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The Punishments
of God

as shown in 1 Chronicles 21

My comments are in italics

The Scriptures have been modernised for easier reading

 The following words explain the character of God simply.


{Last Day Events 242.1-3}

Vol 14 Manuscript Release 3 (1883). 

“I was shown that the judgments of God would not come directly out from the Lord upon them, but in this way:

“They place themselves beyond [the range of] His protection [by a sin, Isaiah 59:1-3].

“He warns, corrects, reproves, and points out the only path of safety; [Isaiah 44:22]


“if those who have been the objects of His special care will follow their own course, independent of the Spirit of God, after repeated warnings, if they choose their own way, [Isaiah 3:11]

“then He does not commission His angels to prevent Satan's decided attacks upon them [He must now remove His protection for they are joined to their idols, Hosea 4:17]. 

“It is Satan's power that is at work at sea and on land, bringing calamity and distress and sweeping off multitudes to make sure of his prey.” [Hebrews 2:14]

Paulson Collection 136 (1894).

“God will use His enemies [Satan and his followers] as instruments to punish those who have followed their own pernicious ways whereby the truth of God has been misrepresented, misjudged, and dishonored.” [Jeremiah 27:6].

[See  also  Job 1:9-12;  Ezekiel 33:11-20;  Psalm 9:16]


{PP 746.2}

“The history of David affords one of the most impressive testimonies ever given to the dangers that threaten the soul from power and riches and worldly honor those things that are most eagerly desired among men.”


So we read:-


1 Chronicles 21:

1 And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel. 


It is a sin to try and decide who is and who is not a Christian for we cannot read the hearts of individuals, and yet in doing so we are trying to judge! (1 Corinthians 4:5). It is as much a sin to decide who IS, as it is to decide who is NOT! 

But David had another motive.

{PP 746.3}

“Intercourse with heathen peoples led to a desire to follow their national customs and kindled ambition for worldly greatness. As the people of Jehovah, Israel was to be honored; but as pride and self-confidence increased, the Israelites were not content with this pre-eminence. They cared rather for their standing among other nations.

“This spirit could not fail to invite temptation.

“With a view to extending his conquests among foreign nations, David determined to increase his army by requiring military service from all who were of proper age. To effect this, it became necessary to take a census of the population. It was pride and ambition that prompted this action of the king.

“The numbering of the people would show the contrast between the weakness of the kingdom when David ascended the throne and its strength and prosperity under his rule. This would tend still further to foster the already too great self-confidence of both king and people. . . .

“The prosperity of Israel under David had been due to the blessing of God rather than to the ability of her king or the strength of her armies. But the increasing of the military resources of the kingdom would give the impression to surrounding nations that Israel's trust was in her armies, and not in the power of Jehovah.” 


There was some opposition but not enough to stop the king.

1 Chronicles 21:

2 And David said to Joab and to the rulers of the people, “Go, number [the fighting men of] Israel from Beersheba even to Dan; and bring the number of them to me, that I may know it.” 3 And Joab answered, “The LORD make His people a hundred times so many more as they be: but, my Lord the king, are they not all my LORD's servants [not yours]?  Why then does my Lord require this thing? Why will he be a cause of trespass to Israel?”

4 Nevertheless the king's word prevailed against Joab. Wherefore Joab departed, and went throughout all Israel, and came to Jerusalem. 5 And Joab gave the sum of the number of the people to David. And all they of Israel were a thousand thousand and a hundred thousand men that drew sword [1,100,000 of military age]: and Judah was four hundred threescore and ten thousand men that drew sword [470,000 potential soldiers].


Joab knew that what David was doing was wrong, but when ordered to do it he obeyed. Note the difference between the LORD and the Lord.

{PP 747.1}

“Though the people of Israel were proud of their national greatness, they did not look with favor upon David's plan for so greatly extending the military service. The proposed enrollment caused much dissatisfaction; consequently it was thought necessary to employ the military officers in place of the priests and magistrates, who had formerly taken the census [at God’s request, Numbers 1:1-2].

“The object of the undertaking was directly contrary to the principles of a theocracy [where God makes the decisions]. Even Joab remonstrated, unscrupulous as he had heretofore shown himself.”

1 Chronicles 21:

6 But Levi and Benjamin counted he not among them: for the king's word was abominable to Joab.


The Levites were the workers in the sanctuary and were not looked upon as part of the fighting force.  I am not sure why he did not count the baby tribe.

{PP 747.1}

“The numbering was not finished when David was convicted of his sin.”

1 Chronicles 21:

7 And [the Son of] God was displeased with this thing; therefore He smote Israel [He had to remove His protection because He was no longer in charge in this area]. 8 And [then] David said to [the Son of] God, “I have sinned greatly, because I have done this thing: but now, I beseechYou, do away the iniquity of your servant; for I have done very foolishly [help me!].”


