2 Samuel 24:12
"Go and tell David that this is what the LORD says: 'I am offering you three options. Choose one of them, and I will carry it out against you.'"
David Numbering the PeopleH. Melvill, B. D.2 Samuel 24:1-25
David Numbering the PeopleF. M. Sadler, M. A.2 Samuel 24:1-25
David's Numbering of the PeopleHomiletic Magazine2 Samuel 24:1-25
In What Respect the Census was SinfulA. F. Kirkpatrick, M. A.2 Samuel 24:1-25
Numbering the PeopleC. S. Robinson, D. D.2 Samuel 24:1-25
The Church's Resources2 Samuel 24:1-25
The Prophet GadB. Dale 2 Samuel 24:9-13, 18, 19

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, 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 (see 2 Samuel 12:11; 2 Samuel 16:10; Exodus 7:3; 1 Samuel 26:19; 1 Kings 22:20-23; Ezekiel 14:9, 10; Mark 4:12; 2 Thessalonians 2:11, 12). 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 (ver. 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" (ver. 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 (comp. 1 Samuel 8:11-18); 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 (vers. 12, 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 (ver. 16). To that extent the prayers of David (vers. 10, 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 (ver. 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.


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 (ver. 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

(1) to recognize that God's ways are necessarily beyond our comprehension - we are soon out of our depth as we contemplate them;

(2) to cherish undoubting confidence in his wisdom, righteousness, and love in all his proceedings, whether they are discernible by us or not. Such confidence is required and justified by what we do distinctly know of him; and it is the only way to settled peace in a world so full of misery and mystery.

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.

And David's heart smote him after that he had numbered the people.
I. DAVID'S CONFESSION — "And David said unto the Lord, I have sinned greatly in that I have done." It is an unreserved confession. There are no excuses made by him for the sin he has committed. If we would confess our sins acceptably we must confess, as David did, without reserve — without any attempt to dissemble or to cloak them.

II. THE PETITION. "And now, I beseech Thee, O Lord! take away the iniquity of Thy servant." To "take away" means something more than to forgive. To "take away iniquity" is not only to pass it over, but to clear the soul of it; so that, though it should be sought for, it should not be found. And this is the Blessed Saviour's office. It is "the Lamb of God," and He alone, "that taketh away the sin of the world."

III. THE PLEA. For I have done foolishly." When we want to get a pardon from a fellow-creature, we are not apt to lay a stress upon the greatness of our fault, but to catch rather at something that may take a little from its guilt. "Take away," saith he, "I beseech Thee, the iniquity of Thy servants;" and why? what is the argument he brings to give weight to his petition? You might have thought he would have said, "for I did it in my haste; it was no intentional offence." But no; "Take away my iniquity," says he, "for I have done very foolishly." It reminds us of a similar petition in the 25th Psalm. Why, what could David mean, when he names the greatness of his sin as the ground on which he asks for pardon? His meaning probably was this: "My sin is great — I have acted very foolishly, and therefore Thou wilt shew the riches of Thy grace the more abundantly in taking my iniquity away." O! blessed be the God of our salvation that such an argument as this can be adopted! If the efficacy of the blood of Jesus had been limited — why then we should have been afraid to say to God, "My sin is great."

(A. Roberts, M. A.)

Lord, before I commit a sin, it seems to me so shallow that I may wade through it dry-shod from any guiltiness, but when I have committed it, it often seems so deep that I cannot escape without drowning. Thus I am always in extremities; either my sins are so small that they need not any repentance, or so great that they cannot obtain thy pardon. Lend me, O Lord, a reed out of thy sanctuary, truly to measure the dimension of my offences. But O! as thou revealest to me more of my misery, reveal also more of thy mercy; lest if my wounds, in my apprehension, gape wider than any tents (plugs of lint), my soul run out at them. If my badness seem bigger than Thy goodness but one hair's breadth, but one moment, that-is room and time enough for me to run to eternal despair.

(Thomas Fuller.)

Araunah, Canaanites, Dan, David, Gad, Gadites, Hittites, Hivite, Hivites, Joab, Zidon
Aroer, Beersheba, Dan, Gilead, Jazer, Jerusalem, Jordan River, Kadesh, Negeb, Sidon, Tyre
Carry, Choose, David, Giving, Hast, Impose, Lay, Lifting, Offer, Offered, Offering, Options, Says, Speak, Spoken, Thus
1. David, tempted by Satan, forces Joab to number the people
5. The captains, in nine months and twenty days, gather 1,300,000 fighting men
10. David repents, and having three plagues proposed by God, chooses pestilence
15. After the death of 70,000, David by prayer prevents the destruction of Jerusalem
18. David, by God's direction, purchases Araunah's threshing floor;
25. and the plague stops

