Thread: 1 Chronicles 21 Board: Kerygmania / Ship of Fools.

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Posted by simwel (# 12214) on :
Why was Yahweh angry at David's census? One commentary argues that at the time it was viewed as unlucky to count one's own troops. There must be more than that. Ideas please.
Posted by Lamb Chopped (# 5528) on :
Same reason why I cringe when denominational suits want us to count our church members. The census is basically for bragging purposes--"see how many we have, aren't we awesome and strong!" Rather like Trump's fixation on the size of his inauguration crowd. Plus of course the temptation to put one's faith in the size of the army as opposed to in God.

It isn't necessary (well, in those days it wasn't) to know the exact number of people in order to go war. They had a multi-level command system so all you really needed to know was who reported to whom. They would have had their own supplies, I believe, and not be going on long campaigns.

In the church, if your congregation is small enough to know everybody by name, that's preferable. It forces you to treat them as people constantly rather than getting a big head because you have 10 more people than the pastor down the street.

[ 04. September 2017, 18:26: Message edited by: Lamb Chopped ]
Posted by Mamacita (# 3659) on :
Link to 1 Chronicles 21

Please remember to include a link to the passage you want to discuss.

Mamacita, Keryg Host
Posted by Nigel M (# 11256) on :
This is an interesting passage. One reason is the difference between Samuel’s version and this one here in 1 Chronicles. In 2 Samuel 24 it is Yahweh (The LORD in English versions) who incites David, as opposed to an adversary from the divine council (satan). A provoking question as to who is doing the provoking.

But that’s another question. It still remains unsatisfying to our ears to hear that Yahweh is tetchy about the census and blames Israel / David, given that on the face of it, it would seem really not to be David’s fault.

A census on its own is not unlucky; they were common enough procedures. Israel had to have a way of knowing how many people there were in the tribes, and so on. There is no obvious reason why a census would or should have generated anger and guilt. The text does not explicitly why God reacted in way he did, so one answer would be to say: “The author does tell us, so let that be an end to it!”

Humans, however, are notorious for not letting brick walls stand in the way of heads.

There is a clue in the text that might lead to an answer. It comes from the mouth of Joab. When David orders Joab to conduct the census, Joab replies (NET Version):
“May the LORD make his army 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?”
His rhetorical question – Do not all them serve my master? – can be taken as an indication that David’s motivation in conducting a census was not merely to number, but also to ascertain the loyalty of Israel’s army. It could be that he was concerned that elements in the army were not loyal to him. They might at some crucial point rebel. A census would be to ascertain the loyal members of a state – those citizens who were in a covenant relationship up the chain to the king and hence to God. David’s action could be misconstrued by the people as being a statement that he no longer had trust in them, something that could bring guilt on them.

So although the mere fact of a census was not in itself a problem, the associated element of testing loyalty might have been. It is noteworthy that this passage comes on the heels of a series of wars and battles where the army had proved itself time and again. To have the king then to question their loyalty would have been a bit of an insult. Not unlike an adversary, though, to whisper in David’s ear: “Are you really, really, sure that those fighters are all loyal to you? Look how powerful and brave they have become. Suppose they decided to turn their spears on you?”
Posted by Sarah G (# 11669) on :
It's non-payment of taxes.

Exodus 30:12 states:

When you take a census of the Israelites to count them, each one must pay the Lord a ransom for his life at the time he is counted. Then no plague will come on them when you number them. Each one who crosses over to those already counted is to give a half shekel...
I understand that in ancient cultures, you were only allowed to count what was yours, and Israel belonged to God, not David.

An early kind of Poll Tax, I guess.

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