Under duress David admitted his wrongful action but it was an Esau-type confession, more concerned with punishment than morality, with his action rather than his condition. One of the greatest sins we can commit is taking the work of the LORD into our own hands, which is what Jacob did when he tried to fulfil God’s promise of the firstborn.  Later, he truly repented of his action, while his brother did not.  Hebrews 12:15-17.

1 Chronicles 21:

9 And the LORD spoke to Gad, David's seer [prophet], saying, 10 “Go and tell David, saying, Thus says the LORD, I offer you three things: choose you one of them, that I may do it to you.” [The wages of sin can be overcome, but the result of it carries on.] 11 So Gad came to David, and said to him, “Thus says the LORD, Choose you

12 either

three years' famine;


three months to be destroyed before your foes, while that the sword of your enemies overtakes you;

or else

three days the sword of the LORD, even the pestilence [sickness], in the land, and the angel of the LORD [a killing angel] destroying throughout all the coasts of Israel.

“Now therefore advise yourself what word I shall bring again to Him that sent me.”


David had a choice between the removal of the protection against great weather variations, the tender mercies of his earthly enemies, or a plague to come on the nation. In this we can see that our Saviour has choices when dealing with the RESULTS of our actions but even He cannot entirely stop them.  He can control to a limited degree as when Satan was given permission to attack Job but was not allowed to hurt him. Job 1:12.

David was wise enough to know that God only allows “an eye for an eye” (strict justice, Exodus 21:24) while humans always overdo it!  See Habakkuk 1:11. So he chose the last option.  But in reality all were results of Satan’s actions as we can see in Job chapter one.  All the Son of God did was restrict Satan’s range of activities.

{PP 748.2}

“The land was smitten with pestilence, which destroyed seventy thousand in Israel [all of whom had individually rejected protection in  some way, but had been covered by their 'father' the king.  See 1 Corinthians 7:14]. The scourge had not yet entered the capital, when 'David lifted up his eyes, and saw the angel of the Lord stand between the earth and the heaven [compare Revelation 10:1], having a drawn sword in his hand stretched out over Jerusalem [as with Balaam, Numbers 22:23 ]. Then David and the elders of Israel, who were clothed in sackcloth, fell upon their faces'.”


When Jesus, the Angel of the LORD, is pictured with a sword in His hand He is allowing us to see Him in His strange role, that of having to allow the effects of our sins to reach us.  The drawn sword is a symbol of warning to us so it is (if heeded by us) a plea to let Him save us from destruction.

Isaiah 28:

21 For the LORD shall rise up as in mount Perazim [where He could protect a king while others died, 2 Samuel 5:20], He shall be wroth as in the valley of Gibeon [where He could save a city and yet lose lots of His children, Joshua 10:10], that He may do His work, His strange work; and bring to pass His act, His strange act [of allowing Satan to do some of what he wants, to kill humans]. 

{DA 582.3}

“God 'delighteth in mercy.' 'As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked.' Micah 7:18; Ezekiel 33:11. To Him the work of destruction and the denunciation of judgment is a 'strange work.' Isaiah 28:21. But it is in mercy and love that He lifts the veil from the future, and reveals to men the results of a course of sin.” 

{GC 627.2}

“By terrible things IN RIGHTEOUSNESS He will vindicate the authority of His downtrodden law. ['True and righteous are Your judgments', Revelation 16:7].  The severity of the retribution awaiting the transgressor may be judged by the Lord's reluctance to execute justice.

“The nation with which He bears long, and which He will not smite until it has filled up the measure of its iniquity in God's account, will finally drink the cup of wrath unmixed with mercy [with no protection at all].”

1 Chronicles 21:

13 And David said to Gad, “I am in a great strait [a narrow place]: let me fall now into the hand of the LORD; for very great are His mercies: but let me not fall into the hand of man.” 14 So the LORD sent [could not prevent] pestilence upon Israel: and there fell of Israel seventy thousand men. 15 And God sent an angel to Jerusalem to destroy it [He allowed the fallen angel Satan to do his evil]: and as he was destroying, the LORD beheld, and He repented Him of the evil [because David had changed, see note 2], and said to the angel that destroyed, “It is enough, stay now your hand.”

{PP 748.4}

“The destroying angel had stayed his course outside Jerusalem.”

{PP 748.3}

“The taking of the census had caused disaffection among the people; yet they had themselves cherished the same sins that prompted David's action. As the Lord through Absalom's sin visited judgment upon David, so through David's error He punished the sins of Israel.”

1 Chronicles 21:

And the Angel of the LORD [a title for the Son of God, Genesis 22:15-16] stood by the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite. 16 And David lifted up his eyes, and saw the Angel of the LORD stand between the earth and the heaven, having a drawn sword in His hand stretched out over Jerusalem. [This is another Angel, not the destroying one.  Here are two things called by the same name which are different.  Both have swords, both lean over Jerusalem, but have very different motives.  One warns while the other destroys.  Remember the LORD and the Lord?]

