World Wide Study Bible
a Bible passage
David’s Census of Israel and Judah
Again the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, “Go, count the people of Israel and Judah.” 2So the king said to Joab and the commanders of the army, who were with him, “Go through all the tribes of Israel, from Dan to Beer-sheba, and take a census of the people, so that I may know how many there are.” 3But Joab said to the king, “May the Lord your God increase the number of the people a hundredfold, while the eyes of my lord the king can still see it! But why does my lord the king want to do this?” 4But the king’s word prevailed against Joab and the commanders of the army. So Joab and the commanders of the army went out from the presence of the king to take a census of the people of Israel. 5They crossed the Jordan, and began from Aroer and from the city that is in the middle of the valley, toward Gad and on to Jazer. 6Then they came to Gilead, and to Kadesh in the land of the Hittites; and they came to Dan, and from Dan they went around to Sidon, 7and came to the fortress of Tyre and to all the cities of the Hivites and Canaanites; and they went out to the Negeb of Judah at Beer-sheba. 8So when they had gone through all the land, they came back to Jerusalem at the end of nine months and twenty days. 9Joab reported to the king the number of those who had been recorded: in Israel there were eight hundred thousand soldiers able to draw the sword, and those of Judah were five hundred thousand.
Judgment on David’s Sin
10 But afterward, David was stricken to the heart because he had numbered the people. David said to the Lord, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done. But now, O Lord, I pray you, take away the guilt of your servant; for I have done very foolishly.” 11When David rose in the morning, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Gad, David’s seer, saying, 12“Go and say to David: Thus says the Lord: Three things I offer you; choose one of them, and I will do it to you.” 13So Gad came to David and told him; he asked him, “Shall three years of famine come to you on your land? Or will you flee three months before your foes while they pursue you? Or shall there be three days’ pestilence in your land? Now consider, and decide what answer I shall return to the one who sent me.” 14Then David said to Gad, “I am in great distress; let us fall into the hand of the Lord, for his mercy is great; but let me not fall into human hands.”
15 So the Lord sent a pestilence on Israel from that morning until the appointed time; and seventy thousand of the people died, from Dan to Beer-sheba. 16But when the angel stretched out his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, the Lord relented concerning the evil, and said to the angel who was bringing destruction among the people, “It is enough; now stay your hand.” The angel of the Lord was then by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. 17When David saw the angel who was destroying the people, he said to the Lord, “I alone have sinned, and I alone have done wickedly; but these sheep, what have they done? Let your hand, I pray, be against me and against my father’s house.”
David’s Altar on the Threshing Floor
18 That day Gad came to David and said to him, “Go up and erect an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.” 19Following Gad’s instructions, David went up, as the Lord had commanded. 20When Araunah looked down, he saw the king and his servants coming toward him; and Araunah went out and prostrated himself before the king with his face to the ground. 21Araunah said, “Why has my lord the king come to his servant?” David said, “To buy the threshing floor from you in order to build an altar to the Lord, so that the plague may be averted from the people.” 22Then Araunah said to David, “Let my lord the king take and offer up what seems good to him; here are the oxen for the burnt offering, and the threshing sledges and the yokes of the oxen for the wood. 23All this, O king, Araunah gives to the king.” And Araunah said to the king, “May the Lord your God respond favorably to you.”
24 But the king said to Araunah, “No, but I will buy them from you for a price; I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver. 25David built there an altar to the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and offerings of well-being. So the Lord answered his supplication for the land, and the plague was averted from Israel.
2Sa 24:1-9. David Numbers the People.
1-4. again the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah—"Again" carries us back to the former tokens of His wrath in the three years' famine [2Sa 21:1]. God, though He cannot tempt any man (Jas 1:13), is frequently described in Scripture as doing what He merely permits to be done; and so, in this case, He permitted Satan to tempt David. Satan was the active mover, while God only withdrew His supporting grace, and the great tempter prevailed against the king. (See Ex 7:13; 1Sa 26:19; 2Sa 16:10; Ps 105:25; Isa 7:17, &c.). The order was given to Joab, who, though not generally restrained by religious scruples, did not fail to present, in strong terms (see on 1Ch 21:3), the sin and danger of this measure. He used every argument to dissuade the king from his purpose. The sacred history has not mentioned the objections which he and other distinguished officers urged against it in the council of David. But it expressly states that they were all overruled by the inflexible resolution of the king.
5. they passed over Jordan—This census was taken first in the eastern parts of the Hebrew kingdom; and it would seem that Joab was accompanied by a military force, either to aid in this troublesome work, or to overawe the people who might display reluctance or opposition.
the river of Gad—"Wady" would be a better term. It extends over a course estimated at about sixty miles, which, though in summer almost constantly dry, exhibits very evident traces of being swept over by an impetuous torrent in winter (see De 2:36).
6. the land of Tahtim-hodshi—that is, the land lately acquired; namely, that of the Hagarites conquered by Saul (1Ch 5:10). The progress was northward. Thence they crossed the country, and, proceeding along the western coast to the southern extremities of the country, they at length arrived in Jerusalem, having completed the enumeration of the whole kingdom in the space of nine months and twenty days.
