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Barnes' Notes on the Bible
1And again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.
And again the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel - This sentence is the heading of the whole chapter, which goes on to describe the sin which kindled this anger, namely, the numbering of the people 1 Chronicles 21:7-8; 1 Chronicles 27:24. There is no note of time, except that the word "again" shows that these events happened "after" those of 2 Samuel 21. (Compare also 2 Samuel 24:25; 2 Samuel 21:14.)
And he moved David - In 1 Chronicles 21:1 the statement is, "and an adversary" (not "Satan," as the King James Version, since there is no article prefixed, as in Job 1:6; Job 2:1, etc.) "stood up against Israel and moved David," just as 1 Kings 11:14, 1 Kings 11:23, 1 Kings 11:25 first Hadad, and then Rezon, is said to have been "an adversary" (Satan) to Solomon and to Israel. Hence, our text should be rendered, "For one moved David against them." We are not told whose advice it was, but some one, who proved himself an enemy to the best interests of David and Israel, urged the king to number the people.
2For the king said to Joab the captain of the host, which was with him, Go now through all the tribes of Israel, from Dan even to Beersheba, and number ye the people, that I may know the number of the people.
1 Chronicles 21:2, supplies some missing words. This passage should run, as at 2 Samuel 24:4, "And the king said to Joab and to the princes of the host who were with him," etc. (compare 1 Chronicles 27:22). They were employed "with Joab" as his assistants in the numbering, exactly as in the previous numbering Numbers 1:4 when a prince was appointed from each tribe to be "with" Moses and Aaron.
3And Joab said unto the king, Now the LORD thy God add unto the people, how many soever they be, an hundredfold, and that the eyes of my lord the king may see it: but why doth my lord the king delight in this thing?
4Notwithstanding the king's word prevailed against Joab, and against the captains of the host. And Joab and the captains of the host went out from the presence of the king, to number the people of Israel.
5And they passed over Jordan, and pitched in Aroer, on the right side of the city that lieth in the midst of the river of Gad, and toward Jazer:
Aroer - Aroer on the Arnon (Deuteronomy 2:36 note). Aroer itself stood on the very edge of the precipitous cliff of the valley; and in the valley beneath, possibly in an island in the stream, stood another city which is here alluded to.
River - Rather, "the valley" (margin). They passed from Aroer, northward to Gad, and so pitched at Jazer (see the marginal references), which is on the frontier of Gad and Reuben.
6Then they came to Gilead, and to the land of Tahtimhodshi; and they came to Danjaan, and about to Zidon,
To Gilead - Jazer was in the plain. They passed from there to the mountain district of Gilead.
The land of Tahtim-hodshi - The text here is corrupt, as no such land is known. Possibly the right reading is "the land of the Hittites" Judges 1:26; "hodshi" may be a fragment of a sentence which mentioned in what month חדשׁ chôdesh they arrived there, just as 2 Samuel 24:8 relates that they returned to Jerusalem at the end of nine "months."
Dan-jaan - The versions read "Dan-jaar," i. e., Dan in the wood. Whatever is the meaning of "Jaan," there can be little doubt that Dan (the ancient Laish) is meant (marginal references), both from its position and importance as the northern boundary of Israel, and from its connection with Zidon.
7And came to the strong hold of Tyre, and to all the cities of the Hivites, and of the Canaanites: and they went out to the south of Judah, even to Beersheba.
The strong hold of Tyre - "The fenced city," as it is generally rendered throughout the historical books.
The cities of the Hivites - Gibeon, Chephirah, Beeroth, and Kirjath-jearim, and perhaps Shechem, besides those at the foot of Hermon and Lebanon, of which we do not know the names. This continuance of distinct communities of Hivites so late as the end of David's reign is remarkable.
8So when they had gone through all the land, they came to Jerusalem at the end of nine months and twenty days.
9And Joab gave up the sum of the number of the people unto the king: and there were in Israel eight hundred thousand valiant men that drew the sword; and the men of Judah were five hundred thousand men.
1 Chronicles 27:23 indicates sufficiently why the numbering was sinful. It is also stated in 1 Chronicles 21:6, that Joab purposely omitted Levi and Benjamin from the reckoning.
Eight hundred thousand ... five hundred thousand - In Chronicles the numbers are differently given. It is probable therefore that the Chronicler has included in his statement of the sum total some numbers which are not included here.
10And David's heart smote him after that he had numbered the people. And David said unto the LORD, I have sinned greatly in that I have done: and now, I beseech thee, O LORD, take away the iniquity of thy servant; for I have done very foolishly.
