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Bible Commentaries

The Pulpit Commentaries
2 Samuel 24

 

 

Verses 1-25

EXPOSITION

2 Samuel 24:1

And again the anger of Jehovah was kindled against Israel. It is probable that this chapter once stood in intimate connection with 2 Samuel 21:1-22; and that the famine therein described was followed by a pestilence, of which the blame largely rested upon David, though the sin punished by it was fully shared by the people. In saying that David was moved of Jehovah to number Israel and Judah, the writer acknowledges the great truth that all action, both good and evil, is of God. "Shall there be evil in a city, and Jehovah hath not done it?" (Amos 3:6). While we are taught to pray that we may not be led into temptation, yet trial and temptation are by God's ordinance for man's good. Man falls only when the temptation gives the opportunity for the outbreak of that which already was at work within (James 1:14). If the previous watch over the heart has been careful and earnest, then the temptation is a steppingstone to a nobler and more pure godliness; and if a man fall, yet even so he learns by outward proof what was secretly ruining his soul, and may by its manifestation be led to repentance. There were festering in David's heart a thirst for war, and pride in his victories; a growing ambition, and, as its necessary result, a disregard of the rights of other nations. The same passions were gaining a daily increasing influence over the people generally. It is too often the case that a nation uses the bravery which has obtained for it freedom from foreign oppression, to impose the yoke of slavery upon others. But this chastisement brought back David and his subjects to more upright counsels. In 1 Chronicles 21:1 the temptation is ascribed to Satan, because David fell. God tempts, that is, tries, men that they may stand more firmly and advance in all that is true and good. Satan tempts men that he may find out their weaknesses and effect their ruin. Yet David fell only to rise again. Satan's triumph was but temporary, and the result was good for king and people, who would have suffered far more terribly from the effects of their lust of war than from the pestilence. Temptation, then, has two sides, and is good or evil according to the use we make of it; but in itself it is a necessity for our probation. The trials and sorrows of life serve but to break up the fallow ground (Jeremiah 4:3); and without them our hearts would remain hard as the roadway; and the good seed, which may spring up to eternal life, would lie unheeded upon the surface, and find no entrance into their depths. As regards the exact time; and the idea of the Jewish commentators, that the sin consisted in neglecting to pay the half shekel there enjoined upon each man numbered, is not merely gratuitous, but is disproved by Joab's remonstrance; for he objects to the census absolutely. From what, too, we know of Joab's character, we cannot suppose that he would be particularly shocked at this being a census of the fighting men. Yet these Israelites were very noble men in their love of freedom and their respect for their national constitution; and if Joab observed in David a growing disposition towards despotism, and foresaw danger to the nation's liberty from the king's lust of foreign conquest, he was too upright a statesman not to oppose a measure which would strengthen the king in his dangerous tendencies. His words in 1 Chronicles 21:3, "Are they not all my lord's servants?" seem to have this meaning. David was the master of all these fighting men. If their vast number was paraded before his imagination, it might lead him, flushed with past successes, into aggressive war; and victory abroad would lead to the destruction of freedom at home. The sin plainly lay in the violation of the principles of the theocratic government, which fostered personal independence in every member of the nation, and were opposed to every war except one of self-defence; and it was the fact that a nation so governed was weak and almost powerless even to protect itself, that had made the people clamour for a king. And now the opposite dangers were developing themselves, and the Israelites, dazzled by the glamour of victory, were joining with their king in a longing after extended empire. The pestilence stopped them for the present in their ambitious course; the disruption of the. kingdom under Rehoboam dispelled their dream forever. In 1 Chronicles 27:23 we also find the thought that the taking of a census, though several times practised by Moses (Exodus 38:26; Numbers 1:2; Numbers 26:2), was in itself presumptuous, because it seemed to contradict the promise in Genesis 15:5, that the seed of Abraham should be past numbering. He moved. It is impossible to translate, "and one moved," understanding thereby Satan, as stated in Chronicles. It was Israel which had incurred the Divine anger by its lust of war, and Jehovah used David, who was himself the victim of the same evil passions, to take a step which led on to the just chastisement. Number; Hebrew, count. It is a different word from that translated "number" in the rest of the chapter.

2 Samuel 24:2

For the king said; Hebrew, and the king said. David's command was not the cause of Jehovah's auger, but the result of his having himself given way to ambition; and, as he yielded to the temptation, it so far became an act of Satan, in that it led to sin; but in its final result it led to good, in that the chastisement cured the people of their thirst for war. And as Satan can act only so far as the Divine will permits, the temptation was most truly the doing of Jehovah (but see note on 1 Samuel 26:19). Captain of the host, which was with him. There is a good deal of difficulty about this passage, as the word for "host" is not that elsewhere used, and the last phrase is somewhat meaningless. In 1 Chronicles 21:2 we find "David said to Joab and to the rulers of the people." Without the concurrence of these rulers, who were the princes of the tribes, the census could not have been taken. But as the ancient versions confirm the reading of the Hebrew here, no change of the text is admissible. Number ye. This is distinctly the war word, for which see note on 2 Samuel 18:1. It proves that the census was taken for military reasons. Even this in itself was not wrong (Numbers 26:2), but it is indicative of David's purpose. When, moreover, Moses numbered the people, the census was taken by the priests (Numbers 1:3; Numbers 26:1, Numbers 26:2), and from the payment of the half shekel to the sanctuary, it appears that it was to some extent a religious ceremony. All this David neglects, and the employment of Joab goes far to prove that what David wanted was an examination of the military resources of his kingdom.

2 Samuel 24:3

Why doth my lord the king delight in this thing? Joab was an unscrupulous and irreligious man; but he was clear headed, and far more statesmanlike than David (2 Samuel 19:5-7). He saw whither the king was drifting, and that the increase of the royal power, resulting from successful war, would be fatal to the liberties of Israel. Probably, too, though he had consented to carry out Uriah's murder, yet he despised David for it. When he had murdered Abner to avenge Asahel, David had deprived him of his command, and he had to endure a long period of disgrace; and now David uses him to murder one altogether innocent. Joab, we may feel sure, noted the degradation of David's character, and drew the conclusion that he was not the man to be trusted at the head of a military despotism. Warned thus by what he saw, his mind reverted to the principles of the theocracy, and their truth and value became more clear to his understanding; and honourably he remonstrates with David for violating them.

2 Samuel 24:4

The captains of the host. The matter was not undertaken without a council being held, and at it David's chief officers agreed with Joab; but David had made up his mind, and would take no advice.

2 Samuel 24:5

Aroer. There is some uncertainty as to the Aroer here meant. There is first a city of that name in the tribe of Gad facing Rabbah (Joshua 13:25), and this is apparently the city meant; for it is said that "Joab and his men pitched in Aroer, on the south side of the city situated in the middle of the valley of Gad, and unto Jazer." Now, Jazer is also in Gad, about seven miles west of Rabbah, and as Rabbah is on the extreme east of the Israelite territory towards Ammon, it would be a very convenient spot from which to commence the numbering, But there is another Aroer on the Arnon, to the south of Reuben, and many commentators think that this Aroer must be meant, as otherwise the tribe of Reuben would seem to have been omitted. But this Aroer is regularly called "Aroer on the brink of the valley of Arnon" (Deuteronomy 2:36; Deuteronomy 4:48; Joshua 12:2; Joshua 13:9, Joshua 13:16); or simply Aroer "in the valley of Arnon" (Deuteronomy 3:12; 2 Kings 10:33); and cannot possibly be "the city in the midst of the valley of Gad," nor can this Aroer be "toward Jazer." Really the difficulty is made by commentators whose idea of the method of the census is superficial. Joab, in commencing it, formed an encampment in the open country on the right-hand side, that is, on the south of Aroer in the tribe of Gad, as being central, with Reuben on the south, and Manasseh on the north. It was "toward Jazer," that is, it was on the Jazer side of Aroer, and not on the side opposite Rabbah. We, with our simpler way of describing the points of the compass, would merely say that Joab's camp was in the open pasture land southwest of Aroer. Joab probably selected this spot because, though on the eastern border, it was yet not too far from Jerusalem, was central, and because a brook from Jazer flowing eastward for some distance, and thence to the north past Rabbah, would supply his people with water; and from this camp he would direct the proceedings of those who were to take the census. And as probably there would be considerable opposition—for the people would see in an act which for four centuries had been in desuetude threats of heavier taxation, of heavier forced labour, and of longer service with the army—Joab would require the presence of a body of troops sufficiently powerful to overawe malcontents. And these would be of no use at Aroer on the Arnon, in the distant south, but must lie eneamped in some central position, whence detachments could rapidly be moved to any place where there was danger of resistance.

2 Samuel 24:6

Then they came to Gilead. When the enumerators had finished their labours in Reuben and the region south of Aroer, Joab moved his camp northwards, and pitched in Gilead, on the river Jabbek; and, having completed the counting in this part of the tribe of Gad, would next enter the wild regions of Manasseh. It is probable that the tribal princes and local officers actually numbered the people, and that Joab, with a powerful force, constrained them to obedience often against their will. It was possibly this danger of resistance which made David entrust the business to Joab, instead of employing the Levites. The land of Tahtim-hodshi. Gesenius dismisses this name with the remark that it can scarcely be regarded as genuine. The versions give little help; but Thenius cleverly extracts from the LXX; "unto Bashan, which is Edrei." Others, by a slight change in the Hebrew, read, "the land of the Hittites," and suppose that Hodshi is a corruption of the Hebrew word for "month," so that the whole might have been, "They came to the land of the Hittites in the (third) month." Others, again, suppose that Hodshi is a corruption of the name of the town Kadesh. But the versions would certainly have preserved anything so commonplace as this. When they make mistakes, it is almost invariably in proper names or unusual phrases. The emendation of Thenius is too ingenious to be accepted, but it gives the right sense, namely, that from Gilead and the tribe of Gad the numerators went northward through Bashan and the rest of the half tribe of Manasseh till they came to Dan, the town on the extreme northeast border, and the limit in that direction of the Israelite realm, as Beersheba was its limit on the south. Dan-jaan. Nowhere else is Dan found with this addition, and the Syriac omits it even here. The Vulgate, and Septuagint (Codex Alex.) read Dan-jaar the woodland Dan. Possibly the names of two towns have been run into one, and the original reading was "unto Dan and Ijon" (see 1 Kings 15:20). Ijon was on the direct road from Dan to Sidon. Zidon. This was on the extreme northwestern boundary. It did not actually belong to David, but both it and Tyro had apparently placed themselves under his protection, and were bound to render some kind of military service.

2 Samuel 24:7

Tyre (comp. Joshua 19:29). Tyre and the whole coast land between it and Sidon had been too strong for the tribe of Asher, and remained unsubdued. But, like the independent states in India, it acknowlodged the supremacy of the paramount power. The cities of the Hivites, and of the Canaanites. It is evident from this that even in David's time there were towns and districts were Hivites and Canaanites dwelt as distinct communities, governed probably by their own laws. But as they were bound to serve in the Israelite armies, they were included in the census, and possibly one of its rosin objects was to learn the number of fighting men of alien races dwelling in Israel. They seem to have been reckoned as belonging to the tribe in whose borders they dwelt. So Baanah and Rechab, the murderers of Ishbosheth, though Beerothites (and therefore Gibeonites, who again were Hivites), were counted to Benjamin (2 Samuel 4:2). These Gentile communities were chiefly to be found in the north, for which reason it was called "the circuit (Gelil) of the nations" (Isaiah 9:1), and in later times from Gelil came the name Galilee. The Syriac adds "Jebusites," and we find Jerusalem occupied by a community of Jebusites living in independence in the very neighbourhood of the warlike tribe of Benjamin (2 Samuel 5:6). This numbering of the aborigines by David is referred to in 2 Chronicles 2:17, where it is added that Solomon made a separate census of them, and found that there were in Israel no fewer than a hundred and fifty-three thousand six hundred of these aliens.

2 Samuel 24:8

Nine months and twenty days. This long period seems excessive, if nothing more was intended than merely counting the heads of the people, especially as the census was left unfinished. But there might very probably be difficulties with the aliens dwelling in Israel; and it is still more probable that there was a complete examination of all the military resources of the land. The result showed a very different state of things from that described in 1 Samuel 13:19-22, and we can well understand the existence of much elation and war lust among the Israelites on the first flush of pride in their new empire.

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. In Chronicles the numbers are, "of Israel eleven hundred thousand men, and of Judah four hundred and sixty-five thousand men." These discrepancies are a remarkable confirmation of the truth of what is said in 1 Chronicles 27:24 that because of the outbreak of the Divine wrath, "the number was not put in the account of the Chronicles of King David." Neither the writer of the Books of Samuel nor of Chronicles had any official document to refer to; and as the numbers are lump sums, and derived probably from what was said by the enumerators, the more exact four hundred and sixty-five thousand men of the Chronicles might easily in round numbers be called a half million. The other is a much larger discrepancy, and no satisfactory explanation of it has been given. It is, however, quite possible that the additional three hundred thousand men were made up of the thirty-eight thousand Levites, as numbered on a later occasion by David, of the Benjamites, and of the aborigines, who belonged to the northern part of the kingdom, and might be included among "all they of Israel" (1 Chronicles 21:5). The numbers are further attacked on the ground of exaggeration. A million and a half of fighting men means a general population of six or seven millions. Now, Palestine at most does not contain more than eleven thousand square miles, and a population of six millions means five hundred and forty-five persons to every square mile, or one to every acre. The country was undoubtedly very fertile in ancient times, and the ruins of populous cities are found where now there is a waste. But there were vast forests and pasture lands and downs, where there were the means of subsistence for only a few. But we must remember that the enumerators went as far north as Tyre, and counted the inhabitants, therefore, of the seaboard between it and Sidon. Probably they also acted in the same way in the south, where the limits of Simeon were very uncertain. Besides this, there is a very remarkable undesigned coincidence. We read in 1 Chronicles 27:1-34. that David had a force of two hundred and eighty-eight thousand men, who formed his regular army, and of whom twenty-four thousand were called up for training every month. But there are reasons for believing that David took for this purpose each fifth man of those of the military age; and thus the whole number of such men would be one million four hundred and forty thousand. This, as Mr. Sime has shown, holds a middle place between the one million three hundred thousand of the Book of Samuel, and the one million five hundred and seventy thousand of Chronicles, and shows that these numbers are not to be rejected on the score of exaggeration.

2 Samuel 24:10

David's heart smote him. It appears from 1 Chronicles 27:24 that the census was not completed, and, though Joab had visited Judah, he had not even begun to enrol the names of the men of the tribe of Benjamin (1 Chronicles 21:6). It appears also that the displeasure of God was manifesting itself before David repented (1 Chronicles 21:7; 1 Chronicles 27:24). Some sign of this, either in public trouble, or in the brooding of the pestilential miasma over the land, brought home to David's mind the conviction of sin; and he at once humbled himself before God, for the vanity of mind which had engendered in him a wicked lust after martial glory and thirst for bloodshed. I have done very foolishly.

2 Samuel 24:11

For when, etc.; Hebrew, and David arose in the morning, and a word of Jehovah came unto Gad, a seer of David, saying. The visit of the seer was the result of David's repentance, and not its cause. And he was sent in mercy, that, after such punishment as would cure both king and people of their folly, there might be for both forgiveness. The name for seer is not roeh, the old word used in 1 Samuel 9:9, and which simply means "one who sees;" but chozeh, a gazer, one who looks with fixed eyes, that penetrate into the hidden world.

2 Samuel 24:13

Seven years of famine. In 1 Chronicles 21:12 and here in the Septuagint we find "three years." This is probably right as being in harmony with the rest. Three years of famine, three months of defeat, or three days of pestilence. In Ezekiel 14:21 famine, pestilence, and the sword are mentioned as three of God's four sore judgments. But a fourth judgment is there enumerated, namely, that of the increase of wild beasts, and Joshua the Stylite says that in Mesopotamia, as a result of the desolating war between the Romans and Persians, about A.D. 505, beasts of prey had become so numerous that they entered the villages and carried off the children from the streets, and were so bold and ferocious that even the men scarcely dared go about their labours in the fields. Now advise, and see; Hebrew, now know, and see. The phrase is common in the historical books (see 1 Samuel 12:17; 1 Samuel 14:38; 1 Samuel 23:22; 1 Samuel 24:11; 1 Samuel 25:17, etc.). Our translators render the phrase in a multitude of ways without greatly improving it.

2 Samuel 24:14

Let us fall now into the hand of Jehovah. David had sinned against God, and to God he humbly submitted himself. There would thus be nothing to come between the soul and God, and prevent the chastisement from having its due effect upon the heart. A famine would indeed equally come from God, but would necessitate effort and exertion on man's part. In the pestilence he would wait patiently, nor look to anything but prayer for averting God's judgment. In Psalms 51:1 David refers to God's mercies, in much the same way as here, as being a motive to repentance.

