XXI David causes Joab to number the people, ver. 1-6. He repents, ver. 7, 8. God gives him his choice of three judgments, and he chuses the pestilence, ver. 9-13. The havock made thereby: Jerusalem spared, ver. 14, 15. David's prayer, ver. 16, 17. His sacrifice and staying of the plague, ver. 18-30.
Verse 1. Satan stood - Before the Lord and his tribunal to accuse David and Israel, and to beg God's permission to tempt David. Standing is the accusers posture before men's tribunals; and consequently the holy scripture (which useth to speak of the things of God, after the manner of men, to bring them down to our capacities) elsewhere represent Satan in this posture.
Verse 3. Why, &c. - Or, why should this be a cause of trespass, or an occasion of punishment to Israel? God commonly punishes the people for the sins of their rulers, because they are for the most part guilty of their sins in one kind or other; or at least God takes this occasion to punish people for all their sins.
Verse 6. Counted not - Partly for the following reason; and principally by God's gracious providence to Levi, because they were devoted to his service; and to Benjamin, because they were the least of all the tribes, having been almost extinct, Judg. xxi, 6, and because God foresaw that they would be faithful to the house of David in the division of the tribes, and therefore he would not have them diminished. And Joab also presumed to leave these two tribes unnumbered, because he had specious pretenses for it; for Levi, because they were no warriors, and the king's command reached only of those that drew sword. And for Benjamin, because they, being so small a tribe, and bordering upon Jerusalem, might easily be numbered afterward.
Verse 7. Displeased - Because this was done without any colour of necessity, and out of mere curiosity, and ostentation.
Verse 14. There fell, &c. - He was proud of the number of his people, but God took a course to make them fewer. Justly is that we are proud of so, taken from us, or embittered to us.
Verse 16. Sackcloth - In mourning garments, humbling themselves before God for their sins, and deprecating his wrath against the people.
Verse 18. Set up an altar, &c. - The commanding of David to build an altar, was a blessed token of reconciliation. For if God had been pleased to kill him, he would not have commanded, because he would not have accepted a sacrifice at his hands.
Verse 20. Hid themselves - Because of the glory and majesty in which the angel appeared, which mens weak natures are not able to bear; and from the fear of God's vengeance which now seemed to be coming to their family.
Verse 25. Six hundred - We read, 2 Sam. xxiv, 24, he gave fifty shekels of gold: that is, he gave in gold the value of six hundred shekels of silver. 26. By fire - Hebrew. by fire sent from heaven: which was the sign of God's acceptance. The fire that might justly have fastened on the sinner, fastened upon the sacrifice and consumed it. Thus Christ was made sin and a curse for us, and it pleased the Lord to bruise him, that through him God might be to us, not a consuming fire, but a reconciled Father.
Verse 28. Sacrificed - When he perceived that his sacrifice was acceptable to God, he proceeded to offer more sacrifices in that place.
Verse 30. Afraid - When he saw the angel stand with his drawn sword over Jerusalem, he durst not go away to Gibeon, lest the angel in the mean time should destroy Jerusalem: for the prevention whereof he thought it proper to worship God in that place, which he had consecrated by his special presence and acceptance.