Bible Commentary: 1 Chronicles 21

In 1 Chronicles chapter 17 and 18 we saw the connection between the line of David and the the temple and right worship of God emphasized in the messianic promise of God to David. In chapter 21, we see the meaning of the temple explained, both for Israel then, and for us now as we meditate on Christ in Chronicles.

David, who has been up to this point in Chronicles the example of faithfulness to and seeking of God, is shown to be sinful and in need of forgiveness. He orders that all the able-bodied fighting men be counted in Israel, sinning by (1) his ambition and pride in his military conquests, and (2) by his apparent failure to order the tax mandated by the Law in Exodus 30:12. In this second point in particular he causes the whole of Israel to sin by not paying the tax, and so the pestilence befalls all Israel.

In verse 8 David confesses his sin to God and asks that his sin be taken away. God replies by bringing his wrath in a pestilence on Israel (v14) as a result of David’s sin. Sin cannot merely be taken away, removed, or ignored, but demands that punishment be made for it.

In verse 17 David asks God for mercy for Israel. God, not able to merely ignore David’s sin, provides a way to mercy by commanding David to build an altar for sacrifice. Once David completes the sacrifices and offerings for his sin, God accepts the sacrifices and ceases the punishment of Israel with pestilence (vv26-27)

The site where David was commanded to build this altar for sacrifice was subsequently chosen as where the temple would be built (22:1; 2 Chron 3:1).

The meaning of the temple for Israel:
– The temple is shown in this narrative to be the place that God has given for forgiveness sins and the extension of mercy to post-exile Israel, where sin is atoned for and the consequences removed. If they will be faithful and seek God, making sacrifice for the forgiveness of their sins according the will of God, then God will bless them as they continue in worship and wait for the future hope of Israel through the line of David.

The meaning of the temple in Christology:
– Jesus, the Messiah promised through the line of David, is the place of sacrifice and mercy for God’s people and the final, fulfilling sacrifice for forgiveness of sins. His atonement is perfect and final. Like David, who pays “full price” to build the altar and sacrifice, Jesus pays “full price” to make the sacrifice that he does, dying and suffering the wrath of God in our place for our sins, thereby extending mercy to us.

The author of Hebrews makes a clear link between the temple sacrifice fulfilling work of Jesus and his messianic kingly-role, quoting David in the Psalms:

“The LORD says to my Lord:
Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool.” – Psalm 110:1

“And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.” – Hebrews 10:11-14

Therefore, having a perfect sacrifice for sins, the promise Messiah through the line of David, and the sanctification of our worship to God through the Messiah, let us with “confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).


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