1 Chronicles 21:1
And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(1-6) The Census.

(1) And Satan stood up against Israel.—Perhaps, And an adversary (hostile influence) arose against Israel. So in 2Samuel 19:23 the sons of Zeruiah are called “adversaries” (Heb., a Satan) to David. (Comp. 1Kings 11:14; 1Kings 11:25.) When the adversary, the enemy of mankind, is meant, the word takes the article, which it has not here. (Comp. Job 1, 2 and Zechariah 3:1-2.)

And provoked David.Pricked him on, incited him. 2 Samuel 24 begins: “And again the anger of Jehovah burned against Israel, and He (or it) incited David against them, saying, Go, number Israel and Judah.” It thus appears that the adversary of our text, the influence hostile to Israel, was the wrath of God. The wrath of God is the Scriptural name for that aspect of the Divine nature under which it pursues to destruction whatever is really opposed to its own perfection (Delitzsch); and it is only sin, i.e., breach of the Divine law, which can necessarily direct that aspect towards man. If Divine wrath urged David to number Israel, it can only have been in consequence of evil thoughts of pride and self-sufficiency, which had intruded into a heart hitherto humbly reliant upon its Maker. One evil thought led to another, quite naturally; i.e., by the laws which God has imposed upon human nature. God did not interpose, but allowed David’s corrupt motive to work out its own penal results. (Comp. Romans 1:18; Romans 1:24; Romans 1:26; Romans 1:28.) The true reading in Samuel may well be, “And an adversary incited David,” &c., the word Satan having fallen out of the text. Yet the expression “Jehovah provoked or incited against . . .” occurs (1Samuel 26:19).

To number Israel—Samuel adds, “and Judah.”

1 Chronicles 21:1. Satan stood up against Israel — Before the Lord and his tribunal, to accuse David and Israel, and to ask God’s permission to tempt David. Standing is the accuser’s posture before men’s tribunals; and consequently the Holy Scriptures (which use to speak of the things of God after the manner of men, to bring them down to our capacities) elsewhere represent Satan in this posture. See 1 Kings 22:21; Zechariah 3:1. In 2 Samuel 24:1, it is said, The anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he moved David, or rather, there was who moved David; namely, Satan, as is here stated, by God’s permission. The righteous judgments of God are to be observed and acknowledged even in the sins and unrighteousness of men. But we are sure God is not the author of sin, and that, strictly speaking, he tempts no man, James 1:13. That passage, therefore, must be explained by this. But of this particular, and of the contents of this whole chapter, and of the variations and seeming contradictions between this narrative and that in Samuel, see notes there.

21:1-30 David's numbering the people. - No mention is made in this book of David's sin in the matter of Uriah, neither of the troubles that followed it: they had no needful connexion with the subjects here noted. But David's sin, in numbering the people, is related: in the atonement made for that sin, there was notice of the place on which the temple should be built. The command to David to build an altar, was a blessed token of reconciliation. God testified his acceptance of David's offerings on this altar. Thus Christ was made sin, and a curse for us; it pleased the Lord to bruise him, that through him, God might be to us, not a consuming Fire, but a reconciled God. It is good to continue attendance on those ordinances in which we have experienced the tokens of God's presence, and have found that he is with us of a truth. Here God graciously met me, therefore I will still expect to meet him.As the books of Scripture are arranged in our Version, Satan is here for the first time by name introduced to us. He appears not merely as an "adversary" who seeks to injure man from without, but as a Tempter able to ruin him by suggesting sinful acts and thoughts from within. In this point of view, the revelation made of him here is the most advanced that we find in the Old Testament.

The difficulty in reconciling the statement here, "Satan provoked David," etc. with that of Samuel, "the Lord moved David," etc. 2 Samuel 24:1 is not serious. All temptation is permitted by God. When evil spirits tempt us, they do so by permission (Job 1:12; Job 2:6; Luke 22:31, etc.). If Satan therefore provoked David to number the peopIe, God allowed him. And what God allows, He may be said to do. (Another view is maintained in the 2 Samuel 24:1 note).

CHAPTER 21

1Ch 21:1-13. David Sins in Numbering the People.

1. Satan stood up against Israel—God, by withdrawing His grace at this time from David (see on [392]2Sa 24:1), permitted the tempter to prevail over him. As the result of this successful temptation was the entail of a heavy calamity as a punishment from God upon the people, it might be said that "Satan stood up against Israel."

number Israel—In the act of taking the census of a people, there is not only no evil, but much utility. But numbering Israel—that people who were to become as the stars for multitude, implying a distrust of the divine promise, was a sin; and though it had been done with impunity in the time of Moses, at that enumeration each of the people had contributed "half a shekel towards the building of the tabernacle," that there might be no plague among them when he numbered them (Ex 30:12). Hence the numbering of that people was in itself regarded as an undertaking by which the anger of God could be easily aroused; but when the arrangements were made by Moses for the taking of the census, God was not angry because the people were numbered for the express purpose of the tax for the sanctuary, and the money which was thus collected ("the atonement money," Ex 30:16) appeased Him. Everything depended, therefore, upon the design of the census [Bertheau]. The sin of David numbering the people consisted in its being either to gratify his pride to ascertain the number of warriors he could muster for some meditated plan of conquest; or, perhaps, more likely still, to institute a regular and permanent system of taxation, which he deemed necessary to provide an adequate establishment for the monarchy, but which was regarded as a tyrannical and oppressive exaction—an innovation on the liberty of the people—a departure from ancient usage unbecoming a king of Israel.David numbereth the people, 1 Chronicles 20:1-6. He repenteth of three judgments propounded, he chooseth the pestilence; and why, 1 Chronicles 21:7-13. David, by Gad’s direction, buildeth an altar, and sacrificeth: the plague is stayed, 1 Chronicles 21:14-30.

