"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.'"
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,
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.)
PeopleAraunah, Canaanites, Dan, David, Gad, Gadites, Hittites, Hivite, Hivites, Joab, Zidon
PlacesAroer, Beersheba, Dan, Gilead, Jazer, Jerusalem, Jordan River, Kadesh, Negeb, Sidon, Tyre
TopicsCarry, Choose, David, Giving, Hast, Impose, Lay, Lifting, Offer, Offered, Offering, Options, Says, Speak, Spoken, Thus
Outline1. 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 Themes2 Samuel 24:1-16
LibraryThe 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
Letter xix (A. D. 1127) to Suger, Abbot of S. Denis
Meditations for one that is Like to Die.
Consolations against Impatience in Sickness.
The Order of Thought which Surrounded the Development of Jesus.
Of Love to God
The Hardening in the Sacred Scripture.
The Prophet Amos.
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