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The cause of David's action in numbering Israel is distinctly stated to be Satan. Therein lies a revelation of its nature. The one sin of Satan is that of pride and ambition, and this was the sin of David. His victories had resulted in the lifting up of his spirit, and in arrogance he would know the number of the people that he might make his boast therein. In this he persisted, notwithstanding the protest of Joab.
The chief interest of this chapter for us lies in the revelation of the true character of David. His sins were the lapses and accidents of his life. This is not to condone them. It is, however, to emphasize that the habitual set of his life was far otherwise than these sins suggest, and the deepest truth concerning him is revealed, not by the failures, but by his action afterwards. He confessed his sin frankly; chose to fall into the hands of God rather than any other for punishment; mourned over the death of the people because of his conviction that the sin was his, and refused to offer on the altar anything that had cost him nothing.
These things reveal, in order, his sense of sin and knowledge of himself, his knowledge of God and confidence in God's tender mercies, his love of his people, and his profound sense of what was due to God in worship. He sinned surely, but, after all, he was a man after God's own heart, and this is never more clearly manifest than in these dark days when God dealt with him for his wrongdoing. By comparison with the men of his own time, and the other kings of the nation, he stands pre-eminent in real godliness.
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Morgan, G. Campbell. "Commentary on 1 Chronicles 21". "Morgan's Exposition on the Bible". https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany