Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.
"And Satan stood up against Israel, and incited David to number Israel." The mention of Satan as the seducer of David is not to be explained merely by the fact that the Israelites in later times traced up everything contrary to God's will to this evil spirit, but in the present case arises from the author's design to characterize David's purpose from the very beginning as an ungodly thing.
And David said to Joab and to the rulers of the people, Go, number Israel from Beersheba even to Dan; and bring the number of them to me, that I may know it.
The naming of the העם שׂרי along with Joab is in accordance with the circumstances, for we learn from 2 Samuel 24:4 that Joab did not carry out the numbering of the people alone, but was assisted by the captains of the host. The object of אלי והביאוּ, which is not expressed, the result of the numbering, may be supplied from the context. No objection need be taken to the simple כּהם of 1 Chronicles 21:3, instead of the double וכהם כּהם in Samuel. The repetition of the same word, "there are so and so many of them," is a peculiarity of the author of the book of Samuel (cf. 2 Samuel 12:8), while the expression in the Chronicle corresponds to that in Deuteronomy 1:11. With the words וגו אדני הלא, "Are they not, my lord king, all my lord's servants," i.e., subject to him? Joab allays the suspicion that he grudged the king the joy of reigning over a very numerous people. In 2 Samuel 24:3 the thought takes another turn; and the last clause, "Why should it (the thing or the numbering) become a trespass for Israel?" is wanting. אשׁמה denotes here a trespass which must be atoned for, not one which one commits. The meaning is therefore, Why should Israel expiate thy sin, in seeking thy glory in the power and greatness of thy kingdom? On the numbers, 1 Chronicles 21:5, see on 2 Samuel 24:9. In commenting on 1 Chronicles 21:6, which is not to be found in Samuel, Berth. defends the statement that Joab did not make any muster of the tribes Levi and Benjamin, against the objections of de Wette and Gramberg, as it is done in my apologet. Versuche, Sa. 349ff., by showing that the tribe of Levi was by law (cf. Numbers 1:47-54) exempted from the censuses of the people taken for political purposes; and the tribe of Benjamin was not numbered, because David, having become conscious of his sin, stopped the numbering before it was completed (cf. also the remarks on 2 Samuel 24:9). The reason given, "for the king's word was an abomination unto Joab," is certainly the subjective opinion of the historian, but is shown to be well founded by the circumstances, for Joab disapproved of the king's design from the beginning; (cf. 2 Samuel 24:3 and 1 Chronicles 21:3). - In 1 Chronicles 21:7, the author of the Chronicle, instead of ascribing the confession of sin on David's part which follows to the purely subjective motive stated in the words, "and David's heart smote him," i.e., his conscience (2 Samuel 24:10), has ascribed the turn matters took to objective causes: the thing displeased God; and anticipating the course of events, he remarks straightway, "and He (God) smote Israel." This, however, is no reason for thinking, with Berth., that the words have arisen out of a misinterpretation or alteration of 2 Samuel 24:10; for such anticipatory remarks, embracing the contents of the succeeding verses, not unfrequently occur in the historical books (cf. e.g., 1 Kings 6:14; 1 Kings 7:2). - In reference to 1 Chronicles 21:8-10, see on 2 Samuel 24:10-16. - In 1 Chronicles 21:12, נספּה has not come into the text by mistake or by misreading נסך (2 Samuel 24:13), but is original, the author of the Chronicle describing the two latter evils more at length than Samuel does. The word is not a participle, but a noun formed from the participle, with the signification "perishing" (the being snatched away). The second parallel clause, "the sword of thine enemies to attaining" (so that it reach thee), serves to intensify. So also in reference to the third evil, the יהוה חרב which precedes בּארץ דּבר, and the parallel clause added to both: "and the angel of the Lord destroying in the whole domain of Israel."
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?
Nevertheless the king's word prevailed against Joab. Wherefore Joab departed, and went throughout all Israel, and came to Jerusalem.
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.
But Levi and Benjamin counted he not among them: for the king's word was abominable to Joab.
