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2 Samuel 24:1 . The Lord moved David. He permitted Satan to stand up against Israel. 1 Chronicles 21:1.
2 Samuel 24:9 . There were in Israel eight hundred thousand valiant men that drew the sword; and the men of Judah were five hundred thousand men. The men of Israel are in the first of Chronicles said to be eleven hundred thousand, and the men of Judah only four hundred and seventy thousand. Those who attempt to reconcile the difference, suppose that the twenty four thousand monthly guards are not included in this number. Josephus, though his numbers have somehow been mis-written here, evidently follows the account in the Chronicles; for he affirms that the men of Benjamin and of Levi were not included in these returns.
2 Samuel 24:11 . The prophet Gad. Here we have a certainty of revelation; for Gad could not have known which of the three plagues David would choose; and a failure would have proved the utter ruin of the prophet.
2 Samuel 24:13 . Seven years of famine. The Septuagint says, three years; and in the Chronicles both the Septuagint and the Hebrew are three years. It is conjectured that the three years of famine for the Gibeonites, with the one year now spent in numbering the people, are here joined to make the seven years. Or three days of pestilence. Surely we cannot forget the malignant cholera which has marched from the Ganges, through the Turkish empire, to the north of Europe, to Paris and the British Isles. It has given its victims but a few hours’ notice. They have lain on their beds speechless, and almost without pulse or circulation, till blackness of aspect sunk them in the arms of death.
2 Samuel 24:25 . David built an altar there, in Jebus, or on the mount Moriah; and the Lord answered him by fire from heaven, which according to the rabbins pointed out the future scite of the temple. 1 Chronicles 21:26.
Tracing the steps of this illustrious man till within two years of his death, we find farther instruction from calamitous experience. Once he had fallen by an unholy passion; now he falls by vain glory and regal pride. On coming to the throne in Hebron, he found the kingdom ruined and the people few. Now he saw his empire extended; he saw it full of riches, full of people, and full of wantonness. Therefore “God’s anger was kindled against Israel.”
Satan, taking advantage of the pride and prosperity of the people, moved the king to number all who were able to bear arms; and he, dallying with the temptation, God at last permitted him to take his own way. The people on leaving Egypt and coming into the wilderness, were numbered to pay half a shekel towards the tabernacle, and they were again numbered before they entered Canaan, the better to divide the inheritance by lot; but now, no reason is assigned. The secret reason, the touchstone of the sin, lay in the bold ambition of swaying the empire of all the east. It was the sin of Babylon, of Rome, and lately the sin of Paris. It was the sin of national pride. It was the sin of meditating conquests for the glory of empire. It was ceasing to trust in the Lord, to repose their confidence in an arm of flesh: and cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm. Come hither then ye families who have suddenly risen by commerce and speculation to affluence and pride, who display your villas, your parks, your carriages, your sumptuous furniture. Your sins will bring you also into great and sore straits. God is about to afflict your bodies with disease, your households with anguish, and to send a blast on all your hopes; and he may not indulge you, as he did this penitent king, with a choice of calamities. What a pity that a little of earth, a little prosperity, should not only make a man vain and contemptible in the eyes of heaven, but even in the eyes of his fellow sinners. Lord, keep us ever lowly, ever vile in our own esteem. Yes: the wicked can soon perceive when the righteous err. Joab, though a bloody man, could soon perceive that David’s design was an unhallowed ostentation; he therefore ventured to expostulate, and in a very candid way.
This man, on returning to Jerusalem, brought the king a flattering report of the land, a report which corresponded with the promises and covenant of God; but he must have added, that the effects on the people were as he had feared; a spirit of vain glory was excited throughout the land. Oh how grievous was this in the sight of the Lord: he hates the rising pride in the heart of man, and has at all times marked it with his displeasure. David, hearing this report of Joab, instantly saw his error, and exclaimed, “I have sinned greatly, oh Lord I have done very foolishly.” Ah, but why did he act so rashly; why did he not consult the Lord in a matter so reluctantly complied with by his generals? The counsel of kings should be consummate; and their plans should never prove abortive for the want of sober deliberation. The deed however was now done, and the king had scarcely wept a night before the prophet Gad entered his chamber with an awful choice. Just so when Hezekiah, through the like pride, had showed the Babylonian embassy all his treasures and all his arsenals, the Lord sent Isaiah to say, that all those treasures should be carried away to Babylon.
When the awful choice was presented to David, he was alarmed and revolted; and for awhile, shrinking nature declined all choice. I am, said he, in a great strait. Being a man of war he well knew that the wicked pursuing the vanquished are not only cruel as the wild beasts, but they join to cruelty the craft of hell; and having already experienced a three years’ famine, he dreaded the like calamity, and therefore chose the plague; and the plague, with repentance, was better than prosperity and wickedness. The avenging angel moved in the steps of the captains, from Aroer to Jerusalem; death followed in his train; seventy thousand were already subtracted from the boasted numbers, and prostrated in the dust; and he raised his arm to smite Jerusalem, the city first in guilt. But oh he found them all in tears, and weeping with their king: and heaven seemed to weep too, for the Lord is very pitiful and of tender mercy. The angel stayed his course of vengeance at Araunah’s threshing floor. Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem: thou wast just gone, but justice stayed her arm.
The aged prophet, who announced the awful choice, is again commissioned to advise a prompt atonement. The bullocks were instantly slain, and no other timber being at hand, the threshing instruments were all consumed. Here the angel stayed his destroying hand, as he had once on this identical spot stayed the hand of Abraham from destroying his son. Here also, and in the temple built on this spot, henceforth hallowed ground, Christ preached mercy to the penitent, and denounced destruction to the impenitent Jerusalem. And he, the innocent, being led out of Zion, as accursed for guilty man, death pursued him to Calvary, and there the monster lost his sting, and all his power. There the atoning blood flowed, there the anger of heaven was appeased, and the Lord of glory came back from the dead to preach life and salvation to a guilty world.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 24". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13