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XXVI.

The Census and Plague: David as Repentant Sinner (21:122:1)


Davids Census
1
An adversary took his stand against Israel and incited David to take a census of
Israel. 2 Then David said to Joab and the officers of the army, Go number Israel
from Beer-sheba to Dan and then bring back (the outcome) to me so that I may
know their number. 3 But Joab responded, May Yhwh add to his people one
hundred times! Is not my lord the king? All of them are servants of my lord. Why
does my lord seek this? Why should there be guilt upon Israel? 4 But the command
of the king prevailed upon Joab. So Joab set forth and traveled through all Israel
and came (back) to Jerusalem. 5 Then Joab provided the tally, the muster of the
people, to David. All Israel had 1,100,000 men who drew the sword, while Judah
had 470,000 men who drew the sword. 6 But Levi and Benjamin he did not count
among them, because the command of the king was abhorrent to Joab. 7 This thing
was evil in the sight of God and so he struck Israel.
Davids Confession and Choice of Punishment
8
Then David said to God, I have sinned greatly in doing this thing. Forgive the
transgression of your servant, because I have acted very foolishly. 9 And Yhwh
spoke to Gad (the) seer, 10 Go and speak to David saying, Thus said Yhwh: I am
extending three (choices) to you. Choose one of them for yourself and I shall do it
to you. 11 When Gad came to David, he said to him, Thus said Yhwh, Choose
one of the following for yourself: 12 a three-year famine, three months of your
succumbing to your foes, with the sword of your enemy overtaking (you), or three
days of the sword of Yhwh accompanied by a plague in the land and a messenger of
Yhwh wreaking destruction in every territory of Israel. Now decide with what
word I shall return to my sender. 13 And David replied to Gad, I am in great
distress. Let me fall into the hand of Yhwh, because his compassion is exceedingly
great. But into the hand of man let me not fall.
The Plague and Davids Intercession
14
Then Yhwh set a plague in Israel and there fell from among the Israelites
70,000 people. 15 And God sent a messenger to Jerusalem to destroy it; but, as he
was about to destroy (it), Yhwh saw and repented of the evil. Then he said to the
destroying messenger, Enough! Now stay your hand! And the messenger of
Yhwh was standing by the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. 16 And David
[Page 743] lifted his eyes and saw the messenger of Yhwh standing between the
earth and the heavens with his sword drawn in his hand, outstretched against
Jerusalem. Then David and the elders, dressed in sackcloth, fell on their faces.
1

17

And David said to God, Was it not I, I who said to number the people? I was the
one who sinned and did great evil. But as for these sheep, what have they done? O
Yhwh my God, may your hand be upon me and upon the house of my father. But as
for your people, let (them) not be subject to a plague.
The Site Purchased from Ornan
18
Then the messenger of Yhwh said to Gad to say to David that David should go
up to establish an altar to Yhwh on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. 19 So
David went up in accordance with the command of Gad, who spoke in the name of
Yhwh. 20 When Ornan turned and saw the king, his four sons with him hid
themselves, covering themselves with sackcloth. Meanwhile, Ornan continued
threshing out the wheat. 21 Then David came to Ornan. When Ornan looked and saw
David, he went forth from the threshing floor and bowed before David, nose to the
ground. 22 And David said to Ornan, Give me the place of the threshing floor that I
may build upon it an altar to Yhwh. At the full price give it to me so that the plague
upon the people will end. 23 Ornan replied to David, Take (it) for yourself and
may my lord the king do what is good in his own eyes. See I give the oxen for the
burnt offerings, the threshing sledges for wood, and the wheat for the cereal
offeringall of these I give. 24 But King David said to Ornan, No, I shall indeed
buy them at full price, for I shall not lift up to Yhwh what is yours nor offer the
burnt offerings for nothing. 25 Then David gave 600 shekels of gold to Ornan for
the place.
Davids Offerings and Yhwhs Answer
26
David built there an altar to Yhwh and lifted up burnt offerings and offerings of
well-being. He called upon Yhwh and he answered him with fire from the heavens
upon the altar of burnt offering and (it) consumed the burnt offering. 27 Then Yhwh
spoke to the messenger and he returned his sword to its sheath. 28 At that time, when
David saw that Yhwh answered him at the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite and
he sacrificed there, 29 the Tabernacle of Yhwh that Moses had made in the
wilderness, and the altar of the burnt offering were at that time at the high place in
Gibeon. 30 But David was not able to go before it to seek God, because he was
terrified on account of the sword of the messenger of Yhwh.
The Site of the Future Temple
22:1
And David said, This will be the House of Yhwh God and this will be the
altar of the burnt offering for Israel.

TEXTUAL NOTES

First Chronicles 21:127 is largely taken from the Chroniclers Vorlage of 2 Sam
24:125, while 1 Chr 21:2822:1 is unique to Chronicles. 4QSama is available for 2
Sam 24:1620.
21:1. an adversary (
n). So MT and LXXABN (diabolos). LXXL Satan. MT
[Page 744] 2 Sam 24:1 reads, and Yhwh was angry again against Israel and incited
David. Tg. conflates the reading of 2 Sam 24:1 with that of 1 Chr 21:1, and Yhwh
raised up Satan. This is the only mention of
n in Chronicles and it requires
some discussion. Most translations render

n as a proper name, Satan. This is

n is normally an indefinite noun (Num 22:22, 32; 1


possible (e.g., LXXL), but
Sam 29:4; 2 Sam 19:23 [ET 19:22]; 1 Kgs 5:18 [ET 5:4]; 11:14, 23, 25; Ps 109:6).
As Japhet (1989: 14549) and Day (1988: 12745) have argued, the most plausible
meaning for the noun
n is an (anonymous) adversary. The celestial adversary
of Yhwh in Job 12, a kind of prosecuting attorney in the divine council, is
rendered with the definite article ha
n. See also the use of ha
n in Zech
3:1, 2, rendered with the article in LXX (ho diabolos). To put the case somewhat
differently, if
n is being used as a proper name in 21:1, whether of a certain
(otherwise unknown) human person named Satan or of a divine intermediary
(Satan), this is the only instance in the entire HB in which the term has such a
denotation. It thus seems preferable to interpret
n according to its normal usage
as an indefinite noun.

MT the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible


B

Codex Vaticanus of the Septuagint

Codex Venetus of the Septuagint

Tg. Targum
ET English translation
LXX Septuagint
HB Hebrew Bible

to take a census. Literally, to number (limnt). Indirect discourse is found in


both MT and LXX 21:1, whereas 2 Sam 24:1 has direct discourse, (incited David)
against them saying, Go and take a count.
Israel. So MT and LXX. In anticipation of 2 Sam 24:9, 2 Sam 24:1 adds and
Judah.
21:2. the officers of the army ( ry h yl). So LXX 21:2. Cf. MT 2 Sam 24:2 r
h yl. MT 1 Chr 21:2 the officers of the military force (literally, the people,
h

m).
go number Israel. So MT and LXX. MT 2 Sam 24:2 traverse (w ) through all

the tribes of Israel. The use of the verb to number (

) in this context is

) used in other sources (Weiss


virtually synonymous with the verb to muster (
1968: 12729).
from Beer-sheba to Dan. So MT and LXXAB. A Chronistic locution (1st NOTE
to v. 2). LXXL follows MT 2 Sam 24:2 in reading the more typical from Dan to
Beer-sheba.
bring back (h b ). The verb is in the hip il, so the common translation come
back is inadequate.
21:3. is not my lord the king? (hl dny hmlk). Following MT (maximum
variation). LXX 21:3 and 2 Sam 24:3 read, and the eyes of my lord the king see
(= w yny dny hmlk r wt).
all of them are servants of my lord. So MT and LXX. Lacking in MT 2 Sam
24:3.
why should there be guilt upon Israel? Reading with both MT and LXX (see
NOTE). Lacking in Samuel.
21:4. but the command of the king prevailed upon Joab (wdbr-hmlk zq lyw b). So MT and LXXAN. Cursive c2 kai epischysen ho logos tou basile$s kai

egeneto kai %lthen I$ab. LXXB lacks the entire expression. MT 2 Sam 24:4, which
is similar to MT 1 Chr 21:4 (wy zq dbr-hmlk l-yw b), is followed in part by LXXL
kai ischyse to hr%ma tou basile$s.
Joab. MT 2 Sam 24:4 adds and the officers of the army.

