24 Again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, “Go, number Israel and Judah.” So the king said to Joab, the commander of the army, who was with him, “Go through all the tribes of Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, and number the people, that I may know the number of the people.” But Joab said to the king, “May the LORD your God add to the people a hundred times as many as they are, while the eyes of my lord the king still see it, but why does my lord the king delight in this thing?” But 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 number the people of Israel. They 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. Then 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, and 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 Beersheba. So when they had gone through all the land, they came to Jerusalem at the end of nine months and twenty days. And Joab gave the sum of the numbering of the people to the king: in Israel there were 800,000 valiant men who drew the sword, and the men of Judah were 500,000.
The Lord’s Judgment of David’s Sin
But David’s heart struck him after he had numbered the people. And David said to the LORD, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done. But now, O LORD, please take away the iniquity of your servant, for I have done very foolishly.” And when David arose in the morning, the word of the LORD came to the prophet Gad, David’s seer, saying, “Go and say to David, ‘Thus says the LORD, Three things I offer you. Choose one of them, that I may do it to you.’” So Gad came to David and told him, and said to him, “Shall three years of famine come to you in 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 him who sent me.” Then 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 the hand of man.”
So the LORD sent a pestilence on Israel from the morning until the appointed time. And there died of the people from Dan to Beersheba 70,000 men. And when the angel stretched out his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD relented from the calamity and said to the angel who was working destruction among the people, “It is enough; now stay your hand.” And the angel of the LORD was by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. Then David spoke to the LORD when he saw the angel who was striking the people, and said, “Behold, I have sinned, and I have done wickedly. But these sheep, what have they done? Please let your hand be against me and against my father’s house.”
David Builds an Altar
And Gad came that day to David and said to him, “Go up, raise an altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.” So David went up at Gad’s word, as the LORD commanded. And when Araunah looked down, he saw the king and his servants coming on toward him. And Araunah went out and paid homage to the king with his face to the ground. And Araunah 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, that the plague may be averted from the people.” Then 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. All this, O king, Araunah gives to the king.” And Araunah said to the king, “May the LORD your God accept you.” But the king said to Araunah, “No, but I will buy it 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. And David built there an altar to the LORD and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. So the LORD responded to the plea for the land, and the plague was averted from Israel.
2 Samuel 24 Commentary
by Hank Workman
“Now David’s heart troubled him after he had numbered the people.”2 Samuel 24:10a NASB
The Holy Spirit convicts us of our waywardness – even in things of every day or we could say that of normal life. Sometimes our coming and going and making choices that may not even appear outright wrong, He can speak and bring a heaviness to our actions. What we do with them is critical.
We may look at this entire story of David calling a census as a bit well – whatever. In the book of Numbers, censuses were taken to prepare an army for conquering the Promised Land. On many levels. It was a time when conscription to the army was carried out. So what’s the problem here?
The land was at peace. There was no threat of war. There was no reason to build up an army and enlist troops. In fact, if you consider all that David has accomplished as King, Israel was recognized as a world power. So what was the problem? David’s pride and ambition in the size of his army, the recognition on the world stage as a nation on the uprise was at the heart of this.
This act, remember they were at peace and didn’t need to build up their army, was how they looked, his trust in the sword and might rather than that of God who had brought them to this point. What’s even more surprising is scoundrel Joab even saw this was a bad move and advised against it.
Regardless, after the act had been done, David’s heart was heavy. He knew something was not right. The Holy Spirit was at work in convicting him about these things. Rather than feeling satisfied with what was discovered of the troop size, he was uneasy.
And what we find here is the flawed leader David leading by example to us once again of how to deal properly with this. His troubled heart led him to seek the Lord and discover the problem. His troubled heart led him to repentance over this act. Yes, you read the rest of the chapter and the Lord brought discipline once again but I appreciate so deeply the rawness of David’s story. For we see him acting on something that wasn’t right, feeling convicted, and once again seeking wholeness and restoration as to how his heart led him in the first place.
When the Holy Spirit stirs a troubled heart over something that we’ve been involved in, it is so critical to not push those thoughts aside. Seek truth in the matter. Bring this before the Lord as to why these feelings are there. And when or if He exposes the problem, like David did here, repent of these things, whatever it may be. This is what kept David’s heart sensitive to the Spirit of God and putting a guard of sorts around his heart from becoming that of stone.
2 Samuel 24 Commentary
by Brad Boyles
This account of a census is a puzzling chapter. We wonder today, what could be wrong with taking a census? It seems pretty harmless to us. In the ancient world, a man had a right to count and number what belonged to him. However, Israel did not belong to David, it belonged to God. David was infringing on God’s territory with information that wasn’t necessary to know, and in doing so, was ultimately sending a message of pride. There is some controversy over whether it was God who allowed this bad decision or Satan who tempted David as found in 1 Chronicles 21.
“Satan wanted to bring trouble on the people of Israel, so he made David decide to take a census. 2 David gave orders to Joab and the other officers, “Go through Israel, from one end of the country to the other, and count the people. I want to know how many there are.””1 Chronicles 21:1-2 GNB
I think as we study Scripture, we find clear evidence that when Satan tempts, he must go through the authority of God to do so. We see this both with the painful infliction dealt to Job and within the “sifting” of Peter. So, I would say it was a both/and situation. Regardless, David made the decision, and it was done.
“David was animated by a spirit of pride and vainglory. He was eager to make a fine showing among the surrounding nations, and to impress them with such a conception of Israel’s greatness that they would not dare to attack any point of the long frontier line. He yielded to the temptation of trusting in chariots and horses, instead of in the victories of faith.”F.B. Meyer
It is very interesting to me, because we see the same thing today, especially in ministry. We trust the numbers. We want data and proof. Just give us the percentages, so we can make an informed decision. If your ministry isn’t reaching _____ number of people, your ministry is failing. I’m not saying numbers, data, proof, and percentages don’t matter, but they don’t matter more than trusting God. They are also not a sure way of determining of spiritual growth or heart change.
Exposing motives is Holy Spirit territory. “Your ministry.” “Your numbers.” For David, it had become his instead of God’s.
Of course, had God been the one to declare a census be taken, it would have been a different story entirely. The sin wasn’t in the census, but rather, the heart of pride that sought approval from numbers alone. As we look through Israel’s history, we can see that numbers mattered very little. In fact, God often used smaller armies, weakened people, and humble beginnings to illustrate that true victory is only found in His strength.
Do you trust the numbers more than God? Is your faith and satisfaction more rooted in looking good before men or before God?