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Bible Commentaries
2 Samuel 24

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

And again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah. Again the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he moved David ... "Again" carries us back to the former tokens of His wrath in the protracted famine which had severely scourged the kingdom (2 Samuel 21:1); and it appears that national sin of some heinous nature still prevailed, which necessitated a renewed infliction of divine judgments. God, though He cannot tempt any man (James 1:13), is frequently described in Scripture as doing what He merely permits to be done; and so in this instance He permitted David to fall into temptation, by withholding His supporting and restraining grace. It will be observed that "he" before "moved" is improperly introduced. [ Wayaacet (H5496) has no nominative]; and as this verb signifies stimulated, incited, often in a bad sense, the meaning seems to be that David had been stirred up to the adoption of measure either by the urgency of some minister, whose evil influence predominated in the privy council, or by the suggestion of some worldly and unhallowed passion, which had acquired the ascendancy in his own breast.

Verse 2

For the king said to Joab the captain of the host, which was with him, Go now through all the tribes of Israel, from Dan even to Beersheba, and number ye the people, that I may know the number of the people.

The king said to Joab ... Go now through all the tribes of Israel ... and number ye the people ... The order was given to Joab, who, though not generally restrained by religious scruples, did not fail to represent in strong terms (see the notes at 1 Chronicles 21:3) the sin and danger of this measure, and 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.

Verses 3-4

And Joab said unto the king, Now the LORD thy God add unto the people, how many soever they be, an hundredfold, and that the eyes of my lord the king may see it: but why doth my lord the king delight in this thing?

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 5

And they passed over Jordan and pitched in Aroer on the right side of the city that lieth in the midst of the And they passed over Jordan, and pitched in Aroer, on the right side of the city that lieth in the midst of the river of Gad, and toward Jazer:

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, [ bªtowk (H8432) hanachal (H5158) ha-Gaad (H1410), in the midst of the torrent of Gad] - i:e., the Arnon (Wady Mojib). It extends over a course estimated at about 60 miles, which, though in summer almost constantly dry, exhibits very evident traces of being swept over by an impetuous torrent in winter (see the note at Deuteronomy 2:36).

And toward Jazer - or Jaazer, (Numbers 32:1; Numbers 32:3; Joshua 13:1.) [Septuagint, Iazeer, a town near Gilead.] In this quarter the commissioners pitched their first encampment.

Verse 6

Then they came to Gilead, and to the land of Tahtimhodshi; and they came to Danjaan, and about to Zidon,

The land of Tahtim-hodshi. What place is meant has been a matter of various conjecture. Apparently the most literal meaning is 'low land newly acquired,' namely, that of the Hagarenes, conquered by Saul (1 Chronicles 5:10). Others translate the words, 'the low land of Hodshi.' [The Septuagint has: eis geen Thabasoon hee estin Adasai; the Alexandrine, eis geen ethaoon adasai; which Thenius labours to render, 'into the land of Bashan, which is Edrei.]' '"The land of Tahtim-hodshi,"' says Porter, 'was manifestly a section of the upper valley of the Jordan, probably that now called Ard el-Huleh, lying deep down at the western base of Hermon.' The progress, after landing in Moab, was northward to Gilead, then from Gilead to the land of Tahtimhodshi to Dan-jaan. Thence they crossed the country to Zidon, and proceeding along the western coast to the Gibeonite cities, then to the southern extremities of the kingdom, they at length arrived in Jerusalem, having completed the census of ten tribes (for Levi and Benjamin were not numbered (1 Chronicles 21:6), and all persons who were under 20 years of age were omitted) in the space of 9 months and 20 days.

Verses 7-8

And came to the strong hold of Tyre, and to all the cities of the Hivites, and of the Canaanites: and they went out to the south of Judah, even to Beersheba.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 9

And Joab gave up the sum of the number of the people unto the king: and there were in Israel eight hundred thousand valiant men that drew the sword; and the men of Judah were five hundred thousand men.

Joab gave up the sum of the number of the people unto the king. The amount here stated, compared with 1 Chronicles 21:5, gives a difference of 300,000. The discrepancy is only apparent, and admits of an easy reconciliation; thus (see 1 Chronicles 27:1-34) 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 24,000 men, which together formed an army of 288,000; and as a separate detachment of 12,000 was attendant on the twelve princes of the twelve tribes mentioned in the same chapter, so both are equal to 300,000. These were not reckoned in this book, because they were in the actual service of the king as a regular militia. But 1 Chronicles 21:5 joins them to the rest, saying, 'all those of Israel were 1,100,000;' whereas the author of Samuel, who reckons only the 800,000, does not say, 'all those of Israel,' but barely, 'and Israel were,' etc. It must also be observed that, exclusive of the troops before mentioned, there was an army of observation the frontiers of the Philistines' country, composed of 30,000 men, as appears by 2 Samuel 6:1; which, it seems, were included the number of 500,000 of the people of Judah by the author of Samuel: but the author of Chronicles, who mentions only 470,000, gives the number of that tribe exclusive of those 30,000 men, because they were not all of the tribe of Judah, and therefore 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).