[Page 745] so Joab set forth. So MT and LXXL. MT 2 Sam 24:4 again adds
and the officers of the army (
). The expression is lacking in LXXB.
and traveled through all Israel and came (back) to Jerusalem. Thus MT and
LXXALN. The words, and traveled through all Israel do not appear in LXXB. MT 2
Sam 24:48 present a much longer text than either MT or LXX Chronicles,
including a detailed description of Joabs journey through various territories.
21:5. 1,100,000 men who drew the sword. So MT and LXX. MT 2 Sam 24:9
800,000 warriors who drew the sword. LXXL 2 Sam 24:9 900,000 (cf.
Josephus, Ant. 7.320).
while Judah had 470,000 men who drew the sword. So MT and (basically)
LXXAL. The collocation is missing from LXXBN and c2 due to haplography by
homoioteleuton (from men who drew the sword to men who drew the sword).
470,000 men. So MT. LXXAL 480,000 men. MT 2 Sam 24:9 500,000 men.
LXXL 2 Sam 24:9 400,000 warriors (cf. Josephus, Ant. 7.320).
21:6. but Levi and Benjamin he did not count among them because the
command of the king was abhorrent to Joab. So MT. The entire verse is not found
in Samuel.
was abhorrent. Reading nt b with the MT (maximum variation). LXXB hc2
kateischysen, was anticipated; LXXAN pros$chthisen (angered, offended);

LXXL katetachynen. LXXB hc2 may reflect nb t due to metathesis (Allen 1974b:
11). Another possibility is that LXXB assimilates toward the phraseology of 21:4,
but the command of the king prevailed upon Joab (wdbr-hmlk zq l-yw b). See
also Spottorno (2001: 78).
to Joab ( t-yw b). So MT and LXXB. A few LXX witnesses reflect the
expected prep. l. Rudolph (1955: 142) reads MT t as signifying a prep. (bei)
with the nip al of t b.
21:7. this and so he struck (hzh wyk). Thus MT and LXX (maximum
variation). Syr. l dmn dwyd (= l r spr dwyd). Chronicles and Samuel differ
L

the Lucianic recension or the majority of the Lucianic manuscripts of the Septuagint

prep. preposition
Syr. Syrian/Syriac

here. MT 2 Sam 24:10 lacks this thing was evil in the sight of God. Moreover, in
Chronicles, it is Yhwh who regards the census as iniquitous and strikes Israel (wyk
t-y r l). MT 2 Sam 24:10 and the heart of David struck him (wyk lb dwd tw)
sometime after he had numbered the people.
21:8. this thing. So MT and LXX. Lacking in MT Sam 24:10.
forgive. The Heb. is a hip il impv., literally, pass over (h br-n ). Similarly,
LXX periele d%.
foolishly. MT Sam 24:11 adds and David arose in the morning.
21:9. seer ( zh). So LXXB (hor$nta). MT Sam 24:11 the prophet, the seer [of
David] (hnby zh). MT and LXXL 1 Chr 21:9 (as well as MT 2 Sam 24:11)
continue with an expansion of specification: of/to David saying (cf. LXXAN).
Some LXX cursives saying.
21:10. extending (n$ eh). So MT. MT Sam 24:12 lifting (over) (n$ el).
Similarly, LXX 1 Chr 21:10 air$, I raise, lift.
21:11. he said to him. So MT and LXX 21:11, but the prefatory plus of MT 2
Sam 24:13, and he reported to him, may have been lost by haplography
(homoioarkton from wygd to wy mr).
[Page 746] thus said Yhwh, Choose (one of the following) for yourself
(qbl-lk). So MT and LXX. MT Sam 24:13 lacks thus said Yhwh and reads htbw
lk, will come to you instead of qbl-lk. But LXXBLM 2 Sam 24:13 read eklexai
seaut$, choose for yourself.
21:12. three years. So MT and LXX 21:12 as well as LXX 2 Sam 24:13. MT
Sam 24:13 seven years.
famine. So MT and LXX. MT Sam 24:13 adds in your land, probably in
anticipation of in your land (b r(k) later in the verse.

Heb. Hebrew
impv. imperative

succumbing (nsph) to your foes. So MT (maximum variation). Kittel (1902:


82) would read nskh in line with LXX (pheugein) and Vg. (fugere). MT Sam 24:13
is similar, take flight (nsk) before your foes.
with the sword of your enemy overtaking (you) (w rb wybyk lm gt). So MT.
For overtaking (lm gt), LXXB has tou exolethreusai, destroying utterly, while
LXXL has tou katadi$kein se (= lk m gt). MT Sam 24:13 reads differently, whw
rdpk, while he pursues you.
the sword of Yhwh accompanied by a plague in the land and a messenger of
Yhwh wreaking destruction in every territory of Israel. MT (and LXX) thus
anticipate the sequence of events depicted in vv. 1415. The shorter and more
imprecise version of MT 2 Sam 24:13, and a plague in your land, is probably the
more original reading.
now decide with what word I shall return to my sender. So MT and LXXB. MT
2 Sam 24:13 now know and decide with what word I shall return to my sender.
21:13. I am in great distress. Thus MT 21:13 and MT 2 Sam 24:14 (lectio
brevior). LXX 21:13 adds and (all) the three, (Stena moi) kai ta tria (LXXAN
adds tauta) sphodra. Similarly, LXXMN 2 Sam 24:14 adds kai ta tria.
let me fall. So MT and LXX 21:13, as well as LXX 2 Sam 24:14. MT 2 Sam
24:14 let us fall.
because his compassion is exceedingly great (ky-rbym r myw m d). So MT
(and LXXB hoti polloi hoi oikteirmoi autou sphodra, because his many mercies
are great). MT 2 Sam 24:14 his compassion is great (ky-rbym r myw).
21:14. a plague in Israel. So MT and LXX. MT 2 Sam 24:15 adds puzzling
mhbqr w d- t mw d, usually rendered as from morning until (the) appointed time
(but see McCarter 1984: 506). LXX 2 Sam 24:15 h$ras aristou (= t s d[?],
dinnertime).
and there fell from among the Israelites 70,000 people. So MT and LXX. MT
2 Sam 24:15 and there died among the people from Dan to Beersheba 70,000.
The appearance of the phrase from Dan to Beersheba not only agrees with regular
Vg. Vulgate

usage in Samuel-Kings (3rd TEXTUAL NOTE to v. 2), but it also brings the
implementation of the plague into conformity with Davids mandate for the scope
of the census (2 Sam 24:2).
21:15. and God sent a messenger (wyl h lhym ml k). So MT and LXX
(maximum differentiation). Benzinger (1901: 63) emends to wyl

ml k h lhym

lydw (and the messenger of God set his hand), thereby bringing the text of
Chronicles more into line with that of MT 2 Sam 24:16, wyl ydw hml k (and the
messenger [Page 747] set his hand). Eupolemus expands by naming the angel,
Dianathan (Eusebius, Praep. ev. 9.30.6), although this PN may be a corruption of
dia Nathan, through Nathan (Wacholder 1974: 142).
as he was about to destroy (kh yt). So MT and LXX (h$s exolothreuen).
Instead of k- many Heb. MSS and Tg. preface the prep. b- (bh yt). Rudolph
(1955: 142) emends by adding the suf., kh ytw. The phrase is lacking in MT 2
Sam 24:16.
). Thus MT and LXX. 2 Sam 24:16
the destroying messenger (
the messenger destroying the people (

).

enough! Now (rb th). So MT Chronicles and Samuel. LXX has the 3rd-per.
sg. pres. impv. let it suffice you (hikanousth$ soi).
and the messenger of Yhwh was standing by the threshing floor of Ornan the
Jebusite (wml k yhwh wmd m grn rnn hybwsy). Paralleled in 4QSama [wml k

y],wh wmd [m grn ]rn h[yb]-.y. MT 2 Sam 24:16 is slightly different, and

PN personal name
MSS manuscripts
suf. suffix
sg. singular
pres. present

the messenger of Yhwh was by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite (wml k
yhwh hyh m gm h wrnh hybwsy).
Ornan ( rnn). LXX Orna; Tg. rwn (Arwan). MT 2 Sam 24:16 is corrupt;
Kethib h wrnh (Qere rwnh); cf. rnyh in 2 Sam 24:18 and rwnh in 2 Sam 24:20.
4QSama rn .
21:16. and David lifted his eyes and saw the messenger of Yhwh standing
between the earth and the heavens with his sword drawn in his hand, outstretched
against Jerusalem. Then David and the elders, dressed in sackcloth (mksym), fell on
their faces. So Chronicles and Josephus (Ant. 7.327). 4QSama is quite close to
Chronicles, and David lifted his eyes and saw the messenger of Yhwh standing
between the earth and the heavens with his sword drawn in his hand, outstretched
against Jerusalem. Then David and the elders fell on their faces ([wypl dwyd
whzqnym l pn]yhm), covering themselves (mt[ksym]) in sackcloth. MT 2 Sam
24:17 and David said to Yhwh, when he saw the messenger striking the people.
The statements were lost to MT 2 Sam 24:16 by haplography (homoioarkton from
wy to wy mr dwd at the beginning of 2 Sam 24:17 and 1 Chr 21:17; Cross 1961:
141).
between the earth and the heavens. So MT and LXX. A few Heb. MSS, Syr.,
and Arab. have the inverse, between the heavens and the earth. The reference in
Eupolemus also speaks of the angel as above (epan$) the place (Eusebius, Praep.
ev. 9.30.5).
21:17. David said to God, Was it not I, I who said to number the people? So
MT and LXX. MT 2 Sam 24:17 reads simply, and he [David] said, Behold. See
the following TEXTUAL NOTE.
I was the one who sinned and did great evil ( ny hw r- ty whr hr wty). I
read with MT. LXXB kai eg$ eimi ho hamart$n (LXXL adds kai) kakopoi$n
ekakopoi%sa, I am the sinner; I committed iniquity. It is unclear whether, as Allen
(1974a: 50) argues, the translator is using the ptc. to paraphrase his Heb. Vorlage.
Arab. Arabic
ptc. participle