And God was displeased with this thing; therefore he smote Israel.
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.
And the LORD spake unto Gad, David's seer, saying,
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.
So Gad came to David, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Choose thee
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.
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.
So the LORD sent pestilence upon Israel: and there fell of Israel seventy thousand men.
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.
ליר מלאך האלהים ויּשׁלח, "And God sent an angel towards Jerusalem," gives no suitable sense. Not because of the improbability that God sent the angel with the commission to destroy Jerusalem, and at the same moment gives the contrary command, "Stay now," etc. (Berth.); for the reason of this change is given in the intermediate clause, "and at the time of the destroying the Lord repented it," and command and prohibition are not given "at the same moment;" but the difficulty lies in the indefinite מלאך (without the article). For since the angel of Jahve is mentioned in 1 Chronicles 21:12 as the bringer of the pestilence, in our verse, if it treats of the sending of this angel to execute the judgment spoken of, המּלאך must necessarily be used, or המּלאך את המּלא, as in 1 Chronicles 21:16; the indefinite מלאך can by no means be used for it. In 2 Samuel 24:16 we read, instead of the words in question, יר המּלאך ידו ויּשׁלח, "and the angel stretched out his hand towards Jerusalem;" and Bertheau thinks that the reading האלהים (in the Chron.) has arisen out of that, by the letters ידו ה being exchanged for יהוה, and אלהים being substituted for this divine name, as is often the case in the Chronicle; while Movers, S. 91, on the contrary, considers the reading of the Chronicle to be original, and would read יהוה ישׁלח in Samuel. But in that way Movers leaves the omission of the article before מלאך in the Chronicle unexplained; and Bertheau's conjecture is opposed by the improbability of such a misunderstanding of a phrase so frequent and so unmistakeable as ידו ישׁלח, as would lead to the exchange supposed, ever occurring. But besides that, in Samuel the simple המּלאך is strange, for the angel has not been spoken of there at all before, and the lxx have consequently explained the somewhat obscure המּלאך by ὁ ἄγγελος τοῦ Θεοῦ. This explanation suggests the way in which the reading of our text arose. The author of the Chronicle, although he had already made mention of the יהוה מלאך in 1 Chronicles 21:12, wrote in 1 Chronicles 21:15 האלהים מלאך האלהי ויּשׁלח, "the angel of God stretched (his hand) out towards Jerusalem," using האלהים instead of יהוה, - as, for example, in Judges 6:20, Judges 6:22; Judges 13:6, Judges 13:9, and Judges 13:13, Judges 13:15, Judges 13:17. האלהים מלאך alternates with יהוה מלאך, and omitting ידו with ישׁלח, as is often done, e.g., 2 Samuel 6:6; Psalm 18:17, etc. By a copyist מלאך and האלהים have been transposed, and מלאך was then taken by the Masoretes for an accusative, and pointed accordingly. The expression is made clearer by וּכהשׁחית, "And as he destroyed, Jahve saw, and it repented Him of the evil." The idea is: Just as the angel had begun to destroy Jerusalem, it repented God. רב, adverb, "enough," as in 1 Kings 19:4, etc., with a dativ commodi, Deuteronomy 1:6, etc. Bertheau has incorrectly denied this meaning of the word, connecting רב with בּעם in 2 Samuel 24:16, and desiring to alter our text to make it conform to that. In 2nd Samuel also רב is an adverb, as Thenius also acknowledges.
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.
