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The People Numbered
v. 1. And again the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, as in the former famine, 2 Samuel 21:1-14, and He moved David against them, namely, the members of the nation, by giving Satan leeway to tempt David, to say, Go, number Israel and Judah, by taking a census chiefly for military purposes.
v. 2. For the king said to Joab, the captain of the host, which was with him, having held his post as commander-in-chief of the army, Go now through all the tribes of Israel, from Dan even to Beersheba, from the extreme north to the extreme south end of the land, and number ye the people that I may know the number of the people, really get the exact statistics of the country's military strength.
v. 3. 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? Joab noticed that the pride of the king was his motive for instituting this census, that he wanted to boast of the imposing and growing military strength of his people, and he feared that no good would come of it, especially since the people themselves might resent the procedure. Joab's native shrewdness here stood him in good stead.
v. 4. Notwithstanding the king's word prevailed against Joab, his sinful exaltation insisted upon having his command carried out, and against the captains of the host, for the practical sense of the latter had caused them to side with Joab. And Joab and the captains of the host, without further opposition, went out from the presence of the king, before his very eyes, to number the people of Israel.
v. 5. And they passed over Jordan, in order to begin the census in the southeastern part of the country, in the territory of Reuben, and pitched in Aroer, on the right side of the city that lieth in the midst of the river, that is, the valley, of Gad, and toward Jazer, preferring to camp in the open on account of the large numbers of people who had to be summoned to be enrolled in the census lists.
v. 6. Then they came to Gilead, the hill country along the Jabbok, and to the land of Tahtim-hodshi, probably a lower section of the east-Jordan country, which had but recently been settled; and they came to Dan-jaan, in Northern Perea, southwest of Damascus, and about to Zidon, as they turned to the west across the foothills of the Lebanon,
v. 7. and came to the stronghold of Tyre, still a Phenician city, and to all the cities of the Hivites and of the Canaanites, for here the heathen nations had never been fully exterminated, and the mixed population of Galilee was notorious even in Old Testament times; and they went out to the south of Judah, even to Beersheba, omitting Benjamin, however, and not including the Levites, 1 Chronicles 21:6.
v. 8. So when they had gone through all the land, they came to Jerusalem at the end of nine months and twenty days, the census not being really finished, because wrath came upon Israel and caused the suspension of the project.
v. 9. And Joab gave up, reported, the sum of the number of the people unto the king; and there were in Israel, in the northern tribes, eight hundred thousand valiant men that drew the sword; and the men of Judah were five hundred thousand men. These were round numbers, and the statement in Chronicles, 1 Chronicles 21:5, includes either the standing army or the heathen proselytes. So David had yielded to the temptation of pride, an abomination to God, even as murder and adultery. Every believer must guard against this sin with all earnestness, lest it become a snare to him.
v. 10. And David's heart smote him, his conscience began to bother him, after that he had numbered the people, while the census was still being taken. And David, becoming conscious of the sinfulness of his act, said unto the Lord, I have sinned greatly in that I have done, the offense of his pride was directed against the Lord; and now, I beseech Thee, O Lord, take away the iniquity of Thy servant, the guilt which he had loaded upon himself by his transgression; for I have done very foolishly. It was a short penitential prayer, which he apparently sent up to God during a sleepless night.
v. 11. For when David was up in the morning, rather, when David got up in the morning, the word of the Lord came unto the prophet Gad, David's seer, his confidential counselor, who had evidently taken the place of Nathan, saying,
v. 12. Go and say unto David, Thus saith the Lord, in giving David his choice of three punishments, I offer thee three things, one of which would surely be laid upon him; choose thee one of them that I may do it unto thee.
v. 13. So Gad came to David, and told him, and said unto him, naming the three forms of punishment selected by the Lord, Shall seven years of famine come unto thee in thy land? Or wilt thou flee three months before thine enemies? or that there be three days' pestilence in thy land? Now advise and see what answer I shall return to Him that sent me; the choice must be made at once.
v. 14. And David said unto Gad, I am in a great strait, in great fear and anguish. 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. The first two plague would have made David and his people dependent upon men, and he knew from experience that little favor might be expected there; the pestilence, however, was an immediate stroke of God's hand, and here he hoped for mercy, whence he might sooner hope to draw comfort and help.
v. 15. So the Lord sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning even to the time appointed, which even now was fixed by the gracious will of God; and there died of the people, from Dan even to Beersheba, seventy thousand men, the entire people having deserved this punishment by various misdeeds, especially by the rebellions instituted under Absalom and Sheba.
v. 16. And when the angel, God's messenger of destruction, stretched out his hand upon Jerusalem to destroy it, the Lord repented him of the evil, this being the moment of the appointed time, and said to the angel that destroyed the people, It is enough; stay now thine hand. As yet the scourge had not struck Jerusalem. And the angel of the Lord was by the threshing-place of Araunah the Jebusite, northeast of Zion, on the summit of Moriah.
v. 17. And David spake unto the Lord when he saw the angel that smote the people, for the Lord opened his eyes and made the invisible visible to him, and said, Lo, I have sinned, and I have done wickedly, upon him alone the blame really rested; but these sheep, the members of his people, what have they done? Let Thine hand, I pray Thee, be against me and against my father's house. He begged the Lord to visit the judgment upon him and his family, but to spare the people, whom he considered innocent.
v. 18. And Gad came that day to David and said unto him, Go up, rear an altar unto the Lord in the threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite. Thus the Lord's instructions were carried out, 1 Chronicles 21:18.
v. 19. And David, according to the saying of Glad, went up as the Lord commanded.
v. 20. And Araunah, who was busy threshing wheat, looked, bending forward to look more clearly in the distance, and saw the king and his servants coming on toward him. And Araunah went out, from the enclosure of the threshing-floor, and bowed himself before the king on his face upon the ground, rendering due honor to the king.
v. 21. And Araunah said, Wherefore is my lord the king come to his servant? And David said, To buy the threshing-floor of thee, to build an altar unto the Lord, that the plague may be stayed from the people.
v. 22. And Araunah said unto David, Let my lord the king take, as a present, and offer up what seemeth good unto him, for Araunah was just as anxious as David to have the plague stopped. Behold, here be oxen, those used by him on the floor, for burnt sacrifice, and threshing instruments, the threshing-sledges, which consisted of several iron-pointed rollers which were held together by a chain, and other instruments of the oxen, such as their yoke, for wood.
v. 23. All these things did Araunah, as a king, give unto the king. These words are a continuation of his speech: All this gives Araunah, O king, to the king. And Araunah, after a pause, said unto the king, The Lord, thy God, accept thee, look with favor upon the sacrifice and prayer now to be made.
v. 24. And the king, unwilling to accept the offer thus made, 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, he felt that he could not properly, at this time, devote anything to Jehovah which he himself had gotten as a present. So David bought the threshing-floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver (about thirty dollars). This was apparently the price of the oxen only, since the land was worth more, 1 Chronicles 21:25.
v. 25. And David built there an altar unto the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and peace-offerings, the latter for the purpose of reestablishing the proper relation between him and the covenant God. So the Lord was intreated for the land, and the plague was stayed from Israel. At the same time the command to build an altar to the Lord included a hint that this place had been chosen by the Lord for the Temple to His name. We Christians of the New Testament have a far better atoning sacrifice, the blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, which cleanses us from all sins and keeps the plague of death and hell from us.
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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 24". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20