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1 Chronicles 21:1-3

Context
The Lord Sends a Plague against Israel

21:1 An adversary 1  opposed 2  Israel, inciting David to count how many warriors Israel had. 3  21:2 David told Joab and the leaders of the army, 4  “Go, count the number of warriors 5  from Beer Sheba to Dan. Then bring back a report to me so I may know how many we have.” 6  21:3 Joab replied, “May the Lord make his army 7  a hundred times larger! My master, O king, do not all of them serve my master? Why does my master want to do this? Why bring judgment on Israel?” 8 

1 tn Or “Satan.” The Hebrew word שָׂטָן (satan) can refer to an adversary in general or Satan in particular. There is no article accompanying the term here, which suggests it should be understood generally (cf. NAB “a satan”).

2 tn Heb “stood against.”

3 tn Heb “and incited David to count Israel.” As v. 5 indicates, David was not interested in a general census, but in determining how much military strength he had.

sn The parallel text in 2 Sam 24:1 says, “The Lord’s anger again raged against Israel and he incited David against them, saying: ‘Go, count Israel and Judah!’“ The version of the incident in the Book of 2 Samuel gives an underlying theological perspective, while the Chronicler simply describes what happened from a human perspective. Many interpreters and translations render the Hebrew שָׂטָן as a proper name here, “Satan” (NEB, NASB, NIV, NRSV). However, the Hebrew term שָׂטָן, which means “adversary,” is used here without the article. Elsewhere when it appears without the article, it refers to a personal or national adversary in the human sphere, the lone exception being Num 22:22, 32, where the angel of the Lord assumes the role of an adversary to Balaam. When referring elsewhere to the spiritual entity known in the NT as Satan, the noun has the article and is used as a title, “the Adversary” (see Job 1:6-9, 12; 2:1-4, 6-7; Zech 3:1-2). In light of usage elsewhere the adversary in 1 Chr 21:1 is likely a human enemy, probably a nearby nation whose hostility against Israel pressured David into numbering the people so he could assess his military strength. For compelling linguistic and literary arguments against taking the noun as a proper name here, see S. Japhet, I & II Chronicles (OTL), 374-75.

4 tn Or “people.”

5 tn Heb “Go, count Israel.” See the note on “had” in v. 1.

6 tn Heb “their number.”

7 tn Or “people.”

8 tn Heb “Why should it become guilt for Israel?” David’s decision betrays an underlying trust in his own strength rather than in divine provision. See also 1 Chr 27:23-24.



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