MT 2 Sam 24:17, I have sinned and I have acted wickedly (hnh nky

ty w nky

h wyty). 4QSama bears some similarities to LXX 21:17, [ ]nky hr h hr ty, I the
shepherd did evil (cf. LXXL and OL Samuel, as well as Josephus, [Page 748] Ant.
7.328). McCarter (1984: 507) thinks that hr h was lost to MT Samuel and that an
original hr ty became h wty through confusion between w+w and r and the
occurrence of metathesis. But Rof (1990: 118) argues that MT 2 Sam 24:17
assimilates toward the formula found in 1 Kgs 8:47, we have sinned and
committed iniquity ( nw wh wynw). Cf. Ps 106:6; Job 33:27; Dan 9:5.
these sheep. Literally, these of the flock.
O Yhwh my God, may your hand be upon me and upon the house of my father.
But as for your people, let [them] not be subject to a plague (yhwh lhy thy n ydk
by wbbyt by wb mk l lmgph). So MT and LXX*. MT 2 Sam 24:17, may your
hand be upon me and upon the house of my father (thy n ydk by wbbyt by),
lacks the final clauses of 1 Chr 21:17 (see NOTE).
to a plague (lmgph). So MT. LXX eis ap$leian, for destruction. Since this is
the only case in which LXX renders ap$leia for the noun mgph (Hatch and Redpath
1897: 151c152a), it raises the possibility of a different Vorlage. In v. 22, LXX has
pl%g% for MTs mgph.
21:18. then the messenger of Yhwh said to Gad to say to David that David
should go up to establish an altar to Yhwh on the threshing floor of Ornan the
Jebusite. Chronicles displays a more elaborate relay of instructions (involving the
divine messenger) than that depicted in Samuel. 2 Sam 24:18 simply reports, and
Gad came to David on that day and said to him, Go up, establish an altar to Yhwh
on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.
21:19. in accordance with the command (bdbr). The versions and 2 Sam 24:19
read the expected kdbr (cf. bdbr in Num 31:16 [P]; 1 Kgs 13:5, 9, 32).

OL Old Latin
P the Priestly writer(s)

10

who spoke in the name of Yhwh ( r dbr bm yhwh). So MT and LXX. MT 2

Sam 24:19 which Yhwh commanded (k r (wh yhwh).

21:20. when Ornan turned (wyb). So MT and LXX. Vg. (porro Ornan cum
suspexisset) follows MT 2 Sam 24:20 (and 4QSama) in reading wyqp.
the king (hmlk). Reading with one Heb. MS and LXX 21:20. So also MT 2
Sam 24:20, and Josephus (Ant. 7.13). MT 1 Chr 21:20 the messenger (hml k).
and four (wb rb t) of his sons with him. Reading with MT and LXX. Some
(e.g., Rudolph 1955: 148) favor emending to and when (his sons) saw (him),
wbr tw ( tw). MT 2 Sam 24:20 reads differently, and his servants coming over to
him (w t- bdyw brym lyw).
hid themselves, covering themselves with sackcloth (mt b ym mtksym
b qym). A reconstruction. MT simply reads hid themselves, while LXXB c2
transliterate the Heb. methachab(e)in. LXXAN krybomenoi; e kryptomenoi; ye2
(and Arm.) kryboumenous; bbV poreumenous. Supposing a haplography
(homoioteleuton), Rudolph (1955: 148) adds from underneath the sheaves,
mitta at h /lummm. The phrase is lacking in MT 2 Sam 24:20, but as
reconstructed by McCarter (1984: 507), it forms part of a longer lemma in 4QSama
[mt b ym mtksym] b qym.
meanwhile Ornan continued threshing out the wheat (w rnn d

and LXX 21:20 and 4QSama (w rn d

ym). So MT

ym). Lacking in MT 2 Sam 24:20.

21:21. then David came to Ornan ( d- rnn). So MT and LXX. Some emend to
came to the threshing floor ( d-hgrn). The entire clause is wanting in MT [Page
749] 2 Sam 24:20. 4QSama is fragmentary, but space considerations would seem to
require some such statement.
when Ornan looked and saw David (wyb rnn wyr t-dwyd). So MT and
LXXL. These words do not appear in LXXAB kai Orna ex%lthen ek t%s hal$, and
Arm. Armenian

11

Ornan went forth from the threshing floor. But it is possible that the words found
in MT and LXXL were lost to LXXAB by haplography. Indeed, given a possible
reconstruction of 4QSama ([wyb rn wyr t-dwd]), a haplography seems likely.
he went forth from the threshing floor. Reading with MT and LXX. Lacking in
Syr. MT 2 Sam 24:20 and Araunah went forth.
and bowed before David, nose to the ground. So MT and LXX. MT 2 Sam
24:20 and bowed before the king, his nose to the ground.
21:22. and David said to Ornan. MT 2 Sam 24:21 prefaces a query, and
Araunah said, why has my lord the king come to his servant?
give me the place of the threshing floor that I may build upon it an altar to
Yhwh (tnh-ly mqwm hgrn w bnh-bw mzb lyhwh). So MT and LXX. 2 Sam
24:21 to purchase from you the threshing floor to build an altar to Yhwh (lqnwt
m mk t-hgrn lbnwt mzb lyhwh).
at the full price (ksp ml ) give it to me. Reading with MT and LXX. Lacking in
Samuel. The terminology in Chronicles reflects the influence of Gen 23:820,
Abrahams purchase of the cave of Machpelah (Bertheau 1873; Williamson 1982b;
Zakovitch 1985). The phrase ksp ml is found only in 1 Chr 21:22, 24 and Gen
23:9.
21:23. take (it) for yourself (q -lk), and may my lord the king do (wy ). Thus
MT and LXX 21:23, as well as many witnesses to LXX 2 Sam 24:22. MT 2 Sam
24:22 may my lord the king take and go up (wyq wy l).
see I give the oxen (r h ntty hbqr). Thus MT and LXX. MT 2 Sam 24:22 lacks
I give. Cf. Gen 23:11, h dh ntty lk whm rh r-bw lk ntty l yny bny- my nttyh
lk, the field I give to you and the cave which is within it I give to you in the sight
of my people.
for the burnt offerings. Reading with MT. LXX follows MT 2 Sam 24:22 in
reading the sg. for the burnt offering.
the threshing sledges (whmwrgym). LXXB has the sg. kai to arotron.
for wood (l (ym). MT 2 Sam 24:22 reads more expansively wkly hbqr l (ym,
and the gear of the oxen for wood (NJPS).
NJPS New Jewish Publication Society

12

the wheat for the cereal offering. Lacking in MT 2 Sam 24:22.


all of these I give (hkl ntty). MT 2 Sam 24:23, all of these (things) Araunah

gives, O king, for the king (hkl ntn rwnh hmlk lmlk). MT 2 Sam 24:23 continues
with, and Araunah said to the king, may Yhwh your God favor you. This
statement is not found in Chronicles. Chronicles does not distinguish between the
god of Ornan and the god of David. Both the reference by Ornan to Yhwh your
God (2 Sam 24:23) and the reference by David to Yhwh my God (2 Sam 24:23)
do not appear in Chronicles.
21:24. at full price (bksp ml ). MT 2 Sam 24:24 m wtk bm yr, from you at a
price. The difference in terminology, ksp ml vs. m yr, is deliberate (3rd TEXTUAL
NOTE to v. 22).
r-lk lyhwh).
[Page 750] for I shall not lift up to Yhwh what is yours (ky l
So MT and LXX. MT 2 Sam 24:24 I shall not lift up to Yhwh my God (l

lh

lyhwh lhy).
nor offer the burnt offerings (w1ha /lt l). So MT 21:24 and 2 Sam 24:24
( $lt). One Heb. MS 21:24 reads w1ha /lit, while LXX has the inf. tou anenegkai
with holokaut$sin. Tg. 21:24 is similar.
for nothing (hinn m). So MT 21:24 and MT 2 Sam 24:24. LXX 1 Chr 21:24
as a gift (d$rean).
21:25. and David gave to Ornan. MT 2 Sam 24:24 and David purchased.
600 shekels of gold. Thus MT and LXX. The reading of Syr., 50 shekels of
gold, assimilates toward the number of 2 Sam 24:24, 50 shekels of silver.
to Ornan for the place (l rnn bmqwm). So MT and LXXAN (peri tou topou).
LXXB (and mc2) en t$ top$. Instead of referring to a site, 2 Sam 24:24 refers to the
threshing floor and the oxen (2nd TEXTUAL NOTE to v. 22).
21:26. he called upon Yhwh. So MT and LXX. Tg. he prayed before Yhwh.
The statement is lacking in 2 Sam 24:25, perhaps due to haplography
(homoioarkton from wyqr to wy tr).
inf. infinitive