Dictionary of Bible Themes
2 Samuel 24:1-16

     7236   Israel, united kingdom

2 Samuel 24:1-17

     5087   David, reign of

2 Samuel 24:10-25

     7435   sacrifice, in OT

2 Samuel 24:11-12

     7773   prophets, role

2 Samuel 24:11-25

     4843   plague

The Exile --Continued.
We have one psalm which the title connects with the beginning of David's stay at Adullam,--the thirty-fourth. The supposition that it dates from that period throws great force into many parts of it, and gives a unity to what is else apparently fragmentary and disconnected. Unlike those already considered, which were pure soliloquies, this is full of exhortation and counsel, as would naturally be the case if it were written when friends and followers began to gather to his standard. It reads like
Alexander Maclaren—The Life of David

The Universal Chorus
And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto Him that stteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. M en have generally agreed to dignify their presumptuous and arrogant ^* disquisitions on the works and ways of God, with the name of wisdom ; though the principles upon which they proceed, and the conclusions which they draw from
John Newton—Messiah Vol. 2

Letter xix (A. D. 1127) to Suger, Abbot of S. Denis
To Suger, Abbot of S. Denis He praises Suger, who had unexpectedly renounced the pride and luxury of the world to give himself to the modest habits of the religious life. He blames severely the clerk who devotes himself rather to the service of princes than that of God. 1. A piece of good news has reached our district; it cannot fail to do great good to whomsoever it shall have come. For who that fear God, hearing what great things He has done for your soul, do not rejoice and wonder at the great
Saint Bernard of Clairvaux—Some Letters of Saint Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux

Meditations for one that is Like to Die.
If thy sickness be like to increase unto death, then meditate on three things:--First, How graciously God dealeth with thee. Secondly, From what evils death will free thee. Thirdly, What good death will bring unto thee. The first sort of Meditations are, to consider God's favourable dealing with thee. 1. Meditate that God uses this chastisement of thy body but as a medicine to cure thy soul, by drawing thee, who art sick in sin, to come by repentance unto Christ, thy physician, to have thy soul healed
Lewis Bayly—The Practice of Piety

Consolations against Impatience in Sickness.
If in thy sickness by extremity of pain thou be driven to impatience, meditate-- 1. That thy sins have deserved the pains of hell; therefore thou mayest with greater patience endure these fatherly corrections. 2. That these are the scourges of thy heavenly Father, and the rod is in his hand. If thou didst suffer with reverence, being a child, the corrections of thy earthly parents, how much rather shouldst thou now subject thyself, being the child of God, to the chastisement of thy heavenly Father,
Lewis Bayly—The Practice of Piety

The Order of Thought which Surrounded the Development of Jesus.
As the cooled earth no longer permits us to understand the phenomena of primitive creation, because the fire which penetrated it is extinct, so deliberate explanations have always appeared somewhat insufficient when applying our timid methods of induction to the revolutions of the creative epochs which have decided the fate of humanity. Jesus lived at one of those times when the game of public life is freely played, and when the stake of human activity is increased a hundredfold. Every great part,
Ernest Renan—The Life of Jesus

Of Love to God
I proceed to the second general branch of the text. The persons interested in this privilege. They are lovers of God. "All things work together for good, to them that love God." Despisers and haters of God have no lot or part in this privilege. It is children's bread, it belongs only to them that love God. Because love is the very heart and spirit of religion, I shall the more fully treat upon this; and for the further discussion of it, let us notice these five things concerning love to God. 1. The
Thomas Watson—A Divine Cordial

The Hardening in the Sacred Scripture.
"He hath hardened their heart."-- John xii. 40. The Scripture teaches positively that the hardening and "darkening of their foolish heart" is a divine, intentional act. This is plainly evident from God's charge to Moses concerning the king of Egypt: "Thou shalt speak all that I command thee; and I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and multiply My signs and wonders in the land of Egypt. But Pharaoh shall not harken unto you, and I will lay My hand upon Egypt, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the
Abraham Kuyper—The Work of the Holy Spirit

The Prophet Amos.
GENERAL PRELIMINARY REMARKS. It will not be necessary to extend our preliminary remarks on the prophet Amos, since on the main point--viz., the circumstances under which he appeared as a prophet--the introduction to the prophecies of Hosea may be regarded as having been written for those of Amos also. For, according to the inscription, they belong to the same period at which Hosea's prophetic ministry began, viz., the latter part of the reign of Jeroboam II., and after Uzziah had ascended the
Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg—Christology of the Old Testament

Alike from the literary and the historical point of view, the book[1] of Samuel stands midway between the book of Judges and the book of Kings. As we have already seen, the Deuteronomic book of Judges in all probability ran into Samuel and ended in ch. xii.; while the story of David, begun in Samuel, embraces the first two chapters of the first book of Kings. The book of Samuel is not very happily named, as much of it is devoted to Saul and the greater part to David; yet it is not altogether inappropriate,
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament

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