Verse 10

And David's heart smote him after that he had numbered the people. And David said unto the LORD, I have sinned greatly in that I have done: and now, I beseech thee, O LORD, take away the iniquity of thy servant; for I have done very foolishly.

David's heart smote him ... And David said unto the Lord, I have sinned ... The act of numbering the people was not in itself sinful; for Moses did it twice, 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, and even inconsistent with constitutional principles-from pride and vain glory, 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 (Michaelis, 'Commentary, vol. 3:, pp. 22, 23).

Josephus ('Antiquities,' b. 7:, ch. 13:, sec. 1) mentions an additional element in the sin of David at numbering the people-namely, that he neglected a divine statute which had expressly ordered that if the multitude were numbered, a poll-tax of half a shekel should be levied on every individual for the sanctuary (Exodus 30:12). It is very doubtful, however, how far this statement of Josephus is correct; because there is reason to believe that the impost of the half shekel was required only at the first census, to help the contributions for the erection of the tabernacle; and besides, if this tax had been continued in later times, so that it became David's duty to levy it at this new enumeration, it may be reasonably thought that he would require it. At all events, the silence of the historian is no proof that it was omitted or neglected. David's eyes were not opened to the heinousness of his sin until God had spoken unto him by His commissioned prophet.

Verse 11

For when David was up in the morning, the word of the LORD came unto the prophet Gad, David's seer, saying,

The word of the Lord came unto the prophet Gad ... saying ...

Verse 12

Go and say unto David, Thus saith the LORD, I offer thee three things; choose thee one of them, that I may do it unto thee.

Thus saith the Lord, I offer thee three things .... In the instances of Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, and

others, effectual means were taken to humble their pride. They would doubtless have preferred any other means of punishment than that which was inflicted; but the choice was not permitted to them, as to David. Observe the difference of the two cases, and why a choice was in this latter instance granted. Before David was thus permitted to choose, or the Lord had announced by the seer what the three judgments were to be, he had himself turned to the Lord, and said, "Now, I beseech thee, do away the iniquity of thy servant, for I have done foolishly." He had already seen his error, he had repented of it, and turned again humbly to his God, and a choice was then in mercy granted to him.

Verse 13

So Gad came to David, and told him, and said unto him, Shall seven years of famine come unto thee in thy land? or wilt thou flee three months before thine enemies, while they pursue thee? or that there be three days' pestilence in thy land? now advise, and see what answer I shall return to him that sent me.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 14

And David said unto Gad, I am in a great strait: let us fall now into the hand of the LORD; for his mercies are great: and let me not fall into the hand of man.

David said ... I am in a great strait. Well might he say so; because the chastisement was bitter in the extreme. Seven years of famine, three years of war, or three days of pestilence were the fearful alternatives set before him. They were all directly and eminently calculated to humble his pride and to diminish that confidence in human power and resources which had been the origin and mainspring of his sinful policy.

Let us fall now into the hands of the Lord. An 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 far superior to them. Besides, he thereby showed his trust, founded on long experience, in the divine goodness.

Verse 15

So the LORD sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning even to the time appointed: and there died of the people from Dan even to Beersheba seventy thousand men.

So the Lord sent a pestilence upon Israel, from the morning even to the time appointed - rather that morning, when Gad came, until the end of the three days.

And there died of the people, from Dan even to Beer-sheba, seventy thousand men. What an awful panic must have prevailed throughout the land! What a dreadful agony must David have endured during these horrible three days and nights! The whole land was converted into a vast lazar-house. Thus, by the sad removal of such multitudes of his subjects in all grades of society, was the pride of the self-willed and vain-glorious monarch, confiding in the extent of his population, deeply humbled.

Verse 16

And when the angel stretched out his hand upon Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed the people, It is enough: stay now thine hand. And the angel of the LORD was by the threshingplace of Araunah the Jebusite. And when the angel stretched out his hand upon Jerusalem to destroy it. The pestilence seems to have broken out at the opposite extremities of the country, and to have advanced with gigantic strides from all points, until it was ready to concentrate its violence upon Jerusalem.

The Lord repented him of the evil. God is often described in Scripture as "repenting", when He ceases to pursue a course he had begun.

Said to the angel that destroyed the people, It is enough; stay now thine hand. This destroying angel was hovering over mount Moriah, and brandishing his deadly sword over the inhabitants in the metropolis below, when the order to stay his hand was issued by the Lord. Such an apparition must have been a terrific spectacle. There are some who resolve this narrative into a strong and highly poetical description of an awful plague, which was with so fearful rapidity mowing down the people, and who maintain that "the angel of the Lord" is like the Homeric figure of Apollo discharging his arrows upon the Greeks, when a pestilence broke out among them. But the introduction of a bold poetical figure into a narrative of plain, unvarnished prose is most improbable; and the mention of the "angel of the Lord," as an intelligent superhuman agent, while it is consistent with the general style of the divine procedure in the ancient Church, is so much in keeping with the rest of this striking record that no one could doubt the reality of his interposition, whose mind was not warped by a preconceived theory against all occurrences contrary to the ordinary course of nature. But it is alleged by others that it was a popular belief among the Hebrews that angels presided over certain diseases; and hence, it became common to speak of a particular malady, especially if it was of a malignant nature, as "the angel of the Lord." But this notion about the angels became prevalent after the captivity; and not a shadow of evidence can be adduced to prove that it was held by them in the early days of David. It was derived from their foreign conquerors, and imported into Palestine on their return from the captivity, (see further the notes at 1 Chronicles 21:1-30.)