2 Samuel 24:15

Even to the time appointed. This rendering, though very uncertain, is retained in the Revised Version. It would mean, of course, the end of the third day, as the pestilence was to last for that time. The objections to it are that there is no article in the Hebrew, so that literally it would be "unto a time appointed." Secondly, the pestilence did not continue unto the time appointed, but was mercifully stayed. And thirdly, these words are a literal translation, indeed, of the Vulgate, but a violation of its meaning. For Jerome, who made the translation, says, "'tempus constitutum' means the hour when the evening sacrifice was offered" ('Tradd. Hebrews in Duos Libres Regum'). The versions all agree that the pestilence lasted only a few hours. Thus the Syriac translates, "From morning until the sixth hour," i.e. noon. So too the Septuagint, "From morning until the midday meal." The Vulgate adds on thrice hours, as the evening sacrifice was at the ninth hour; and this is the meaning of the Chaldee Paraphrase: "From the time the daily sacrifice was slain until it was burnt." As the word moed used here means both a time or place appointed for a meeting, and also the meeting itself, the right translation probably is, "From the morning even to the time of assembly," or, as we should say, "the hour of service." Moed was the regular word for the time of the temple service, derived from the old name of the tabernacle, which was called "the tent of moed" (see Numbers 16:19, etc.), rendered iu the Authorized Version, "the tabernacle of the congregation," and in the Revised Version, "the tent of meeting." The hour would thus be the ninth, or three o'clock in the afternoon. Seventy thousand men. This is a vast number to fall victims of the pestilence in so short a time, as even the most dangerous forms of sickness take some days for their development. But similarly the army of Sennacherib was cut off in a night (Isaiah 37:36); as were the firstborn in Egypt, whose visitation more nearly resembles the course of this pestilence; and the rapidity of the death blow, striking down so vast a multitude suddenly throughout all parts of the land, would be proof to every mind that the mortality was the Divine chastisement for national sin. It is possible, nevertheless, that the black death cloud, bringing with it the plague, may have been settling down upon the land previously, and have alarmed David, and brought him to repentance; and though no new cases occurred after the offering of his burnt offerings (2 Samuel 24:25), yet it by no means follows that all cases of infection were miraculously cured. The malady may have run in them its normal course. It was Jerusalem that was saved from the blow, and, after the offering of the burnt offering, the pestilence smote down no more.

2 Samuel 24:16

The angel. In the next verse we are told that David saw the angel, and more fully in 1 Chronicles 21:16 that he beheld him "standing between the earth and the heaven, having a drawn sword in his hand." The pestilence plainly was not a natural visitation; though possibly the means used was a simoom, or poisonous wind, advancing with terrible rapidity throughout Israel. The Lord repented. In all the dealings of God's providence, his actions are made to depend upon human conduct. Looked at from above, from God's side, all things are foreknown and immutably fixed; looked at from man's side, all is perpetually changing as man changes. The rescue of Jerusalem as the result of David's penitence and prayers, is thus to human view a change in the counsels and even in the feelings of him who changeth not. The threshing place. "The threshing floor," as rightly translated in 1 Chronicles 21:18, 1 Chronicles 21:21, 1 Chronicles 21:24. Threshing floors were constructed, whenever possible, on eminences, that the wind might drive the chaff and dust away. Araunah's was on the east of Jerusalem, outside the walls, upon Mount Moriah, and was the site on which the temple was built (see 2 Chronicles 3:1). Araunah. The name is so spelt seven times in 1 Chronicles 21:20-24, for which reason the Massorites have substituted it for Avarnah, found in this verse in the Hebrew text, and for Aranyah in 1 Chronicles 21:18. In 1 Chronicles 21:1-30 the name is spelt Ornan; in the Septuagint in all places, ὀρνά, Orna, and in the Syriac, Oron. The name is, of course, a Jebusite word, and the variation arises from the narrators having written down the sound as it caught their ears. In this, as in many other particulars, it is clear that the chronicler derived his account from independent Sources.

2 Samuel 24:17

I have done wickedly; Hebrew, I have done perversely, or crookedly. David acknowledges that his conduct had not been upright and straightforward, but that he had turned aside into the paths of self-will and personal aggrandizement. These sheep, what have they done? The sin had been quite as much that of the people as of the king; for the war lust had entered into the very heart of the nation. But David, with that warmth of feeling which makes his character so noble, can see only his own fault. It is not a true repentance when the sinner looks for excuses, and apportions the blame between himself and others. To David the people seemed innocent, or, if at all to blame, he felt that it was he who had set them the example and led them on. The narrative in this place is much briefer than in Chronicles.

2 Samuel 24:18

Go up. David probably, on receiving God's message, had gone to the tent which he had pitched for the ark in Zion (2 Samuel 6:17), in order that he might pray there; and while on his way he saw the dark plague cloud coming as the messenger of God's wrath to smite Jerusalem. In an agony of grief, he poured out his prayer that Jerusalem might be spared, and God heard him, and sent Gad a second time to bid him offer sacrifice, that, by making an atonement, he might stand between the dead and the living, as Aaron had done in the wilderness (Numbers 16:46-48) He is therefore to leave the tabernacle, and mount up to the summit on which Araunah's threshing floor was situated. We read in 1 Chronicles 21:28-30 that David wished to go to Gibeon, where the Mosaic tabernacle and altar of burnt offering were, to inquire of God, but that he was afraid, as the angel of the pestilence was smiting outside the walls. This is mentioned as an excuse for his offering at an unconsecrated spot. But it also suggests that David's choice was a submission to a chastisement already at work.

2 Samuel 24:20

Araunah … saw the king. In 1 Chronicles 21:20, "saw the angel;" but the text there is apparently corrupt, the difference, moreover, in Hebrew between "king" and "angel" being very slight. The addition there of the story of Araunah's four sons hiding themselves is very lifelike and natural. For these remnants of the aborigines, though tolerated, yet held a very insecure position, as we have seen in the dealings of Saul with the Gibeonites; and the coming of the king with his retinue to the out of the way spot where Araunah was at work, no doubt filled them all with terror.

2 Samuel 24:22

Behold, here be oxen. Araunah was threshing out his wheat by dragging sledges or frames of wood without wheels over it. All these he at once gives to David, that the sacrifice may be offered without delay, as it would have cost much time and labour to bring wood up from the city. Instead of and other instruments of the oxen, the Hebrew has "the harness or furniture of the oxen," all of which was of wood.

2 Samuel 24:23

All these did Araunah, as a king, give unto the king. The Hebrew is, "The whole gave Araunah the king to the king;" and so the Vulgate, dedit Areuna rex regi. The rendering of the Revised Version (and Keil), "All this, O king, doth Araunah give unto the king," requires a change both of the order and of the tense. It is, of course, possible (though highly is probable) that Araunah was the representative of the kings of Jebus, and a titular monarch, like the Maori king in New Zealand. But the word is omitted in the Septuagint and Syriac, and is probably a mere repetition of the following word. The remark is made in order to point out Araunah's generosity; and to mark even more clearly how hearty and sincere he was in his offering, the narrator adds, in Araunah's own words, his prayer for God's acceptance of David and his offering.

2 Samuel 24:24, 2 Samuel 24:25

David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver. In 1 Chronicles 21:25, "So David gave to Ornan for the place six hundred shekels of gold by weight." There is a superficial, but no real discrepancy between these two narratives. David gave the fifty shekels for the immediate use of the place, and for the oxen and implements. He had no idea at the time of permanently occupying it, and probably the note in the LXX; interpolated by scribes from the margin into the text, is true, "And Solomon added to the altar afterwards, for it was small at the first." It was a small altar hurriedly put together for the purpose of offering one sacrifice; and fifty shekels would be full compensation. But the sacrifice had hallowed the spot, and, when finally it was selected as the site for the temple, David bought the whole area and all that Araunah possessed there. Fifty shekels of silver would be about £9; six hundred shekels of gold would be about £1500; so that there is no comparison between the two sums. But the precious metals were worth very much more in David's time than in ours, so that the smaller sum was adequate compensation for David's first acquisition, while the larger implies the purchase of an extensive and valuable estate. Substantially the fuller narrative in Chronicles agrees with this. David refuses to sacrifice of that which cost him nothing, and must therefore have at once paid for what he took. But When God accepted his offering, and answered him by fire from heaven, then David said, "This is the house of the Lord God, and this is the altar of the burnt offering for Israel." And as the Chronicler has in view throughout the selection of the site for the temple, he naturally mentions its full cost. In the Book of Samuel this purpose is not expressly mentioned, and the narrative closes with the forgiveness of the sin both of David and his people. Jehovah was entreated for the land, and the plague was stayed. But this sudden smiting down of so large a host humbled both king and people, and their eagerness for war and their lust of empire ceased. ― DEO GLORIA.

HOMILETICS

2 Samuel 24:1-9

The facts are:

1. On account of some transgressions, God, being angry with Israel, permits some one to incite David to number the people.

2. David, on issuing his commands to Joab, is met with a remonstrance from him and the captains of the host.

3. But the king persisting in his desire, Joab and his officers and men apply themselves to the work, and at the end of nine months and twenty days return the number of men capable of serving in war at 1,300,000. The difficulties involved in the statements of this section may be, at least, lightened by a few considerations. The parallel passage in 1 Chronicles 21:1-30. mentions, in an indefinite way, an adversary as the instrument of inciting the mind of David. It is in accordance with the order of the Divine government sometimes to allow agencies to act on the minds of men for purposes of trial and especially for discipline. Adam was assailed. Satan had permission to tempt Job. David recognizes the possibility of Saul being incited against himself by God (the Hiph. as here, הְסֶיתְךָ); 1 Samuel 26:19. A spirit or agency inclining to evil is said to go forth or be sent from God, when the idea of permitting the free action of evil influences as a means of punishment for previous sins is to be inculcated ( 9:23; 1 Samuel 16:14; 2 Samuel 16:10; 1 Kings 22:21-23). The ascription of actions to God in almost absolute terms, where in reality the Divine action is a withdrawal of restraint, is a strong Hebraism, as seen in the hardening of Pharaoh's heart (cf. Isaiah 6:9, Isaiah 6:10; Isaiah 63:17; Matthew 13:13-15). It is no uncommon thing for sin to be punished by sin (Psalms 17:13, Psalms 17:14; cf. Isaiah 10:5, Isaiah 10:6). Now, accepting this general teaching as to some of God's methods when trial or chastisement are in view, we find in 1 Samuel 21:1-15. that the nation was chastised for a previous national or semi-national sin. It seems, therefore, natural that the expression (1 Samuel 21:1), "And again the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel," really sets forth the event of this chapter as being a second instance of national suffering on account of public sin; the difference being that in 1 Samuel 21:1-15. the famine became a fact before the occasion is revealed, while here the fact of sin is first stated, and the human instrumentality of bringing on the punishment is then set forth. David had sinned in the matter of Uriah, and been punished. Absalom had sinned in rebelling, and had also been punished. But he was not the only sinner. Israel had revolted under him against the Lord's anointed, and was there to be no punishment for Israel as a people? The whole history of the dealings of God with them gives the reply. Apart from any recent unrecorded sin, there is, then, historical continuity in the words, "The anger of the Lord" was again "kindled against Israel." The peculiarity of the case is this—that the free falling of David into a snare of pride and undue reliance on material strength became the occasion and means by which the transgression of Israel was chastised, while he, being quite free in his sin, was also caused to suffer for it.

Deferred chastisements.

Some time evidently had elapsed between the sin of Israel and the expression of Divine anger against it (1 Samuel 21:1). This and the other Book of Samuel sets forth the chief cases of public visitation on account of sin, e.g. Eli, Saul,. David, Absalom; and, in keeping with this, the conduct of the people in revolting against the Lord's anointed is now made the occasion of Divine displeasure. With reference to deferred chastisements observe—

I. THAT GOD SOMETIMES WAITS TILL EVENTS SERVE THE PURPOSE OF CHASTISEMENT. The chastisement of Eli did not come till national affairs so far developed as to issue in a disastrous defeat of Israel. David's sin bore its bitter fruit some months and years after committal. The sin of the house of Saul was brought home to the conscience of the nation after his death (2 Samuel 21:1). So here the wicked conduct of the nation in rejecting David, God's chosen servant, was allowed to remain relatively unnoticed, as though God were waiting for such a development of events in the natural course of things as would serve the purposes of chastisement. Nations, Churches, and individuals are still allowed to go on for a while till events mature for bringing upon them the reward of their deeds.

II. THAT THE EVENTS WHICH SERVE FOR CHASTISEMENT ARE BROUGHT ABOUT BY THE FREE ACTION OF OTHERS. The free action of the Philistines brought on Eli's trouble. The free action of Absalom and Israel was the means of chastising David for his sin in the case of Uriah. The natural development of famine, united with a revelation of God's overruling purposes, smote Israel for the national crime against the Gibeonites (2 Samuel 21:1-4). So here the free action of some evil person or agent on the free mind of David was the natural event which issued in his official sin, and in his punishment in such a form as to bring on Israel the chastisement which all along they were deserving for their revolt. The same is seen in the free action of Babylon bringing on the chastisement of captivity, and of Rome in bringing on the chastisement of the dispersion due for rejection of Christ. God may wait long before he brings on what is due to sin; but all free events are in his hands, and he will use up some of them when fit conditions arise.

III. THE FREE ACTION OF MEN BY WHICH THEY ARE MEANS OF CHASTISING OTHERS; FOR SIN MAY BE ITSELF SINFUL AND SUBJECT TO PUNISHMENT. David's free act in yielding to the inducement to number the people was a sin. It was displeasing to God. It was a case of sin opening the way for a chastisement for sin. There were circumstances in David's personal and official position which rendered it natural that his deed should be at once disowned, and in that disownment there came the rod which smote also for the past sin of Israel. The acts of Babylon and Rome were wicked, though they were the rod by which God smote his people. It is by a most wonderful adjustment that God thus makes sin the avenger of sin; and so, in course of ages, sin tends to establish that very righteousness of God which in its initiation it sought to set aside. All the resources of God are at his command at any time for expressing his anger against sin; but he does not create new agencies—he uses up what is in existence, and utilizes the successive acts even of the wicked. It is a solemn fact that though judgment be deferred it is not, the less sure (2 Peter 2:3). Here is a warning to the impenitent, and a restraint on all The injured may rest assured that God will bring a recompense (Romans 12:19).

The subtle power of a sinful motive.

The narrative simply states outward facts; but the form of them compels the belief that David's actions were now governed by a subtle motive, sinful in its nature, complete in its mastery over intellect and will, and so able to dominate his entire nature that its own real character should all the time be disguised. It is a difficult matter to disintegrate the complex movements of the mind or to present an accurate psychological analysis of an act of sin; but we may trace in David's ease a few features of sin in its subjective workings. An underlying sinful motive may so operate as—

I. TO SECURE BEFORE THE INTELLECT A GOOD ARRAY OF REASONS FOR AN ACT. David must have formulated reasons for his proposal to number the people. Most probably he thought it was a natural thing after all the vicissitudes the nation had passed through. It would afford an occasion of showing how God had blessed and prospered the people. He would be in a better position to make up any defects that might be discovered in the defences of the country. The knowledge of their unity and strength would give encouragement and confidence to men apprehensive of danger from without. The result, becoming known among neighbouring nations, would act as a check on their aggressiveness. His successor to the throne would be in possession of facts that would help his administration of affairs, and there would be some comfort in seeing how far Israel was realizing the hopes held out to their ancestors. Such reasons may seem to be the outcome of mere intellectual activity; but in reality they are set in order by the subtle influence of the ruling motive over the intellectual powers. Men do not know to what extent the form and order of their thinkings are determined by the governing desire. Herein lies much of the deceitfulness of sin. The useful nature of facts can easily be seen when the disposition would have it so. The devil was a clever reasoner in Eden. The inner adversary of our soul, be it evil motive or propensity, practically, by influence over the intellect, performs the part of a cogent reasoner, and makes out a case for the consent of the reason.

II. TO DIVERT CONSCIENCE FROM ITSELF. Conscience was alive in David when first the question of numbering occurred to him, but when once the idea is entertained and the subtle unspoken motive has strengthened its hold on the mind by being temporarily cherished, it so operates as to weaken the gaze of conscience on itself and virtually divert it to more incidental circumstances. An evil motive cannot live face to face with a live conscience; but if by persistence it can get lodgment among the many feelings of the heart, and as it were be hidden from direct single gaze, it can, by its contagions nature, create a condition of things that the conscience shall be occupied with other evils inferior in rank, while it does its deadly work almost without coming into consciousness. So many a man finds his conscience busy with straining out a gnat while the evil disposition most cherished is free to devour a camel. Hence, even great sinners are sometimes precise and punctilious in minor matters.

III. TO GIVE OBSTINACY TO THE WILL. It seems strange that David should have ventured to go against the deliberate protest of Joab and the chief military men. His disregard of Joab's wishes can, perhaps, be explained by his previous quarrels with him; but that he should have gone against the judgment of the chief men in the army is explicable only on the moral and psychological principle that the subtle power of an evil motive, when cherished, imparts a peculiar obstinacy to the will. We see this in human life. The persistence of men in carrying out a sinful feeling, active though not perhaps distinct in consciousness, is amazing. The will is so imbued with the feeling as to be proof against all reason and all but physical force. This is the real bondage. This led Augustine to say that man, as a sinner, is not free. There is something akin to the blindness and insensibility and mechanical necessity of physical forces in a will subject to the rule of a sinful motive.

IV. TO ENSURE SELF-COMPOSURE. David seems to have set about this business with coolness, and to have been calmly determined to see it through. There was no excitement, and whatever occasional gleams of conscience may have fallen on the dark recesses where the hidden sinful motive lay doing its subtle work, they did not permanently affect the self-possession of his life. The sudden breaking of the spell came after the nine months and twenty days. Restlessness and anxiety during a sinful course can only arise when conscience and desire are face to face, and conscience is not diverted from its gaze. When the governing feeling has, by subtle action, brought intellect, conscience, and will into subjection, or rather when its nature has somehow tainted and weakened them all, there is a peace and composure which, if not of God, is nevertheless serviceable for the execution of a purpose. It is the bane of some wicked men that their strength is firm. It is an evil omen for a religious man when he is undisturbed in doing what others know to be wrong. "Grey hairs are upon him, and he knoweth it not."

GENERAL LESSONS.

1. It becomes men in the most favourable circumstances to remember that they are olden to incitements to evil as truly as the most unfavoured.

2. The more elevated our position in the religious life the more subtle are the temptations of the great adversary.

3. It is possible for a really good man to becloud his last days by falling into sin through lack of watchfulness and prayer against the more secret forms of evil.

2 Samuel 24:10-17

A king's sin and a people's chastisement.

The facts are:

1. David, reflecting on the accomplishment of his purpose, comes to a consciousness of his sin, and makes confession before God.

2. In the morning the Prophet Gad is sent to him from. the Lord, offering him, as a choice of a chastisement, either seven years' famine, or three months' defeat before his enemies, or three days' pestilence.

3. David, in his anguish, elects to fall into the hands of God.

4. Thereupon God sends a pestilence which carries off seventy thousand men.

5. There being some relenting in the anger of God when the pestilence reached Jerusalem, David entreats with the angel of the Lord by the threshing floor of Araunah, that he would have pity on the people and rather smite him and his house. The various truths taught in this section may be briefly set forth thus.

I. THE REACTION OF MAN'S SPIRITUAL NATURE. For more than nine months the unhallowed feeling which prompted the numbering of the people had held sway, and now during the silence of night the spiritual man that had been suppressed again asserts his power. David comes to himself, and sees his conduct in a Divine light. The supremacy of sin means a depression of the better nature. The awakening to a sense of sin is the reaction of that better nature. The same was seen in the matter of Bathsheba and Uriah. The prodigal son's coming to himself is an instance; as also the repentance of every sinner. The causes and occasions of the reaction may come from without, but there can he no doubt that the change does lie in a reaction. The spell is broken, and the higher nature of man once more asserts itself.

II. THE CAUSES AND OCCASIONS OF THE SOUL'S BREAKING THE SPELL OF SIN ARE DEFINITE. David came to himself most probably for three reasons.

1. Difficulties of carrying out his project may have pressed on him the need of reflection; for not only were Joab and the captains reluctant workers, but long time elapsed, and so strong was the opposition that two tribes were not counted (1 Chronicles 21:4).

2. The strain of persistence would, by psychological law, enfeeble purpose. He could not go on forever in a line of sin; exhaustion of moral motive is a reality.

3. The gracious action of God would revive the latent and suppressed sense of right; for though the Holy Spirit is grieved, he does not depart forever from the erring. The same is true still. External difficulties of a sinful course make the way hard, and so give chance for reflection and reaction of the better self. The exhaustion and satiety of persistence in evil tends to open a way for the action of Divine influence. The misery of the prodigal, the weariness of sin, the loss of early novelty, do not turn men, but they render other more spiritual action more timely. The real cause which turns these occasions to account is the gracious action of the Holy Spirit.

III. THE CHANGED ESTIMATE OF CONDUCT UNDER THE LIGHT OF GOD'S SPIRIT. As we have seen (2 Samuel 24:1-9), plausible reasons could be assigned for numbering the people, but now that in the silence of night the light had come, that which once was reasonable and proper, and persisted in as essential, is folly and sin. It is only in the light which God causes to shine into our hearts that we can see what is the real character of some of the motives lurking there. Saul of Tarsus came to see himself in the light of God, and the old life in which he had prided himself became his shame. No man knows himself apart from Divine illumination. Repentance marks the change undergone in a man's estimate of himself in the sight of God.

IV. THE ANTITHESIS OF SIN AND RIGHT REASON. When David confessed before God that in what he had done he had acted foolishly, he not only expressed a changed estimate of his conduct, but also illustrated a universal truth. Sin and wisdom are incompatible; they are mutually exclusive. The lie from the beginning has been that it is good for man to do his own will. The wisdom of being "as gods" was the first of snares. The votaries of pleasure and the scornful rejecters of the supernatural Christ deem themselves wise in following the bent of their unholy and proud disposition. The wise "disputer of this world" looks with contempt on "the foolishness of preaching" and of the obedience to Christ which is its object. Yes, like David, in his sin, they have their day; but just as he found at last that his wisdom was all the time folly, so others will find that wisdom is utterly removed from their preference of their own to the will of Christ. Sin is the most desperate folly. It debases man's nature, entails numberless ills for body and spirit, interferes with the true development of the mind and the acquisition and enjoyment of the treasures of good hid in nature, inflicts a stigma and leaves a stain that unfit for the highest society in the universe, and, moreover, mars the future possibly beyond recovery. Holiness and wisdom alone coincide. To go against the will of God is a species of madness. The history of individuals and of nations is proof of it.

V. GOD'S WATCHFULNESS OVER REPENTING SINNERS. It was a long solitary night when David came to see the folly and sin of his conduct. The outpouring of his penitent heart was known to no human being. The most sacred experiences of life are secrets between the soul and God. But yet in the morning, just at the right time, the messenger of God came to him. His mission was to offer alternative chastisements, but there was implied in it forgiveness. The eye of God had seen the inner workings of the broken spirit, and the occasion was seized to bring David again into more direct communication with his God. In the case of Bathsheba Nathan had awakened penitence; here Gad came to help forward the good work begun in penitence. The cry of Saul of Tarsus was heard in heaven, and to help him a servant of God was prepared to speak the words suitable to his case. The ear of the Lord is ever open to the cry of the humble, and his eye is on their sorrows. Some message or messenger will be sent to them to confirm the fact of their awakening to a sense of sin, and do what is best for their restoration. Let every penitent remember that God hears the cry in the night, and sees all the desires of the broken heart.

VI. THE ADAPTATION OF CHASTISEMENT TO SIN. In the alternative choice of David as to the form of chastisement there is secured the same adaptation of the infliction to the nature of the sin. Many explanations have been offered of this sin, but we prefer to consider its essence to lie in a sense of elation in the strength of the nation, and a consequent desire to be assured of its sufficiency for all contingencies. David was thinking of strength and glory in numerical form. In this he was going counter to the letter and spirit of the Law laid down for him and his people (Leviticus 26:1-46.). Success and prosperity were to be dependent on perfect obedience to God's commands (Le 26:3, 4)? It is expressly added that then a few men will suffice against a host, and, on the other hand, disobedience and "pride of power" (2 Samuel 24:14, 2 Samuel 24:15-19) will entail defeat and desolation. That this "pride of power" was the real sin in David's case is seen in this—that the three alternatives offered to him are the very three forms of chastisement alluded to in Le 26:3-10 (cf. 16-20). But the point is this, that, whichever form of chastisement is taken, the effect is the same—a diminution of the power which was an object of pride. The sin of rejoicing in the "arm of flesh" (Jeremiah 17:5; cf. Isaiah 30:2) was visited by a weakening of that "arm." Famine, war, pestilence, either, would take away from that very number which it was David's ambition to know and have as large as possible. This adaptation of chastisement to sin is seen elsewhere. The infliction for wicked craving for flesh in the wilderness (Numbers 11:33), the confusion and helplessness of those who sought help in Egypt rather than in God (Isaiah 30:2, Isaiah 30:3, Isaiah 30:16, Isaiah 30:17), the turning of Laodicean outward respectability into a loss of all respectability (Revelation 3:14-18), the change from boasted glory to corruption in the case of Herod (Acts 12:21-23),—are instances of a certain adaptation of chastisement to the particular sin committed. All who make self, or personal merits, or created power, a substitute for God, will find that on which they rest vanishing just when they most need comfort.

VII. THE PENITENT'S TRUST IN THE JUSTICE AND MERCY OF GOD. Of the three dreadful alternatives, David took the pestilence, on the ground that his broken heart could rest more calmly in God's judgments, where the human element was not employed as agent. Here was the true instinct of the soul. God is just and good, and in his hands all is sure to be right and kind. Man is weak and evil, and as an agent may blend his own base passions with the execution of a Divine decree. Even in the hour of suffering, when sin is to be punished, the heart has faith in God. Here is homage to God's justice and mercy. Many a man, who by his sins brings terrible wars on himself and family, bows in entire submission, and rests in blended justice and mercy. This is the essence of our faith in Christ as Sacrifice for sin.

VIII. THE RELATIVE CHARACTER OF OPEN MANIFESTATIONS OF GOD'S PRESENCE. There is nothing really surprising in the appearing of the angel of the Lord to David; for it is in keeping with the theophanies of the early dispensation, when men had special need to be reminded of the reality of God's presence. Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Manoah, were predecessors of David in this respect. The step from the message of God by the Seer Gad to a visible manifestation is not very great to any one who believes at all in the supernatural; indeed, the final manifestation of God in Christ covers all prior manifestations. Those who profess to see difficulties in these Old Testament accounts do not understand the logic or the historical congruity of their position as believers in the visible incarnation of the Son of God. Manifestations of God's presence are relative. Creation is an expression of the being and presence of God. The voice which comes to prophet or apostle, the glory on which Moses gazed, the pillar of cloud and of fire, the appearance of manna after the promise of it, the vision of the seer, the still small voice to Elijah, the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the frustration of the scheme of the wicked and the furtherance of those of the good, and the spiritual revelation to the soul in fulfilment of the precious words (John 14:21, John 14:22),—these are all manifestations of God. Christ differs from all in that he is the Fulness of the Godhead bodily. It is a mercy that our poor dull nature has been blessed by these demonstrations of the reality of things unseen and eternal.

IX. MENTAL SUFFERING THE CHIEF PENALTY OF SIN. David sinned in numbering the people; the pestilence smote many of them, but touched him not. Nevertheless, he was the greatest sufferer; for no physical death could equal, in the pain it brings, the anguish of his soul in seeing that his sin had brought such trouble and pain on "these sheep" (verse 17). To a man of his generous nature, with all the ambition to be a good and wise ruler (2 Samuel 23:3-5), it must have been torment unspeakable to see that he was an occasion of bringing woe to thousands of homes. His punishment was heavy indeed. A similar terrible mental punishment comes to the parent who sees, in his reformed years, his children diseased or ruined by former sins of his own. In this mental anguish lies, perhaps, the hell which men so much dread.

X. THE PARCIMONY OF PROVIDENCE. David was not correct in his supposition that "these sheep" had not gone astray. We are not certain whether they had indulged in feelings of pride in the strength of Israel, and so were virtually one with their king in the sin of numbering; but we know that they had sinned in the revolt of Absalom and Sheba, and the anger of the Lord against Israel may, as we have seen (verses 1-9), be referred to those acts. The fact that they had not been chastised for so great a sin is manifest, so far as the history is any guide, though, if Absalom's sin deserved special visitation on him, theirs equally deserved a visitation on themselves. The sense of the whole history, therefore, is that God waited, and made the occasion of the new sin of their king the opportunity of visiting them with stripes while visiting him with stripes for his own. Indeed, the severity of his chastisement lay much in this, that he was the instrumental occasion of their woe. By one pestilence the double chastisement was secured. Philosophy has dwelt much on the "law of parcimony" in nature. It seems also to run through many providential dispensations in relation to man. By the Flood God punished wicked men and set forth his faithfulness to the righteous. The institution of the Hebrew ritual both educated men in spiritual conceptions, and kept them distinct from the nations for the ulterior purpose of Christ's coming. The sacrifice of Christ is at the same time an objective ground of forgiveness, and the most impressive source of moral influence in winning men over to God. There are manifold forms of the same law in daily life.

2 Samuel 24:18-25

The facts are:

1. The Seer Gad having directed David to rear an altar to the Lord in the threshing floor of Araunah, he proceeds to carry out the instruction.

2. Araunah, observing the approach of David and his servants, makes obeisance, and desires to know the purport of his visit.

3. Ascertaining that David desired to buy the threshing floor that he might there entreat for the staying of the plague, he generously offers all that was requisite for the sacrifices, and expresses the hope that God might be propitious.

4. But David, not caring to offer to God what cost him nothing, insists on purchasing the place and the oxen required.

5. The offering being presented on the altar, the plague ceases to trouble Israel.

The way to reconciliation with God a matter of Divine revelation.

God had graciously condescended to reveal himself in visible form both to assure David that the plague was more than a mere natural course of disease (2 Samuel 24:17), and to render an approach to himself more accessible. The chief effect, however, on David was to deepen his conviction of sin and his pity for his suffering people. His prayer, like that of Moses, was that he might suffer if so be they be set free. It was not till the seer came the next day that David learnt what course to take in order to secure reconciliation, not only for the people, but for himself also. God reveals to man the way of reconciliation.

I. THIS IS TRUE OF THE GROUND OF OUR SALVATION IN CHRIST. As surely as the prophet from God informed David as to what was to be done in order to find favour with God and escape the plague, so surely has God revealed in his Word the fact that through Christ alone do we find favour and eternal life. The work of redemption by the sacrifice of Christ was not discovered by the exercise of human reason. In the desert, when Israel was perishing, God ordained the lifting up of the serpent, and caused information of the fact to be given. In our desert life God sent his beloved Son, independently of our asking or knowledge, and commissioned his servants to announce the way of salvation. Reason may enable us to ascertain the reality of the historic fact, but reason could not discover the way of reconciliation. The Apostle Paul declares that he received it not of man, but of God. They do not understand the gospel who imagine that man, by his learning or reason, could ever find out, apart from special revelation, the only way to God.

II. IT IS TRUE OF THE MEANS BY WHICH SALVATION BECOMES PERSONAL. Salvation may be spoken of in general terms, and in this sense is too often the subject of discussion. But it is, also, a matter of personal experience. The end for which Christ lived and died becomes realized in individual souls, in the form of actual forgiveness, restoration to favour, newness of life and progressive holiness. By what means this is to be brought about, so far as our action is concerned, is purely a matter of revelation. It is revealed from heaven to be of faith (Romans 1:17). As Christ was the Gift of God, so the revelation that we are saved by Christ on condition of our faith is also the gift of God. It was made known to David that sacrifice would be the ground of pardon, and that his personal use or application of that to the need of the hour was the means of his obtaining the benefit of it. The place of our faith in our salvation from the plague of sin is not a question of human speculation: it is fixed by him who gave the sacrifice.

III. IT IS TRUE OF OUR INDIVIDUAL APPRECIATION OF WHAT GOD HAS ALREADY MADE KNOWN. The spiritual bearing of the acts enjoined on David could only be spiritually discerned. That Christ is our great Sacrifice, and that faith is the means by which we are to appropriate it;—these are things plainly revealed in Scripture, and could only be known as Divine ordinations by special revelation; but they are a dead letter to multitudes. We need the revelation of their spiritual bearing to our own souls by the Holy Spirit; and it is only as the Holy Spirit takes of these things pertaining to Christ and reveals them to our individual spirit that we see their force and value their application. Hence a revelation of the matter of revelation is needful to conversion. Hence many read and speak about salvation who never see its real significance or know it as a matter of personal experience. The invisible messenger of God must come to us as truly as the seer came to David, if we are to see his salvation (John 3:5).

Devotion of property to God's service.

Araunah was eager to provide a place and oxen for the celebration of the services about to be rendered to God. His interest in David, in Israel, and his homage for God seem to have prompted the generous proposal. On the other hand, David's sense of what was due to God from himself, and his personal interest in the solemn transaction, would not suffer him to be spared cost through the generosity of Araunah. He must honour God with his own and not with another man's possessions.

I. ALL OUR POSSESSIONS ARE GOD'S. This is the basis of our devotion of what we hold to his service. We are really but stewards. Our mental powers, our wealth, our personal influence, our very life, are lent to us for a season, and lent with a view to use in God's Name. This is laid down in the words, "Ye are not your own;" in the parable of the talents; in the very constitution and dependence of our lives; in the specific commands concerning "firstfruits;" and this was practically recognized by both David and Araunah in their emulation in self-sacrifice. It would be a great gain to the Church and world if Christian people would only let this truth sink deeply into their hearts. What elevation, tone, and nobility it would import to life!

II. THERE IS NO NOBLER USE OF POSSESSIONS THAN IN GOD'S SERVICE. David and Araunah were one in this belief. They strove for the honour of devoting substance to God. In a well-ordered Christian life all is devoted to God. The entire life, embracing mental powers, occupations, property, time, is a sacrifice (Romans 12:1). But by reason of custom we recognize that as specially devoted to God which is directly employed in maintaining his holy worship or diffusing a knowledge of his great mercy to mankind. The wonderful way in which the priesthood was set apart, the distinction put in Scripture on men whose lives were chiefly spent in witnessing for God, the significant words of our Saviour in reference to the widow's mite and the box of ointment, and the glorying of the Apostle Paul in that he was called and counted worthy of a special ministry,—these things point out the honour of using our gifts and possessions in furtherance of God's gracious purposes to mankind.

III. THE USE OF OUR POSSESSIONS IN GOD'S SERVICE IS A MEANS OF VAST BLESSING MANKIND. By devoting their substance to God on this occasion, David and Araunah knew that they would be doing that which, being graciously accepted, would issue in the removal of the plague from Israel. No wonder that they were ambitious to lay their gifts at the mercy seat! It was a question of staying the plague. Equally in our case it is daily a question of staying the plague, lifting the curse of sin and scattering the wholesome blessings of salvation over the land. He who builds a sanctuary, or endows a college, or send forth missionaries, turns his money into streams of spiritual good.

IV. A TRUE HEART WILL FIND PURE SATISFACTION IN DEVISING MEANS OF DEVOTING GIFTS TO GOD. David honoured the noble impulse of Arannah, but he could not be deprived of the satisfaction claimed by every true man of giving of his own. There is a real blessedness in laying our gifts of mind and body and our material possessions at the altar of God. The meanness which would worship at others' expense, or look on spiritual good done at others' cost, can never dwell in a Christly soul. As the Saviour himself counted it a deep and holy joy to lay down his life for others, so all who enter into his spirit feel it to be a matter of thankfulness when occasion arises for some surrender in his service. The bountiful soul is always rich. The large heart is never in poverty. The joy of their Lord is their portion.

V. IT IS BY THE USE OF SUCH ACTS OF DEVOTION TO HIS SERVICE THAT GOD HAS HITHERTO BLESSED THE WORLD. The self-surrender of Abraham when he left Ur of the Chaldees, the devotion by Moses of his great powers to the leadership of Israel, were simply conspicuous instances in the entire history of redemption of God's acceptance and use of human powers and possessions for carrying out his great purpose of mercy. David was following the usual order in the case before us. Even our blessed Lord came to earth by means of the devotion of a virgin life. The "good news" has been sent abroad by consecration of human speech. Who would not fall in with this glorious succession till the world is saved?

Plague and prayer.

The narrative plainly teaches that this plague was ordained of God for moral ends, and that it was stayed by means of the intercession offered in the manner suited to the age of shadowy sacrifice before the offering of the eternal sacrifice by Christ.

I. AFFLICTIVE EVENTS ARE SOMETIMES TO BE REGARDED AS DIVINE CHASTISEMENTS. This was true of the event here referred to. No sensible man can doubt it. The only way to get rid of the fact is to regard this portion of Scripture as a mere superstitious legend—human superstitions being infused into a natural occurrence. The bad logic of this, in the case of one who accepts the supernatural in the incarnation of Christ, is obvious. If God thought fit to deal supernaturally with men at one time, why not at another? In Scripture many afflictive events are set forth in the same light, and we may fairly say that God's government of men has not yet ceased, and that men, especially communities, need discipline as much now as ever. If men are moral beings under government, and if the order of nature is not beyond the reach and control of God, we have a right to regard the events of Scripture as examples of what God does to the sons of men (1 Corinthians 10:11).

II. THERE IS MORE IN THESE EVENTS THAN THE NECESSARY ACTION OF PHYSICAL LAWS. The presence of the angel here shows that there was a special Divine element in the event. The same is true of other similar events recorded in Scripture. In modern Divine chastisements of men there may be physical order, but that will not be the interpretation of the moral bearing of the events. There seems to be more than s foreseen coincidence of a chain of physical necessities issuing in an event just at the time when some national or individual sin transpires. Bare prevision of a coincidence that could not be helped is a poor explanation of Divine government. The scriptural idea is the best—that God is free and above and behind all the forces at work, and in some way not revealed and not certainly discoverable by physical science, he does so regulate the succession of physical events as to make them subserve a moral purpose when, in the development of human history, there arises a need of such subservance. We must either admit this, or place God practically outside his own possessions as a helpless spectator, less able to strike in than are we ourselves. The mystery may be great, but it is more mysterious, and certainly more absurd, that there should be such a God deprived of freedom of action.

III. THE REMOVAL OF AFFLICTIVE EVENTS IS CONNECTED WITH THE WORK OF CHRIST. The offering of sacrifice by David was a divinely appointed means of accepting the repentance and homage of the nation. "Without the shedding of blood there is no remission." This deep spiritual truth was doubtless recognized by all the truly pious of those times. Thus it sets forth the greater truth that the sacrifice of Christ is the ground on which God exercises his mercy in forgiving our sins and healing our wounds. The far reaching benefits of his death deserve more consideration than they commonly get. Thousands enjoy the fruit of his sacrifice who know him not. For all men he has lifted up the curse, so that its pressure is not so great as once it was or might have been. When the rod is laid by, and the sinful nation or individual is no longer smitten, it is for "Christ's sake."

IV. PRAYER IS THE HUMAN MEANS BY WHICH CHASTISEMENTS ARE REMOVED. On the basis of the sacrifice typical of Christ's death, David's prayer was accepted and the plague was stayed. In like manner Moses intreated for Israel, and David for his people. The nature of prayer and its place in the Divine government have not changed with years. It is a spiritual power as truly as that gravity is a physical force. Its exercise, according to Scripture, is not exclusive of the use of personal effort to remove physical evils, and certainly not exclusive of moral conduct. As a spiritual power, it is part of our endowment, and to be employed along with our other endowments of good sense, prudence, and correctness of life. It does not follow that answer to prayer is a violation of the order of things. We do not know how far God's personal contact with every force in action is or is not part of the order, and hence we do not know but that his free energy may so modify the course of events as to maintain what seems to us to be natural order, and yet to be the product of his own will. The pointsman on a railway may suddenly save a train from destruction without violating the order of nature. Who shall say that the watchful energy of the Eternal may not, in answer to our urgent cry, so act as to obviate what otherwise would be a great disaster? "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." It is mighty only as it is the concentrated voice of a "newness of life" lifted up to heaven in the all-prevailing Name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

HOMILIES BY B. DALE

2 Samuel 24:1, 2 Samuel 24:2

(1 Chronicles 21:1, 1 Chronicles 21:2).—(JERUSALEM.)

A sinful census.

1. This census appears to have been ordered by David in one of the later years of his life. The word "again" (2 Samuel 24:1) indicates that it was subsequent to the famine (2 Samuel 21:1, 2 Samuel 21:14; verse 25); and a measure that occupied Joab and the captains of the host nine months and twenty days could only have been accomplished during a time of settled peace, such as succeeded the rebellions of Absalom and Sheba. "Three great external calamities are recorded in David's reign, which may be regarded as marking its beginning, its middle, and its close—a three years' famine, a three months' exile, a three days' pestilence" (Stanley). No man, however advanced in life, or whatever the wisdom he may have "learnt by experience," is wholly exempt from the power of temptation.

2. It was a census of those who were capable of bearing arms (2 Samuel 24:9), and of the nature of a military organization (2 Samuel 8:15-18). "But David took not the number of them from twenty years old and under," etc. (1 Chronicles 27:23, 1 Chronicles 27:24). The result showed a great increase of the people—800,000 (1,100,000) warriors of Israel, 500,000 (470,000) of Judah, omitting Levi and Benjamin (1 Chronicles 21:6); representing a population of about five millions.

3. Its direct and declared object was that David might "know the number of the people," or become fully acquainted with its military strength, "its defensive power" (Keil). Of any additional object, except what is implied in the words of Joab, "Why does my lord the king delight in this thing?" nothing is stated.

4. It, nevertheless, was wrong and exceedingly sinful. This is evident, not only from the expostulation of Joab, but also from the confession of David himself (2 Samuel 24:10), and the Divine chastisement that followed. Wherein consisted his sin? A census was not in itself and always sinful; for it had been expressly directed by God (Exodus 30:11-16; Exodus 38:26; Numbers 1:2; Numbers 26:14, Numbers 26:63-65), and it was (as it still is) attended with important advantages. But this census was determined upon by David,

I. GOD IS NEVER ANGRY WITH ANY PERSON OR PEOPLE EXCEPT ON ACCOUNT OF SIN, "David's causing the people to be numbered was the immediate cause of the pestilence; for the procedure originated in motives which the Lord condemned. But the primary and real cause is to be found in the verse which introduces the narrative; and which is almost invariably lost sight of in the common accounts of this transaction. It is that 'the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel.' Now, the anger of the Lord could only be awakened by unfaithfulness and evil doing; and that, whatever its precise nature, was the real cause of the calamity that followed, and relieves the case of the apparent harshness, of which so much has been said, of making the people suffer for the offence of their king" (Kitto, 'Daily Bible Illus.').

1. Sin alone excites the anger of God; which is his holy opposition to sin and sinners, and not inconsistent with his love, but rather the effect of resistance to it (2 Samuel 11:27).

2. Whenever sin dwells in the heart, no less than when it is expressed in outward actions, God observes it, and is displeased with those who are guilty of it. "For he knoweth the secrets of the heart" (Psalms 44:21).

3. His displeasure with a whole people implies prevalent and persistent sin among them, such as the spirit of unbelief, disobedience, vain glorious pride, and presumption, which was manifested in the recent rebellions of Israel, and appears to have been subsequently indulged.

4. So far from being palliated or passed over because of their exalted position and privileges, their sin is aggravated, and more fully ensures their chastisement on that account. "You only have I known," etc. (Amos 3:2). "It may be not unreasonably surmised that they were smitten with the same unhallowed elation of heart (as the king); that they were tempted to exult in their own strength; that they rejoiced in the prospect of beholding the proud array of their multitudes of fighting men; and that dreams of grandeur and glory may have been before their eyes, and may have caused them to depart from the Lord" (Le Bas). "The important lesson for all here is this—that even the smallest feeling of national pride is a sin against God, and, unless there be a powerful reaction, calls down the judgments of God. With this feeling even the Romans presented offerings of atonement at their census."

II. SIN IN A PEOPLE IS USUALLY ASSOCIATED WITH SIN IN THEIR RULER.

1. The former may be incited by the latter (1 Kings 15:30). Or:

2. It may be an incitement to it (John 19:12). "The people had infected the king with their own arrogance, which had been called forth by their success." Or:

3. Both people and ruler may alike participate in the same prevalent, sinful disposition or tendency of the age. As formerly (2 Samuel 15:1-5), "soft indulgence" and sensual desire; so now, "the lust of the eyes and the pride of life" (1 John 2:16) seem to have taken possession of his mind.

4. The sin of a people may culminate in, and be manifested and represented by, the sin of their ruler. For this he is eminently responsible, and when his piety, which should have checked the evil tendency of the people, and may hitherto have restrained the righteous judgment of God, begins to fall, it becomes the occasion of the breaking forth of his fiery indignation. "It was the final offence which filled up the cup of wrath, and the punishment smote the nation, and, through the nation, its ruler" (Kirkpatrick, Horn. Quart; 6.). "The Lord was wearied with the sins of Israel and Judah; and he likewise beheld the secret pride of David's heals; and for these things he was resolved to visit both the people and the king." "Pride, or vain glory, or self-sufficiency, which was the sin of David, and which, for the very reason that it effects us less, because it is not so much against man as against God, offends him the more. It is a substitution of ourselves in his place; an impious thought of independence, and transference to ourselves of that confidence and admiration which are due to him alone. It is an invasion of his throne, an assumption of his sceptre, an attempt to rob him of that glory which he will not give to another, a removing of the crown from his head to put it on our own. 'Wherefore it is said, God resisteth the proud'" (J. Leifchitd). "He was, for the time, the image and emblem of all who in any age, or in any country, love to have arrayed before them the elements of their worldly strength; who delight to see spread out the full enrolment of their powers and resources, and who forget that there is One before whose breath all these things shall be even as the cloud capped towers and palaces before the breath of the whirlwind."

III. THE SINFUL MEASURES OF A RULER ARE SOMETIMES THE EFFECT OF THE DIVINE DISPLEASURE WITH HIS PEOPLE, whose sin he shares, and of whose punishment he is made the instrument. "And he [Jehovah] moved [incited, provoked] David to say," etc. "The thought is—there should come a pestilence over Israel, and David become the occasion thereof" (Thenius). "The ruler's sin is a punishment to a wicked people." Sin implies personal responsibility; and "God tempts no man" (James 1:13). But in his universal sovereignty:

1. He appoints the circumstances, which are adapted to test and manifest character, and often conduce to sin.

2. He suggests thoughts which, although right and good in themselves, are sometimes perverted to wrong and evil by human folly and infatuation (verse 10). "All good thoughts, counsels, just works, come from the Spirit of God; and, at the same time, we are in the most imminent peril at every moment of turning the Divine suggestions into sin by allowing our selfish and impure conceits and rash generalizations to mix with them" (Maurice).

3. He withdraws his restraining grace in consequence of sin, and permits men to be tempted of Satan (1 Chronicles 21:1), who readily seizes the opportunity to lead them into transgression. Deus probat, Satan tentat.

4. He even constrains the manifestation of the iniquity of the heart for holy and beneficent ends. "God's influence, making use of Satan as its instrument, leads the corrupt germ to its development, rousing into action that which slumbers in the soul, in order to bring about the retributive judgment in which man, if otherwise well intentioned, learns fully to recognize his sinful condition, and is moved to repentance. The question is not of simple permission on the part of God, but of a real action, and that of the nature which each one may perceive in his own tendencies. Whoever once yields to his sinful disposition is infallibly involved in the sinful deed which leads to retributive judgment, however much he may strive against it" (Hengstenberg). "Though it was David's sin that opened the sluice, the sins of the people all contributed to the deluge" (Matthew Henry).

IV. AN ADEQUATE REASON IS AFFORDED BY SUCH MEASURES FOR THE CHASTISEMENT OF RULER AND PEOPLE. "It was needful for an external, visible manifestation of the sin to precede the judgment, in order to justify the ways of God to men. The temptation was presented to David; he fell, and in his fall represented truly and faithfully the fall of the nation. The nation was not punished vicariously for its ruler's sin, but for a sin which was its own, and was only embodied and made visible by its ruler's act. And the punishment struck the very point of their pride, by diminishing the numbers which had been the ground of their self-confident elation" (Kirkpatrick, 2 Samuel). "Because David was about to boast proudly and to glory in the number of his people, God determined to punish him by reducing their number, either by famine, war, or pestilence" (S. Schmid).

1. Sinful actions serve to manifest the hidden sin of the heart.

2. They show the connection between such sin and its just retribution.

3. They make chastisement more signal and salutary.

4. They are often overruled to the glory of God and the welfare of men. [Note: Some of the difficulties indicated above would be removed by regarding the first sentence as "the heading of the whole chapter, which goes on to describe the sin which kindled this anger, viz. the numbering of the people" ('Speaker's Commentary'); and by reading, "And one moved David," etc.; i.e. "one of his courtiers or attendants, who is therefore called satan, or an adversary, either designedly or consequentially both to David and his people. The people were themselves very culpable; as they knew, or might have known, that, upon being numbered, they were to pay the prescribed ransom, which yet they neglected or refused" to do; as partners in the offence, they justly shared m the penalty inflicted (Chandler). But this explanation is not satisfactory.]—D.

Verse 2

(1 Chronicles 21:2).—(THE KING'S PALACE.)

Self-elation.

This chapter contains the spiritual history of a great soul in its "fall and rising again," its sin and recovery—its

and self-dedication to God (verses 24, 25). Of self-elation, pride, presumption, vain glory (the sin of David), it may be said that it is—

I. A COMMON EFFECT OF EXTRAORDINARY PROSPERITY, temporal or spiritual. Pride; war, famine, or pestilence; suffering and humiliation; peace and industry; prosperity—pride again; such is the melancholy circle of human affairs (Exodus 8:14). "If we knew how to enjoy our blessings in the fear of God, they would be continued unto us; but it is the sin of man that he extracts, even from the mercies of God, the poison which destroys his comforts; he grows fat upon the bounties of Heaven, spurns its laws, and awakens its vengeance" (R. Watson).

II. AN UNGRATEFUL PERVERSION OF DIVINE BENEFITS. "The grave sin of proud exaltation, which David and the people of Israel here had in common, presupposed the elevation to victory and power that God had bestowed by his gracious mind; and its consequence was the judgment that revealed God's anger against the perversion of his favours into plans of self-aggrandizement" (Erdmann). What should produce thankfulness and humility too often results in unthankfulness and vain glory (2 Kings 20:13).

III. A SPECIAL TEMPTATION OF THE EVIL ONE. (1 Timothy 3:6.) "And Satan [an adversary] stood up," etc. (1 Chronicles 21:1). "We see that God and Satan both had their hand in the work; God by permission, Satan by suggestion; God as a Judge, Satan as an enemy; God as in a just punishment for sin, Satan as in an act of sin; God in a wise ordination of it to good, Satan in a malicious intent to confusion" (Hall).

IV. A GRIEVOUS EXHIBITION OF SPIRITUAL BLINDNESS; inconsideration of dependence, self-ignorance, self-deception, and foolish infatuation (Jeremiah 49:16). "David, when strongly tempted to this gratification of his vanity, was not at all sensible of the evil of such an act; while Joab was. Joab, though a man of blood, and apparently hardened in iniquity, could see through David's vain and arrogant feelings, while David himself, whose mind was under ordinary circumstances eminently sensitive and pious, could not discover the impiety of his proceeding, but persevered in evil for several months. Such is the infatuation of sin!" (Lindsay).

V. A PECULIAR PROVOCATIVE OF DIVINE WRATH (1 Samuel 2:3; Proverbs 16:5); most odious of all things in the sight of God, because most directly opposed to him. "Pride is the beginning of sin" (Ecclesiasticus 10:13). "And what is pride but the craving for undue exaltation? And this is undue exaltation when the soul abandons him to whom it ought to cleave as its end, and becomes a kind of end to itself. This happens when it becomes its own satisfaction. And it does so when it falls away from that unchangeable good which ought to satisfy it more than itself".

VI. A PERNICIOUS INFLUENCE IN RELATION TO OTHER PEOPLE; inciting in them a similar spirit, and bringing untold miseries upon them. What oppression, strife, and other deadly fruits grow out of this "root of bitterness" (Exodus 14:5)!

VII. A RUINOUS TENDENCY IN RELATION TO MAN HIMSELF. (Daniel 4:28; Proverbs 16:18.) "Pride wishes to dethrone God. Pride takes occasion from virtue itself. Pride was particularly odious in David, who was exalted from so lowly a state. His pride was accompanied by falsehood; for he had protested his humility in the psalms which he made for all the people to sing. David was a just man; but this was a reason why God should punish him more severely. For it is certain that the sins of the children of God are more deserving of condemnation than the sins of reprobates and slaves of the devil. These only offend their master, but those do outrage to their Father; these are only rebel subjects, but those are unnatural children and barbarians; these only abuse the gifts of nature, but those profane miserably the gifts of grace. And how much more abominable is Judas than Pilate! Be not surprised, then, that when David, who was complete in a thousand graces, committed the crime of felony against him, the Eternal could not suffer such an indignity without punishing him severely" (Du Bose, in Vinet's 'Histoire de la Predication').—D.

