c-4 The Great Price of a Sin of David:
Does 2 Samuel Contradict 1 Chronicles?
Choosing a chastisement: In 1 Chron.21:12, for the sin of numbering the people, David has a choice of 3 chastisements, 3 years of famine in Israel, 3 months of David fleeing from enemies seeking his life, or 3 days of deadly pestilence in Israel. In 2 Sam.24:13 choices posed to David are 3 months of fleeing his enemies, 7 years famine or 3 days pestilence. 7 years of famine in Samuel contrasts with 3 years in Chronicles, but each passage gives part of the episode, and Chronicles amplifies Samuel.
This difference in the years of famine tells us there were two offers of God to David, one involving 3 years of famine followed by a second one involving 7 years. This is made plain when we first consider that, even in youth, David wearied of Saul pursuing him to the point of fearing for his life. Fleeing from his enemies would be abhorrent to an aging David, especially since it appears he will be destroyed, judging by wording of the text here. In the Chronicles passage containing the first offer, he may well feel that 3 years of famine for Israel would be preferable, for it’s possible no one will die in the famine, but he fears results of that option. Thus he replies in words to the effect that he can’t choose and wants God to do so, but asks that he not fall into the hands of men (not have to flee from enemies). Thus David won’t take responsibility for giving in to Satan’s temptation, and prefers an alternative whereby others will suffer in his place. Clearly, God won’t be pleased with this failure on the part of the one He has chosen to lead Israel, so the likelihood is that David would be given a second chance to choose responsibly. Thus God would increase the famine period to 7 years, virtually ensuring innocent women and children will die for David's sin, and making this alternative less appealing to David. But David still can’t choose rightly, and in Samuel he repeats his answer noted in Chronicles. God doesn’t choose the famine, but allows 3 days of a pestilence that destroys much of the army David numbered, invoking God's intent to judge Israel for sin. David is now willing to face up to his responsibility (2 Sam.24:17 & 1 Chron. 21:17), but it’s too late.
David’s failure to choose rightly as the leader of God's people, and the depth of his weakness in this, are amplified by completing partial information that makes the two offers known. And likely, David could have been the means of sparing Israel from God's judgment for sin if he had been willing to accept responsibility for his sin by sacrificing himself (an opportunity for David, who is associated with the Messiah, to identify, in part, with the sinless Messiah, the Son of David who sacrificed Himself for our sin).
The earlier Samuel verse notes the second offer of 7 years of famine, as expected since an initial offer should invoke the symmetry of 3 days pestilence, 3 months of fleeing from enemies and 3 years of famine noted in Chronicles. The two passages present logical expectations with Chronicles written ~500 years after Samuel, and the Babylonian Captivity intervening. The earlier Samuel has the second offer, for noting the initial one there would leave incomplete, for ~500 years, the extent of David's failure, showing Judah that he preferred as much as 7 years of famine for others to his own suffering. The first offer of 3 years is recorded 500 years later in Chronicles so Judah may learn that, even with a second opportunity to act responsibly, involving increased suffering for his people, David still didn’t act responsibly, resulting in great loss of life, and showing how weak the best of leaders can be when the personal price for integrity is just too great to pay. It shows how far short David, the greatest human king of Israel, came in keeping God's leadership standard. David allowed his people to be sacrificed for his sin (doubtless with great sorrow), in contrast with the self- sacrificing perfect standard of the sinless Jesus Christ, the Son of David
Modern versions offer paid for gave in 1 Chron.21:25. The Hebrew can be paid, but gave is more common, and twice in the text the term signifies gave in 1 Chronicles (to stress amplification), including Ornan’s offer to give the place, and David giving of the gold in refusing to accept what costs him nothing. The theme is David’s repentance, amplified by gave, not paid. The distinction is lost by modern scholars who don’t grasp amplification. They think that the larger price is paid for the large area around the threshingfloor meant for temple construction to come later. But that can’t be assumed here, despite mention of the threshingfloor at the temple site in chapter 22. To support their guess in using paid, scholars render site in Chronicles, suggesting a larger area implied by site. But place is the usual meaning of the Hebrew, and the 1 Chron.21:22 place of this threshingfloor limits the area to that of the threshingfloor. the use of site serves only to justify scholar opinion, an unacceptable translation practice, whereas the KJV preserves inerrancy by following details revealed by context.
Further proof of amplification here is the fact that the language of the offer in Samuel has the appearance of a reiterated second offer. In Chronicles the choice of fleeing from his enemies is described to David in detail, and is only briefly noted in Samuel, as expected if Samuel reiterates the offer. And in Chronicles the pestilence offer is more detailed than it is in Samuel, as expected if Samuel reiterates an earlier offer. Further, the offer in Samuel is slightly more personally related to David than it is in Chronicles, as expected if God were leading David to reexamine his thinking about how serious the alternatives to his suffering are. In this second offer God reminds David it is people of his land that he is personally responsible for as king that would suffer if he doesn’t take responsibility for his own sin (2 Sam.24:13, pestilence in thy land contrasts with 1 Chron.21:12, pestilence, in the land).
Samuel gives a second offer for summation, and Chronicles gives the first for purp- oses of amplification. The Samuel/Chronicles relationship is preserved fully, despite an intervening Babylonian exile in the life and record keeping of the nation that could distort the record. God challenges us to believe in His Word always, and we will if we reject the notion of contradictions.
Another type of price: 2 Sam.24:24 & 1 Chron.21:25 offer more amplification on the above incident. After the 3-day plague that slew 70,000 men, David receives a facility where he sets up an altar to God. In Samuel He refuses to take the facility and related items as a gift from the owner since he won’t offer to God that which costs him nothing. He is said to buy the facility for 50 shekels of silver, but in Chronicles, He’s said to give the owner a far greater price of 600 shekels of gold, which is ampli- fication, not contradiction. In Samuel legal payment for the property was 50 shekels. But David wouldn’t be satisfied to pay this, a costly gift from him being proper due to the costly result of his sin. In Samuel he bought the property for the legal price, and Chronicles amplification tells us he also gave a much larger amount indicative of self-sacrifice (600 shekels of gold is ~$38,000 in U.S. currency today). Bought and gave in the two passages in the KJV show us this truth.