The account of David's repentant beseeching of the Lord to turn away the primitive judgment, and the word of the Lord proclaimed to him by the prophet, commanding him to build an altar to the Lord in the place where the destroying angel visibly appeared, together with the carrying out of this divine command by the purchase of Araunah's threshing-floor, the erection of an altar, and the offering of burnt-offering, is given more at length in the Chronicle than in 2 Samuel 24:17-25, where only David's negotiation with Araunah is more circumstantially narrated than in the Chronicle. In substance both accounts perfectly correspond, except that in the Chronicle several subordinate circumstances are preserved, which, as being minor points, are passed over in Samuel. In 1 Chronicles 21:16, the description of the angel's appearance, that he had a drawn sword in his hand stretched out over Jerusalem, and the statement that David and the elders, clad in sackcloth (garments indicating repentance), fell down before the Lord; in 1 Chronicles 21:20, the mention of Ornan's (Araunah's) sons, who hid themselves on beholding the angel, and of the fact that Ornan was engaged in threshing wheat when David came to him; and the statement in 1 Chronicles 21:26, that fire came down from heaven upon the altar-are examples of such minor points. We have already commented on this section in our remarks on 2 Samuel 24:17-25, and the account in the Chronicle is throughout correct and easily understood. Notwithstanding this, however, Bertheau, following Thenius and Bttcher, conjectures that the text is in several verses corrupt, and wishes to correct them by 2nd Samuel. But these critics are misled by the erroneous presumption with which they entered upon the interpretation of the Chronicle, that the author of it used as his authority, and revised, our Masoretic text of the second book of Samuel. Under the influence of this prejudice, emendations are proposed which are stamped with their own unlikelihood, and rest in part even on misunderstandings of the narrative in the book of Samuel. Of this one or two illustrations will be sufficient. Any one who compares 2 Samuel 24:17 (Sam.) with 1 Chronicles 21:16 and 1 Chronicles 21:17 of the Chronicle, without any pre-formed opinions, will see that what is there (Sam.) concisely expressed is more clearly narrated in the Chronicle. The beginning of 1 Chronicles 21:17, "And David spake unto Jahve," is entirely without connection, as the thought which forms the transition from 1 Chronicles 21:16 to 1 Chronicles 21:17, viz., that David was moved by the sight of the destroying angel to pray to God that the destruction might be turned away, is only brought in afterwards in the subordinate clause, "on seeing the angel." This abrupt form of expression is got rid of in the Chronicle by the clause: "And David lifted up his eyes, and saw the angel ... and fell ... upon his face; and David spake to God." That which in Samuel is crushed away into an infinitive clause subordinate to the principle sentence, precedes in the Chronicle, and is circumstantially narrated. Under these circumstances, of course, the author of the Chronicle could not afterwards in 1 Chronicles 21:17 make use of the clause, "on seeing the angel who smote the people," without tautology. Berth., on the contrary, maintains that 1 Chronicles 21:16 is an interpolation of the chronicler, and proposes then to cull out from the words and letters בעם המכה המלאך את בראתו (Sam.), the words בעם למנותי אמרתי בראתו (1 Chronicles 21:17), great use being made in the process of the ever ready auxiliaries, mistakes, and a text which has become obscure. This is one example out of many. 1 Chronicles 21:16 of the Chronicle is not an addition which the Chronicle has interpolated between 2 Samuel 24:16-17 of Samuel, but a more detailed representation of the historical course of things. No mention is made in 2nd Samuel of the drawn sword in the angel's hand, because there the whole story is very concisely narrated. This detail need not have been borrowed from Numbers 22:23, for the drawn sword is a sensible sign that the angle's mission is punitive; and the angel, who is said to have visibly appeared in 2nd Samuel also, could be recognised as the bearer of the judicial pestilence only by this emblem, such recognition being plainly the object of his appearance. The mention of the elders along with David as falling on their faces in prayer, clad in sackcloth, will not surprise any reader or critic who considers that in the case of so fearful a pestilence the king would not be alone in praying God to turn away the judgment. Besides, from the mention of the עבדים of the king who went with David to Ornan (2 Samuel 24:20), we learn that the king did not by himself take steps to turn away the plague, but did so along with his servants. In the narrative in 2nd Samuel, which confines itself to the main point, the elders are not mentioned, because only of David was it recorded that his confession of sin brought about the removal of the plague. Just as little can we be surprised that David calls his command to number the people the delictum by which he had brought the judgment of the plague upon himself. - To alter בּדבר, 1 Chronicles 21:19, into כּדבר, as Berth. wishes, would show little intelligence. בּדבר, at Gad's word David went up, is proved by Numbers 31:16 to be good Hebrew, and is perfectly suitable.
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.
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.
And David went up at the saying of Gad, which he spake in the name of the LORD.
And Ornan turned back, and saw the angel; and his four sons with him hid themselves. Now Ornan was threshing wheat.
ארנן ויּשׁב, "and Ornan turned him about," is translated by Berth. incorrectly, "then Ornan turned back," who then builds on this erroneous interpretation, which is contrary to the context, a whole nest of conjectures. ויּשׁב is said to have arisen out of ויּשׁקף, the succeeding המּלאך out of המּלך, עמּו בּניו ערבּעת out of עליו עברים עבדיו (2 Samuel 24:20), "by mistake and further alteration." In saying this, however, he himself has not perceived that 2 Samuel 24:20 (Sam.) does not correspond to the 1 Chronicles 21:20 of the Chronicle at all, but to the 1 Chronicles 21:21, where the words, "and Araunah looked out (ישׁקף) and saw the king," as parallel to the words, "and Ornan looked (יבּט) and saw David." The 1 Chronicles 21:20 of the Chronicle contains a statement which is not found in Samuel, that Ornan (Araunah), while threshing with his four sons, turned and saw the angel, and being terrified at the sight, hid himself with his sons. After that, David with his train came from Zion to the threshing-floor in Mouth Moriah, and Araunah looking out saw the king, and came out of the threshing-floor to meet him, with deep obeisance. This narrative contains nothing improbable, nothing to justify us in having recourse to critical conjecture.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The infinitive העלות is very frequently used in Hebrew as the continuation of the verb. fin., and is found in all the books of the Old Testament (cf. the collection of passages illustrative of this peculiar form of brief expression, which We. gives, 351, c), and that not only with regard to the infin. absol., but the infin. constr. also. David's answer to Ornan's offer to give him the place for the altar, and the cattle, plough, and wheat for the burnt-offering, was therefore: "no, I will buy it for full price; I will not take what belongs to thee for Jahve, and bring burnt-offerings without cost," i.e., without having paid the price for them.
So David gave to Ornan for the place six hundred shekels of gold by weight.
As to the different statements of the price, cf. on 2 Samuel 24:24.
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.
In 2 Samuel 24:25 the conclusion of this event is shortly narrated thus: David offered burnt-offerings and peace-offerings, and Jahve was entreated for the land, and the plague was stayed from Israel. In the Chronicle we have a fuller statement of the יהוה יעתר in 1 Chronicles 21:26. David called upon Jahve, and He answered with fire from heaven upon the altar of burnt-offering (1 Chronicles 21:27); and Jahve spake to the angel, and he returned the sword into its sheath. The returning of the sword into its sheath is a figurative expression for the stopping of the pestilence; and the fire which came down from heaven upon the altar of burnt-offering was the visible sign by which the Lord assured the king that his prayer had been heard, and his offering graciously accepted. The reality of this sign of the gracious acceptance of an offering is placed beyond doubt by the analogous cases, Leviticus 9:24; 1 Kings 18:24, 1 Kings 18:38, and 2 Chronicles 7:1. It was only by this sign of the divine complacence that David learnt that the altar built upon the threshing-floor of Araunah had been chosen by the Lord as the place where Israel should always thereafter offer their burnt-offerings and sacrifices, as is further recorded in 1 Chronicles 21:28-30. and in 1 Chronicles 22:1. From the cessation of the pestilence in consequence of his prayer and sacrifice, David could only draw the conclusion that God had forgiven him his transgression, but could not have known that God had chosen the place where he had built the altar for the offering demanded by God as a permanent place of sacrifice. This certainly he obtained only by the divine answer, and this answer was the fire which came down upon the altar of burnt-offering and devoured the sacrifice. This 1 Chronicles 21:28 states: "At the time when he saw that Jahve had answered him at the threshing-floor of Ornan, he offered sacrifice there," i.e., from that time forward; so that we may with Berth. translate שׁם ויּזבּח, "then he was wont to offer sacrifice there." In 1 Chronicles 21:29 and 1 Chronicles 21:30 we have still further reasons given for David's continuing to offer sacrifices at