2 Samuel 24:3, 2 Samuel 24:4

(1 Chronicles 21:3, 1 Chronicles 21:4).—(THE ROYAL COUNCIL CHAMBER.)

Unheeded remonstrance.

This was not the first time that Joab remonstrated with David (2 Samuel 3:24; 2 Samuel 19:5); but his manner was now very different from what it had been before; arising, perhaps, from his recollection of the consequences of his former rudeness (2 Samuel 19:13), and his fear of the displeasure of the king, whose authority was fully restored. His remonstrance appears to have been made in a council of the captains of the army (2 Samuel 23:8), to whom the king declared his purpose, and by whom Joab's objection to it was supported (2 Samuel 24:4). As often happens in other instances, it was:

1. Greatly needed, on account of a sinful and dangerous course about to be pursued.

2. Properly offered.

3. Impatiently received, and imperfectly considered; it may be because of:

4. Resolutely rejected and wholly overborne. "The word of the king prevailed," etc. His persistency in his purpose, after the remonstrance,

2 Samuel 24:5-10

(1 Chronicles 21:5-8).—(THE ROYAL BED CHAMBER.)

An, awakened conscience.

The taking of the census occupied over nine months; and during this time David remained insensible to his sin, and waited for the result. At length the work was finished (about wheat harvest), and the number given to the king; but, whilst he looked at the definite proof of the nation's increase, and at first, perhaps, felt elated at the thought of commanding an army of mere than a million soldiers (with something of the spirit of another monarch, Daniel 4:30), the same night" David's heart smote him; and he said unto Jehovah, I have sinned," etc.; "and David arose in the morning," etc. (2 Samuel 24:11). What the remonstrance of Joab failed to effect was wrought by the operation of his own conscience. "It was well for him that his own ways reproved him, and that conscience sounded the first trumpet of alarm. This is characteristic of the regenerate. Men who have no light of grace, no tenderness of conscience, must have their sin recalled to them by the circumstances which at once reveal its enormity and visit it with punishment; but the regenerate have an inward monitor that waits not for these consequences to rouse its energy, but lights up the candle of the Lord within them, and will not let them rest after they have done amiss till they have felt compunction and made confession" (J. Leifchild). Conscience is of a threefold nature—a law, a judgment, a sentiment (1 Samuel 22:20-22). Observe, with respect to it—

I. THE CAUSES OF ITS CONTINUING LONG ASLEEP. These are summed up in "the deceitfulness of sin" (2 Samuel 12:5, 2 Samuel 12:6). More especially:

1. The persistency of the influence under which sin is at first indulged; viz. the pleasing illusion (arising from partial views, strong passions, and self-will) that it is different from what it really is, and the agent better than he really is; which (even when the true standard of right is recognized) perverts the.moral judgment and deadens the moral emotion. "A concrete fact is presented in a partial aspect; conscience pronounces its judgment according to the representation made to it; this representation, or rather misrepresentation, is made, directly or indirectly by the influence of the rebellious will, the true seat of all moral evil" (McCosh). Hence evil is often deemed good, and self-glory the glory of God.

2. The assumption (arising from self-confidence) that what has been resolved upon is justifiable and right; and indisposition to review the grounds of the determination or to examine one's self so that a too favourable estimate of his character may be corrected.

3. The absorption of the mind in the pursuit of the object sought and in other occupations, preventing due consideration of the state of the heart. Alas! how many on this account "regard iniquity in their heart" with an easy conscience!

"Great crimes alarm the conscience; but she sleeps

While thoughtful man is plausibly amused."

(Cowper.)

"And Satan is so far from awaking him, that he draws the curtains close about him that no light nor noise in his conscience may break his rest" (Gurnall). "If a man accustoms himself to slight or pass over the first motions to good, or shrinkings of conscience from evil, which originally are as natural to the heart as the appetites of hunger and thirst are to the stomach, conscience will by degrees grow dull and unconcerned, and, from not spying out motes, come at length to overlook beams; from carelessness it shall fall into a slumber; and from a slumber it shall settle into a deep and long sleep; till at last, perhaps, it sleeps itself into a lethargy, and that such a one that nothing but hell and judgment shall be able to awaken it" (South, Serm. 23.).

II. THE MEANS BY WHICH IT IS SUDDENLY AROUSED. In some cases the publication of the offence, the reprobation of society, the threatening of punishment; in others, serious consideration, deliberate reflection, deeper self-inspection (1 Samuel 24:5; Psalms 4:4), induced by:

1. The feeling of disappointment and dissatisfaction which commonly attends the attainment of an earthly end, or the accomplishment of a selfish purpose. David has 'the number of the people before him; yet, after all, he cannot "delight in this thing" (2 Samuel 24:3). "All is vanity." Where shall the heart find rest (Psalms 116:17; Psalms 73:25)?

2. The occurrence of circumstances naturally adapted to fix attention on a particular subject and excite inquiry concerning the motives by which one is actuated: a pause in "life's fitful fever;" the necessity of contemplating—what next? and next? a sleepless night (Esther 6:1); "sleep that bringeth oft tidings of future hap" (Dante)—"a dream, a vision of the night" (Job 33:15). "David had made spiritual progress since the time when it required the parable of Nathan, and the prophetic announcement, 'Thou art the man,' to awaken him from his spiritual slumber. At this period of his life he examined himself and Weighed his own actions in private, especially at night time; and no sooner was the census of the men of war reported to him than, instead of being elated with self-confidence and puffed up with vain glory, 'his heart smote him,'" etc. (Wordsworth). "Night and sleep bring us times of revision or moral reflection, such as greatly promote the best uses of existence. Whatever wrong has been committed stalks into the mind with an appalling tread. All those highest thoughts and most piercing truths that most deeply concern the great problem of life will often come nigh to thoughtful men in the dusk of their evenings, and their hours of retirement to rest. The night is the judgment bar of the day. About all the reflection there is in the world is due, if not directly to the night, to the habit prepared and fashioned by it. Great thoughts and wonderfully distinct crowd in, stirring great convictions—all the more welcome to a good man; to the bad, how terrible! 'Thou hast visited me in the night,' says David; 'thou hast tried me;' and again, 'My reins instruct me in the night season.' What lessons of wisdom have every man's reins given him in the depths of the night!—things how high, how close to other worlds! reproofs how piercing in authority, how nearly Divine!" (Bushnell, 'Moral Uses of Dark Things').

3. The operation of Divine grace (in connection with a man's own thoughts), which visits the upright in heart, dispels every illusion, and strengthens every holy and God-ward aspiration. Did the Lord in judgment move David to number Israel? His judgment was founded on love, and his goodness led him to repentance.

III. THE EFFECT OF ITS RENEWED ACTIVITY. "And David said unto Jehovah, I have sinned greatly in that I have done," etc.

1. A right knowledge of himself and a correct judgment of his conduct.

2. A painful sense of his guilt and folly. In the truly penitent:

3. A humble confession before the Lord (1 Samuel 7:6); and:

4. Fervent prayer for forgiveness (2 Samuel 12:13).

Of the way of forgiveness and its own pacification, indeed, conscience is unable to declare anything; the knowledge thereof is afforded by the Word of God alone (2 Samuel 24:18). Nevertheless, its awakening tests and manifests the character, and results in peace and righteousness, or in increased "hardness of heart," confirmed rebellion, remorse, and despair. The hour of its awakening comes to all; but it may come too late, when there is found "no place for repentance" (2 Samuel 24:16).—D.

2 Samuel 24:9-13, 2 Samuel 24:18, 2 Samuel 24:19

(1 Chronicles 21:9-13, 1 Chronicles 21:18, 1 Chronicles 21:19).

The Prophet Gad.

"And when David was up in the morning," etc. Gad had formerly given valuable direction to David (1 Samuel 22:5); and he must have been now far advanced in life. He was "David's seer," or spiritual counsellor; a true prophet of God (1 Samuel 2:27; 1 Samuel 3:19; 2 Samuel 7:3); assisted in the arrangements for the temple service (1 Chronicles 9:22), and (like Samuel and Nathan) wrote a (theocratic) history of his time (1 Chronicles 29:29). "The most celebrated representatives of special prophecy in David's period were Nathan the prophet and Gad the seer. As Nathan connected Messianic prophecy forever with the house of David, so Gad was instrumental in moulding the history of salvation even till the period of the New Testament, since, by directing David to build an altar on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite, he laid the foundation of the temple upon Mount Moriah, in which Israel, by prayer and sacrifice, honoured his God for more than a thousand years" (Delitzsch). He was fully acquainted with the king's purpose, the remonstrance of Joab, the completion of the census; and may possibly already, from his intimacy with David, have observed misgivings in him concerning the measure, and surmised his present state of mind. "He said nothing to him about his sin, but spoke only of correction for it; which confirms it that David was made sensible of his sin before he came to him" (Gill). Notice:

1. His Divine mission. "The word of Jehovah came unto the prophet," etc.

2. His prophetic message. More than what is recorded may have been spoken in his two interviews with the king; but his words contain:

3. His faithful obedience. "And Gad came to David," etc; with:

4. His salutary influence (in accordance with the purpose of his mission), not only in the removal of the pestilence, but also in

2 Samuel 24:13

(1 Chronicles 21:12).—(JERUSALEM.)

Preachers and hearers.

"Now advise [know], and see what answer I shall return to him that sent me." The intercourse of the prophet with the king, especially his language at the close of the first interview, is suggestive of—

I. THE VOCATION OF THE PREACHER of the gospel.

1. Every true preacher is sent forth by God.

2. He is put in trust with the Word of God, and is sent to proclaim it to others, as his messenger and ambassador (2 Corinthians 5:20); not to teach his own speculations.

3. The purpose of the proclamation is their spiritual welfare—their instruction, edification, salvation. "They watch on behalf of your souls" (Hebrews 13:17). But, too often,

"The aim of all

Is how to shine: e'en they whose office is

To preach the gospel, let the gospel sleep,

And pass their own inventions off instead.

The sheep, meanwhile, poor witless ones, return

From pasture, fed with wind: and what avails

For their excuse, they do not see their harm?

Christ said not to his first conventicle,

'Go forth and preach impostures to the world,'

But gave them truth to build on."

(Dante, 'Par.,' 29.)

4. The fulfilment of his calling demands the highest qualities—wisdom, sincerity, sympathy, disinterestedness, self-denial, fidelity, courage, zeal, assiduity.

5. The manner of his reception varies (Acts 17:34), and tests the character of those to whom he is sent (Matthew 10:11-13; 2 Corinthians 2:16).

6. He must return to him who sent him, and give account, not only of his own conduct, but also of the manner in which they have treated him and his message (Ezekiel 33:30-33), and the effect produced in their lives. His return takes place in private communion with God on earth, and at "the end of his life" (Hebrews 13:7). "What answer," etc.?

II. THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE HEARER of the Word.

1. He receives through the preacher a message from God of unspeakable importance; not, indeed, an announcement of judgment, but a revelation of mercy and of his will concerning him; repentance, faith, and obedience; "all the words of this life" (Acts 5:20).

2. He has the power of considering and understanding it, and of accepting or rejecting it.

3. He is under the strongest obligation to accept and not reject it.

4. He cannot avoid doing the one or the other; indifference, inattention, or procrastination being itself an "answer" little short of positive rejection.

5. Whatever may be his treatment thereof, it is fully known to God.

6. According to the manner in which he treats the message of God, is he justly treated by God, both here and hereafter. "The word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day" (John 12:48). "Now therefore advise thyself." "Consider" (1 Samuel 12:24). "Take heed. therefore how ye hear" (Luke 8:1-18).

III. THE MUTUAL DEPENDENCE OF PREACHER AND HEARER.

1. On the preacher, his character, adaptation, diligence (as well as on himself), depend the hearer's acceptance of the message and his spiritual benefit.

2. On the hearer, his attention, acceptance, obedience (as well as himself), depend the preacher's efficiency, success, and present joy. "That they may do this [watch, etc.] with joy, and not with grief; for this were unprofitable for you" (Hebrews 13:17).

3. The relation in which they stand to each other will fully appear in the light of the great day; when the salvation of the hearer will be clearly seen to have been connected with the faithful labours of the preacher (Daniel 12:3), and the reward of the preacher will be proportioned to his success (and not merely to his fidelity). "For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing?" etc. (1 Thessalonians 2:19, 1 Thessalonians 2:20; 1 John 2:28).

4. For his own benefit, therefore (as well as that of the hearer), the preacher should seek that the hearer may be believing, obedient, and fruitful in good works (1 Thessalonians 3:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:12, 1 Thessalonians 5:13).

5. For his own benefit, also, the hearer should seek that the preacher may be faithful and successful.

6. Each should pray for the blessing of God upon the other, so that the proper end of preaching and hearing may be accomplished.—D.

2 Samuel 24:14

(1 Chronicles 21:13).—(THE KING'S PALACE.)

Submission to Divine chastisement.

"Let us now fall into the hand of Jehovah." Already David had been convinced of his sin. He had also confessed it and sought forgiveness. Nor had he done so in vain. But, as formerly (2 Samuel 12:10-12), so now, the (temporal) penalties of sin must follow. Throughout he exhibited a spirit the exact reverse of that in which he had numbered. the people. Consider—

I. THE CHASTISEMENT OF SIN which was laid before him. I. It was consequent upon his sin, and adapted to its correction. A vain glorious pride and warlike policy result (in the providence of God, sometimes by means which can be clearly seen) in the destruction of human life; not only directly by war (Matthew 26:52), but also by famine (through lack of proper cultivation of the soil, wasting consumption of its produce, etc.) and by pestilence (to which both contribute); and are rebuked and chastised thereby (Revelation 6:4-8).

2. It was a necessity, from which there was no escape. He and his people must suffer, according to the fixed and just method of the Divine procedure, for the vindication of the honour of God and the promotion of their own welfare. Herein no choice is left.

3. But it was also optional, within certain limits (Jeremiah 34:17). "Every example, public or private, of a sin brought face to face with its suffering, presents an aspect of choice as well as of compulsion. The mere question of confession or denial, with the consequences of either, is such an alternative in the case of individual wrong doing. The adoption of this expedient rather than that, in the way of avoidance or mitigation of consequences, is an alternative" (C.J. Vaughan). Why was such a choice submitted to him? To test his character; to deepen his sense of sin, by the consideration of its terrible effects; to induce the open acknowledgment of his guilt; to perfect his submission; "to give him some encouragement under the correction, letting him know that God did not cast him cut of communion with himself, but that still his secret was with him; and in afflicting him he considered his frame, and what he could best bear" (Matthew Henry).

4. And it caused him great distress; all the greater because he was required, not merely to submit passively to chastisement, but to choose the form thereof, and thus make it, in some sense, his own. "All chastening seemeth for the present to be not joyous, but grievous," etc. (Hebrews 12:11).

II. THE SPIRIT OF SUBMISSION which he displayed. "Is it a choice made? or, is it a choice referred back to the offerer? Is it, 'I choose pestilence'? or is it, 'Let God choose'? Whatever the application, the principle stands steadfast—In everything let me be in God's hand; whether for the choice of my punishment, or for the infliction of it, he shall be my Judge; for his mercies are great—greater than man's; the more free his choice, the more direct his dealing, the better is it for the man, the better is it for the nation that must suffer." "And David chose for himself the mortality [death]" (LXX.); "that affliction which is common to kings and to their subjects, and in which the fear was equal on all sides" (Josephus). Of famine and war, with their untold miseries, he had had experience, not of pestilence. By the former he would become dependent on men (for the sustaining or the sparing of life); by the latter, more directly on God; and whilst "the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel," his "anger endureth but a moment" (Psalms 30:5), and "his mercies are great." The spirit evinced is one of:

1. Self-abasement, before the majesty of the supreme King and Judge.

2. Self-abnegation; with noble disinterestedness, setting aside all care for his personal safety, and enduring, in common with the meanest of his subjects, the just chastisement of Heaven. His position might secure him against suffering and death by famine and "the sword of his enemies;" not by "the sword of the Lord" (1 Chronicles 21:12)—

"The pestilence that walketh in darkness,

And the sickness that wasteth at noonday."

(Psalms 91:6.)

3. Self-surrender; the sacrifice of his own will to the will of God (1 Samuel 3:18; 2 Samuel 15:23-29; Psalms 131:1-3.).

"And in his will is our tranquillity:

It is the mighty ocean, whither tends

Whatever it creates and nature makes."

(Dante, 'Par.,' 3.)

"Though he slay me," etc. (Job 13:15). "If Christ stood with a drawn sword in his hand pointed at my breast, yet would I rush into his arms" (Luther).

4. Confidence in the abounding mercy of God. For he is not like man, ignorant, inconsiderate, unjust, wilful, selfish, cruel, and malicious; but knows all things (the secrets of the heart, the force of temptation, the sincerity of penitence, the reality of love), is considerate (of human infirmities, Isaiah 57:16), righteous, "merciful, and gracious," etc. (Exodus 34:6), very pitiful (Psalms 103:13, Psalms 103:14), mitigates affliction (Isaiah 27:8), mingles with it many consolations, and "repents him of the evil" (Jonah 4:4; 1 Samuel 15:29; 1 Samuel 15:16). Such trust is the spring of true submission, and it is fully justified by the event.