Verse 17

And David spake unto the LORD when he saw the angel that smote the people, and said, Lo, I have sinned, and I have done wickedly: but these sheep, what have they done? let thine hand, I pray thee, be against me, and against my father's house.

David spake (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 its immediate cause, the great increase of national offences at this time had (2 Samuel 24:1) kindled the anger of the Lord.

Verse 18

And Gad came that day to David, and said unto him, Go up, rear an altar unto the LORD in the threshingfloor of Araunah the Jebusite. Araunah - or Ornan (1 Chronicles 21:18), the Jebusite, one of the ancient inhabitants, who, having apparently become a convert to the true religion, retained his house and possessions. He resided on mount Moriah, the spot on which the temple was afterward built (2 Chronicles 3:1); but that mount was not then enclosed.

Verses 19-20

And David, according to the saying of Gad, went up as the LORD commanded.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 21

And Araunah said, Wherefore is my lord the king come to his servant? And David said, To buy the threshingfloor of thee, to build an altar unto the LORD, that the plague may be stayed from the people.

To buy the threshing-floor of thee, to build an altar unto the Lord, that the plague may be stayed from the people. It is evident that the plague was not stayed until after the altar was built and the sacrifice offered; so that what is related, 2 Samuel 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 (2 Samuel 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 (1 Chronicles 21:29-30), and partly in anticipation of the removal of the tabernacle, and the erection of the temple there (2 Chronicles 3:1).

Verse 22

And Araunah said unto David, Let my lord the king take and offer up what seemeth good unto him: behold, here be oxen for burnt sacrifice, and threshing instruments and other instruments of the oxen for wood.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 23

All these things did Araunah, as a king, give unto the king. And Araunah said unto the king, The LORD thy God accept thee.

All these things did Araunah, as a king, [ 'Arawªnaah (H728) hamelek (H4428)] - Araunah the king; probably the hereditary chief of the ancient Jebusites.

Araunah said unto the king, The Lord thy God accept thee. The conduct of Araunah not only evinces a generous disposition and deep sympathy with David and his people in the alarming crisis, but this expression of his pious wishes creates a presumption that he had become a proselyte to the faith.

Verse 24

And the king said unto Araunah, Nay; but I will surely buy it of thee at a price: neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the LORD my God of that which doth cost me nothing. So David bought the threshingfloor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.

Nay; but I will surely buy it of thee at a price. The sum mentioned here-namely, fifty shekels of silver, equal to 5 pound sterling-was paid for the floor, oxen, and wood instruments only; whereas the large sum, 1 Chronicles 21:25, was paid afterward for the whole hill on which David made preparations for building the temple.

Verse 25

And David built there an altar unto the LORD, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. So the LORD was intreated for the land, and the plague was

David ... offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. There seems to have been two sacrifices-the first expiatory, the second a thanksgiving for the cessation of the pestilence (see the notes at 1 Chronicles 21:26). Burnt offerings might be offered without a priest anywhere; and although it may appear probable, from some passages of Scripture (1 Samuel 11:15), as well as the present, that peace offerings might be offered by non-Levitical Israelites, yet when these passages are fully examined, they do not support such a conclusion. [In that which is under review, the Septuagint contains a remarkable addition at the end of 2 Samuel 24:25, immediately after "peace offerings:" Kai prosetheeken Saloomoon epi to thusiasteerion ep' eschatoo, hoti mikron een en prootois-And Solomon added to the altar at last, because it was small at first.] 'It is possible that the first part of this verse, as given in the Septuagint, may be parenthetical, and refer to the subsequent that the first part of this verse, as given in the Septuagint, may be parenthetical, and refer to the subsequent fixing of the sacrifices there.

Yet it is certain, from the fuller account in the Book of Chronicles, that when David perceived that the Lord accepted his offering, he understood that this was to be the place which had been intended for fixing the worship, and therefore he may have had less scruple in departing from the usual rule. For my own part, I incline to the belief that the offering of the peace offering refers to David's fixing the worship there from that time forward, and, as the Septuagint adds, Solomon's continuing it. But although others may not so understand the passage, yet it is beyond controversy that the peace offering could never have been complete unless God's portion were offered to Him at His own dwelling. It may be that it was allowable in the private peace offerings for the worshipper to eat his part there, and afterward send God's portion to the tabernacle. And at any rate this, the only well-decided instance of making the peace offering away from the sanctuary, was at that place where henceforward the peace offerings were always to be made' ('Israel after the Flesh,' p.148).

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 24". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/2-samuel-24.html. 1871-8.
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