1 Chronicles 19-21
19 After David had conquered his enemies and united Israel into one nation, Nahash (king of the Ammonites) died, and his son ascended to the throne. 2 So David sent messengers into Ammonite territory to console Hanun (son of Nahash) about his father’s death.
David (resolved): I will be merciful to Hanun because his father was merciful to me.
3 But the Ammonite chiefs doubted David’s sincerity.
Ammonite Chiefs (to Hanun): Is David really honoring your father by sending you his sympathies? Surely these messengers are here to spy on your affairs and overthrow your government!
4 So Hanun humiliated David’s servants: shaved them, cut their garment hems up to their hips, and sent them away. 5 When David heard what had happened, he sent a message to his humiliated servants:
This is a shameful turn of events. In the ancient world, normally eunuchs are clean shaven, so this is a deep insult to David and his people.
David’s Message: Stay at Jericho until your beards grow, and then return to Jerusalem.
6 When Hanun and the Ammonites realized they had made themselves abhorrent to David, they paid 37 tons of silver to mercenaries from Mesopotamia, Aram-maacah, and Zobah. 7 They hired 32,000 chariots and the king of Maacah and his people (who camped at Medeba). Then the Ammonites gathered together from their cities for the battle. 8 When David heard about Ammon’s preparations, he sent Joab and all of his mighty army. 9 The Ammonites approached the city gate in their armor, but the Aramean kings who had come to help the Ammonites were alone in the field.
10 When Joab realized his forces were at a disadvantage, he asked the most skilled Israelite soldiers to prepare for battle against the Arameans. 11 His brother Abshai commanded the remainder of the forces, who prepared to fight the Ammonites.
Joab (to Abshai): 12 If the Arameans are too strong for me, then you will help me; and if the Ammonites are too strong for you, then I will help you. 13 Be strong. Let us show courage for the sake of our people and for the cities of our God. May the Eternal do what He knows is best.
14 When Joab and his forces approached the Arameans, the enemy fled. 15 When the Ammonites saw the Arameans flee, they also fled from Abshai back into the city walls. Then Joab returned to Jerusalem.
16 After their defeat by Israel, the Arameans sent for other Arameans who lived beyond the Euphrates River with Shophach (the commander of Hadadezer’s army) leading them. 17 When David heard, he responded to this mobilization by gathering his forces, crossing the Jordan, and facing the Arameans in formation. When the Arameans saw this they arranged their forces and engaged in battle. 18 The Arameans fled from the Israelites; and David killed 7,000 charioteers, 40,000 foot soldiers, and Shophach (the commander of the army).
19 When the servants of Hadadezer realized Israel had defeated them, they surrendered to David and served him—unwilling to help the Ammonites anymore.
20 In the spring (the time when kings wage wars because the spring harvest was over, farm work eased, and soldiers could live off the land), Joab led the army to ravage the land of the Ammonites and overthrow their capital city, Rabbah. But David stayed at Jerusalem during Joab’s campaign. 2 David took the crown off the head of their king (which weighed about 75 pounds and was bejeweled) and it was placed on his own head. And David took the great riches of the city. 3 He set the people of the city to work with tools of iron: saws, axes and other sharp implements. This David did to all the Ammonite cities before he and his people returned to Jerusalem.
4 After David conquered Ammon, war erupted at the city of Gezer in Philistia. Sibbecai (the Hushathite) killed Sippai (a descendant of the giants) and subjugated the city. 5 During another Philistian encounter, Elhanan (son of Jair) killed Lahmi (brother of Goliath the Gittite) whose spear was as long as a weaver’s beam. 6 War also broke out at Gath, where there lived a tall man who had 24 fingers and toes—6 fingers on each hand and 6 toes on each foot—who was descended from the giants. 7 When he taunted Israel, Jonathan (son of Shimea, David’s brother) killed him. 8 All these were descended from the giants in Gath (a Philistine capital), and they were killed by David and his men.