5. Cooperation with the merciful and holy purposes of God in relation to the moral welfare of those whom he afflicts. The selfishness of men in famine and their cruelty in war tend to evoke rebellion, wrath, and retaliation; the recognition of "the mighty hand of God" (James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:6) tends to produce lowly obedience, tenderness, and kindness.

6. Concern for the welfare of the nation, which would suffer less by the last than by the first two of the calamities; and:

7. Zeal for the interests of religion and the glory of God. "Let thy Name be magnified forever" (2 Samuel 7:26). "When the apostle said to the Hebrews that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, does it not contradict the decision of David? By no means. The apostle meant to speak of those who fall without repentance into the hands of God for punishment; but, in a penitent disposition, nothing is so sweet as to fall into the loving and most gracious hands of the living God" (Du Bose).—D.

2 Samuel 24:15, 2 Samuel 24:16

(1 Chronicles 21:14, 1 Chronicles 21:15).—(JERUSALEM.)

Pestilence.

Pestilence, even more than famine and war, was regarded by David as directly inflicted by the hand of God. How far, in this instance, it occurred in connection with secondary causes is unknown. But doubtless, ordinarily, it depends on such causes; the crowding together of great numbers of people, the accumulation of filth, the state of the atmosphere, the susceptibilities of the persons affected by it. "The peculiar source of the thought that a numbering of the people brought mischief lies probably in the experience that epidemic sicknesses often broke out in such numberings, because therein a great mass of people was crowded together, to facilitate the business, in a proportionally small space" (Thenius). Most of the great plagues that have afflicted mankind appear to have originated in the East, where the climate, the soil, and the social habits of the population afford conditions favourable to their production. In all cases, however, the hand of God must be recognized in the consequences of violating his laws, physical and moral; and in the employment of them "for correction." Consider -

I. ITS MOURNFUL PREVALENCE; as at this time in Israel, so in other ages and nations (Exodus 12:29; Numbers 25:9; 2 Kings 19:35; Jeremiah 27:13).

1. Its sudden appearance.

2. Its rapid diffusion; "from the morning to the [a] time appointed [the time of assembly]." "It burst upon the people with supernatural strength and violence, that it might be seen at once to be a direct judgment from God" (Keil).

3. Its extensive presence; "from Dan to Beersheba."

4. Its dreadful destructiveness; "seventy thousand men" (fourteen in the thousand of the whole population). "Such a pestilence and loss of life as this [at Athens, 430 B.C.] was nowhere remembered to have happened" (Thucydides, 2:47). At Rome (A.D. 80) ten thousand perished daily; in England more than half the population; in London over thirty thousand; and again eight thousand persons weekly. These are only a few of the many recorded instances of the awful "visitation of God."

II. ITS MERCIFUL ARREST. "And the angel" (1 Samuel 29:9; 2 Samuel 14:17; 2 Samuel 19:27; Psalms 104:4; Psalms 34:7; Psalms 35:5; Psalms 91:11), who had been "destroying through all the territories of Israel" (1 Chronicles 21:12), "stretched out his hand" (having a drawn sword therein, 1 Chronicles 21:6) "upon Jerusalem to destroy it," etc. The pestilence approached the city, threatening its destruction, and filling all hearts with terror (1 Chronicles 21:16, 1 Chronicles 21:20). We can conceive that it might have spread until the whole human race perished. But its destructive force was limited (as it always is):

1. When its purpose was accomplished and the law of retribution satisfied. "It is enough."

2. By the same Divine power as sent it. "Stay now thine hand." God has placed in the human constitution a self-healing power. "Our natures are the physicians of our diseases" (Hippocrates). He provides special remedies for special diseases; alleviates and often cures them in unexpected, extraordinary, and mysterious ways, The Christian religion is a remedial system by which mortality itself is "swallowed up of life." "I am Jehovah thy Physician" (Exodus 15:26; Matthew 8:16; John 3:14, John 3:15; Revelation 22:2).

3. With tender pity toward the afflicted, involving a change of his procedure. "And Jehovah repented him of the evil" (1 Samuel 15:24-31).

4. In connection with the moral condition of men and their altered relation to himself—humiliation (2 Samuel 24:10), trust (2 Samuel 24:14), and prayer (2 Samuel 24:17). "Then David and the elders, clothed in sackcloth, fell upon their faces" (1 Chronicles 21:16), their spirit being doubtless shared in by the people, whose representatives they were. God deals with men according to the state of their hearts (2 Samuel 24:1), and commences doing so even before it is fully expressed in outward actions. Psalms 91:1-16. ("by David," LXX.), 'Under the shadow of the Almighty.'

"Because he hath set his love upon me.

Therefore will I deliver him," etc.

(Psalms 91:14.)

"Some years ago an eminent physician in St. Petersburg recommended this psalm as the best preservative against cholera" (Perowne).

III. ITS MORAL USES, with respect to those who suffer from it or to mankind generally in.

1. Producing efficient impressions of the majesty of God; his sovereignty, justice, and might.

2. Proving the real condition of the hearts of men; whether they will "keep his commandments or no" (Deuteronomy 8:3).

3. Inducing, in those who are rightly disposed, proper feelings of penitence, humility, dependence, submission; and correcting vanity, pride, and self-win.

4. Inciting a purer and loftier trust in God, and more complete devotion and self-sacrifice. "Plagues to us are not funerals of terror, but exercises of holiness. We understand their meaning. They are messages sent to us by God, to explore our hearts, to sound the depth of our love to him, and to fathom our faith in God" (Cyprian, 'De Mortalitate').

5. Presenting a terrible picture of the evil of sin, by exhibiting, not only the natural consequences thereof, but also its degrading effect on the ignorant and unbelieving, who pass rapidly from the extreme of fear to the opposite extreme of recklessness, licentiousness, and despair (1 Corinthians 15:32). "So they resolved to take their enjoyment quickly, and with a sole view to gratification; regarding their lives and their riches alike as things of a day. And fear of gods or law of men there was none to stop them" (Thucydides).

6. Teaching the solidarity of the race; and, more especially, constraining "the higher and more privileged ranks of mankind to own their oneness of life with the humbler and more degraded or even savage classes" (Bushnell).

7. Promoting, in still other ways, the advancement of mankind in knowledge, virtue, and piety; for it is through the discipline of suffering that the race, like the individual, "learns obedience." "The Lord's dealing herein is not penal, but paternal and medicinal" (Guild).—D.

2 Samuel 24:17-19

(1 Chronicles 21:16-19).—(ZION.)

Self-devotion.

"These sheep, what have they done?" etc. (2 Samuel 24:17). As through one man many suffer, so through one man many are delivered from suffering and greatly benefited. This is especially the case when, like David, he is their head and representative, the shepherd of the flock of God (2 Samuel 24:17; 2 Samuel 5:2). His numbering the people in a spirit of self-exaltation was the occasion (not the cause, 2 Samuel 24:1) of the pestilence; his intercession for them in a spirit of self-devotion is now the means in connection with which the calamity is limited in its duration (from three days to nine hours) and wholly removed (2 Samuel 24:25). Already, with an "awful rose of dawn," the agent of destruction goes forth on his mission, and a "great cry" of distress reaches the city (Exodus 12:30). Then the king gathers the elders together (at the tabernacle and before the curtained ark, 2 Samuel 7:2; 2 Samuel 12:20; 2 Samuel 15:25; adjoining the palace in Zion, 2 Samuel 5:7); they are clothed with sackcloth, and overwhelmed with fear and grief (1 Chronicles 21:16; 2 Samuel 12:16; 2 Samuel 15:30); and at length, "about the time of assembly," or evening oblation (Acts 3:1), there appears (beyond the Tyropoean Valley) on Mount Moriah (2 Chronicles 3:1), "by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite" (just outside the city), "the angel of the Lord standing between the earth and the heaven, having a drawn sword in his hand stretched out over Jerusalem;" and they "fell upon their faces" in humiliation before the Lord. "Significantly, it was as the Divine command of mercy sped to arrest the arm of the angel messenger of the judgment, that he became visible to David and his companions in prayer" (Edersheim). "As in 2 Kings 6:17 the source of seeing the heavenly powers was in Elisha, and by his mediation the eyes of his servant were opened, so here the flight of David's mind communicated itself to the elders of his retinue, whom he collected about him; and, after he had repaired to the place where he saw the vision, was revealed even to the sons of Araunah" (Hengstenberg). "And David said unto God," etc. "And Gad came that day to David," etc. (2 Kings 6:18; 1 Chronicles 21:18). Here is—

I. A FEARFUL VISION OF JUDGMENT impending over the people. This judgment may be regarded as representing that to which nations are exposed in this world, and individuals both here and hereafter; real, terrible and imminent; the result and reflection of human sin and guilt, which

"Blackens in the cloud,

Flashes across its mass the jagged fire,

Whirls in the whirlwind and pollutes the air,

Turns all the joyous melodies of earth

To murmurings of doom."

(Talfourd.)

1. Similar judgment has been already executed (2 Kings 6:15; Jud 2 Kings 1:7; Romans 5:12; Revelation 2:11; Revelation 21:8). "The wages of sin is death."

2. Solemn warnings of its certain and speedy approach have been repeatedly given (2 Kings 6:13, 2 Kings 6:17; 2 Peter 2:3; 1 Thessalonians 5:2, 1 Thessalonians 5:3).

3. Only a few persons have any adequate impression thereof; whilst they behold "the wrath to come," the rest are blind and unconcerned, immersed in the pleasures and cares of this life (Luke 21:34; Matthew 7:14).

4. They whose eyes are opened are naturally impelled to seek the salvation of themselves and others, and are under the obligation of doing so (Jud 1:22, 23). "Take a censer," etc.; "and he stood between the dead and the living; and the plague was stayed" (Numbers 16:46 -68; Joel 2:17).

II. A FERVENT ENTREATY FOR THE PEOPLE, that they may be spared. In his intercession for them (1 Samuel 12:23; 1 Samuel 15:10, 1 Samuel 15:11, 1 Samuel 15:35) David:

1. Takes the burden of their guilt upon himself; whilst he recognizes his responsibility, openly confesses his transgression in "commanding the people to be numbered" (1 Chronicles 21:17), and honours the justice of God in inflicting punishment; he "forgets their sin is his own," regarding them, "not indeed as free from every kind of blame, but only from the sin which God was punishing by pestilence" (Keil). "Many of those sheep were wolves to David. What had they done? They had done that which was the occasion of David's sin and the cause of their own punishment; but that gracious penitent knew his own sin; he knew not theirs" (Hall).

2. Feels a tender compassion for them in their misery and danger. His language "shows the high opinion he had of them, the great affection he had for them, and his sympathy with them in this time of distress" (Gill).

3. Offers himself freely, and his "father's house" (his life and all his most cherished hopes) to the stroke, that it may be averted from his people. "Hitherto David offered not himself to the plague, because, as Chrysostom conjectureth, he still expected and made account of himself to be taken away in the plague, but now seeing that it was God's will to spare him, he doth voluntarily offer himself" (Wilier).

4. Urges an effectual plea on their behalf; not merely that they are blameless (in comparison with himself), and may be righteously spared, but that they are the chosen flock of the Divine Shepherd, whose mercies are great, whose promises to them are numerous and faithful, and whose glory they are designed to promote in the earth (1 Samuel 12:22; Psalms 74:1; Psalms 95:7). "Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?" (Genesis 18:23); "Yet now if thou wilt forgive their sin," etc. (Exodus 32:32; 1 Kings 18:36; Daniel 9:3); "I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ on behalf of my brethren," etc. (Romans 9:3); "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34); "The good Shepherd giveth his life for the sheep" (John 10:11); "He ever liveth to make intercession" (Hebrews 7:27). "In his hands intercessory prayer is the refuge of the guilty, the hope of the penitent, a mysterious chain fastened to the throne of God, the stay and support of a sinking world."

III. A FAVOURABLE ANSWER FROM THE LORD. Although David sees not the interposition of God, by which the hand of the angel is stayed, yet his prayer "availeth much in its working" (James 5:16). "And the angel of the Lord [now transformed from a minister of wrath into a minister of mercy] commanded Gad [who previously announced the message of judgment] to say," etc. (1 Chronicles 21:18); "And Gad came that day to David, and said unto him, Go up, rear an altar," etc.; "And David went up as the Lord commanded" (2 Kings 6:18, 2 Kings 6:19). The answer is propitious; a sign of Divine reconciliation. But why the command to rear an altar, instead of the direct assurance of forgiveness (2 Samuel 12:13)?

1. To show forth to all the people (who confess by their elders and representatives that they have part in the king's transgression) that forgiveness is possible only in connection with sacrifice, wherein justice and mercy are alike exhibited.

2. To call forth their renewed and open obedience and self-devotion.

3. To give there a public sign of the Divine acceptance and removal of the judgment (1 Chronicles 21:26, 1 Chronicles 21:27).

4. To establish a new and permanent centre of Divine worship, in fulfilment of previous promises (2 Samuel 7:13); so overruling the evil for good, and turning the curse into a blessing (1 Chronicles 22:1). This was a turning point in the history of the nation; and henceforth the service of the tabernacle began to be superseded by that of the temple.

CONCLUSION. Let it be remembered, that the intercession of Christ (unlike that of David) is the intercession of the Innocent for the guilty; that he is also himself the Altar, "which sanctifieth the gift," and "the Propitiation for our sins;" and that in dependence upon him, as well as after his example and in his spirit, all our prayers and "spiritual sacrifices" must be presented unto God.—D.

2 Samuel 24:20-23

(1 Chronicles 21:18-23).—(MORIAH.)

Araunah the Jebusite.

Araunah (Aravnah, Avarnah, Aranyah, Ornan) was:

1. A Gentile by birth; almost the last relic of the Canaanitish tribe whose fortress was taken nearly thirty years before (2 Samuel 5:6). "He was not slain by David in the siege of Jerusalem, because of the good will he bore to the Hebrews, and a particular benignity and affection which he had to the king himself" (Josephus); with whom, during his exile, he may have become acquainted.

2. A proselyte to the faith of Israel (2 Samuel 24:23). "There was no other people who were specially called the people of God; but they (the Jews) cannot deny that there have been certain men of other nations, who belonged, not by earthly but heavenly fellowship, to the true Israelites, the citizens of the country that is above".

3. A prosperous owner of property on the hill Moriah (at that time outside the city), where he had his threshing floor, and dwelt with his four sons. His prosperity was due, not merely to his own industry, but chiefly to his friendship with David and his people.

4. A partaker of the sufferings, as well as the privileges, of the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Whilst occupied in threshing wheat (by means of sledges drawn by oxen), it was given him to see the supernatural messenger of wrath (1 Chronicles 21:20); and "his four sons with him, hid themselves" from fear.

5. A loyal subject; respectful, courteous (2 Samuel 24:20), and grateful for the king's visit to him in his threshing floor (2 Samuel 24:21). "It was a piece of condescension to be marvelled at; and the language expresses a desire to know his pleasure concerning him, supposing it must be something very urgent and important" (Gill).

6. A generous donor and public-spirited man (2 Samuel 24:22). "All does Araunah, O king, give to the king" (2 Samuel 24:23). "His liberality and princely munificence is registered to all after ages in the Holy Scripture; what is done by a pious heart to the honour and worship of God shall never want its own reward and blessed remembrance; as was the breaking of the box of precious ointment" (Guild).

7. A devout worshipper of God. "Jehovah thy God accept thee."

8. A ready helper toward the building of the altar and temple of God.

9. A pattern to Christians.

10. A pro-intimation of the willing homage of the Gentile world to Christ (2 Samuel 22:50); an earnest or firstfruits of the harvest (Psalms 72:10, Psalms 72:11). "In every place incense shall be offered," etc. (Malachi 1:11).—D.

2 Samuel 24:24

(1 Chronicles 21:24, 1 Chronicles 21:25).—(MORIAH.)

Personal sacrifice.

"And I will not offer unto Jehovah my God of that which doth cost me nothing." The gift of Araunah would have enabled David to perform a religious service in a cheap and inexpensive manner. But,

1. Enjoined by the express commands of God. "None shall appear before me empty" (Exodus 34:20); "Every man as he is able," etc. (Deuteronomy 16:16); "It shall be perfect to be accepted; there shall be no blemish therein. Neither from a stranger's hand," etc. (Le 2 Samuel 22:21, 2 Samuel 22:25). Men were required to offer what was valuable, not worthless; what was their own, not another's. Even the poorest were not exempt. Self-denial is also "the law of Christ".

2. Incited by the supreme claims of God; arising from his greatness and goodness, his ownership of all things (1 Chronicles 29:14), his manifold mercies (2 Samuel 24:14), above all, the unspeakable Gift of his only Son (Romans 8:32; Romans 12:1).

3. Expressive of a right feeling toward God. Reverence, gratitude, love, self-consecration, holy zeal (John 12:3). "Everything depends on the predominant principle and purpose. If a man's prime feeling be that of self, he will go the easiest and most economic way to work and worship; if a man's prime feeling be that of God, he will rebuke all thoughts of cheapness and facility. In the first ease, he will seek the largest possible results from the least possible expenditure; in the second, the expenditure will be itself the result. Now, it is the end and essence of all religion to turn the mind from self to God; to give it absorbing views of the Divine beauty and glory; to fill it with Divine love and zeal; to make it feel honoured in honouring God, blessed in blessing him; to make it feel that nothing is good enough or great enough for him; and when the mind is thus affected and thus possessed, it will understand and share the spirit of David's resolve" (A.J. Morris, 'The Unselfish Offering').