the threshing-floor of Ornan. The legally sanctioned place of sacrifice for Israel was still at that time the tabernacle, the Mosaic sanctuary with its altar of burnt-offering, which then stood on the high place at Gibeon (cf. 1 Chronicles 16:39). Now David had indeed brought the ark of the covenant, which had been separated from the tabernacle from the time of Samuel, to Zion, and had there not only erected a tent for it, but had also built an altar and established a settled worship there (1 Chronicles 17), yet without having received any express command of God regarding it; so that this place of worship was merely provisional, intended to continue only until the Lord Himself should make known His will in the matter in some definite way. When therefore David, after the conquest of his enemies, had obtained rest round about, he had formed the resolution to make an end of this provisional separation of the ark from the tabernacle, and the existence of two sacrificial altars, by building a temple; but the Lord had declared to him by the prophet Nathan, that not he, but his son and successor on the throne, should build Him a temple. The altar by the ark in Zion, therefore, continued to co-exist along with the altar of burnt-offering at the tabernacle in Gibeon, without being sanctioned by God as the place of sacrifice for the congregation of Israel. Then when David, by ordering the numbering of the people, had brought guilt upon the nation, which the Lord so heavily avenged upon them by the pestilence, he should properly, as king, have offered a sin-offering and a burnt-offering in the national sanctuary at Gibeon, and there have sought the divine favour for himself and for the whole people. But the Lord said unto him by the prophet Gad, that he should bring his offering neither in Gibeon, nor before the ark on Zion, but in the threshing-floor of Ornan (Araunah), on the altar which he was there to erect. This command, however, did not settle the place where he was afterwards to sacrifice. But David - so it runs, 1 Chronicles 21:29. - sacrificed thenceforward in the threshing-floor of Ornan, not at Gibeon in the still existent national sanctuary, because he (according to 1 Chronicles 21:30) "could not go before it (לפניו) to seek God, for he was terrified before the sword of the angel of Jahve." This statement does not, however, mean, ex terrore visionis angelicae infirmitatem corporis contraxerat (J. H. Mich.), nor yet, "because he, being struck and overwhelmed by the appearance of the angel, did not venture to offer sacrifices elsewhere" (Berth.), nor, "because the journey to Gibeon was too long for him" (O. v. Gerl.). None of these interpretations suit either the words or the context. חרב מפּני נבעת, terrified before the sword, does indeed signify that the sword of the angel, or the angel with the sword, hindered him from going to Gibeon, but not during the pestilence, when the angel stood between heaven and earth by the threshing-floor of Araunah with the drawn sword, but - according to the context - afterwards, when the angelophany had ceased, as it doubtless did simultaneously with the pestilence. The words וגו נבעת כּי can therefore have no other meaning, than that David's terror before the sword of the angel caused him to determine to sacrifice thereafter, not at Gibeon, but at the threshing-floor of Araunah; or that, since during the pestilence the angel's sword had prevented him from going to Gibeon, he did not venture ever afterwards to go. But the fear before the sword of the angel is in substance the terror of the pestilence; and the pestilence had hindered him from sacrificing at Gibeon, because Gibeon, notwithstanding the presence of the sanctuary there, with the Mosaic altar, had not been spared by the pestilence. David considered this circumstance as normative ever for the future, and he always afterwards offered his sacrifices in the place pointed out to him, and said, as we further read in 1 Chronicles 22:1, "Here (הוּא זה, properly this, mas. or neut.) is the house of Jahve God, and here is the altar for the burnt-offering of Israel." He calls the site of the altar in the threshing-floor of Araunah יהוה בּית, because there Jahve had manifested to him His gracious presence; cf. Genesis 28:17.
And the LORD commanded the angel; and he put up his sword again into the sheath thereof.
At that time when David saw that the LORD had answered him in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite, then he sacrificed there.
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.
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.