Then David and the elders of Israel, who were clothed in sackcloth, fell upon their faces. 17 And David said to God, “Is it not I that commanded the people to be numbered?  Even I it is that have sinned and done evil indeed; but as for these sheep, what have they done?  Let Your hand, I pray You, O LORD my God, be on me, and on my father's house; but not on Your people, that they should be plagued.”


Like so many before and after him, David had not fully realised that when the sin of one is visited to the third and fourth generation, that includes the subjects of a ruler. Exodus 20:5.  This is not an arbitrary action on the part of Jesus, but is the result of us imitating the actions of our parents and leaders.  1 Kings 14:22.  See also Daniel’s prayer in chapter 9 of his book. 

1 Chronicles 21:

18 Then the Angel of the LORD commanded Gad [the prophet] to say to David, that David should go up, and set up an altar to the LORD in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite. 19 And David went up at the saying of Gad, which he spoke in the name of the LORD.


There was a proper place for worship and petition at Gibeon, for that was where the tabernacle was (see Exodus 20:24 for an example of how to decide this), but David was afraid to go there because he feared the displeasure of the LORD, so this place was suggested instead as neutral ground.  (See 1 Chronicles 21:30.)  Note that Gad listens to this Angel as God.

1 Chronicles 21:

20 And Ornan turned back [around], and saw the Angel; and his four sons with him hid themselves. Now Ornan was threshing wheat. 21 And as David came to Ornan, Ornan looked and saw David, and went out of the threshingfloor, and bowed himself to David with his face to the ground. 22 Then David said to Ornan, “Grant me the place of this threshingfloor, that I may build an altar therein to the LORD: you shall grant it me for the full price: that the plague may be stayed from the people.”

23 And Ornan said to David, “Take it to you, and let my Lord the king do that which is good in his eyes: lo, I give you the oxen also for burnt offerings, and the threshing instruments for wood, and the wheat for the meat offering; I give it all.”  24 And king David said to Ornan, “No; but I will verily buy it for the full price: for I will not take that which is yours for the LORD, nor offer burnt offerings without cost.” 25 So David gave to Ornan for the place six hundred shekels of gold by weight.

26 And David built there an altar to the LORD, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings, and called upon the LORD; and He answered him from heaven by fire upon the altar of burnt offering [God lit the sacrificial fire!].

27 And the LORD commanded the [destroying] angel; and he put up his sword again into the sheath thereof. 


By his buying of the land, David showed that he now understood something more of his personal involvement in the sickness.  By his offering a burnt offering (and not a sin offering), he reconsecrated himself and his people to do God's will only.

1 Chronicles 21:

28 At that time when David saw that the LORD had answered him in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite, then he sacrificed there [from that time onwards]. 29 For the tabernacle of the LORD, which Moses made in the wilderness, and the altar of the burnt offering, were at that season in the high place at Gibeon [it did not have a permanent home]. 30 But David could not go before it to inquire of God: for he was afraid [careful] because of the sword of the Angel of the LORD.

{PP 748.5}

“This spot, memorable as the place where Abraham had built the altar to offer up his son, and now hallowed by this great deliverance, was afterward chosen as the site of the temple erected by Solomon.”  See note 3.


 For more, see note 1.


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Additional comments:


Note 1:       The destructions of the "fifties" 2 Kings 1:1-15

Luke 9: 

51 And it came to pass, when the time was come that He should be received up [crucified], He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, 52 and sent messengers before His face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for Him. 53 And they did not receive Him, because His face was as though He would go to Jerusalem.

54 And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “LORD, will You that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias [Elijah] did?”

55 But He turned, and rebuked them, and said, “You know not what manner of spirit you are of. 56 For the Son of man is NOT come to destroy men's lives, but to save them.”

And they went to another village. 


The disciples believed that Elijah had killed his enemies at two different times,  2 Kings 1:1-15 and 1 Kings 18:40.  The first was when the two companies of fifty men died while trying to move Elijah by force.  In doing so they moved out from God's protection and brought death upon themselves, but most of the Jews believed that God killed them.  Jesus understood correctly how this happened and was upset that His disciples did not know their God that well.  A third company of soldiers got Elijah to travel with them because their commander humbled himself to ask the servant of the LORD to visit the king.

The second occasion was when Elijah, carried away by the heat of the moment, called on Israel to kill the 450 prophets of Baal with the sword. It was this action that put him in a frame of mind where he could be frightened by Jezebel. 1 Kings 19:2.