4. Essential to the true service of God; for this depends not so much upon the form or amount of the offering as upon its relation to the offerer; its being.the genuine expression of the heart (as it professes to be); without which the service is formal, unreal, and insincere. That which costs nothing is worth nothing (Malachi 1:8; Isaiah 1:11; Psalms 51:16, Psalms 51:17).

5. Necessary to the assured acceptance of God. It alone is attended with the sign and sense of his approval (1 Chronicles 21:26).

6. Conducive to the proper honour of God amongst men; in whom it begets a spirit like its own.

7. Embodied in highest perfection in Christ; "who gave himself up for us, an Offering and a Sacrifice to God," etc. (Ephesians 5:2). "A Spanish proverb says, 'Let that which is lost be for God.' The father of a family, making his will and disposing of his goods upon his death bed, ordained concerning a certain cow which had strayed, and had been now for a long time missing, if it were found it should be for his children, if otherwise for God. Whenever men world give to God only the lame and blind, that which costs them nothing, that from which they hope no good, no profit, no pleasure to themselves, what are they saying in their hearts but that which this man said openly, 'Let that which is lost be for God'?" (Trench, 'Proverbs').—D.

2 Samuel 24:25

(1 Chronicles 21:26-30; 1 Chronicles 22:1).—(MORIAH.)

The new altar.

"And David built there an altar unto Jehovah," etc.

1. An altar was a place of sacrifice (Genesis 4:3, Genesis 4:4; Genesis 8:20; Genesis 22:14); consisting (according to Divine direction, Exodus 20:24, Exodus 20:25) of earth or unhewn stone, and constituting (according to Divine assurance) a point of meeting or reconciliation between God and men; the offerings which it sustained and sanctified (and with which it was identical in purpose) being of divers kinds, symbolic of certain truths, and expressive of various feelings on the part of those who brought them. It was a prime necessity of religious worship in ancient time; the appointed way of access to God; the table at which Divinity and humanity held fellowship with one another.

2. The altar erected by David on the threshing floor of Araunah marks the commencement of a new chapter in the history of the kingdom of God under the old covenant. Heretofore sacrifice was offered in different places (1 Samuel 1:3; 1 Samuel 2:33; 1 Samuel 6:15; 1 Samuel 7:9, 1 Samuel 7:17; 1 Samuel 9:12; 1 Samuel 11:15; 1 Samuel 14:35; 1 Samuel 16:3; 1 Samuel 20:6; 2 Samuel 6:13, 2 Samuel 6:17; 2 Samuel 15:12); and the requirement of the Law (Deuteronomy 12:13, Deuteronomy 12:14) was imperfectly fulfilled, in consequence of the unsettled condition of the nation and the disorganized state of religious worship (1 Kings 3:2). Whilst the ark was at Jerusalem, "the altar of the burnt offering" remained at Gibeon (1 Chronicles 21:29, 1 Chronicles 21:30); and although not finally abandoned till some time after (1 Kings 3:4), it henceforth began to be superseded by the new altar, which was divinely appointed and consecrated by fire from heaven (1 Chronicles 21:26), and chosen by Jehovah (Deuteronomy 16:15) as the place of his worship, the central sanctuary for succeeding ages. "Now when King David saw that God had heard his prayer, and had graciously accepted of his sacrifice, he resolved to call that entire place the altar of all the people" (Josephus). "And David said, This is the house of the Lord God," etc. (1 Chronicles 22:1, 1 Chronicles 22:2; Genesis 28:17); "And Solomon began to build the house of the Lord at Jerusalem in Mount Moriah, where the Lord appeared unto David," etc. (2 Chronicles 3:1). Psalms 30:1-12; inscription: 'A song at the dedication of the house' (see Hengstenberg). "I wilt extol thee, O Lord," etc.

"And as for me—I had said, in my prosperity,

I shall not be moved forever," etc.

(Psalms 31:6-10.)

3. The chief interest for us of this altar (as of every other) arises from the fact that it was not merely symbolic of spiritual truth, but also typical of its embodiment in Christ—the Altar (as well as the Offering and the Offerer), the new and only true (Hebrews 7:2), perfect, effectual, central, universal, and enduring Altar and Temple (John 2:21), where God records his name, and where we draw nigh to God, offer spiritual sacrifices, and find acceptance with him. It was "a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ" (Colossians 2:17). "We have an altar [his cross and sacrifice], whereof they have no right to eat who serve the tabernacle" (Hebrews 13:10). Consider, with this reference—

I. THE ERECTION OF THE ALTAR, as (in connection with the offerings, apart from which it cannot be fully contemplated):

1. Rendered necessary by human sin, through the temptation of Satan; estrangement from God through pride and disobedience to his Law; exposure to condemnation and death (Hebrews 9:22).

2. Ordained by Divine wisdom and love, "before the foundation of the world" (1 Peter 1:20), in order to the remission of sins and the restoration of sinners to the fellowship of God (Hebrews 9:26).

3. Adapted to the fulfilment of that purpose; by the atonement there made (2 Samuel 21:3; Le 2 Samuel 1:4; Isaiah 53:6; John 1:29; 1 John 2:2; 2 Corinthians 5:19; Galatians 3:13); by the exhibition of the duty, sinfulness, and desert of men, and the sovereignty, righteousness, and mercy of God (Romans 3:21-26). "When sinful souls approached the altar of God, where dwelt his holiness, their sinful nature came between them and God, and atonement served the purpose of covering their sins, of cancelling the charges on which they were arraigned" (Kuper).

4. Designed to do away with every other altar and to afford free access to God for all people in all places and ages (Isaiah 56:7; John 4:23; Ephesians 2:18). The language in which the death of Christ is described in the New Testament is derived from the sacrifices of the former dispensation, and can only be properly understood by some acquaintance with them. It is no longer needful or possible to set up an altar (according to a common mode of expression), except in the sense of recognizing, approaching, and making known "the altar of God" which is set up in Christ Jesus (Psalms 43:4; John 14:6). "Let us draw near," etc. (Hebrews 10:22).

II. THE OFFERINGS PRESENTED THERE. "And offered burnt offerings and peace offerings" (1 Samuel 1:3; 2 Samuel 6:17-19). In becoming himself an Offering (Isaiah 53:12) and Propitiation for our sins (complete and incapable of being repeated or rendered more efficacious), Christ displayed a spirit (Hebrews 10:5-7) in which (coming to him with penitence, Psalms 30:10, and faith) we must participate, and thus "offer up spiritual sacrifices," etc. (1 Peter 2:5).

1. The free, entire, and continual surrender (verse 14) and dedication of ourselves, spirit, soul, and body, to God (Romans 12:1).

2. Prayers, supplications and intercessions (verse 17; 20:26; Psalms 51:17; Psalms 141:2). "And the Lord Jehovah was entreated for the land." "Sacrifice is in the main embodied prayer."

3. "The sacrifice of praise" (Hebrews 13:15).

4. Holy obedience (verse 19), generous gifts (verse 24), and benevolent activities. "To do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased" (Hebrews 13:16; Philippians 4:18). "The altar is not to stand in its beauty and stateliness a solemn, unapproachable thing, on which we may reverently gaze, but which we may not touch without sacrilege. It is for use; its broad summit is to be laden with oblations and crowded with victims; it stands in the midst of us; it accompanies us wherever we wander, that it may invite our offerings, and be always ready to receive what we should always be ready to give" (Psalms 4:5; Psalms 26:6; Psalms 118:27).

III. THE ACCEPTANCE OF THE OFFERER. "Jehovah thy God accept thee" (verse 23); "And the plague was stayed from Israel." Christ's offering was well-pleasing to God; and we are accepted in him (Ephesians 5:2; Ephesians 1:6, Ephesians 1:7).

1. There is now no condemnation (Romans 8:1; Hebrews 10:16-18). The sword is put up again into the sheath thereof.

2. The presence, favour, and sanctifying power of God are manifested to us (Acts 2:3, Acts 2:4).

3. Peace with God, and "the communion of the Holy Ghost," are vouchsafed to us.

4. And we" rejoice in hope of the glory of God" (Romans 5:1, Romans 5:2; Ephesians 2:19-22; Revelation 21:3, Revelation 21:4).

"Thou didst turn for me my mourning into dancing;

Thou didst put off my sackcloth, and didst gird me with joy

To the end that my glory should sing praise to thee, and not be silent;

O Jehovah my God, forever will I give thanks unto thee."

(Psalms 30:11, Psalms 30:12.)

CONCLUSION.

1. "Jesus Christ is the Object of the two Testaments: of the Old, its expectancy; of the New, its model; of both, the centre" (Pascal). As in every part of the country there is a way which leads to the metropolis, so in every part of Scripture there is a way which leads to Christ.

2. The method of human salvation has always been the same in the mind of God; but it has been gradually revealed to the mind of man; and wherever faith has been exercised in God, in so far as he has revealed his saving purposes, it has been accounted for righteousness.

3. "To the cross of Christ all eternity looked forward; to the cross of Christ all eternity will look back. With reference to it all other objects were created and are still preserved; and every event that takes place in heaven, earth, and hell is directed and overruled" (Payson).

4. "Wherefore, receiving a kingdom," etc. (Hebrews 12:28). "Now the God of peace," etc. (Hebrews 13:20, Hebrews 13:21).—D.

HOMILIES BY G. WOOD

2 Samuel 24:10

Sinful numbering.

This is part of a narrative which presents various serious difficulties. The chief is that which arises from the statement that God moved David to commit the sin for which he afterwards punished him. In 1 Chronicles 21:1 the instigator is said to be Satan, or "an adversary;" and it is possible to translate hero ('Speaker's Commentary') "one moved David." Still, the translation in our English versions (both Authorized and Revised) is more natural. The statement reminds us of Numbers 22:20, Numbers 22:22, and is probably susceptible of a similar explanation. God gives permission to men who indulge sinful desires to gratify their desires. He says "Go" when they strongly desire to do so, and thus punishes them by allowing them to sin, and then inflicting the penalty due to such sin. Moreover, the sacred writers speak more freely than we are accustomed to do of the agency of God in connection with the sins of men. Our Lord teaches us to pray, "Lead us not into temptation," which implies that God may thus lead men. However, if David knew that in some sense God had bidden him number the people, he none the less felt that the sin of the proceeding was great, and that it was his own.

I. DAVID'S SIN. In what did it consist? As the narrative does not explain, and no law or statement of the Scriptures can be adduced in explanation, it is impossible to answer the question satisfactorily. That there was sin in the numbering of the people at this time, the strong remonstrance of the by-no-means-over-scrupulous or pious Joab (Numbers 22:3) makes manifest. It may have been done in a spirit of pride and vain glory, that the king might delight himself in the contemplation of the greatness of his armed forces. For it should be noted that only those that "drew the sword" (Numbers 22:9) were. counted. The kings of Israel were not, like other monarchs, to trust in the multitude of their armed men, but in their God, who could save or give victory by many or by few (1 Samuel 14:6; 2 Chronicles 14:11). Possibly David may have had ulterior designs that were opposed to the will of God. He may have proposed to himself to reduce the people, as into more complete unity, so into more slavish subjection to the throne; or he may have had designs of unjust aggression on other peoples. Similar sins are committed:

1. When men reckon up their achievements or possessions, or the number of their servants and retainers, in a spirit of pride, self-satisfaction, or false confidence (Daniel 4:30).

2. When they sum up their wealth, not to consider how they may best employ it for the good of men and the glory of God, but to frame schemes of sinful indulgence (Luke 12:19).

3. When the calculation of numbers or resources is made in order to determine the safety or otherwise of perpetrating or continuing some injustice to others. Rulers increasing and reckoning their hosts, etc; with a view to unjust wars, or the suppression of the liberties, or other violation of the rights, of their subjects.

4. When numbers are counted, instead of arguments weighed, previous to adopting a religious or political creed, or to obtain encouragement in the practice of any wickedness (John 7:48; Exodus 23:2).

II. DAVID'S REPENTANCE. It was long in coming—so long as to excite our amazement. It included:

1. Conviction. "His heart smote him." His conscience accused him. He saw the greatness of his sin and folly. Sin is always folly, though folly is not always sin (see on 2 Samuel 13:13).

2. Humble confession made to God.

3. Earnest prayer for pardon.

III. HIS PUNISHMENT. The reply to his prayer was not such as he may have hoped. The Prophet Gad was sent to him, not to assure him of pardon, but to offer him a choice of punishments (Numbers 22:12, Numbers 22:13). He chose pestilence, as being more immediately from "the hand of the Lord," whose "mercies are great." Accordingly, a terrible plague fell on the people, destroying seventy thousand men in less, apparently, than one day. For although three days had been named as the duration of the pestilence, the time was evidently shortened, and the plague ceased as it threatened to destroy Jerusalem (Numbers 22:16). To that extent the prayers of David (Numbers 22:10, Numbers 22:17), and the sacrifices which he hastened to offer by direction of the prophet, prevailed. The king had sinned; the punishment fell on the people. David felt and pleaded the incongruity (Numbers 22:17). What can we say respecting it?

1. It is according to a universal law of Divine procedure. The difficulty meets us everywhere. Subjects suffer on account of the sins, and even the mistakes, of their rulers; children, of their parents; and, more widely, the innocent, because of the sins and follies of others. It is useless to argue against facts.

2. Events which are judgments to the guilty are simple trials to the innocent, and may be unspeakable blessings. When the godly are struck down with others in a time of general calamity they exchange earth for heaven.

"The sword, the pestilence, or fire,

Shall but fulfil their best desire;

From sins and sorrows set them free,

And bring thy children, Lord, to thee.

(Watts.)

3. In this case the people suffered for sins of their own. It was because "the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel" for their sins (Numbers 22:1), that David's sin was permitted and its punishment inflicted. Many other cases would admit of a similar explanation.

4. Although the calamity which fell on the nation was great, a greater would have been the death of its sovereign by the plague.

5. David suffered severely in the destruction of so many of his subjects. If his sin was that of pride in the number whom he ruled and could lead to war, the punishment corresponded to the sin. He was made to feel how soon God could deprive him of that in which he boasted.

6. When all has been thought and said that is possible, it is for us

7. Let us carefully avoid sin, not only because it is evil in itself and will bring pain and sorrow to ourselves, but because others will inevitably be involved in the consequences of our conduct. Many children are sufferers for life through the wickedness of their parents.—G.W.

2 Samuel 24:13

Pressing for an answer to God's message.

"Advise, and see what answer I shall return to him that sent me." These words of Gad to David might well be addressed by religious teachers, and especially ministers of the gospel, to those whom they instruct. Notice—

I. GOD'S MESSENGERS. "Him that sent me."

1. True ministers of Christ are God's messengers. Their office is not a human invention. They are not mere lecturers, who may choose their own themes and aims; not mere philosophers, free to speculate at will and give the people the result of their speculations; still less mere performers, whose business is to amuse. They are sent of God, by the operations of his Spirit, the guidance of his providence, and the appointment of his Church; and have a definite message from him to their hearers, viz. the gospel (in the wider sense) of Jesus Christ—its revelations, precepts, promises, and threatenings. In delivering this message, they have a definite end to seek—the salvation of their hearers. He who is not convinced that he is God sent—"inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost to take upon him this office and ministration" (Prayer book)—ought not to assume it.

2. They should cherish a due sense of their position. Which will keep alive:

3. Hearers should recognize the position of their ministers. Such recognition will:

II. THE ALTERNATIVES THEY PRESENT. Happily they have not, like Gad, to offer a choice of fearful calamities, but of:

1. On the one hand, eternal life; commencing now in the enjoyment of pardon and peace, holiness and hope; and perfected in heaven. This to be secured by faith in the Son of God as Saviour and Lord, with corresponding love and obedience.

2. And, on the other, eternal punishment; "indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish" (Romans 2:8, Romans 2:9); to be assuredly secured by rejection of Christ, and of God in him. These solemn alternatives must not, cannot, be kept cut of view by a faithful messenger of God; and the thought of them will give earnestness to his ministrations, and to the treatment of them by his hearers (comp. Deuteronomy 30:15-19).

III. THE ANSWER FOR WHICH THEY PRESS. Christian ministers should endeavour as far as possible privately to urge individuals to consider what answer they will give to the Divine message, what choice they will make between the alternatives presented to them. This cannot be always done; but in their public addresses they ought to be urgent in pressing their hearers to definite consideration and decision. They should show them:

1. That an answer has to be given, and that to God, who searches the heart. That, in fact, they are ever giving a reply; ever choosing the evil, if not the good.

2. That their answer should be the result of careful consideration. "Advise, and see;" consider and determine. A great point is gained when men are induced to consider the claims of God and their souls.

3. That such consideration should be prompt. It is both sinful and perilous to delay. To put off attention to God's message is insulting to him, and may end in his deciding suddenly and unexpectedly for us which of the two alternatives shall be ours.

4. That they are themselves intensely concerned that the answer given should be that which is alone wise and good—the hearty acceptance of Christ and salvation. "As though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God" (2 Corinthians 5:20).—G.W.

2 Samuel 24:14

God's treatment preferred to man's.

David had good reasons for the choice he made. He knew well, from his own treatment of defeated enemies (2 Samuel 12:31; 1 Chronicles 20:3), how fearfully cruel were conquerors in war in those days, what an awful scourge to his subjects would be the ravages of a victorious invading army. He also doubtless dreaded the disgrace and permanent damage to the kingdom which would be thus wrought, and the dishonour, in the view of the heathen, which would be cast on the Name of Jehovah its God (see Joshua 7:8, Joshua 7:9). Taking the words wider application, they express what will be the natural preference of good men.