9. Joab gave up the sum of the number of the people unto the king—The amount here stated, compared with 1Ch 21:5, gives a difference of three hundred thousand. The discrepancy is only apparent, and admits of an easy reconciliation; thus (see 1Ch 27:1-15), there were twelve divisions of generals, who commanded monthly, and whose duty was to keep guard on the royal person, each having a body of troops consisting of twenty-four thousand men, which, together, formed an army of two hundred eighty-eight thousand; and as a separate detachment of twelve thousand was attendant on the twelve princes of the twelve tribes mentioned in the same chapter, so both are equal to three hundred thousand. These were not reckoned in this book, because they were in the actual service of the king as a regular militia. But 1Ch 21:5 joins them to the rest, saying, "all those of Israel were one million, one hundred thousand"; whereas the author of Samuel, who reckons only the eight hundred thousand, does not say, "all those of Israel," but barely "and Israel were," &c. It must also be observed that, exclusive of the troops before mentioned, there was an army of observation on the frontiers of the Philistines' country, composed of thirty thousand men, as appears from 2Sa 6:1; which, it seems, were included in the number of five hundred thousand of the people of Judah by the author of Samuel. But the author of Chronicles, who mentions only four hundred seventy thousand, gives the number of that tribe exclusive of those thirty thousand men, because they were not all of the tribe of Judah, and therefore he does not say, "all those of Judah," as he had said, "all those of Israel," but only, "and those of Judah." Thus both accounts may be reconciled [Davidson].
2Sa 24:10-14. He, Having Three Plagues Propounded by GAD, Repents, and Chooses Three Days' Pestilence.
10-13. David's heart smote him after that he had numbered the people. And David said unto the Lord, I have sinned—The act of numbering the people was not in itself sinful; for Moses did it by the express authority of God. But David acted not only independently of such order or sanction, but from motives unworthy of the delegated king of Israel; from pride and vainglory; from self-confidence and distrust of God; and, above all, from ambitious designs of conquest, in furtherance of which he was determined to force the people into military service, and to ascertain whether he could muster an army sufficient for the magnitude of the enterprises he contemplated. It was a breach of the constitution, an infringement of the liberties of the people, and opposed to that divine policy which required that Israel should continue a separate people. His eyes were not opened to the heinousness of his sin till God had spoken unto him by His commissioned prophet.
13. Shall seven years of famine come unto thee—that is, in addition to the three that had been already, with the current year included (see on 1Ch 21:11).
14. David said, … Let us fall now into the hand of the Lord—His overwhelming sense of his sin led him to acquiesce in the punishment denounced, notwithstanding its apparent excess of severity. He proceeded on a good principle in choosing the pestilence. In pestilence he was equally exposed, as it was just and right he should be, to danger as his people, whereas, in war and famine, he possessed means of protection superior to them. Besides, he thereby showed his trust, founded on long experience, in the divine goodness.
2Sa 24:15-25. His Intercession to God; the Plague Ceases.
15. from the morning—rather that morning when Gad came [2Sa 24:18], till the end of the three days.
there died of the people … seventy thousand men—Thus was the pride of the vainglorious monarch, confiding in the number of his population, deeply humbled.
16. the Lord repented him of the evil—God is often described in Scripture as repenting when He ceased to pursue a course He had begun.
17. David … said—or, "had said,"
I have sinned … but these sheep, what have they done?—The guilt of numbering the people lay exclusively with David. But in the body politic as well as natural, when the head suffers, all the members suffer along with it; and, besides, although David's sin was the immediate cause, the great increase of national offenses at this time had (2Sa 24:1) kindled the anger of the Lord.
18. Araunah—or Ornan (1Ch 21:18), the Jebusite, one of the ancient inhabitants, who, having become a convert to the true religion, retained his house and possessions. He resided on Mount Moriah, the spot on which the temple was afterwards built (2Ch 3:1); but that mount was not then enclosed in the town.
21. to build an altar unto the Lord, that the plague may be stayed—It is evident that the plague was not stayed till after the altar was built, and the sacrifice offered, so that what is related (2Sa 24:16) was by anticipation. Previous to the offering of this sacrifice, he had seen the destroying angel as well as offered the intercessory prayer (2Sa 24:17). This was a sacrifice of expiation; and the reason why he was allowed to offer it on Mount Moriah was partly in gracious consideration to his fear of repairing to Gibeon (1Ch 21:29, 30), and partly in anticipation of the removal of the tabernacle and the erection of the temple there (2Ch 3:1).
23. All these things did Araunah, as a king, give—Indicating, as the sense is, that this man had been anciently a heathen king or chief, but was now a proselyte who still retained great property and influence in Jerusalem, and whose piety was evinced by the liberality of his offers. The words, "as a king," are taken by some to signify simply, "he gave with royal munificence."
24. Nay; … I will … buy it of thee at a price—The sum mentioned here, namely, fifty shekels of silver, equal £6 sterling, was paid for the floor, oxen and wood instruments only, whereas the large sum (1Ch 21:25) was paid afterwards for the whole hill, on which David made preparations for building the temple.
25. David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings—There seem to have been two sacrifices; the first expiatory, the second a thanksgiving for the cessation of the pestilence (see on 1Ch 21:26).