{DA 487.1 - 488.1}

“James and John, Christ's messengers, were greatly annoyed at the insult shown to their Lord. They were filled with indignation because He had been so rudely treated by the Samaritans whom He was honoring by His presence. They had recently been with Him on the mount of transfiguration, and had seen Him glorified by God, and honored by Moses and Elijah. This manifest dishonor on the part of the Samaritans, should not, they thought, be passed over without marked punishment. 

“Coming to Christ, they reported to Him the words of the people, telling Him that they had even refused to give Him a night's lodging. They thought that a grievous wrong had been done Him, and seeing Mount Carmel in the distance, where Elijah had slain the false prophets, they said, 'Wilt Thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?'

“They were surprised to see that Jesus was pained [upset] by their words, AND STILL MORE SURPRISED AS HIS REBUKE FELL UPON THEIR EARS, 'Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but [only] to save them.' And He went to another village. 

“It is no part of Christ's mission to compel men to receive Him. It is Satan, and men actuated by his spirit, that seek to compel the conscience. Under a pretense of zeal for righteousness, men who are confederate with evil angels bring suffering upon their fellow men, in order to convert them to their ideas of religion; but Christ is ever [always] showing mercy, ever seeking to win by the revealing of His love.

“He can admit no rival in the soul, nor accept of partial service; but He desires only voluntary service, the willing surrender of the heart under the constraint of love. [See Leviticus 1:3].

“There can be no more conclusive evidence that we possess the spirit of Satan than the disposition to hurt and destroy those who do not appreciate our work, or who act contrary to our ideas. [So the god who destroys is Satan.] 

“Every human being, in body, soul, and spirit, is the property of God. Christ died to redeem all. Nothing can be more offensive to God than for men, through religious bigotry, to bring suffering upon those who are the purchase of the Saviour's blood [and He won’t hurt sinners either!].” 



Note 2:              The effect of repentance

{3BC 1127.2}

“Swift destruction followed. Seventy thousand were destroyed by pestilence [sickness]. David and the elders of Israel were in the deepest humiliation, mourning before the Lord. As the angel of the Lord was on his way to destroy Jerusalem, God bade him stay his work of death [See Hebrews 2:14].

“A pitiful God loves His people still, notwithstanding their rebellion. The Angel, clad in warlike garments, with a drawn sword in his hand, stretched out over Jerusalem, is revealed to David [as He was to Moses, Exodus 4:24], and to those who are with him. David is terribly afraid, yet he cries out in his distress, and his compassion for Israel. He begs of God to save the sheep.

“In anguish he confesses, 'I have sinned, and I have done wickedly; but these sheep, what have they done? Let thine hand, I pray thee, be against me, and against my father's house.'

“God speaks to David, by His prophet, and bids him make atonement for his sin. David's heart was in the work, and his repentance was accepted. The threshing floor of Araunah is offered him freely, where to build an altar unto the Lord; also cattle, and everything needful for the sacrifice. But David tells him who would make this generous offering, that the Lord will accept the sacrifice which he is willing to make, but that he would not come before the Lord with an offering which cost him nothing. He would buy it of him for full price. He offered there burnt-offerings and peace-offerings. God accepted the offerings by answering David in sending fire from heaven to consume the sacrifice.

"The [destroying] angel of the Lord was commanded to put his sword into his sheath, and cease his work of destruction (1SP 385, 386).”   Back



Note 3:                   The holy ground

{GC 18.2}

“The history of more than a thousand years of God's special favor and guardian care, manifested to the chosen people, was open to the eye of Jesus. There was Mount Moriah, where the son of promise, an unresisting victim, had been bound to the altar emblem of the offering of the Son of God. There the covenant of blessing, the glorious Messianic promise, had been confirmed to the father of the faithful. Genesis 22:9, 16-18.

“There the flames of the sacrifice ascending to heaven from the threshing floor of Ornan had turned aside the sword of the destroying angel (1 Chronicles 21) fitting symbol of the Saviour's sacrifice and mediation for guilty men.

“Jerusalem had been honored of God above all the earth. The Lord had 'chosen Zion,' He had 'desired it for His habitation.' Psalm 132:13. There, for ages, holy prophets had uttered their messages of warning. There priests had waved their censers, and the cloud of incense, with the prayers of the worshipers, had ascended before God. [See Revelation 8:3-4].  There daily the blood of slain lambs had been offered, pointing forward to the Lamb of God. [Exodus 29:38-39].

“There Jehovah had revealed His presence in the cloud of glory above the mercy seat. There rested the base of that mystic ladder connecting earth with heaven (Genesis 28:12; John 1:51) that ladder upon which angels of God descended and ascended, and which opened to the world the way into the holiest of all.

“Had Israel as a nation preserved her allegiance to Heaven, Jerusalem would have stood forever, the elect of God. Jeremiah 17:21-25.

“But the history of that favored people was a record of backsliding and rebellion. They had resisted Heaven's grace, abused their privileges, and slighted their opportunities.” Back