21 After our King David had consolidated his power in Israel, conquering his surrounding enemies, an adversary[a] stood against Israel, and incited David to conduct a census in the nation to determine the strength of his army before going to war.
In the parallel passage of 2 Samuel 24, David receives three options for punishment concerning his disobedience. He knows the Eternal is far more merciful than human beings, so he elects three days of divine pestilence. Sadly thousands of Israelites die because of David’s arrogance in wanting to know just how powerful his kingdom has become. But the chronicler does something the writer of Samuel does not: he explains how this incident determines where David will plan to build the temple (22:1). The threshing floor of Ornan is the perfect spot for it since this is where God stops the hand of the heavenly messenger from destroying Jerusalem.
David (to Joab and Israel’s tribal leaders): 2 Count the number of people in Israel from Beersheba in the south to Dan in the north and report that number to me.
Joab: 3 May the Eternal add immeasurably to His followers! But, my lord the king, aren’t every one of those people your subjects? Why does my lord seek this? Why would you do something that could cause your Israelites guilt?
4 In spite of Joab’s objections, David’s census occurred. Joab obeyed his king, traveled throughout Israel, and returned to Jerusalem. 5 He then reported the number of all the people to David: 1,100,000 swordsmen were in Israel and 470,000 were in Judah. 6 But Joab rebelled against David’s command and did not count Levi and Benjamin because he was against the census.
7 As Joab anticipated, God was displeased with the census and He struck Israel. 8 The king then prayed to God.
David: I know that I have sinned greatly by requiring a census. Please remove the sin of Your servant, who has acted so very foolishly.
9 The Eternal spoke to Gad, David’s seer.
Eternal One: 10 Give David My message: “I am offering you a choice of three punishments. Make your selection, and I will do that to you.”
So Gad paid the king a visit.
Gad (to David): 11 The Eternal One says, “Choose your punishment: 12 three years of famine, three months of pursuit by your enemies, or three days of the Eternal’s sword—plague and destruction by His messenger.” So, what answer should I tell Him?
David: 13 This choice greatly distresses me. Tell Him I would rather fall before the Eternal, whose mercies are very great, than fall before men.
14 So the Eternal did as He promised and sent a violent plague to Israel; 70,000 men of Israel died. 15 God also sent a heavenly messenger to destroy Jerusalem; but as the messenger was poised to ruin it, the Eternal saw the damage caused by the plague and grieved over the calamity. He told the messenger, “The pestilence is enough punishment; stand down.” The Eternal’s messenger stood by the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite when the True God stopped him.
16 When David looked up and saw the Eternal’s messenger standing between earth and heaven with his sword stretched out over Jerusalem, David and the elders mourned. They dressed in sackcloth and prostrated themselves.
David (calling out to God): 17 Wasn’t I the one who commanded the census? I, the shepherd, certainly have sinned and done evil; but what have the rest of the nation, Your sheep, done? Eternal One, my True God, please punish only me and my father’s household, not all of Your people.
Messenger (commanding Gad): 18 Tell David to build an altar to the Eternal on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.
19 David obeyed the instruction of the divine messenger.
20 When Ornan saw the messenger, his four sons who were with him hid among the wheat. But Ornan continued threshing. 21 As David approached, Ornan glimpsed the king, left his chores, and prostrated himself before David.
David: 22 Sell me this threshing floor so I may build on it an altar to the Eternal. I will pay you the full price so the plague against the people may end.
Ornan: 23 Take it; it’s yours to do with as you please. I will donate the oxen for burnt offerings, the threshing tools for wood, and the wheat for the grain offering. I will give it all to you, my king.
David: 24 No, I must buy it for the full price. I will not give your possessions to the Eternal as if they were my own, nor will I give a burnt offering which costs me nothing. I must sacrifice something for this offering.
