In the last post I mentioned that even though the chapter did not say so the events recorded there transpired at the time of the David and Bathsheba affair. We can know this by comparing chapter 20 with its counterpart in II Samuel.
This chapter doesn't pull any punches though. It tells us that David sinfully numbered Israel which then brought judgment upon the whole nation.
The writer of this chronicle, compiling his edition in the post-exile years for the citizens returning from 70 years of captivity, evidently had access to the notes that Joab made and gave to David concerning this census because the tallies between this chapter and that of its counterpart in II Samuel seem to be consistently off by approximately the same number. Verse 6 of this chapter mentions that Joab refused to count the tribes of Levi and Benjamin but since their inclusion could raise the totals as found in II Samuel it seems reasonable to conclude that David sent someone to finish the task by counting those two tribes. That would account for their inclusion in II Samuel which was written prior to the exile and their absence in I Chronicles which was written after. Levi and Benjamin would have been 2 tribes represented in the southern kingdom of Judah that the descendants of David ruled until they went into exile in Babylon. Judah was the other one, as the name of the country itself suggests. Thus some of the returning exiles would have been descendants of the two tribes, Levi and Benjamin.
The tribes counted by Joab, with the exception of Judah, were later captured by Assyria and were therefore not as well represented when the diaspora ended. These are sometimes called the "Lost Tribes of Israel" but we know they were not totally "lost" because even at the time of Jesus' birth the aged woman, Anna, that had been waiting in the Temple for many years for God to reveal to her the promised Messiah was said to be from the tribe of Asshur which was a tribe of that northern kingdom. Remember that the Assyrian empire ended when they were conquered by the Babylonians, the Medes, and the Persians. Those Jews that had survived the cruel Assyrians were then absorbed into those empires as their brethren from the nation of Judah had been.
Notice also that the original tabernacle and the altar for burnt offerings were still in existence and being used at Gibeon at the time of this judgment. David could not go there to offer sacrifices because of the angel that held the sword.
Does God issue any commands?
- Through Joab God warned David not to persist with his plan to number Israel.
- Through the prophet Gad God told David to make a choice of three punishments offered. (David decided it was better to fall into the hands of God than the hands of men.)
- The angel of the LORD commanded Gad to tell David to set up an altar unto the LORD in the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. (Notice that the angel was visible to everyone present.)
- The LORD commanded the angel to put away his sword.
Does God make any promises?
- It is implied that if David offered the required sacrifices at Ornan's threshing floor God would accept the offering and stop the plague that was sweeping through the land. This seems to be confirmed by the fact that God provided the fire for the sacrifice from Heaven.
Does this chapter teach anything about Jesus?
- When David sinned innocent people died. When humanity sinned the innocent Jesus died.
- The sacrifices of burnt offerings and peace offerings made by David at Ornan's threshing floor pictured the sacrificial atonement made by the blood of Jesus Christ.
- At the time of the sacrifice God told the angel to put away the sword of death. Once Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for our sin the sword of death hanging over our heads was put away. Death lost its sting! The grave was defeated!
Does this chapter teach anything about yet-future events?
- We learn from the events at Ornan's threshing floor that the angels are used as instruments of judgment whenever God commands. In the book of Revelation we are told that the angels of God will be given power to bring death at times of judgment by using many forms of pestilence.