2 Chronicles 2:1-18 (Part 5) – Why Was One Census OK and the Other One Was Bad?

Posted: July 9, 2020 in 14-2 Chronicles

2 Chronicles 2:1-18 (Part 5 of 5)

Preparations for Building the Temple

Opening Illustration/Comments

This morning, in this final look at 2 Chronicles 2:1-18, before we move on to the next passage, one verse kept “sticking in my craw” (as the old Southern saying goes). That verse is v. 17 of this passage. In that verse, we find that Solomon took a census “like the census his father had taken.” Here’s the verse verbatim below:

17 Solomon took a census of all foreigners in the land of Israel, like the census his father had taken, and he counted 153,600.

Why does it say, “Like the census his father had taken”? That census did not turn out too well for David or for the nation of Israel because of God’s displeasure with it. in 1 Chronicles 21 says, “Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel.” The record in Chronicles places this right after a great victory over the Philistines, so the sin was probably related to a problem with pride and self-reliance. A census was preliminary to a draft of soldiers and a levying of taxes. It seems, therefore, that David’s intent was to increase the royal power in a way that contrasted with humble reliance on God. As Deuteronomy chapter 17 so strongly insists, the human kingship of Israel was to be noticeably dependent on God’s divine kingship. For Israel’s king to build up the same kind of power common to pagan kings was tantamount to repudiating God’s over-kingship. This seems to have been the nature of David’s sin so that God was angered and acted to nip it in the bud.

So, why was Solomon’s census likened to that? You can clearly understand from the two texts that this census by Solomon was different from his dad’s census. Solomon was (1) not counting his own people and (2) just trying to figure out how many able bodied foreign men that there were available to build the Temple. The reason that foreigners were used to build the Temple we discussed yesterday. There were few engineering and construction and other building craft experts in Israel because they were an agrarian culture. Thus, the expertise would have come from the foreigners among them. Thus, we can only conclude that the Bible is simply talking about the act of taking of a census was similar between the two kings, not the intent of Solomon’s census being similar to the one taken by his dad.

Then, this comparison goes to motives and our motives can often determine as to whether an act of some kind is a sin or not. The act itself is not sinful in and of itself but our motives behind the act may make it sinful. For example, biblically we know that the love of money is the cause of many, many, many sins. However, money in and of itself is not sinful. It is an inanimate object and thus does not the ability to be sinful or pure. It just is what it is. No more and no less. However, in human hands, when we make money a god in our lives, where we love it so much that we will do anything to get it, keep it, grow it, and maintain it and that we will screw people over in the process of doing all that, it becomes sinful. Similarly, women are God’s most beautiful creatures that He ever created. They are beautiful, wonderful, tender, and all things dainty and all things beautifying in our human world. In and of themselves, women are not sinful. However, when we lust after them, when we fantasize about relations with women to whom we are not married, when we objectify them as sex objects of our lust, when we make stupid decisions in life just to have a woman to be by your side and to meet your sexual needs, and in any way making women the gods of your life, then, yes, in that way they become sinful for you. The lust after a woman is the cause of many, many, many sins. It is the same with wine and other spirits. In and of themselves they are not sinful. However, when they take over your life and they cause you to forsake God, family, and all normal relationships, wine and spirits become sinful.

It is that idea of motives behind our actions is what I thought about this morning when reading this passage, 2 Chronicles 2:1-18, once again. Let’s read through it again this morning, together, with these ideas in mind:

Scripture Passage

2 [a]Solomon decided to build a Temple to honor the name of the Lord, and also a royal palace for himself. 2 [b]He enlisted a force of 70,000 laborers, 80,000 men to quarry stone in the hill country, and 3,600 foremen.

3 Solomon also sent this message to King Hiram[c] at Tyre:

“Send me cedar logs as you did for my father, David, when he was building his palace. 4 I am about to build a Temple to honor the name of the Lord my God. It will be a place set apart to burn fragrant incense before him, to display the special sacrificial bread, and to sacrifice burnt offerings each morning and evening, on the Sabbaths, at new moon celebrations, and at the other appointed festivals of the Lord our God. He has commanded Israel to do these things forever.

5 “This must be a magnificent Temple because our God is greater than all other gods. 6 But who can really build him a worthy home? Not even the highest heavens can contain him! So who am I to consider building a Temple for him, except as a place to burn sacrifices to him?