13

and he answered him with fire from the heavens upon the altar of burnt
offering. The divine response differs in Samuel (NOTE). After depicting Davids
sacrifice of burnt offerings and offerings of well-being, Samuel states that Yhwh
accepted Davids supplication for the land (2 Sam 24:25).
the altar of burnt offering (mzb h lh) and (it) consumed the burnt offering
(wt kl

t-h lh). Following LXX (cf. Syr. and Arab.) kai katanal$sen t%n

holokaut$sin, and consumed the burnt offering. The clause wt kl t-h lh has been

lost from MT by haplography (homoioteleuton). In this instance literary


considerations shed light on this text (see NOTE). It is likely that the author is
imitating the verbiage of older passages: and fire went forth from before Yhwh
upon the altar and consumed the burnt offering (wt kl l-hmzb h t-h lh) and the
fatty portions upon the altar (Lev 9:24); and the fire of Yhwh fell and consumed
the burnt offering (wt kl t-h lh) (1 Kgs 18:38); the fire from heaven consumed
the burnt offering (wt kl t-h lh) as well as the sacrifices, and the glory (k bd) of
Yhwh filled the house (2 Chr 7:1).
21:27. then Yhwh spoke to the messenger and he returned his sword to its
sheath. Again, the version of Samuel is different, stating simply that the plague
was averted from Israel (2 Sam 24:25).
21:29. the high place. So MT and LXX, which transliterates bam$th (LXXB)
or bama (LXXA). A few Heb. MSS and LXXAal add explicating, which (= r).
). The
22:1. this will be the House of Yhwh God (
Heb. could be more literally translated, this is it, the house of Yhwh the God.
. MT
has lost the initial h after . Cf. LXX to
the altar. Reading
thysiast%rion. The whole clause could be more literally translated, this is the altar
of the burnt offering for Israel.
[Page 751] NOTES
21:1. an adversary (
n). This is the first and most famous difference between
the texts of 2 Sam 24 and 1 Chr 21. Why does the Chroniclerattribute the idea for
the census to an enemy (
n) and not to Yhwh (2 Sam 24:1)? The use of
n
instead of Yhwh cannot be convincingly attributed to a shift in metaphysics from
14

the preexilic to the postexilic age, because Chronicles nowhere else evinces an
inherently dualistic view of reality. The Chronicler is as much of a monist as the
Deuteronomists are (Knoppers 1994e: 22954). A more convincing explanation for
the switch in subjects emerges after one considers the challenge that the Samuel
narrative posed for the Chroniclers ideology (Knoppers 1995b). For the Chronicler,
musters are an appropriate feature of national administration (1 Chr 9:1; 11:11;
12:24; 23:3; 27:134; 2 Chr 2:1 [ET 2:2]; 17:1319; 25:5; 26:1113; 31:1219;
Wright 1993: 9092). Moreover, the Chronicler was a firm believer in the principle
of proportionality in divine-human relations (Ben Zvi 1993). Given these facts, the
author risked presenting his audience with an untenable scenario. If he did not alter
his Vorlage, Yhwh would be prompting David to do something good and then
punishing him for doing it.
). The context of this narrative differs markedly from the
took his stand (
context in Samuel. There the census and plague narrative is introduced by the
words, and Yhwh again became angry with Israel and incited David to number
Israel. The author of 2 Sam 24 is alluding to an earlier instance of divine wrath
against the people: the story of the famine in 2 Sam 21 (Caquot and de Robert 1994:
57589, 62743). The situation varies greatly in Chronicles. Whereas in Samuel
Yhwh induces David to number Israel to implement Yhwhs anger against the
people, in Chronicles there is no sign of divine displeasure until Joab implements
Davids command to undertake a census (21:7). Nor is there any earlier famine or
national catastrophe in Davids reign. The idea for the census stems from one of
Davids unnamed adversaries, who took his stand against Israel (
; cf. Judg 6:31; Ezra 10:15). Having just experienced a string of
impressive military victories against the Ammonites, Edomites, Arameans,
Moabites, and the Philistines (1 Chr 1820), David uncritically falls prey to the
designs of one of his opponents. This difference from Samuel accomplishes,
therefore, two things. By attributing the census to the instigation of an anonymous
adversary, the Chronicler simultaneously excuses Yhwh from any responsibility for
the census and casts a pall over Davids entire plan (contra Curtis and Madsen
1910: 246). In the context of the larger narrative, the issue becomes not so much the
census as that one of Davids enemies has successfully induced him to order such a
maneuver. The Chroniclers narrative underscores Davids accountability.
and incited (wyst). The use of the verb syt (always in the hip il) usually carries
negative connotations in Chronicles (2 Chr 18:2; 32:11, 15; Ackroyd 1973a: 144).

15

Even if one were to allow a more neutral translation of syt, to persuade (2 Chr
18:31; Wright 1993: 93), the use of the verb with this particular subject (
n)
suggests that the circumstances surrounding this particular census are highly
suspicious. [Page 752] Davids census is not a valiant response to the (military)
threat posed by a foe, but the product of that anonymous enemys activity.
David. Gunn and Fewell (1993: 12528) think that, because of the corporate
emphasis in the introduction and conclusion to the census narrative (2 Sam 24:1,
25), the author of 2 Sam 24 displays a primary interest in Israel. If so, this only
amplifies the contrast with 1 Chr 21:122:1. In both the introduction and
conclusion, the figure of David is prominent (21:1; 22:1).
a census of Israel. Scholars disagree about why a census should incur divine
wrath (Exod 30:1116; Num 1:254; 26:265). McCarter (1984: 51214) provides
a helpful survey of opinion on the interpretation of the story in Samuel. Vis--vis
the story in Chronicles, the question has been raised whether there is a problem with
the census at all. Large numbers of people and troops are usually an indication of
divine blessing in Chronicles (Wright 1993: 8992). In the view of Wright (1993),
Joab, not David, is to blame for Israels crisis. By failing to complete the census
(21:6), Joab jeopardizes the fate of his nation (cf. 27:2324). Innocent David
vicariously accepts divine punishment to save his kingdom. Nevertheless, there is
no clear indication that the Chronicler blames Joab for the disaster that befalls Israel
(Bailey 1994: 8790). Moreover, the Chronicler, as we have seen, actually
accentuates Davids stigma more than the narrator of 2 Sam 24 does. Even more so
in Chronicles than in Samuel, David is guilty. Johnstone (1998: 12840) contends
for a strong link to Exod 30, arguing that David failed to give proper consideration
to the Tabernacle and the Levites. In this line of interpretation, the problem was
(again) not the census itself, but the fact that David failed to require, as Exod 30:12
), while they are being mustered.
stipulates, that Israelites submit a ransom (
Two questions immediately arise, however. First, Chronicles mentions other
musters (1st NOTE to v. 1)why do none of these fail for want of a levy or
expiation payment? Second, why are Benjamin and Levi not spared since they did
not participate in the census at all? In brief, Wright and Johnstone insightfully draw
attention to the positive functions of musters in Chronicles, but one has also to
recognize that the Samuel story may have carried a certain force, in spite of the
changes the Chronicler made to it. In his rewriting, the Chronicler shifts attention
from the census itself to the circumstances surrounding the census. In Chronicles

16

the context of the pan-Israel muster becomes highly problematic for King David
(see previous NOTES).
21:2. from Beer-sheba to Dan. The southern and northern limits of the Israelite
kingdom. On the Chroniclers south to north orientation, see also 1 Chr 13:5; 2 Chr
19:4; 30:5 (cf. Neh 11:30).
21:3. is not my lord the king? Joabs objections are more pointed in Chronicles
than the diplomatically worded objections are in Samuel (TEXTUAL NOTES to v. 3).
In Chronicles, Joabs role as second in command (1st NOTE to 11:6) is clear. He
warns his superior that the proposed census will have negative ramifications for
Israel. In this manner, the Chronicler lays the burden of responsibility for the census
squarely on Davids shoulders.
guilt upon Israel? Only in Chronicles does Joab explicitly describe Davids
plan as bringing guilt ( m) upon Israel. The terminology used in Chronicles
[Page 753] is significant. Joon 1938: 45459) and Milgrom (1976: 312) observe
that the term m can connote both the wrong and the retribution. In other words,
Davids wrongdoing will inevitably lead to punishment. See also the more general
comments of Johnstone (1986: 11926; 1998: 127131).
21:5. the people (h m). In the sense of the people under arms, the army (2nd
NOTE to 19:7). See further the 3rd NOTE to v. 5.
1,100,000 men while Judah had 470,000 men. In the former instance, the
number totals more than the 800,000 warriors (and the 500,000 men)
mentioned in MT 2 Sam 24:9. The Chronicler may have drawn a number of
inferences from his source. If he thought that the 800,000 and the 500,000
represented a total of 100,000 for each tribe (twelve tribes, plus the tribe of Levi),
he may have concluded that the deletion of Levi and Benjamin should reduce the
census total by 200,000 warriors (Curtis and Madsen 1910: 248; R. Klein 1997:
275). This calculation is based on the assumption that the figure for Israel in Samuel
(800,000) reflects only the population of the northern tribes, while that of
Chronicles (1,100,000) reflects Israel and Judah together. Yet Chronicles also
mentions 470,000 men for Judah. Some (e.g., R. Klein 1997: 275) think this latter
notation represents a later addition to the text, but it might also be the case that the
figures in the Chroniclers Vorlage were not the same as those that appear in MT 2
Sam 24:9 (TEXTUAL NOTES to v. 5).
Joon Paul Joon, Grammaire de l hbreu biblique. Rev. ed. Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1923.