25 So David paid Ornan 15 pounds of gold by weight for the property. 26 There David built an altar to the Eternal, sacrificed burnt offerings, and gave peace offerings. David requested His presence, and He accepted the altar and sacrifices by sending fire from heaven onto the altar of burnt offering. 27 Then the Eternal commanded the divine messenger to sheath his sword. 28 When David saw how the Eternal had answered him on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite by coming to the altar as fire and by stopping the plagues and the destruction of Jerusalem, David offered a sacrifice there instead of at Gibeon. 29 (The congregation tent of the Eternal, which Moses had built in the wilderness, and the altar of burnt offering were in the high place at Gibeon at that time.) 30 But David could not go to Gibeon to commune with God because he still feared that the Eternal’s messenger would slay him.
- 21:1 Literally, Satan.
25 You see, circumcision is of value only if you keep the law’s teachings. But if you keep breaking God’s rules, you are no different than those without the mark. 26 So if an uncircumcised man abides by God’s just precepts, doesn’t that make his standing before God the same as one who is circumcised? 27 The man who is physically uncircumcised but still keeps the law, he will stand in judgment over the person who is circumcised and yet continually breaks God’s law. 28 A mark that is evident doesn’t necessarily make one a Jew, and circumcision that is evident only in the flesh is not true. 29 But the true Jew is Jewish on the inside—in secret places no one but God can see—and true circumcision involves the heart; it comes from the Spirit, not from some written code. The praise and reputation of that kind of Jew come from God, not from man.
When God’s people—or people who claim to be God’s people—are hypocrites, then God is the one who gets the bad name. How often do we say one thing and do another? How often have we set a standard for others only to break it ourselves? The saying is true: we practice every day what we believe; all the rest is religious talk. There is a lot of religious talk out there, a lot of smugness and self-satisfaction. But every day people readily violate their consciences and the Lord’s reasonable teachings. For faith to matter, it has to get under your skin.
3 So then, do the Jews have an advantage over the other nations? Does circumcision do anything for you? 2 The answer is yes, in every way. To begin with, God spoke to and through the Jewish people. 3 But what if some Jews have been unfaithful? Does the fact that they abandoned their faith zero out God’s faithfulness? 4 Absolutely not! If every person on the planet were a liar and thief, God would still be true. It stands written:
Whenever You speak, You are in the right.
When You come to judge, You will prevail.[a]
5 If our perpetual injustice and corruption merely accentuate the purity of God’s justice, what can we say? Is God unjust for unleashing His fury against us? (I am speaking from our limited human perspective.) 6 Again, absolutely not! If this were so, how could God stand as Judge over the world? 7 But if my lie serves only to point out God’s truth and bring Him glory, then why am I being judged for my sin? 8 There are slanderous charges out there that we are saying things like, “Let’s be as wicked as possible so that something good will come from it.” Those malicious gossips will get what they deserve.
For the worship leader. A song of David.
Psalm 11 is a Davidic psalm expressing trust in the Eternal as a refuge and fortress for those who do what is right. David spent many years struggling first with Saul, then with the neighboring nations, and finally against the rebellion led by his son Absalom.
1 I am already in the soft embrace of the Eternal,
so why do you beckon me to leave, saying,
“Fly like a bird to the mountains.
2 Look! The wicked approach with bows bent,
sneaking around in the shadows,
setting their arrows against their bowstrings to pierce everyone whose heart is pure.
3 If the foundations are crumbling,
is there hope for the righteous?”
4 But the Eternal has not moved; He remains in His holy temple.
He sits squarely on His heavenly throne.
He observes the sons of Adam and daughters of Eve, examining us within and without,
exploring every fiber of our beings.
5 The Eternal searches the hearts of those who are good,
but He despises all those who can’t get enough of perversion and violence.
6 If you are evil, He will rain hot lava over your head,
will fill your cup with burning wind and liquid fire to scorch your insides.
7 The Eternal is right in all His ways;
He cherishes all that is upright.
Those who do what is right in His eyes will see His face.
10 Something is wrong when a fool lives a pampered life,
but it is much worse when a slave takes charge of princes.
11 A person with discretion is not easily angered;
he gains respect by overlooking an offense.
12 A king’s rage is like the thunderous roar of a lion,
but his favor is like a cooling mist upon the grass.