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Bible Commentaries

Sermon Bible Commentary

2 Samuel 24

Verse 1

2 Samuel 24:1

We do not see immediately upon its being mentioned how it was wrong for David to number the people; that is, in the modern phrase, to take a census of the population. We have a census of the population taken at certain intervals, and this is not wrong, but very proper and useful. What is the difference between the circumstances of the children of Israel and our own?

I. Notice first the object with which this act was done. It was very clear what David had an eye to in numbering the people. It was one of those steps which the kings of the nations around were accustomed to take from time to time when they wanted to know how strong they were and what wars they could carry on, what countries they could invade and what cities they could take. This was the way of the heathen world, whom the Israelites were specially bidden not to imitate. They were not meant by God to be a conquering nation; they were a holy nation, a peculiar people, whom God had admitted into a special covenant with Himself. David's act was one of vulgar kingly ambition, in absolute contradiction to the express designs of God for the Jewish people. It pleased God by a terrible visitation at once to check this new temper and suppress at its very commencement this dangerous aim.

II. Another reason why David's act was a sinful one was that it was done under a very different dispensation from that under which we live. To the Jews God was not only their God in heaven, but their King on earth as well. Anything that interfered with this special Divine sovereignty was treason, because the chosen people were not to set up governments and modes of policy for themselves, as other nations did, but were to wait upon the voice of their Divine King. David was only king under a Divine King, and had no right to be constructing great plans out of his own head.

III. There is a sense, and a very true sense, in which David's sin applies to us. People are very fond of numbering the good things they have or suppose themselves to have. This is the peril to which our Lord refers when He says, "Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth, ...for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also;" that is, you will be always brooding in your heart upon them, and they will fill your mind to the exclusion of all spiritual thoughts. The Bible takes us out of ourselves, and directs us to God as the great object of our love, and in Him to our neighbour. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you."

J. B. Mozley, Sermons Parochial and Occasional, p. 72

References: 2 Samuel 24:1 . H.Thompson, Concionalia: Outlines of Sermons for Parochial Use, vol. i., p. 349; F W. Krummacher, David King of Israel, p. 478; Homiletic Magazine, vol vi., p. 171.

Verse 14

2 Samuel 24:14

Consider:

I. The different effects produced by the fear of God and the fear of man in the case of sorrow for sin in ourselves. (1) The fear of man leads directly to concealment, and to all those acts of meanness and falsehood which are practised to escape detection and punishment. (2) The fear of man drives some to feelings of general disgust and hatred towards mankind; others it drives to despair and to thoughts of suicide. (3) The fear of man leads us astray in our treatment of others who have offended.

II. Notice the effect produced by the fear of God. (1) The fear of God brings us to confession, and humiliation, and a grateful hope. (2) It leads us to judge rightly of the comparative guilt of different offences, and to value them, not according to the opinion of men, but according to the word of God. (3) It makes us eager and ready to forgive, even as God, for Christ's sake, has forgiven us.

III. It is remarkable, however, that while the Scripture enforces the most entire indifference to the censure of the world, and condemns so often and so justly the fear of man, yet it teaches us to shock no man's opinion of us arrogantly, and to consider in all trifling matters, as much as we can, how we may please others, not for our sake, but for theirs. The excellence of Christian compliance is that it regards the favour of man, not as an end, but as a means; it does not covet it for its own sake, but that men, by learning to look upon Christians favourably, may be persuaded to become altogether Christians themselves.

T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. i., p. 164.

References: 2 Samuel 24:14 . T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. vi., p. 66; J. Baldwin Brown, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xvi., p. 252; J. M Neale, Sermons in Sackville College, vol. ii., p. 85.

Verse 17

2 Samuel 24:17

Consider:

I. The sin committed by David. There is little doubt that it was manifestation of pride which made this action so offensive in the sight of the Lord. It is possible that David dwelt with pride upon the thought of his ample resources and numerous armies, and calculated that he was possessed of a power to repel aggression and attempt fresh conquests. He had forgotten that God alone, who had made him great, could preserve to him his greatness. The same offence may be committed in any rank of life. I care not what it is that a man is anxious to reckon up, but if it be pride that moves him to the reckoning, we identify his case with that of David, and charge on him the iniquity which exposed the Israelites to the pestilence.

II. The punishment which was incurred. There is something strange in the declared fact that sins are often visited on others than the perpetrators. But in the instance before us we can easily see that neither was David unpunished, nor the people punished without a cause. (1) David had sinned by a vainglorious desire to know the number of his subjects; the most suitable punishment was the destruction of thousands of those subjects, for this took away the source of exaltation. (2) It is evident, from the account in the book of Chronicles, that the people had moved the anger of the Lord before the king moved it by worldly confidence and pride. The people were really smitten for their own sins, though apparently for the sins of David.

III. The expiation which was made. The plague was not stayed by any virtue in the sacrifice which David offered. The sacrifice was but as a type, figuring that expiatory sacrifice by which the moral pestilence that had spread over the world would be finally arrested.

H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 1894.

References: 2 Samuel 24:17 . J. Keble, Sermons for the Christian Year. Sundays after Trinity, Part I., p. 234; D. Hunter, The Modern Scottish Pulpit, p. 158.

Verse 24

2 Samuel 24:24

The highest joy in the world is that which Christ feels in saving a sinner. Such as the cost is, such is the work; and such as the service is, such is the joy.

I. This is true of our private devotions. It is comparatively easy to pray morning and evening, but it is much more difficult to do so regularly in the course of the day. Yet the omitted and costly part is the very part which would show reality or give it.

II. The same is true of Bible-reading. There are two ways of reading God's word, so widely separate that the Bible is two books, according as we take the one method or the other. There is an easy, superficial way of reading down a chapter; and there is a bent, real, intense, intelligent searching into every word and every syllable. Mark the promise given to Adam, "In the sweat of thy brow thou shalt eat bread," and the promise applies to the natural and to the spiritual bread. Therefore the soul that will eat bread must do it with pains, perseverance, and patience.

J. Vaughan, Sermons, 9th series, p. 126 (see also Fifty Sermons, 1874, p. 314).

We observe in these words two things:

I. The true motive to beneficence: "offering unto the Lord." Our offerings must be gifts to the Lord. Everything in life depends on the motive from which it springs. Man is what his motives are; he is no better and no worse. The highest and purest motive is that of doing all unto the Lord.

II. The true measure of beneficence: that which we feel to cost us something. Giving must always be tending towards sacrifice and self-denial. Having love as the impulse to our benevolence, its measure will be determined by the nature of the case which appeals for our help and also by the means which God has placed at our disposal.

E. Mellor, In the Footsteps of Heroes, p. 31.

References: 2 Samuel 24:25 . R. D. B. Rawnsley, Sermons in Country Churches, 3rd series, p. 280. 1 Samuel 24:0 Parker, vol. vii., p. 222.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 24". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/sbc/2-samuel-24.html.