Chronicles is the reason that we think of King David as a larger-than-life kind of figure like Moses. He is thus responsible for the organization of the Temple and its Levites. But the path to choosing the Temple site is an interesting one.
1 Chronicles 21
1 Chronicles 21 tells this fascinating story. The heretofore blameless David now is incited by “Satan” to number Israel. This is the first time in the Hebrew Scriptures that we hear of the name Satan. Satan is Hebrew for adversary and the word appears in Job 1-2 and Zechariah 3:1 but with the definite article (”the adversary”). Thus Chronicles reflects a later stage of the understanding of Satan. The chapter also shows a greater interest in speaking of angels in general, which also reflects the time period leading up to that of Jesus.
In any case, this is where the differences with Samuel begin. For 2 Samuel 24:1 attributes to YHWH inciting David to number the people. While no doubt YHWH had done so for good, Chronicles mentions Satan who had done so for evil. This has the effect of distancing YHWH from the sin of the census.
Other changes serve to make us see David as even more guilty than the book of Samuel had shown. For example, Joab tried to stop David from doing it and also got the credit for not including Levi and Benjamin in the count, David’s confession of guilt is more strongly worded than in Samuel and ”the king” in Samuel is frequently changed in Chronicles to ”David.”
Still other changes emphasize how righteous David was in securing the future temple site. For example, he was offered the site for free by Ornan but David insisted on paying the full price. This is purposefully noted to draw a comparison with Abraham paying for the cave of Machpelah in Genesis 23:9 as a burial ground. Samuel tells us the cost was 40 shekels of silver but Chronicles says it was 600 shekels of gold. This difference serves to glorify the temple site (even if it is updating the text for how much that money would be worth in the Chronicler’s day or if the Chronicler was including more land).
Also, David’s prayer was answered by fire from heaven (1 Chron 21:26) recalling Elijah’s prayer in 1 Kings 18. This and other Scripture allusions show that this site is an appropriate site for the temple to be built – including allusions to the angel of the Lord in Joshua 5 and the place being holy and how Ornan threshing wheat recalls Gideon (Judges 6). All of the allusions are associated with altars and holy places. Note also 2 Chronicles 3:1 explains that Ornan’s threshing floor was on Mount Moriah linking the place to Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac.
The natural question then is why this Messianic figure David is allowed to be shown as such a great sinner in this passage when Chronicles has avoided mentioning his other well-known sins. Yes the incident does reinforce the general point of the Chronicler that sin can be immediately punished by God. And the text of Chronicles makes God’s role in that punishment more clear than it was in Samuel. But there must be some greater reason for including this part of the story.
It appears that the reason it would be included is the importance of the temple in answering sin. That is, despite David’s sin it leads to the choosing of a place for the altar and temple of YHWH. So we see here that God’s grace is highlighted in this story of David’s sin. Indeed, David himself stresses that he chose to let Israel fall into the hands of YHWH rather than foreign invaders because the mercy of God is very great (1 Chron 21:13). Thankfully too the mercy of God stopped the plague short from Jerusalem.
Thus as Braun’s commentary says, this is a story of the grace of God triumphing over the sin of David and leading to the building site for the temple. So in this story that might seem rather strange to us, we hear the good news. And we get to focus on what Braun calls ”the central feature of the Chronicler’s message” – the temple. It is no doubt worth noting that the temple too points us to Jesus Christ who is God with us!
(Fyi: Chapter divisions fail us here as the first verse of 1 Chronicles 22 really is the last verse of this account.)
1 Chronicles 22-29
Braun calls chapters 22-29 a transitional unit. He does so because of the significance they have in the work of the Chronicler and especially how they link the stories of David and Solomon together into a larger unit. The point herein will be to show Solomon is the one chosen by God to build the temple and gain ”all Israel’s” support for it.
1 Chronicles 22 shows David preparing the materials needed for the building of the temple (1 Chron 22:2-5), charging Solomon to build the temple (1 Chron 22:6-16), and the last two verses of the chapter are addressed to the leaders of Israel to help Solomon. The way that the story is told links David and Solomon together behind the planning and building of the temple and as Braun says, ”Apologetically, the major thrust of the chapter is to legitimize Solomon as the temple builder.”
1 Chronicles 23-27 then deal with David’s organization of the Levites. This has been a particular concern of the Chronicler and it fits here as well. David is basically seen as responsible for the organization of the temple and its Levites in much the same way that Torah is with Moses and Solomon with wisdom. Braun says as much because these chapters actually describe the organization of the temple cult from a later date than David’s day.
Braun divides up this section in the same way most English Bibles do:
I. Divisions of the Levites (chap. 23)
II. The Priests (chap. 24)
III. The Singers (chap.25)
IV. The Gatekeepers (chap. 26)
V. Other Appointees of David (chap. 27).
These chapters were clearly important in post-exilic times for organizing worship again. It is important to see how extensive involvement in leading worship was – it was not a few people!
1 Chronicles 27 might appear then to change the subject since those listed by David here are no longer strictly speaking connected to worship. The problem with such thinking is that ancient peoples did not divide sacred from secular like moderns like to do – compartmentalizing their worship from the rest of life.
In any case, 1 Chronicles 28-29 pick back up where chapter 22 left off…
The fact that these chapters are here lends further support to the contention that God’s grace triumphs over David’s sin.