1 Chronicles 21 • David's Numbering of Israel


David’s life provides an example to us of a right heart during the times he followed God as well as how such a heart returns to God when it has strayed.

Read 1 Chr. 21:1-8 & 2 Sam. 24:1

Q: 1 Chronicles 21:1 says that it was Satan who moved David to number Israel, yet 2 Samuel 24:1 states that it was the Lord who moved David to number Israel. Is there a contradiction? What’s going on here?

A: First, understand that there’s about a 20 year gap between chapters 20 and 21 in 1 Chronicles. During that period 2 Samuel 14-20 documents David’s sin of adultery with Bath-sheeba, the murder and cover-up of Uriah, the sins of Amnon, the revolt of Sheba, and most notably the revolt and rebellion against David (not just the king but also the “Lord’s anointed”) by Absalom (which lasted 11 years and there were many in Israel who followed Absalom). So the Lord’s anger burned against Israel because of their sins against the “lord’s anointed.”

What did we learn about Satan in the book of Job? He is an instrument of God to bring judgment on Israel, and David is but an instrument of Satan to execute the plan. God is bringing about a judgment on Israel for their having been rebellious toward David, using Satan to accomplish His task through David. Just as in Job where Satan is allowed by God to bring trials and afflictions to Job.

Q. How many times to date have we seen specific reference to Satan in Scripture?

A: This is the first instance in Scripture where Satan is referred to and actually given a name. In Job he is referred to as “the adversary.” Here there is no definite article (“the”) and “Satan” now becomes his name. In other words, just as Hebrew names describe a situation or relationship, Satan’s name describes his nature.

This is also true of the Messiah. Throughout Scripture He is referred to as “the Anointed One”. But in Daniel, and from that time forward, the definite article (“the”) is dropped and He is simply referred to as “Messiah.” He has become His name which reflects His nature.

Q: Why did Satan get the opportunity to use David to bring judgment on Israel? That is, how did Satan “get to” David?

A: David seems to have ordered the census because he was placing his trust in “multiplied troops” rather than in the promises of God. The avenue by which Satan got to David, therefore, was David’s pride. Pride always places trust in ourselves above trust in God.


Q: David had a chance to change his mind about taking the census. What did he fail to do?

A: He failed to listen to the counsel of others, in this case Joab. Perhaps a way to tell when someone is conveying something important to us that we’re not immediately understanding is when, as in Joab’s case, their assertion contains the concept of sin, guilt, and/or spiritual consequences. (Be a Berean.)

Read verse 13

Q: What is the lesson we can learn from David when we’re experiencing our own hour of judgment?

A: “….please let me fall into the hand of the Lord, for His mercies are very great….”

Read verses 14-17

Q: Was David’s choice for God’s hand and mercy justified?

A: Yes. The Lord had mercy and halted complete execution of His judgment. Note that David and the elders were “in sackcloth”, an indication that they were ALREADY in mourning and therefore in the process of submitting humbly to the Lord. David didn’t need to see the angel before personally repenting – he’d already begun to do so WITHOUT seeing the angel. He took God at His word.

Q: Is it fair that David’s sin should lead to the punishment of the whole nation?

A: Yes, first of all, because as discussed this was probably not for David’s sin alone but for the sins of the Nation during the preceding years. Yes, second of all, because God specifically stipulated that should the people choose to have an earthly king reign over them that the king’s sin/righteousness would be born by the people as we saw in many examples through Samuel and Kings.

Read verses 18-27

Q: When did God answer David – before he made the sacrifice of after?

A: Before. God accepted David’s PRAYER as a reflection of his heart. The acceptance of the sacrifice was a sign from God that David’s heart was in the right place, not that David was justified through the act of sacrifice.

Q: What two things are significant about Ornan’s threshing floor where they saw the angel and David built the altar?

A: Genesis 22:1-2, “Now it came about after thee things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, ‘Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ He said, ‘Take now your son, your only son, whom you live, Isaac, and go to the land of Meriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.’” This is the site where that sacrifice took place. It’s also the site where all the temples are built. (see 1 Chronicles 22:1)

Q: What was God’s immediate and ultimate goals in allowing Satan to move David to number Israel?

A: The immediate goal was to bring judgment on Israel for her sins including repeated revolts against God’s anointed king whether David deserved it or not.

The ultimate goal was positive, ensuring that the results of it all would mean the establishment of His altar and temple.

One of the lessons we can learn from David is not just his right heart during the times he followed God but his right heart in turning to God when he strayed.

Q: How is this location significance to believer’s today?

A: The Last Sacrifice (Jesus) ended the need for a temple and for a Holy of Holies.

Conclude by reading Hebrews 9:1-14:

1Now even the first covenant had regulations of divine worship and the earthly sanctuary. 2For there was a tabernacle prepared, the outer one, in which were the lampstand and the table and the sacred bread; this is called the holy place. 3Behind the second veil there was a tabernacle which is called the Holy of Holies, 4having a golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden jar holding the manna, and Aaron’s rod which budded, and the tables of the covenant; 5and above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat; but of these things we cannot now speak in detail.

6Now when these things have been so prepared, the priests are continually entering the outer tabernacle performing the divine worship, 7but into the second, only the high priest enters once a year, not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the sins of the people committed in ignorance. 8The Holy Spirit is signifying this, that the way into the holy place has not yet been disclosed while the outer tabernacle is still standing, 9which is a symbol for the present time. Accordingly both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience, 10since they relate only to food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until a time of reformation.

11But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; 12and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. 13For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, 14how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?