Matthew Poole's Commentary
And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number 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.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
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?Or, why will he be, or why should this be, a trespass, or a cause of trespass, or an occasion of punishment, (for Hebrew words signifying sin are oft used to note the punishment of sin,) or a desolation, or a cause of desolation or destruction, (for the verb whence this noun proceeds is oft used in that sense,) to or against Israel? Why wilt thou provoke God by this sin to punish Israel? Thus he speaks, because God commonly punisheth the people for the sins of their rulers, because they are for the most part guilty of their sins in one kind or other; or at least God takes this occasion to punish people for all their sins.
Nevertheless the king's word prevailed against Joab. Wherefore Joab departed, and went throughout all Israel, and came to Jerusalem.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
But Levi and Benjamin counted he not among them: for the king's word was abominable to Joab.Levi and Benjamin counted he not among them; partly for the following reason, and principally by God’s special and gracious providence to these two tribes; to Levi, because they were devoted to his service; and to Benjamin, because they were the least of all the tribes, having been almost extinct, Judges 21, and because God foresaw that they would be faithful to the house of David in the division of the tribes, and therefore he would not have them diminished. And Joab presumed to leave these two tribes unnumbered, because he had specious pretences for it; for Levi, because they were no warriors, and the king’s command reached only to those that drew sword, as appears from 1 Chronicles 21:5; and for Benjamin, because they, being so small a tribe, and bordering upon Jerusalem their chief city, might easily be numbered afterward.
And God was displeased with this thing; therefore he smote Israel.God was displeased with this thing; because this was done without any colour of necessity, and out of mere curiosity, and ostentation, and carnal confidence, as David’s own conscience told him, which therefore smote him, as it is related, 2 Samuel 24:10.
Therefore he smote Israel; which is particularly related in the following verses.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
And the LORD spake unto Gad, David's seer, saying,No text from Poole on this verse.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
So Gad came to David, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Choose theeNo text from Poole on this verse.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
So the LORD sent pestilence upon Israel: and there fell of Israel seventy thousand men.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.In sackcloth, i.e. in mourning garments, humbling themselves before God for their sins, and deprecating his wrath against the people.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
And David went up at the saying of Gad, which he spake in the name of the LORD.No text from Poole on this verse.
And Ornan turned back, and saw the angel; and his four sons with him hid themselves. Now Ornan was threshing wheat.Or,
And Ornan turned back, ( i.e. turned his face from the angel,) for, or when, (for the Hebrew vau is frequently used both those ways,)
he saw the angel and (so did) his four sons with him hiding themselves; partly because of the glory and majesty in which the angel appeared, which men’s weak and sinful natures are not able to bear; and partly from the fear of God’s vengeance, which was at this time riding circuit in the land, and now seemed to be coming to their family.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
So David gave to Ornan for the place six hundred shekels of gold by weight.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.From heaven by fire, Heb. by fire sent
from heaven; which was the sign of God’s acceptance. See Leviticus 9:24 1 Kings 18:24,38 2 Chronicles 7:1.
And the LORD commanded the angel; and he put up his sword again into the sheath thereof.No text from Poole on this verse.
At that time when David saw that the LORD had answered him in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite, then he sacrificed there.When he perceived that his sacrifice there offered was acceptable to God, he proceeded to offer more sacrifices in that place, and did not go to Gibeon, as otherwise he should have done.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
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 could not, i.e. durst not. Before it, i.e. before the tabernacle, where the altar stood.
To inquire of God, Heb. to seek God, i.e. humbly to beg his favour by prayer and sacrifice.
Because of the sword of the angel of the Lord, i.e. when he saw the angel stand with his drawn sword over Jerusalem, as is related above, 1 Chronicles 21:15,16, he durst not go away thence to Gibeon, lest the angel in the mean time should destroy Jerusalem; for the prevention whereof he thought it most proper to continue to worship God in that place, which he had consecrated by his special presence and gracious acceptance.