17

who drew the sword. The text makes clear that the particular kind of census on
which Joab embarks is martial in nature. David wishes to determine troop strength
in his kingdom. The assemblage of warriors to Davids cause (11:1112:39) is a
prominent theme in the Chroniclers presentation of Davids early career.
21:6. But Levi and Benjamin he did not count among them. Only in Chronicles
does Joab refuse to complete the muster. Whereas Samuel provides a detailed
presentation of Joab punctilously implementing the muster throughout the entire
land (2 Sam 24:48), the shorter version of the muster in Chronicles presents Joab
as deliberately excluding Benjamin and Levi because the command of the king
was abhorrent to Joab (21:6). It is unclear why Joab excludes these two particular
tribes. It may be that Joab excludes Levi because this tribe was excepted from being
numbered among the Israelites for military service (Num 1:49; cf. 2:33; Benzinger
1901: 6263). Benjamin may have been omitted because the holy site of Jerusalem
was considered to lie within its borders. But with respect to Levi, this tribe is
counted among those who supply warriors to support David (1 Chr 12:2729).
Whatever the reasons for the omissions, the point is that Joab refused to provide
David with full compliance because he bristled at the order itself. In this manner,
Joab sought to undermine Davids command.
21:7. this thing was evil in the sight of God and so he struck Israel (wyk ty r l). The circumstances by which David realizes his guilt differ from those in
Samuel. The evaluative comment that this thing was evil in the sight of God is
lacking in 2 Sam 24:10. Moreover, 2 Sam 24:10 has David repent, and the heart of
David struck him (wyk lb dwd tw), sometime after he had numbered the people.
In Chronicles, it is Yhwh who deems the census to be evil and strikes Israel. [Page
754] Warned by Joab that his census would bring guilt upon Israel, David requires
an overt, albeit unspecified, display of divine displeasure against Israel to realize his
error. Only then does David confess any wrongdoing.
21:8. I have sinned greatly in doing this thing. The reference to this thing
(hadd b r hazzeh) alludes to the offense mentioned in the previous verse: this
thing (hadd b r hazzeh; v. 7), suggesting that this particular census is improper
(Bailey 1994: 8889). In v. 17, the same point recurs: David unambiguously
reaffirms that he alone is to blame for the calamity that has befallen his people and
threatens to overwhelm Jerusalem.
forgive the transgression of your servant. The Chronicler, like the author of
Samuel, has David openly confess his guilt and request that Yhwh remit his
18

misdeed (2 Sam 24:10). David is not passive. Unlike Saul, who dies in his rebellion
(1 Chr 10:1314), and A az, who stubbornly compounds his guilt (2 Chr 28),
David is immediately repentant. He does not attempt to shift the blame to others. In
accordance with the psalmists admonition not to ignore ones transgression (Ps
32:35), the king confronts the consequences of his actions. Note how pointed his
admissions of wrongdoing are: I have sinned greatly (
t m1 $d). I have
acted very foolishly (niskalt m1 $d).
I have acted very foolishly. This is not the first time that David has erred (in
Chronicles). At the beginning of Davids reign, he dared his warriors to fetch him a
drink of water from the cistern in his hometown of Bethle em (11:17). When the
deed was accomplished, David realized his folly, refused to drink it, and offered the
water as a libation to Yhwh (11:18). In both cases, David responds appropriately to
(potential) disasters of his own making.
21:9. Yhwh spoke to Gad [the] seer ( $zeh). The terminology is significant. In

Chronicles many, but not all, kings have a prophet (n b ) or a prophetess (n1b ):
David
(1 Chr 16:22; 17:1; 29:29)
Solomon
(2 Chr 9:29)
(2 Chr 12:5, 15)
Re oboam
Abijah
(2 Chr 13:22)
Asa
(2 Chr 15:8)
(2 Chr 18:5, 6, 9, 11, 12,
Jehoshapha
21, 22; 20:20)
Jehoram
(2 Chr 21:12)
Joash
(2 Chr 24:19)
Amaziah
(2 Chr 25:15, 16)
Uzziah
(2 Chr 26:22)
(2 Chr 28:9; 29:25; 32:20,
ezeqiah
32)
Josiah
(2 Chr 34:22; 35:18)
Zedeqiah
(2 Chr 36:12)
General
(2 Chr 36:16)
If a second prophetic figure is mentioned, that figure will usually be called a seer
(1 Chr 21:9; 25:5; 29:29; 2 Chr 9:29; 12:15; 19:2; 29:25, 30; 33:18, 19; 35:15) or a
visionary (r$ eh; 1 Chr 9:22; 26:28; 29:29; 2 Chr 16:7, 10; Micheel 1983). The
19

typology is fairly consistent. Conversely, it is abnormal for a king to have a seer or


a visionary, but not a prophet. Nathan is Davids prophet, while Gad is usually
[Page 755] mentioned as his seer. The different terminology need not denote a
hierarchy and in no way diminishes Gads status. According to the Chronicler, Gad
spoke in the name of Yhwh (v. 19).
21:10. three (choices). A contrast has been drawn between the much-belated
repentance of Saul in Samuel and Davids immediate acknowledgment of his guilt
(2 Sam 12:13; 1 Chr 21:8; Sternberg 1987: 51214). But there is also a contrast
between the treatment of David following his sin with Bathsheba and the treatment
of David following his implementation of the census. In both 2 Sam 12:13 and 2
Sam 24:10, David requests that his sins be remitted. Nathan accedes to this request
(2 Sam 12:13) even as he pronounces that the child will die (2 Sam 12:14). But Gad
never directly responds to Davids plea for forgiveness in either Samuel or
Chronicles. Instead, he offers David a choice of three punishments.
choose one of them for yourself. The divine command to Gad is elliptical. The
punishments are not fully described until Gad communicates with David (Sternberg
1987: 384).
21:12. a three-year famine. The punishments described by Gadthree years of
famine, three months of subjugation by enemies, three days of pestilence
underscore Davids national importance. Indeed, the collective nature of these
penalties reflects a cardinal tenet of ancient Near Eastern royal ideology, that a
people may experience weal or woe contingent upon the standing of its king with
the divine realm (Knoppers 1994a). If Israel earlier benefited from its election of
David to be its king, Israel now suffers for his error.
three days of the sword of Yhwh accompanied by a plague in the land and a
messenger of Yhwh wreaking destruction in every territory of Israel. The
Chroniclers version of the three options stresses the choice between human
punishment and divine punishment (Micheel 1983: 2223). By contrast, Samuels
third option is simply couched as a plague in your land (2 Sam 24:13). In
Chronicles, as opposed to Samuel, there is also a close correlation between what
Gad predicts (in this choice) and what actually happens.
21:13. David replied to Gad, I am in great distress. Both Samuel and
Chronicles present David as being in a state of considerable apprehension (2 Sam
24:14). But both texts also present David as an astute participant in the negotiations
that determine his fate.
let me fall into the hand of Yhwh. The third option (see 2nd NOTE to v. 12) is
rather severe but David picks it anyway because he would rather fall under the

20

discipline of Yhwh than under the discipline of his human enemies. In this respect,
David has learned his lesson. Rather than fall prey again to the designs of one of his
opponents (21:1), the king places his nations fate in the hands of its God.
his compassion is exceedingly great. Davids reasoning for choosing a divinely
administered penaltydivine mercyis well-founded, given the character of Yhwh
as a God compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in loyalty and
truth (Exod 34:6; NOTES to v. 15).
let me not fall. The Chronicler arranges Davids response chiastically, thus
calling attention to the quality of divine compassion as the determining factor in his
choice.
[Page 756] a let me fall
b into the hand of Yhwh,
c because his compassion is exceedingly great.
bV but into the hand of man
aV let me not fall.
21:14. there fell from among the Israelites 70,000 people. That Israel, and not
David himself, directly suffers for Davids crime is a matter of debate among the
early interpreters (e.g., Tg. 1 Chr 21:13; b. Yoma 22b).
21:15. Yhwh saw and repented of the evil. Earlier David repented after Yhwh
struck Israel. Now Yhwh, upon seeing the destruction caused by his messenger,
repents (n m) as well. Given the earlier divine decree to punish David, the question
naturally arises as to what Yhwh saw that changed his mind. The Targum offers two
answers: the ashes from the binding of Isaac (and therefore the covenant with
Abraham) and the heavenly sanctuary (Le Daut and Robert 1971b: 60; McIvor
1994: 116; cf. Tg. 2 Chr 6:2).
Enough! Now stay your hand! Unbeknownst to David, Yhwh halts his
messengers killing spree before that messenger destroys Jerusalem.
21:16. his sword drawn. Given his location, standing between the earth and
the heavens, the messenger of Yhwh (mal ak yhwh) is very much a threat to
David and Jerusalem. See also Num 22:2235; Josh 5:1315; 2 Chr 32:21 (Mosis
1973: 11516; Sugimoto 1990: 6365).
outstretched against Jerusalem. Even with the repentance of Yhwh, it is not
entirely clear, as some have supposed, that the threat to Jerusalem has completely
passed. David is unaware of Yhwhs repentance. Hence, he proceeds under the
assumption that Jerusalem is the next target of the divine agents wrath. Those
commentators who would either excise 21:16ff. as a later gloss or view the