7 “So send me a master craftsman who can work with gold, silver, bronze, and iron, as well as with purple, scarlet, and blue cloth. He must be a skilled engraver who can work with the craftsmen of Judah and Jerusalem who were selected by my father, David.

8 “Also send me cedar, cypress, and red sandalwood[d] logs from Lebanon, for I know that your men are without equal at cutting timber in Lebanon. I will send my men to help them. 9 An immense amount of timber will be needed, for the Temple I am going to build will be very large and magnificent. 10 In payment for your woodcutters, I will send 100,000 bushels of crushed wheat, 100,000 bushels of barley,[e] 110,000 gallons of wine, and 110,000 gallons of olive oil.[f]”

11 King Hiram sent this letter of reply to Solomon:

“It is because the Lord loves his people that he has made you their king! 12 Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, who made the heavens and the earth! He has given King David a wise son, gifted with skill and understanding, who will build a Temple for the Lord and a royal palace for himself.

13 “I am sending you a master craftsman named Huram-abi, who is extremely talented. 14 His mother is from the tribe of Dan in Israel, and his father is from Tyre. He is skillful at making things from gold, silver, bronze, and iron, and he also works with stone and wood. He can work with purple, blue, and scarlet cloth and fine linen. He is also an engraver and can follow any design given to him. He will work with your craftsmen and those appointed by my lord David, your father.

15 “Send along the wheat, barley, olive oil, and wine that my lord has mentioned. 16 We will cut whatever timber you need from the Lebanon mountains and will float the logs in rafts down the coast of the Mediterranean Sea[g] to Joppa. From there you can transport the logs up to Jerusalem.”

17 Solomon took a census of all foreigners in the land of Israel, like the census his father had taken, and he counted 153,600. 18 He assigned 70,000 of them as common laborers, 80,000 as quarry workers in the hill country, and 3,600 as foremen.

Passage Analysis

In this passage, we see no displeasure from God either immediately or in subsequent passages as to the census taken by Solomon. Therefore, in the absence of any writing in Scripture to the contrary, we must assume that Solomon’s census met with no displeasure from God. With David’s census, there was immediate displeasure made known by God. When David conducted the census in 1 Chronicles 21:1-16, the Bible does not spell out what exactly caused God to be displeased with David’s census other than Satan rose up against Israel that caused David to conduct a census. But based on the fact that there seemed to be no real purpose in David’s census other than to give him a sense of pride in how large his army had grown to be, it was sinful and served no purpose that to puff David’s ego up. When you consider how much it costs our country to take a census every ten years, it would have been no different in David’s day. It was wasteful and prideful.

In Solomon’s case and from the text in 2 Chronicles 2:17 – 3:1, the census was to aid in determining the types of jobs people would need to be assigned to build the ‘house of the Lord’ / temple for the name of the Lord. Solomon’s motives for taking a census was for good or righteous reasons but in David’s case, it was because of Satan’s influencing him to seek pride.

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Life Application

I think that, for me, this census issue here in this passage is a reminder to me as a pastor. I must always examine my motives in those moments that things don’t go the way I wanted them to in my church or in my career as a pastor. In my assigned church, did I get upset when things didn’t go the way I wanted them to because (1) NON-SINFUL – the church is following its own pride and preferences and did not follow what the Lord had given you as pastor as the direction He wants the church to take or (2) SINFUL – because the failure of the church to accept your way was because it would help increase the numbers at the church, help make a name for myself, or help advance my UMC pastoral career. It’s the same in my overall career as a United Methodist Church pastor. Am I wanting to move to another appointment because God has told me that it’s time to move on and that I’ve done here all that I can do given how God has talented me? That’s a non-sinful way. Or am I wanting to leave because these people just won’t listen to ME? Sinful. Or am I wanting to leave because I deserve a bigger church? Sinful. Insightful take away for me this morning!

That’s the takeaway. Let us examine our motives for our actions each day. If our motives are not God-glorifying, let us back up, take a pause for a moment, and re-examine why we are doing or even contemplating doing what we are doing or are going to do. Let us seek for our actions and the motives behind them to meet with God’s approval. Let our motives be able to stand the bright light of God.

Amen and Amen.

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