the army of Israel was not to be handled this way according to the ways of the Lord. After the consequences came upon the people of Israel, David recognized the error of his ways. David saw this and desired to take the punishment upon himself. When we make bad choices, the consequences often times effect the lives of those around us. This can be hard to witness when we finally step away from our own selfish desires, especially with those we love. It is far better for us to think of what may result from our choices before we do something we would regret. David sought the Lord’s forgiveness through his own repentance and sacrifices to the Lord. He was forgiven and the plague of destruction was stopped from being upon others in Jerusalem. No matter how far we turn from the Lord, He will always be there to accept us when we repent and return to him.

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