21

information provided in these verses as incidental to the progress of the story


underestimate the importance of the different roles played by the characters in this
narrative (pace von Rad 1930: 101; Willi 1972: 174). The reader is informed that
Yhwh constrained the activities of his messenger (21:18), but there is no indication
that David knows anything about this development. From Davids perspective, the
threat remains until Yhwh tells his messenger to sheath his sword (21:27). In
Chronicles there are two stages in the cessation of the pestilence (Rof 1990: 114
15).
David and the elders, dressed in sackcloth. Given that David witnesses Yhwhs
envoy with an unsheathed sword, perched between heaven and earth, in a menacing
pose against Jerusalem, it is no wonder that David and the elders fall on their faces.
In the context of this apparent threat to the population of Jerusalem, one finds David
again interceding with God, pleading with him to reconsider his plan of destruction.
21:17. I was the one who sinned and did great evil ( ny hw r- ty whr

hr wty). The contrite David of Chronicles is even more explicit about his
responsibility than the David of Samuel. In MT Samuel David confesses, I have
ty w nky h wyty). But in
sinned and I have acted wickedly (hnh nky
Chronicles Davids plea to Yhwh on behalf of his people is more pointed. David
reminds God [Page 757] that it was he (David) who issued the command to number
Israel and that it was he (David) who sinned and did great evil.
these sheep, what have they done? Like the plaintiff of Ps 51:5 [ET 51:3], who
confesses, I know of my rebellions, my sin is continually before me, David
reaffirms that he committed the crime. But he also questions the punishment. David
proposes to attenuate the negative effects that the king can have on the fate of his
people as a nexus between the heavenly and earthly realms. In both Samuel and
Chronicles, David implores Yhwh to vent his wrath against the perpetrator (David)
and not against the innocent populace of Jerusalem. In this regard, the grounds for
Davids appeal resonate with the Chroniclers standard of justice (B. Kelly 1996),
which some have simplistically referred to as a theology of immediate retribution.
may your hand be upon me and upon the house of my father (thy n ydk by
wbbyt by). Along with the authors of Deuteronomy (7:910; 24:16), Jeremiah
(31:2830), and Ezekiel (18; 33:1220), David makes a case for limiting the scope
of divinely administered punishment of humans to the guilty parties themselves. Or
if vicarious punishment (Exod 20:46; cf. 34:67) is to characterize divine-human
relations, suffering for the sins of others should be limited to the members of ones
22

a
b
bV
aV

family (Levinson 1992: 4661). Hence, in this case, the king ingeniously requests
that he not be considered above the law, but in accordance with it (cf. Deut 17:14
20; 1 Sam 12:1425).
let [them] not be subject to a plague. Davids plea manifests a chiastic design:
but as for these sheep, what have they done?
O Yhwh my God, may your hand be upon me
and upon the house of my father.
but as for your people, let (them) not be subject to a plague.
This feature of Davids legacy, his ability as an intercessor, was credited to him by
various early interpreters: Sir 47:11; Miq(at Ma a ha-Torah (4Q398 1417 ii.
2526); Pss. Sol. 17:21; Apoc. Sedr. 14:4; Midr. Ps. 3:4; 6:9; 26:2; 51:3; 100:2;
116:8; b. Abod. Zar. 4b/5a; b. :ul. 89a; b. Yoma 22b; Pirqe R. El. 17; 43. In the
Qur n, David appears as an exemplary penitent (s. 38:1027) and as representative
of Judaism, alongside Jesus as representative of Christianity (s. 5:78).
21:18. said to Gad to say to David that David should go up to establish an altar
to Yhwh. The divine authorization for the altar is more explicit here than in 2 Sam
24:18. In Samuel Gad simply tells David to establish an altar for Yhwh at the
threshing floor, but in 1 Chr 21:18 the messenger of Yhwh tells Gad to inform
David that David should construct an altar.
21:19. in accordance with the command of Gad. If the Chronicler accentuates
Davids responsibility for the census and his intercession on behalf of his people, he
also accentuates Davids diligence in following the directions of the divine
messenger.
21:22. give me the place (m qm) of the threshing floor. In the Chroniclers
version of the negotiations between David and Ornan, David repeatedly refers to the
threshing floor as a m qm (vv. 22, 25), a term that in certain contexts can
designate [Page 758] a sacred precinct or sanctuary, not only in Heb. (e.g., Deut
12:5, 11, 14, 18, 21, 26; 14:23, 24, 25; 15:20; Josh 9:27) but also in Phoen. and
perhaps in Pun. (Tomback 1978: 19596; Krahmalkov 2000: 308). The choice of
terminology does not seem to be accidental. In the introduction to his description of
Solomons construction of the Temple, the Chronicler avers that Solomon built this
Phoen. Phoenician
Pun. Punic

23

edifice on Mount Moriah, the place (m qm) where Yhwh appeared to David at the
threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite (2 Chr 3:1). Hence, the Chronicler draws a
connection between the choice of this site and the Aqedah (Gen 22; Kalimi 1990b:
34562). Josephus (Ant. 7.33334) and the Targum make the connection with
Genesis 22 explicit.
21:23. all of these I give (hakk$l n tatt). The narrative plays on the different
nuances of the verb ntn (NOTE to v. 22; NOTE to v. 25). David wants Ornan to give
(i.e., sell) him the threshing floor (twice in v. 22), but Ornan raises the stakes in the
transaction by repeatedly volunteering to give (i.e., donate) not only the threshing
floor but also the wood and oxen for the sacrifices (v. 23). Eventually, David gives
(i.e., pays) Ornan 600 shekels of gold for the entire package (v. 25). A similar play
on ntn is found in the story of Abrahams negotiations (Gen 23:820).

21:24. no, I shall indeed buy them (l$ k-q n$h eqneh). The king has to make
his intentions clear (see previous NOTE). Both 21:2224 and 2 Sam 24:2124 depict
David demanding repeatedly to pay for the threshing floor, the ox, and the wood so
that he might avert the outbreak of a plague among the people of Jerusalem. As
Williamson (1982b: 14950) and Zakovitch (1985: 181) have shown, the
terminology used to describe Davids land purchase (1 Chr 21:2225), even more
so than that used in Samuel (2 Sam 24:2224), replicates the terminology used to
describe Abrahams purchase of the cave of Machpelah (Gen 23:820). I use the
term replicate, rather than assimilate, because the similarities between 21:2225
and Gen 23:820 seem to result from deliberate authorial (and not scribal) activity.
There are also some parallels between Davids encounter with Ornan and the
meeting between the divine messenger and Gideon at Ophrah (Judg 6:1124; Willi
1972: 157).
at full price (bksp ml ). Like Abraham negotiating with the Hittite Ephron for
the cave of Machpelah, the Chroniclers David repeatedly insists that he pay full
price for the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. In purchasing the threshing floor
of Ornan the Jebusite, David, no less than Abraham before him, must own the
property (and hence secure the legal right to the land) before he can carry out his
obligation.
21:25. David gave (ntn) 600 shekels of gold to Ornan. Fifty shekels of gold for
each of the twelve tribes of Israel (Rashi). The full price David disburses to build
an altar and offer burnt offerings at this site600 shekels of golddwarfs the price

