David takes a census of the nation. David’s sin is judged. David builds an altar.
VERSE 1. Again the LORD’s anger burned against Israel, and he moved David against them, saying, “Go, count Israel and Judah.”
the LORD’s anger burned against Israel. Why is the LORD God angry with Israel? This chapter doesn’t say.
But elsewhere the biblical narrative, it is revealed that Satan is involved:
1 Chronicles 21:1. Satan stood up against Israel, and moved David to take a census of Israel.
count Israel and Judah. Toward the end of his kingdom, David orders a census.
VERSE 2. The king said to Joab the captain of the army, who was with him, “Now go back and forth through all the tribes of Israel, from Dan even to Beersheba, and count the people, that I may know the sum of the people.”
count the people. The motive is almost certainly military. David wants to assess the size of his army, as we see in verse 9 below.
VERSE 3. Joab said to the king, “Now may the LORD your God add to the people, however many they may be, one hundred times; and may the eyes of my lord the king see it. But why does my lord the king delight in this thing?”
VERSE 4. Notwithstanding, the king’s word prevailed against Joab and against the captains of the army. Joab and the captains of the army went out from the presence of the king to count the people of Israel.
VERSE 5. They passed over the Jordan and encamped in Aroer, on the right side of the city that is in the middle of the valley of Gad, and to Jazer;
VERSE 6. then they came to Gilead and to the land of Tahtim Hodshi; and they came to Dan Jaan and around to Sidon,
VERSE 7. and came to the stronghold of Tyre, and to all the cities of the Hivites and of the Canaanites; and they went out to the south of Judah, at Beersheba.
VERSE 8. So when they had gone back and forth through all the land, they came to Jerusalem at the end of nine months and twenty days.
nine months and twenty days. Taking the census required nearly ten months.
VERSE 9. Joab gave up the sum of the counting of the people to the king; and there were in Israel eight hundred thousand valiant men who drew the sword, and the men of Judah were five hundred thousand men.
Israel. There are 800,000 men of military age.
Judah. There are 500,000 men of military age.
VERSE 10. David’s heart struck him after he had counted the people. David said to the LORD, “I have sinned greatly in that which I have done. But now, the LORD, put away, I beg you, the iniquity of your servant; for I have done very foolishly.”
I have sinned greatly. Now David sees his ordering of the census as a sin.
VERSE 11. When David rose up in the morning, the LORD’s word came to the prophet Gad, David’s seer, saying,
VERSE 12. “Go and speak to David, ‘The LORD says, “I offer you three things. Choose one of them, that I may do it to you.” ’ ”
VERSE 13. So Gad came to David, and told him, saying, “Shall seven years of famine come to you in your land? Or will you flee three months before your foes while they pursue you? Or shall there be three days’ pestilence in your land? Now answer, and consider what answer I shall return to him who sent me.”
The prophet Gad presents David with three options:
- seven years of famine
- three months of enemy pursuit
- three days of pestilence
VERSE 14. David said to Gad, “I am in distress. Let us fall now into the LORD’s hand, for his mercies are great. Let me not fall into man’s hand.”
his mercies are great. To David, what stands out the most about the LORD God is his great mercy. He selects the pestilence.
VERSE 15. So the LORD sent a pestilence on Israel from the morning even to the appointed time; and seventy thousand men died of the people from Dan even to Beersheba.
seventy thousand men died. In less than three days, 70,000 people die.
In the next verse we see that all those deaths were caused by one single angel.
VERSE 16. When the angel stretched out his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD relented of the disaster, and said to the angel who destroyed the people, “It is enough. Now withdraw your hand.” The LORD’s angel was by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.
the angel stretched out his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it. With one simple gesture, one solitary angel can annihilate the fortified city of Jerusalem.
The angels are powerful! They are great!
Many Christians would agree with something like the following:
Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life.
Reference: Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 336.
VERSE 17. David spoke to the LORD when he saw the angel who struck the people, and said, “Behold, I have sinned, and I have done perversely; but these sheep, what have they done? Please let your hand be against me, and against my father’s house.”
let your hand be against me. Until this point, David was making other people suffer and die for his own sin.
But now David finally takes responsibility for his own actions.
VERSE 18. Gad came that day to David and said to him, “Go up, build an altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.”
Araunah the Jebusite. He was a citizen of Jerusalem.
VERSE 19. David went up according to the saying of Gad, as the LORD commanded.
VERSE 20. Araunah looked out, and saw the king and his servants coming on toward him. Then Araunah went out and bowed himself before the king with his face to the ground.
VERSE 21. Araunah said, “Why has my lord the king come to his servant?” David said, “To buy your threshing floor, to build an altar to the LORD, that the plague may be stopped from afflicting the people.”
VERSE 22. Araunah said to David, “Let my lord the king take and offer up what seems good to him. Behold, the cattle for the burnt offering, and the threshing sledges and the yokes of the oxen for the wood.
VERSE 23. All this, O king, does Araunah give to the king.” Araunah said to the king, “May the LORD your God accept you.”
VERSE 24. The king said to Araunah, “No, but I will most certainly buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God which cost me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.
David bought the threshing floor. The Book of Second Samuel concludes with two Jewish men haggling over the price of a business transaction.
shekels. A shekel is about 0.35 ounces. So 50 shekels is about 1.1 pounds.
VERSE 25. David built an altar to the LORD there, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. So the LORD was entreated for the land, and the plague was removed from Israel.
Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations on this page are from the World English Bible and the World Messianic Edition. These translations have no copyright restrictions. They are in the Public Domain.