I. GROUNDS OF THE PREFERENCE HERE EXPRESSED.

1. The great mercy of God and the unmercifulness, or limited mercy, of men.

2. The righteousness of God and the unrighteousness of men. We can never be sure that in a particular case righteousness will guide human proceedings; we know that the Divine are always thus guided. Many men are utterly regardless of what is right where their own interests, inclinations, or passions are concerned; and even the best men are liable to fail in respect to pure and constant regard for rectitude.

3. The knowledge and wisdom of God, and the ignorance and folly of men. Much of the misconduct and untrustworthiness of men springs from ignorance and folly. When they mean well, they often do ill through not knowing the actual state of the affairs with which they are called to deal, not taking the trouble, perhaps, to ascertain it; or, when they know it, not understanding how to treat it. But the Divine knowledge and wisdom are perfect.

4. The power of God and the weakness of men. Men are often incapable of doing the good they know, and even strongly desire to do; and their weakness often causes them to do mischief while endeavouring to do good. God is Almighty to effect what his wisdom, mercy, and rectitude prompt.

5. The relation of God to good men. Their Father, their covenant God. The certainty that he will honour those that honour him, and turn all things, including his own chastisement of them, to their good, and ultimately bring them to eternal glory. The preference will be strong in proportion to the actual contrast between the men with whom we have to do and God. There are some men who are so God like that we should not be averse to falling into their hands in a considerable variety of circumstances. It would be to a limited extent like falling into the hands of God.

II. CASES IN WHICH THE PREFERENCE WOULD BE EXERCISED.

1. The endurance of suffering. As in the text. It is better to suffer from disease than from human violence. The suffering will be easier to bear, more likely to profit, less likely to excite resentment and other evil passions. The infliction will be more tempered with mercy, and promote in a greater degree the ends of mercy.

2. Judgment of character and actions. To be judged by God is preferable to being judged by men. Men are often fond of passing judgment, but for the most part very incapable. They commonly judge ignorantly, or from prejudice, and therefore unjustly. They are apt to be wrong alike in their favourable and unfavourable opinions of others. When condemned by them, it is well if we can appeal with confidence to the judgment of God, which is always just.

3. Forgiveness. Men forgive reluctantly, in a limited measure, with reserves; and soon grow weary of pardoning the same offender. To pardon "seven times," much more "seventy times seven" (Matthew 18:21, Matthew 18:22), seems to them an impossibility. Indeed, repeated offences, as they appear incompatible with real repentance, may justify hesitation to pardon repeatedly, since the state of the offender's heart cannot be known. But God, who knows the heart, discerns where it is true, notwithstanding frequent falls; and, pitying human weakness, forgives many times a day. And his pardons are full and complete. Add that forgiveness from men does not ensure forgiveness from God, and that having the latter we can, if need be, dispense with the former. There is then abundant reason why, in the matter of pardon, we should prefer to have to do with God rather than men.

4. Spiritual guidance and help. God has appointed that men should instruct and aid their fellow men in matters of religion and morals. But those who offer themselves as spiritual guides are fallible, and they differ widely on important points. It is then encouraging and assuring that Divine guidance and help are available. By the devout study of God's holy Word, and earnest prayer for the Holy Spirit, whose aid is promised to those who seek it (Luke 11:13), all may obtain such heavenly wisdom and strength as shall ensure them against serious error and failure. And after listening to the conflicting statements of human teachers, and their denunciation of those who decline their counsel, a religious inquirer may in many instances wisely turn from them to God, saying, "Let me fall into the hand of the Lord rather than of man."

In conclusion:

1. It is a great comfort to sincere Christians to know that they are ever in the hand of the Lord. When they seem to be most left to the will of arbitrary, unjust, and cruel men, God is over all, controlling, overruling, sanctifying, compelling their most malignant foes to promote their real and lasting good. He will rectify and compensate for all the injustice and injury which he permits men to inflict upon them.

2. Impenitent sinners might well prefer to fall into the hands of men rather than of God. The limited knowledge and power of men, as well as their feeble hatred of sin, would be in their favour; at the worst, they can only "kill the body." But God abhors sin with a perfect hatred, knows fully the guilt of each sinner, and "hath power to cast into hell" (Luke 12:4, Luke 12:5). "Who knoweth the power of thine anger?" (Psalms 90:11).—G.W.

2 Samuel 24:23

Acceptance with God.

"The Lord thy God accept thee." A good wish, flowing from good will, and all the heartier because of the occasion. For Divine acceptance of the king and his offerings meant deliverance for the nation, Araunah included, from the ravages of the pestilence. The sincerity of his wish was proved by the substantial offers with which it was accompanied.

I. THE BLESSING DESIRED. Araunah referred to the favourable reception by God of David's offerings. In the widest sense, acceptance with God includes:

1. Acceptance of ourselves. Our reception by God into his friendship and favour. Unless the man is accepted, his offerings cannot be. God receives nothing from his enemies—a truth which should be very seriously pondered by multitudes of his professed worshippers, who give him outward homage, but withhold from him themselves. Who, then, are accepted by God? Those who come to him according to his appointment, with repentance, faith, self-devotement, confessing sin, trusting to the mercy and entering on the service of God. Under the Christian dispensation, men are accepted through faith in Jesus Christ. When we receive him as Saviour and Lord, God receives us (comp. Romans 5:1, Romans 5:2).

2. Acceptance of our worship. Which includes devout exercises of mind and heart, study of the Word of God, pious meditation, praises and thanksgivings, prayers. What worship is accepted? Such as is offered in the name of Jesus (John 16:23, John 16:24; Ephesians 3:12; Philippians 2:10, Revised Version). Sincere (Isaiah 29:13; John 4:24), humble (Luke 18:10-14), reverential (Hebrews 12:28), yet trustful and affectionate as children (Romans 8:15). Not that of slaves or mercenaries.

3. Acceptance of our gifts. We give to God when we give for the support of his worship and the spread of his kingdom, and when we give to the poor for his sake (Matthew 25:40). Our gifts are acceptable

4. Acceptance of active service. Labours for the good of others, temporal and spiritual. All honest work springing from and guided by Christian principles.

II. THE DESIRE ITSELF. In this case it was a patriotic desire. It is always pious and benevolent. Pious, as it recognizes the necessity of God's favour and approbation to the well being of men, and implies his willingness to be favourable to them. Benevolent, as it is a desire that others should enjoy the most essential and all comprehensive of blessings, without which other blessings are of small and temporary value. Not health or wealth, not acceptance with men, not long life, not intellectual superiority, not refinement of taste, etc; are of primary importance; and these should not be first in our minds when seeking the welfare whether of ourselves or of others; but the favour of Almighty God, and, as the sure means of securing this, the possession of Christian faith and holiness. "Wherefore" let us "labour that, whether present or absent" (living or dying), "we," and all in whom we are interested, yea, all mankind, "may be accepted of him" (2 Corinthians 5:9).—G.W.

2 Samuel 24:24

Cheap religion repudiated.

"Neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the Lord my God of that which doth cost me nothing." We have in the context "a laudable contention between a good king and a good subject" (Manton). Araunah wished to give the site for an altar, the animals and fuel for sacrifice, taking, on account of the necessity for haste, the threshing oxen and implements for the purpose. David insisted on paying for all. The text expresses his reason. He felt it was unworthy of his position and means as monarch, of the greatness of God, and of his own relation and obligations to him, to offer sacrifices which had cost him nothing. His determination is worthy of adoption by all, and will be adopted by all true-hearted Christians. They will not worship and serve God without cost to themselves. In considering the words, we need not confine attention to gifts of money or other property. In the worship and service of God, expenditure of thought, feeling, time, strength, etc; is required as well as of property; and, in relation to each and all, the true Christian, when the need for such expenditure arises, and he is tempted to avoid it, will be ready to exclaim, "I will not serve the Lord my God without cost." His motives are such as follow.

I. REVERENCE FOR GOD. Sense of his majesty and excellence. The feeling that he who is so great and glorious should be served with the best we can present to him, internal and external; and that to come before him without any worthy gift is to insult him (see Malachi 1:7, Malachi 1:8, Malachi 1:14).

II. GRATITUDE TO GOD. For his great and manifold gifts to us, especially that of his Son, with all the unspeakable blessings which come to us with and through him. If duly sensible of what we have received from God, we shall be eager to make him such return, poor though it is, as is possible to us, and shall feel that we can never do enough for him who has clone so much for us.

III. LOVE TO GOD AND MAN. The substance of true religion. Love to God, awakened and kept alive by his love to us and by increasing knowledge of his all-perfect and lovely character, will produce love for his worship, his people, his cause in the world, our fellow men. In helping these by deed and gift, we offer sacrifices to him (Philippians 2:17; Philippians 4:18; Hebrews 13:16), and all who love him will offer such sacrifices. In proportion to the ardour of their love will be the measure of their services; and they will never grow weary of them, since love makes them a delight.

IV. JUSTICE TO OTHERS. The worship of God cannot be maintained, nor his kingdom extended, nor his will as to the poor done, without cost of various kinds, in which it is right that all should do their part according to their capabilities. If some shirk their duty, others may be compelled to do more than fairly belongs to them. The thought of this will move each to take his proper share of gift or labour.

V. THE EXAMPLE OF OTHERS.

1. The liberal expenditure of some on their idols. Heathen. Worldly men. Ourselves, perhaps, before we were converted.

2. The liberality of many Christians. In every circle a few are known who are generous in deed or gift, or both, in the service of God and the poor. Their zeal incites others by the power of sympathy and the feeling that they are themselves under equal obligation to their Saviour and their God.

3. The cost at which multitudes of Christians have had to serve God. In times of persecution their religion has cost many their property, liberty, or lives; and they have borne the cost bravely and gladly (Hebrews 10:34; Acts 6:1-15 :41; Philippians 2:17; Colossians 2:1-23 :24). Shame on us if we grudge the much smaller cost of religion to us.

4. Above all, the example of our Lord and Saviour. (2 Corinthians 8:9; Titus 2:14.) Remembrance of the cost to him of our opportunity of serving God acceptably will strengthen us when tempted to make our religion as cheap as possible.

VI. PERCEPTION OF THE WORTHLESSNESS OF A RELIGION THAT COSTS US NOTHING.

1. It is unreal. A mere name and pretence. Real religion begins and is maintained at the cost of much thought, feeling, and prayer. Where it exists it must move the heart to zeal and generosity in the service of God, cannot but manifest itself in works and gifts.

2. It is unacceptable to God. Instead of accepting, he abhors it. It is contrary to his will. The spirit of the old injunction, "They shall not appear before the Lord empty," is plainly of universal application; and the New Testament abounds in precepts enjoining zeal and generosity in the service of God.

3. It is therefore fruitless of good, now and hereafter. It may be correct in creed, fair in profession, interesting in sentiment, beautiful in phrase; but it is useless. It answers no substantial end of a religion. It does not elevate and improve the worshipper. It can hardly secure even the approval of men. It does not avert, but ensure and increase, the judgments of God. Those who practise it will justly have their "portion with the hypocrites" (Matthew 24:51).

VII. ASSURANCE OF RECOMPENSE. God will not let any man be a loser in his service.

1. He gives valuable rewards now to those who expend their energies or substance for him. The practical manifestation of Christian principles, strengthens them. Talents employed are multiplied. "Unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance" (Matthew 25:29). Service opens opportunities and develops capacities for service. Influence for good widens, honourable positions in Christ's Church are reached without ambitious striving for them, the esteem and affection of the good are enjoyed. The pleasure of doing good is experienced, and, withal, the pleasures of a good conscience—the consciousness of Christian principles, affections, and aims, and of the approval of God.

2. Great is their reward in heaven. Perfected character; enlarged and exalted service; the unclouded light of the Divine countenance; the blessings of those whom they have helped to save; the eternal joy and glory of the Lord.

In conclusion:

1. This resolution deserves the serious consideration and adoption of: (l) Ministers and other teachers of religion, who are often tempted to do their work with as little trouble to themselves as possible. The help afforded by such books as this may be abused by the indolent.

2. The subject shows the disadvantages attending endowments of religion. They tend to deprive worshippers of the pleasure and profit of worshipping God with cost to themselves. Where they exist, Christians should compensate themselves for the loss thus inflicted on them by exercising all the greater generosity towards other branches of Divine service, such as missions at home and abroad, charity to the poor, etc.—G.W.

2 Samuel 24:25

Efficacious sacrifices.

These sacrifices of David illustrate the nature and purpose of such offerings under the Law. David acted in obedience to a message from God (2 Samuel 24:18). He did not offer sacrifices in order to render God merciful; it was the mercy of God which originated them. It was because he would stay the destroying pestilence that he directed David to offer them. Still, the sacrifices were a condition of the exercise of his mercy. It was when they had been offered that "the Lord was entreated for the land, and the plague was stayed from Israel." Hence the question arises—Why should the Merciful One have required the death of innocent victims in order that his mercy might be displayed in the cessation of the pestilence? If it be said that this method of entreating him was a solemn and expressive acknowledgment that the sins which occasioned the pestilence were deserving of death, the answer may be accepted as a partial explanation. But the question recurs—Why should not the confession of sin, with sincere penitence, be accepted without the infliction of death on the innocent? The only satisfying answer is that which takes into account the justice as well as the mercy of God, and recognizes in the death of the innocent an atonement for the guilt of those to whom mercy is shown. In exercising his mercy, God would also "declare his righteousness …that he might be just" while justifying the sinner (Romans 3:25, Romans 3:26), and that men, while seeking and obtaining forgiveness, might discern more clearly, feel more deeply, and acknowledge more heartily, the righteousness of the sentence which condemned them to death. These remarks apply more especially to the "burnt offerings." The "peace offerings" (thank offerings)were added apparently as an expression of joyful gratitude for the deliverance which was confidently expected through the sacrifice of the burnt offerings. The text reminds us of another sacrifice which was offered ten centuries later near the site of David's altar, and which has rendered all other offerings for sin superfluous and unlawful. It may tend to the better understanding of both to view them together, noting their resemblances and contrasts.

I. THEIR RESEMBLANCES.

1. In their origin. Both were of Divine origin and appointment. They originated in the love and righteousness and wisdom of God—his perception of what "became him" (Hebrews 2:10).

2. In their nature. As making atonement for sin, by which God was "entreated," and the exercise of his forgiving mercy rendered consistent with a due regard for justice.

3. In their significance for men. Displaying the evil of sin and the Divine displeasure against it, and at the same time the loving kindness of God—his readiness to pardon; and thus tending to produce at once abhorrence of sin and penitential grief, and the assured hope of pardon.

4. In their results. Reconciliation between God and sinners; forgiveness of sin and deliverance from its penalties; renewed enjoyment of the favour of God; renewed confidence in and obedience to him; added strength to resist temptation.

II. THE INCALCULABLE SUPERIORITY OF THE SACRIFICE OF OUR LORD.

1. David offered the lives of animals; our blessed Lord offered himself. They were of little value; but who shall calculate the worth of him who was not only the perfect Man, but the Word Incarnate, the only begotten Son of God? They could not understand the transaction in which they were made to participate, and could gale no voluntary part in the sacrifice. But Jesus entered fully into the mind of God, shared to the utmost his love to sinners and hatred of their sins, made the Divine purpose his own, and in devoted obedience to the will of the Father surrendered himself willingly to suffering and death for our salvation. The virtue of his sacrifice arose from his Divine dignity, his perfect oneness with the Father in mind and heart, and his perfect obedience unto death (John 10:17, John 10:18; Philippians 2:6-8; Hebrews 9:14; Hebrews 10:5-10).

2. David provided his own sacrifices; Jesus was the Gift of God. (lJn 2 Samuel 4:9,2 Samuel 4:10.) No man, no creature, could provide a sacrifice of sufficient worth to really and effectually atone for the sins of men.

3. The moral significance of the sacrifice of Christ is immeasurably greater than of the offering of any number of animal sacrifices. As a revelation of God and man, of holiness and sin, of the Divine hatred to sin and love to sinners, of the beauty and glory of self-sacrifice, etc; it is altogether unique.

4. The efficacy of the sacrifice of Christ transcends incalculably that of the sacrifices offered by David.

5. The animals offered by David ceased to exist; the great Redeemer obtained for himself by his self-sacrifice exaltation to universal dominion and immortal glory, including the honour of leading and saving those for whom he died, and of receiving their loving and devoted homage (Romans 14:8, Romans 14:9; Ephesians 1:19-23; Philippians 2:8-11; Hebrews 13:20; Revelation 1:17, Revelation 1:18).

6. The benefits of David's offerings came to the people through his faith, penitence, and obedience; those of the sacrifice of Christ come to each Christian as the result of his own. Its moral and spiritual power is thus enhanced.

7. The burnt offerings of David laid the foundation for his thank offerings; much more does the death of Christ call for, induce, and render acceptable, thank offerings of a nobler kind, and these innumerable, unceasing, and throughout eternity. Such are the presenting of ourselves to God, and the offerings of praise, prayer, and beneficence (Romans 12:1; Philippians 4:18; Hebrews 13:15, Hebrews 13:16; Revelation 8:3, Revelation 8:4). Let us not fail to present such thank offerings. Let us take up the song of the banished apostle (Revelation 1:5, Revelation 1:6), "Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood …to him be glory and dominion forever and ever." Let us now join angels and the Church and all creation, and purpose and hope to join them forever, in the sublime anthem (Revelation 5:12, Revelation 5:13), "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing … Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever. Amen."—G.W.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 24:4". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tpc/2-samuel-24.html. 1897.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, December 8th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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