24

paid by either the David of Samuel (50 shekels of silver) or the Abraham of Genesis
(400 shekels of silver; Gen 23:1516). The exorbitant payment for the threshing
floor highlights the significance a conscientious David ascribes to securing this site.
21:26. built there an altar to Yhwh and lifted up burnt offerings and offerings of
well-being. Consistent with royal ideology, David acts as the representative of
[Page 759] his people to the divine realm. As we have seen, the authors of both
Samuel and Chronicles portray disaster upon the body politic as the consequence of
Davids sin. The Chronicler, however, seizes upon the national implications of
Davids misdeed to demonstrate the national implications of Davids intercession
and obedience.
he called upon Yhwh (wyqr l-yhwh). This assertion is not found in Samuel.
One is tempted to say that the Chroniclers David observes the Deuteronomistic
mandate to invoke Yhwh at his chosen place. In Deuteronomistic terms, the central
sanctuary bears Yhwhs name and one is to call upon him there (1 Kgs 8:43 [//2 Chr
6:33], 52; 2 Kgs 20:11; Jer 7:1011, 14, 30; 32:34; 34:15 [all Jer C]; Weinfeld
1972a: 325). But the expression qr l-yhwh, is ubiquitous in the HB as an act of
piety (e.g., Judg 16:28; 1 Kgs 17:20; Isa 55:6; 58:9; Joel 1:14; Pss 4:1, 3; 18:4, 7
[ET 18:3, 6]; 86:3, 5, 7; 2 Chr 14:10 [ET 14:11]; cf. Isa 64:7; Pss 14:4; 79:6).
and he answered him. The version of the divine acceptance of Davids
offerings contrasts with the account in Samuel. After depicting Davids sacrifice of
burnt offerings and offerings of well-being, Samuel states that Yhwh accepted
Davids supplication for the land (2 Sam 24:25). This notice ends the narrative,
because the altar has served its purpose; the plague was averted from Israel (2
Sam 24:25). To be sure, the offerings on the altar also end the threat of divine wrath
in Chronicles. Yhwh tells his messenger to sheath his sword (21:27); the peril to
Jerusalem has passed. But the additional material in Chronicles, specifically the
divine confirmation of Davids sacrifices, establishes Davids altar as an enduring
fixture in Israelite worship.
fire from the heavens. Only in Chronicles does Yhwh answer Davids burnt
offerings, offerings of well-being, and invocation by sending down heavenly fire.
The imagery is highly significant. In portraying this miraculous divine affirmation
of Davids altar, the Chronicler draws upon the divine response to the institution of
the Tabernacle altar in the Priestly Code. When Aaron and his sons use the
Jer C a series of texts in the Book of Jeremiah with affinities to Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomistic
History

25

Tabernacle altar for the first time, fire came forth from before Yhwh and
consumed the burnt offering and the fatty portions upon the altar (Lev 9:24). A
similar divine response attends Elijahs sacrifice at Mount Carmel (1 Kgs 18:37
38). By sanctioning the altar built at the threshing floor of Ornan in a similar way to
his sanctioning of the Tabernacle altar, Yhwh publicly designates this place
(m qm) as a new sacred precinct.
21:27. returned his sword to its sheath. Thus decisively ending the threat to
Jerusalem, temporarily suspended in vv. 1516.
21:2830. at that time, when David saw. These verses should probably be
regarded as a later addition. The technique used to interpolate the additional
material in vv. 2830 is inverted quotation (Beentjes 1982) or Seidels Law (Seidel
195556). The writer reuses phraseology from vv. 2627 to frame his own addition.
Verse 28 refers to v. 26, but reformulates its terms in basically reverse order.
26a. wybn m dwyd mzb
28b. wyzb m
lyhwh
26b. wyqr l-yhwh wy nhw 28a. ky- nhw yhwh
Having modeled his explanation on the description of Solomons journey to Gibeon
[Page 760] (2 Chr 1:36), he returns his readers to the original narrative at the end
of v. 30 by referring to the events of v. 27 (again) in basically reverse order.
30c. yhwh
27a. wy mr yhwh
27b. lml k
27c. wyb

30b. ml k
rbw

l- 30a. ky nb t mpny

ndnh
rb
Many scholars have acknowledged that this material is parenthetical within this
chapter (Curtis and Madsen 1910: 254; Rudolph 1955: 148; Dion 1985: 114117;
Japhet 1989: 14142; Williamson 1982b: 15051). But the material is more than
parenthetical; its content conflicts with the force of earlier verses (Kittel 1902: 79
81). The author of vv. 2830 draws on material in vv. 2627 and 2 Chr 1:36 to
excuse Davids offering sacrifice away from the Tabernacle altar. But David is
explicitly commanded to do so (1 Chr 21:18). Not the Chronicler, but a later scribe
is bothered by the storys evidence for divinely approved worship away from the
Gibeon altar.
22:1. the House of Yhwh God. David seizes upon the divine action and
declares the site to be the home of the future Temple (cf. 2 Chr 2:24 [ET 2:36];
26

3:12). Hence, the Chronicler construes the mandate to construct an altar at this
particular location, not as an ad hominem emergency maneuver to avert divine
wrath, but as a decisive turning point in the history of Israelite religion. How much
the story in Samuel functions as a justification for the site of the Temple is debated.
Hertzberg (1964: 41011), for example, describes the Samuel story as the Hieros
Logos of the Jerusalem Temple cult. But the connections between the threshing
floor and the future site of the Temple are not made explicit in the Samuel text itself
(Wellhausen 1885: 17880). In any case, the situation is clear in Chronicles. David
immediately begins to gather workers and materials for the construction of the
Temple (22:24). He also begins to prepare his son for the construction of the
central sanctuary, describing its purpose in glowing terms (22:516). The rest of
Davids reign consists of preparing for the construction of the Temple and
establishing an elaborate national administration to assist his chosen successor,
Solomon (1 Chr 2229). In this respect, the Chroniclers story of the census
functions as a bridge between two highly important periods in Davids career: the
campaigns against Israels neighbors (18:120:8) and the preparations for the
transition to the reign of his successor and the construction of a temple (22:1
29:30). Just as Yhwh provided Moses with a plan (tabnt) for the Tabernacle, David
provides Solomon with a plan (tabnt) for the central sanctuary (28:11, 18, 19; cf.
Exod 25:9, 40). It will only be a matter of time before the Tabernacle will be
brought to Jerusalem from Gibeon to find its place in the Temple. That the central
sanctuary simultaneously incorporates and succeeds previous cultic arrangements is
emphasized in the depiction of Solomons temple dedication. After the Ark of the
Covenant and the Tent of Meeting are brought into the Temple and Solomon utters
his dedicatory prayers, divine intervention occurs again: the fire from heaven
consumed the burnt offering as well as the sacrifices, and the glory (k bd) of
Yhwh filled the house (2 Chr 7:1).
this will be (zh hw ) and this will be (wzh). In consistently employing the
singular, David implies that the Jerusalem altar and sanctuary will supersede all
[Page 761] previous altars and sanctuaries. Given the larger context, Davids words
take on the force of a prophecy (Abadie 1997: 83). Indeed, in later Jewish and
Christian tradition David would come to be viewed as a prophet himself (11QPsa
27:11; Acts 2:30; Josephus, Ag. Ap. 1.17779; Ant. 7.337; Barn. 12:10; Jerome,
Comm. Gal. 3.5; y. So ah 9:12; b. So ah 48b; cf. Heb 11:32; Fitzmyer 1972). The
divine response to Davids sacrifice also serves an important long-range objective
27

in divine-human relations. The impressive divine reaction to Davids offerings, as


interpreted by David, resolves a dualism in the national cultus that had existed since
the Ark was brought into Zion. The much celebrated arrival of the Ark in the City
of David establishes Zion as a national shrine (16:1), but it also left Israel with two
major official sanctuaries: Jerusalem and Gibeon (see the NOTES to 16:3742). Even
though the Ark was stationed in Davids tent, the Tabernacle (mkn) of Yhwh
remained in Gibeon, attended by Zadoq and his kin (16:39; cf. 2 Chr 1:36; 1 Kgs
3:4). Each of these cult centers is associated with its own complement of ritual
trappings. The Chronicler sanctions the Gibeon shrine, commenting that the
sacrifices performed there accorded with all that was written in the Torah of
Yhwh (16:40). But in the Chroniclers ideology of a unified national cult, which
draws upon both Deuteronomic and Priestly traditions, the Ark and the Tabernacle
belong together. Given the Deuteronomic mandate for one central sanctuary, the
existence of two national shrines can only be temporary. It is this situation that
Davids obedience and Yhwhs dramatic intervention resolve.
the altar of the burnt offering for Israel. The Chronicler, more so than the
Deuteronomist, maintains a consistent interest in the fate of the Jerusalem altar (2
Chr 4:1, 19; 5:12; 6:12, 22; 7:7, 9; 8:12; 15:8; 23:10; 29:1821; 32:12; 35:16). The
connections between Davids successful campaigns, the construction of Davids
altar, and the Temple also appear in a fragmentary text (4Q522) from Qumran that
mentions the name of Joshua (Puech 1992; 1998). The text predicts Davids taking
of the rock of Zion and the construction of the Temple. The summary of Davids
reign by Eupolemus also underscores the connection between this altar and the
Temple. Eupolemus writes that David wanted to build a temple for God and asked
him to reveal the site. An angel obliged (Eusebius, Praep. ev. 9.30.5). In this
manner, Eupolemus manages to avoid dealing with the census altogether.

