2 Samuel 24

Listen to 2 Samuel 24
1 Once again the anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and he caused David to harm them by taking a census. “Go and count the people of Israel and Judah,” the LORD told him.
2 So the king said to Joab and the commanders of the army, “Take a census of all the tribes of Israel—from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south—so I may know how many people there are.”
3 But Joab replied to the king, “May the LORD your God let you live to see a hundred times as many people as there are now! But why, my lord the king, do you want to do this?”
4 But the king insisted that they take the census, so Joab and the commanders of the army went out to count the people of Israel.
5 First they crossed the Jordan and camped at Aroer, south of the town in the valley, in the direction of Gad. Then they went on to Jazer,
6 then to Gilead in the land of Tahtim-hodshi and to Dan-jaan and around to Sidon.
7 Then they came to the fortress of Tyre, and all the towns of the Hivites and Canaanites. Finally, they went south to Judah as far as Beersheba.
8 Having gone through the entire land for nine months and twenty days, they returned to Jerusalem.
9 Joab reported the number of people to the king. There were 800,000 capable warriors in Israel who could handle a sword, and 500,000 in Judah.
10 But after he had taken the census, David’s conscience began to bother him. And he said to the LORD, “I have sinned greatly by taking this census. Please forgive my guilt, LORD, for doing this foolish thing.”
11 The next morning the word of the LORD came to the prophet Gad, who was David’s seer. This was the message:
12 “Go and say to David, ‘This is what the LORD says: I will give you three choices. Choose one of these punishments, and I will inflict it on you.’”
13 So Gad came to David and asked him, “Will you choose three years of famine throughout your land, three months of fleeing from your enemies, or three days of severe plague throughout your land? Think this over and decide what answer I should give the LORD who sent me.”
14 “I’m in a desperate situation!” David replied to Gad. “But let us fall into the hands of the LORD, for his mercy is great. Do not let me fall into human hands.”
15 So the LORD sent a plague upon Israel that morning, and it lasted for three days. A total of 70,000 people died throughout the nation, from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south.
16 But as the angel was preparing to destroy Jerusalem, the LORD relented and said to the death angel, “Stop! That is enough!” At that moment the angel of the LORD was by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.
17 When David saw the angel, he said to the LORD, “I am the one who has sinned and done wrong! But these people are as innocent as sheep—what have they done? Let your anger fall against me and my family.”
18 That day Gad came to David and said to him, “Go up and build an altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.”
19 So David went up to do what the LORD had commanded him.
20 When Araunah saw the king and his men coming toward him, he came and bowed before the king with his face to the ground.
21 “Why have you come, my lord the king?” Araunah asked. David replied, “I have come to buy your threshing floor and to build an altar to the LORD there, so that he will stop the plague.”
22 “Take it, my lord the king, and use it as you wish,” Araunah said to David. “Here are oxen for the burnt offering, and you can use the threshing boards and ox yokes for wood to build a fire on the altar.
23 I will give it all to you, Your Majesty, and may the LORD your God accept your sacrifice.”
24 But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on buying it, for I will not present burnt offerings to the LORD my God that have cost me nothing.” So David paid him fifty pieces of silver for the threshing floor and the oxen.
25 David built an altar there to the LORD and sacrificed burnt offerings and peace offerings. And the LORD answered his prayer for the land, and the plague on Israel was stopped.

2 Samuel 24 Commentary

Chapter 24

David numbers the people. (1-9) He chooses the pestilence. (10-15) The staying the pestilence. (16,17) David's sacrifice, The plague removed. (18-25)

Verses 1-9 For the people's sin David was left to act wrong, and in his chastisement they received punishment. This example throws light upon God's government of the world, and furnishes a useful lesson. The pride of David's heart, was his sin in numbering of the people. He thought thereby to appear the more formidable, trusting in an arm of flesh more than he should have done, and though he had written so much of trusting in God only. God judges not of sin as we do. What appears to us harmless, or, at least, but a small offence, may be a great sin in the eye of God, who discerns the thoughts and intents of the heart. Even ungodly men can discern evil tempers and wrong conduct in believers, of which they themselves often remain unconscious. But God seldom allows those whom he loves the pleasures they sinfully covet.

Verses 10-15 It is well, when a man has sinned, if he has a heart within to smite him for it. If we confess our sins, we may pray in faith that God would forgive them, and take away, by pardoning mercy, that sin which we cast away by sincere repentance. What we make the matter of our pride, it is just in God to take from us, or make bitter to us, and make it our punishment. This must be such a punishment as the people have a large share in, for though it was David's sin that opened the sluice, the sins of the people all contributed to the flood. In this difficulty, David chose a judgment which came immediately from God, whose mercies he knew to be very great, rather than from men, who would have triumphed in the miseries of Israel, and have been thereby hardened in their idolatry. He chose the pestilence; he and his family would be as much exposed to it as the poorest Israelite; and he would continue for a shorter time under the Divine rebuke, however severe it was. The rapid destruction by the pestilence shows how easily God can bring down the proudest sinners, and how much we owe daily to the Divine patience.

Verses 16-17 Perhaps there was more wickedness, especially more pride, and that was the sin now chastised, in Jerusalem than elsewhere, therefore the hand of the destroyer is stretched out upon that city; but the Lord repented him of the evil, changed not his mind, but his way. In the very place where Abraham was stayed from slaying his son, this angel, by a like countermand, was stayed from destroying Jerusalem. It is for the sake of the great Sacrifice, that our forfeited lives are preserved from the destroying angel. And in David is the spirit of a true shepherd of the people, offering himself as a sacrifice to God, for the salvation of his subjects.

Verses 18-25 God's encouraging us to offer to him spiritual sacrifices, is an evidence of his reconciling us to himself. David purchased the ground to build the altar. God hates robbery for burnt-offering. Those know not what religion is, who chiefly care to make it cheap and easy to themselves, and who are best pleased with that which costs them least pains or money. For what have we our substance, but to honour God with it; and how can it be better bestowed? See the building of the altar, and the offering proper sacrifices upon it. Burnt-offerings to the glory of God's justice; peace-offerings to the glory of his mercy. Christ is our Altar, our Sacrifice; in him alone we may expect to escape his wrath, and to find favour with God. Death is destroying all around, in so many forms, and so suddenly, that it is madness not to expect and prepare for the close of life.

Footnotes 6

  • [a]. As in Greek version (see also 24:4 and 1 Chr 21:2 ); Hebrew reads Joab the commander.
  • [b]. Greek version reads to Gilead and to Kadesh in the land of the Hittites.
  • [c]. Or they went to the Negev of Judah.
  • [d]. As in Greek version (see also 1 Chr 21:12 ); Hebrew reads seven.
  • [e]. Hebrew for the designated time.
  • [f]. Hebrew 50 shekels of silver, about 20 ounces or 570 grams in weight.

Chapter Summary

INTRODUCTION TO SECOND SAMUEL 24

In this chapter an account is given of David's numbering of the people, 2Sa 24:1-9; of the sense he had of his sin, and of his acknowledgment of it; and of the Lord's displeasure at it, who sent the prophet Gad to him, to propose three things to him, one of which he was to choose as a punishment for it, 2Sa 24:10-13; when he chose the pestilence, which carried off a great number of the people, 2Sa 24:14-17; and David was directed to build an altar to the Lord in the threshingfloor of Araunah the Jebusite, with whom he agreed for it, and built one on it, and offered upon it, and so the plague was stayed, 2Sa 24:18-25.

2 Samuel 24 Commentaries