Satan stood up, Heb. stood, to wit, before the Lord and his tribunal to accuse David and Israel, and to beg God’s permission to tempt David to number the people. Standing is the accuser’s posture before men’s tribunals; and consequently the Holy Scripture (which useth to speak of God, and of the things of God, after the manner of men, to bring them down to our capacities) elsewhere represents Satan in this posture, as 1 Kings 22:21 Zechariah 3:1. And so this agrees with 2 Samuel 24:1, where the Lord is said to move David, i.e. to give Satan commission or permission to move him; for otherwise God tempteth no man, Jam 1:13. But of this, and of this whole chapter, and of the variations and seeming contradictions between this narrative and that in Samuel, see my notes on 2 Samuel 24.

See Chapter Introduction And {a} Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.

(a) He tempted David, in setting before his eyes his excellency and glory, his power and victories, see 2Sa 24:1.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1. And Satan stood up against Israel] In 2 Sam. “And again the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel,” a former occasion being at the time of the famine (2 Samuel 21:1). By Satan (“adversary”) is meant some hostile spiritual being, such as is mentioned in Job 1:6 ff.; Zechariah 3:1 ff., the very opposite in fact of a guardian angel such as the Michael of Daniel 10:13; Daniel 10:21; Daniel 12:1.

and provoked] R.V. and moved, as 2 Sam., the Heb. word being the same.

to number] (cp. 1 Chronicles 27:23-24) should be like the stars, beyond numbering.

Verse 1. - Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel. This remarkable sentence takes the place of the statements in the parallel, "And again the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah." Our own passage seems to confine the temptation and sin to David. David also seems to be spoken of as the object of malignant attack on the part of Satan, though Israel is spoken of as the object of malignant envy and animosity. It is also to be noticed that in ver. 17 David takes all the blame to himself, and speaks of the people as "innocent sheep." A people and whole nation have, indeed, often suffered the smart of one ruler's sin. Yet here the light thrown upon the whole event by the account in the Book of Samuel must be accepted as revealing the fact that there had been previously something amiss on the part of the people - perhaps something of illest significance lurking in their constitution. This alone could "kindle the anger of the Lord against Israel." It is the opposite of this which kindles the anger of Satan - when he witnesses excellence, surpassing excellence, as when he witnesses "the weakest saint," yet in that strongest position," on his knees." The apparent inconsistency in Satan being spoken of as resisting Israel, and the anger of the Lord being spoken of as kindled against Israel, is but apparent and superficial. In the first place, these histories do only purport to state the facts overt. And in this sense either alternative statement gives the prima facie facts. Either is true, and both may be true in different chronological order. And further, that the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel is no disproof that Satan will see and seize his opportunity. It looks the contrary way. There was a time and an occasion in Eden when Satan thought he saw an opportunity, tried it, and found it, when the anger of the Lord was not kindled against Adam and Eve for certain. But much more prompt will be the executive of Satan at another and less doubtful time. The paths in written history are often awhile rugged and broken up; the written history of Scripture is no exception. And in thus being the more in analogy with history itself, those unevennesses and breaks are the better attestation of both the reality of the Scripture history and the veracity of its writers. The word (שָׂטַן) occurs twenty-four times in the Old Testament. On all occasions of its occurrence in the Book of Job and in the prophecies of Zechariah, it shows the prefixed definite article; in all other places it is, with the present passage, unaccompanied by the article. Its translation here might appear strictly as that of a proper name. But this cannot be said of the other instances of its use, when without the article (Numbers 22:22, 32; 1 Samuel 29:4). This constitutes with some the ground of the very opposite opinion and opposite translation. If we regard the name as utterly expressing the personality of Satan, the passage is very noteworthy, and will be most safely regarded as the language of the compiler, and not as copied from the original source. The signification of the word "Satan," as is well known, is "adversary," or "accuser." The sin of David in giving the order of this verse was of a technical and ceremonial character, in the first place, whatever his motives were, and however intensified by other causes of a moral and more individual complexion. We learn (Exodus 30:12-16) the special enactments respecting what was to be observed when "the sum of the children of Israel after their number" was to be taken. However, the same passage does not say, it fails to say, when such a numbering would be legitimate or when not. It is left us, therefore, to deduce this from observation. And we notice, in the first place, that, on the occasion of its undoubted rightness, it is the work of the distinct commandment of God (Numbers 1:1-3; Numbers 26:1-4). Next, we notice the religious contribution, "the ransom," that was required with it (Exodus 30:12-16; Exodus 38:25, 26; Numbers 31:48-54). Again, we notice that the numberings narrated both in the beginning of the Book of Numbers (1.) and toward the close (26.) had specific moral objects as assigned by God - among them the forcible teaching of the loss entailed by the successive rebellions of the people (Numbers 26:64, 65; Deuteronomy 2:14, 15). And though last, not least, all these indications are lighted up by the express and emphatic announcements in God's original promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that their seed should become past numbering, multitudinous as the stars, and as the sands of the seashore. From all which we may conclude that only that numbering was held legitimate which was for God's service in some form, and as against human pride and boastfulness - by God's command as against a human king's fancy - and which was attended by the payment of that solemn "ransom" money, the bekah, or half-shekel (Exodus 30:12). Other numbering had snares about it, and it was no doubt because it had such intrinsically that it was divinely discountenanced, and in this case severely punished. It seems gratuitous with some to tax David with having other motives than those of some sort of vanity now at work, sinister designs of preparing, unaided and unpermitted, some fresh military exploits, or stealing a march on the nation itself in the matter of some new system of taxation. The context offers no corroboration of either of these notions, while several lesser indications point to the simplest explanation (1 Chronicles 27:23). 1 Chronicles 21:1"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.
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