SOURCES AND COMPOSITION


The principal source for the census and plague story is not in dispute. For 1 Chr
21:126, the Chronicler relied heavily upon his Vorlage of 2 Sam 24:125. The
more pertinent question is: How much did the Chronicler change his source?
Differences among the textual witnesses to Samuel (e.g., MT, LXX, 4QSama,
Josephus) and Chronicles suggest a complex picture of textual development. One
should not presume that whenever MT Chronicles differs from MT Samuel, this
discrepancy results from the Chronicler deliberately altering his source. On the
[Page 762] contrary, the parallels between 4QSama and Chronicles indicate that the
Chronicler was remarkably conservative in quoting his Vorlage (Lemke 1965;
28

Ulrich 1978: 137). The common traits shared by 4QSama and MT (and LXX)
Chronicles that are not shared by MT Samuel point to some distance between the
texts of MT Samuel and Chronicles (see TEXTUAL NOTES).
The Chroniclers conservatism in quoting his source does not tell the whole
story, however, about his compositional technique. He both selected from (e.g., 1
Chr 21:4; cf. 2 Sam 24:48) and supplemented his Vorlage (1 Chr 21:2722:1).
Through recontextualization and smaller additions (e.g., 21:67a) the Chronicler
innovates (Dion 1985: 11417; Wright 1993: 8789). Hence, whatever the causes
for the discrepancies among the various textual traditions, one must ultimately deal
with the text of Chronicles as best one can reconstruct it.

COMMENT
The story of Davids census and plague is a crux interpretum in the Chroniclers
depiction of an illustrious reign. Following the failure and death of Saul (10:114),
David initiates a most auspicious era in Israelite history. Unanimously acclaimed by
all Israelites, David is victorious in war, successful in cult, adept in politics, and
diligent in administration. Given this highly stylized and flattering portrait of David,
scholars are puzzled by the incorporation of the census and plague account from 2
Sam 24. Davids census is a major blemish in an otherwise glorious career. How
does one explain this apparent anomaly? It will be useful to survey contemporary
criticism as a prelude to the approach taken here. (For a longer discussion, see
Knoppers 1995b.)
Some ascribe the appearance of the story in Chronicles, at least in part, to an
interest in exegesis (W. E. Barnes 1896: 427; Willi 1972: 17071). This interpretive
strategy calls attention to how the Chronicler reinterprets and reapplies his Vorlage,
but functions only as a penultimate explanation of the text. The question remains
why the Chronicler retains and reworks this particular incident. Japhet (1993a: 370
90) offers a different explanation, viewing the inclusion and shaping of this story as
proof of the Chroniclers abilities as an honest broker of history. As with his
depiction of other monarchs, the Chronicler balances the positive and negative
aspects of Davids career. Nevertheless, one wonders why the authors quest for
balance does not lead him to include more negative material about David (contrast 2
Samuel and 1 Kgs 12) and include corresponding negative material for Solomon,
the other king in the United Monarchy whom the Chronicler idealizes. The
Chronicler omits, in fact, all of the explicitly critical material about Solomon in
Kings from his work (Knoppers 1990: 42329). The comparison with the sanitized
Solomon of 2 Chr 19 makes the errant David of 1 Chr 21 all the more striking.
29

Perhaps the majority of commentators attribute the inclusion of this story to an


[Page 763] authorial concern to validate Ornans threshing floor as the future site of
the Temple (Noth 1987: 34, 5556; Galling 1954: 5962; Rudolph 1955: 14149;
Ackroyd 1973a: 7377; Mosis 1973: 10424; Williamson 1982b: 14251; Im 1985:
14553; R. Braun 1986: 21218; De Vries 1989: 17780). The Chronicler tolerates
some unsavory details about David because the story of the census culminates in
the providential choice of a site for the Temple (W. E. Barnes 1909: 52). This
influential theory highlights the important links that the Chronicler posits between
this incident and the construction of the Temple, but fails to explain major
characteristics of the census and plague story. To begin with, David is the main
character throughout the story. He is mentioned twenty-four times in 21:122:1
(Wright 1993: 98104). In contrast, the Temple is explicitly mentioned only at the
storys very end. If the Chronicler wished to validate the Temple, it is unclear why
he consistently keys on the figure of David. Similarly, why does he include, indeed
supplement, earlier parts of the narrative that underscore Davids folly? Why does
he not temper or even omit portions of his Vorlage that reflect negatively on
Davids conduct?
In my judgment, the issue of Davids unblemished character has been
misconstrued (Knoppers 1995b). The aforementioned explanations assume that the
criticism of David in the narrative is a problem. The inclusion of the census story is
thought to undercut Davids role as an exemplary king. It is precisely this
assumption that needs to be reexamined. Davids acknowledged culpability does
not disqualify him from serving as a paradigmatic figure to the Chroniclers
audience. The portrayal of David is more complex. The stress on royal
responsibility may be understood in the context of a larger movement characterized
by wrongdoing, confession, intercession, renewed obedience, and divine blessing.
The story of the census, plague, and establishment of a permanent altar underscores
the highly positive consequences of Davids ability to confront and manage his own
failure. Davids unequivocal admission of guilt, his mediation on behalf of Israel,
his diligent observance of divine instructions, and his securing a site for the future
Temple contribute positively to his legacy.
Approaching David as the model of a repentant sinner elucidates prominent
features of the story. Because the writer portrays Davids transgression as part of a
broader process beginning with repentance and ending with divine blessing, he has
no interest in denying royal culpability. On the contrary, the first part of the census
narrative clarifies and accentuates the kings responsibility for the plague, while the
latter part of the narrative accentuates the positive outcome of his intercession and

30

obedience. The stylized movement that the author creates from Davidic
transgression to a miraculous divine affirmation of his sacrifices serves two
purposes. First, it enables the writer to present the establishment of Davids altar as
a permanent fixture in the history Israels cult. The Chronicler draws upon
Deuteronomic and Priestly theologies to present Davids altar as the focal point
around which the venerable but separate institutions of the Ark and the Tabernacle
can find a common home. Second, the extraordinary contrast between the initial
punishment of royal infraction and the divine forgiveness amplifies the significance
of Davids intercession with Yhwh. The common hope expressed in [Page 764]
Psalms for Yhwh to have compassion on and reverse the plight of the supplicant
(Westermann 1981: 6471, 181213; W. Holladay 1993: 4952; P. Miller 1994:
55134) is realized in the Chroniclers version of the census and plague.
The portrait of the king as an intercessor raises the larger issue of the authors
understanding of Davids significance. There are, as many have stressed, multiple
images of David within the HB: shepherd, warrior, musician, administrator, lyricist,
politician, singer, sinner, king, husband, paramour, and father. Given this diversity,
it is only to be expected that later interpreters concentrated upon certain aspects of
Davids reputation and neglected others. Writing toward the end of the biblical
period, the Chronicler was himself an early interpreter who was likely familiar with
many, if not all, of these representations of David. Considering the multiple images
of David available to the Chronicler, it would be startling to see him fixate upon
one. Yet this is what many have claimed. Of the many disparate portraits of David,
the Chroniclers presentation has often been associated, not always approvingly,
with that of David as cult founder. Wellhausen (1885: 182), for instance, claims:
See what Chronicles has made of David! The founder of the kingdom has become
the founder of the temple and the public worship, the king and hero at the head of
his companions has become the singer and master of ceremonies at the head of a
swarm of priests and Levites; his clearly cut figure has become a feeble holy
picture, seen through a cloud of incense.
Such a one-sided presentation of Davids significance can be easily qualified by
recognizing the martial, dynastic, administrative, and political aspects of Davids
leadership in 1 Chr 1129. David is a cult founder in Chronicles (Welch 1939: 55
96; Mosis 1973: 10155; De Vries 1988; Riley 1993; Dyck 1998). But Davids
establishment and structuring of worship in Jerusalem is only one aspect of his
reputation, albeit a very important one.
Close scrutiny of this chapter reveals that there are compelling reasons to
recognize an additional dimension of the Davidic legacy in Chronicles. The image

31

of David as the model of a repentant sinner is a constituent element in the depiction


of this king. The David of the census story is a person of confession and
supplication par excellence, a human sinner who repents, seeks forgiveness,
intercedes on behalf of his people, and ultimately secures the site of the future
Temple. Precisely because David is a pivotal figure, Davids repentance and
intercession are paradigmatic. The Chroniclers conviction that errant Israelites
have both the opportunity to reform and the potential to make new contributions to
their nation is evident in the reigns of Re oboam (2 Chr 12:512), Jehoshapha
(2 Chr 19:111), Amaziah (2 Chr 25:513), and even Manasseh (2 Chr 33:1017;
B. Kelly 1996). But this principle is formatively and preeminently at work in
Davids career. In the context of a national disaster of his own making, David is
able to turn a catastrophe into the occasion for a permanent divine blessing upon
Israel. First Chronicles 21 is an example of, rather than the exception to, the
Chroniclers idealization of David. The Chroniclers David is a multidimensional
figure whose exemplary significance is not limited to a single facet of his public
career.1

Gary N. Knoppers, I Chronicles 10-29: A New Translation With Introduction and Commentary, Yale
University Press, New Haven / London, 2008, pp. 742-764.

32