11For when David was up in the morning, the word of the LORD came unto the prophet Gad, David's seer, saying,
David's seer - Margin, references. From the latter passage it is probable that we have here Gad's narrative.
12Go and say unto David, Thus saith the LORD, I offer thee three things; choose thee one of them, that I may do it unto thee.
13So Gad came to David, and told him, and said unto him, Shall seven years of famine come unto thee in thy land? or wilt thou flee three months before thine enemies, while they pursue thee? or that there be three days' pestilence in thy land? now advise, and see what answer I shall return to him that sent me.
Compare Ezekiel 14:13-21. The "seven" years of famine correspond with the "seven" years of famine in Genesis 41:27, Genesis 41:30, and with the same number of years in 2 Kings 8:1. But in Chronicles, it is "three years," which agrees better with the "three" months and "three" days. The whole passage is amplified in Chronicles, which has less the aspect of an original text than this.
14And David said unto Gad, I am in a great strait: let us fall now into the hand of the LORD; for his mercies are great: and let me not fall into the hand of man.
15So the LORD sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning even to the time appointed: and there died of the people from Dan even to Beersheba seventy thousand men.
The time appointed - Perhaps "the time of the assembly," meaning the time of the evening sacrifice, at three o'clock, when the people assembled for prayer, more commonly described as "the time of the evening oblation" Daniel 9:21; 1 Kings 18:29, 1 Kings 18:36; Acts 3:1; Luke 1:10.
Seventy thousand - It is the most destructive plague recorded as having fallen upon the Israelites. In the plague that followed the rebellion of Korah there died 14,700 Numbers 16:49; in the plague, on account of Baal-Peor, 24,000 Numbers 25:9; 1 Corinthians 10:8.
16And when the angel stretched out his hand upon Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed the people, It is enough: stay now thine hand. And the angel of the LORD was by the threshingplace of Araunah the Jebusite.
17And David spake unto the LORD when he saw the angel that smote the people, and said, Lo, I have sinned, and I have done wickedly: but these sheep, what have they done? let thine hand, I pray thee, be against me, and against my father's house.
Compare the passage in Chronicles. The account here is abridged; and 2 Samuel 24:18 has the appearance of being the original statement.
18And Gad came that day to David, and said unto him, Go up, rear an altar unto the LORD in the threshingfloor of Araunah the Jebusite.
19And David, according to the saying of Gad, went up as the LORD commanded.
20And Araunah looked, and saw the king and his servants coming on toward him: and Araunah went out, and bowed himself before the king on his face upon the ground.
And his servants - In Chronicles "his four sons," namely, David's. It is very possible that David may have taken his sons with him, as well as his elders, and Gad's original narrative may have mentioned the circumstance, which the compiler of this chapter did not care to specify, and so used the general term "his servants."
21And Araunah said, Wherefore is my lord the king come to his servant? And David said, To buy the threshingfloor of thee, to build an altar unto the LORD, that the plague may be stayed from the people.
22And Araunah said unto David, Let my lord the king take and offer up what seemeth good unto him: behold, here be oxen for burnt sacrifice, and threshing instruments and other instruments of the oxen for wood.
Here be oxen - Those, namely, which were at that very time threshing out the grain in Araunah's threshing-floor 1 Chronicles 21:20; Deuteronomy 25:4.
Threshing-instruments - This was a kind of sledge with iron teeth Isaiah 41:15. It was drawn by two or four oxen over the grain on the floor.
Other instruments of the oxen - "i. e., the harness of the oxen," of which the yoke, and perhaps some other parts, would be made of wood (marginal references; 1 Samuel 6:14).
23All these things did Araunah, as a king, give unto the king. And Araunah said unto the king, The LORD thy God accept thee.
Either, "the whole O king does Araunah give unto the king;" or (2) "the whole did king Araunah give to the king." The former is preferable.
24And the king said unto Araunah, Nay; but I will surely buy it of thee at a price: neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the LORD my God of that which doth cost me nothing. So David bought the threshingfloor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.
Fifty shekels of silver - In Chronicles, "six hundred shekels of gold by weight." In explanation, it is supposed - that the fifty shekels here mentioned were gold shekels, each worth twelve silver shekels, so that the fifty gold shekels are equal to the 600 silver; that our text should be rendered, "David bought the threshing-floor and the oxen for money," namely, "fifty shekels;" and that the passage in Chronicles should be rendered, "David qave to Ornan gold shekels of the value" (or weight) "of 600 shekels." What is certain is that our text represents the fifty shekels as the price of the threshing-floor and the oxen.
25And David built there an altar unto the LORD, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. So the LORD was intreated for the land, and the plague was stayed from Israel.