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The daily summaries are written by Wayne D. Turner, Pastor of Fayette Bible Church in Fayetteville, Georgia

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II Samuel 24; I Chronicles 21-22; Psalm 30     Listen Podcast

 

 

 

 

 

 

The REAL story about the evil of the census (II Samuel 24:1-17; I Chronicles 21:1-17)

II Samuel 24
I Chronicles 21
1 And again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.
2 For the king said to Joab the captain of the host, which was with him, Go now through all the tribes of Israel, from Dan even to Beersheba, and number ye the people, that I may know the number of the people.
3 And Joab said unto the king, Now the LORD thy God add unto the people, how many soever they be, an hundredfold, and that the eyes of my lord the king may see it: but why doth my lord the king delight in this thing?
4 Notwithstanding the king’s word prevailed against Joab, and against the captains of the host. And Joab and the captains of the host went out from the presence of the king, to number the people of Israel.
5 And they passed over Jordan, and pitched in Aroer, on the right side of the city that lieth in the midst of the river of Gad, and toward Jazer:
6 Then they came to Gilead, and to the land of Tahtimhodshi; and they came to Danjaan, and about to Zidon,
7 And came to the strong hold of Tyre, and to all the cities of the Hivites, and of the Canaanites: and they went out to the south of Judah, even to Beersheba.
8 So when they had gone through all the land, they came to Jerusalem at the end of nine months and twenty days.
9 And Joab gave up the sum of the number of the people unto the king: and there were in Israel eight hundred thousand valiant men that drew the sword; and the men of Judah were five hundred thousand men.
10 And David’s heart smote him after that he had numbered the people. And David said unto the LORD, I have sinned greatly in that I have done: and now, I beseech thee, O LORD, take away the iniquity of thy servant; for I have done very foolishly.
11 For when David was up in the morning, the word of the LORD came unto the prophet Gad, David’s seer, saying,
12 Go and say unto David, Thus saith the LORD, I offer thee three things; choose thee one of them, that I may do it unto thee.
13 So Gad came to David, and told him, and said unto him, Shall seven years of famine come unto thee in thy land? or wilt thou flee three months before thine enemies, while they pursue thee? or that there be three days’ pestilence in thy land? now advise, and see what answer I shall return to him that sent me.
14 And David said unto Gad, I am in a great strait: let us fall now into the hand of the LORD; for his mercies are great: and let me not fall into the hand of man.
15 So the LORD sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning even to the time appointed: and there died of the people from Dan even to Beersheba seventy thousand men.
16 And when the angel stretched out his hand upon Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed the people, It is enough: stay now thine hand. And the angel of the LORD was by the threshingplace of Araunah the Jebusite.
17 And David spake unto the LORD when he saw the angel that smote the people, and said, Lo, I have sinned, and I have done wickedly: but these sheep, what have they done? let thine hand, I pray thee, be against me, and against my father’s house.
1 And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.
2 And David said to Joab and to the rulers of the people, Go, number Israel from Beersheba even to Dan; and bring the number of them to me, that I may know it.
3 And Joab answered, The LORD make his people an hundred times so many more as they be: but, my lord the king, are they not all my lord’s servants? why then doth my lord require this thing? why will he be a cause of trespass to Israel?
4 Nevertheless the king’s word prevailed against Joab. Wherefore Joab departed, and went throughout all Israel, and came to Jerusalem.
5 And Joab gave the sum of the number of the people unto David. And all they of Israel were a thousand thousand and an hundred thousand men that drew sword: and Judah was four hundred threescore and ten thousand men that drew sword.
6 But Levi and Benjamin counted he not among them: for the king’s word was abominable to Joab.
7 And God was displeased with this thing; therefore he smote Israel.
8 And David said unto God, I have sinned greatly, because I have done this thing: but now, I beseech thee, do away the iniquity of thy servant; for I have done very foolishly.
9 And the LORD spake unto Gad, David’s seer, saying,
10 Go and tell David, saying, Thus saith the LORD, I offer thee three things: choose thee one of them, that I may do it unto thee.
11 So Gad came to David, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Choose thee
12 Either three years’ famine; or three months to be destroyed before thy foes, while that the sword of thine enemies overtaketh thee; or else three days the sword of the LORD, even the pestilence, in the land, and the angel of the LORD destroying throughout all the coasts of Israel. Now therefore advise thyself what word I shall bring again to him that sent me.
13 And David said unto Gad, I am in a great strait: let me fall now into the hand of the LORD; for very great are his mercies: but let me not fall into the hand of man.
14 So the LORD sent pestilence upon Israel: and there fell of Israel seventy thousand men.
15 And God sent an angel unto Jerusalem to destroy it: and as he was destroying, the LORD beheld, and he repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed, It is enough, stay now thine hand. And the angel of the LORD stood by the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite.
16 And David lifted up his eyes, and saw the angel of the LORD stand between the earth and the heaven, having a drawn sword in his hand stretched out over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders of Israel, who were clothed in sackcloth, fell upon their faces.
17 And David said unto God, Is it not I that commanded the people to be numbered? even I it is that have sinned and done evil indeed; but as for these sheep, what have they done? let thine hand, I pray thee, O LORD my God, be on me, and on my father’s house; but not on thy people, that they should be plagued.

So...David's experiencing success as King of Israel and decides that he would like to have an accurate census of Israel proper, from Dan (northern border) to Beersheba (southern border). That did not include those non Jews in occupied territories - just those Jewish men who were qualified to serve in David's army. What's the problem? What can possibly be the harm in getting a count?

How big was David's army?

The fighting-force numbers in II Samuel 24:9 differ from those of I Chronicles 21:5 as follows:

  • II Samuel 24:9: Israel - 800,000 and Judah - 500,000 for a total of 1,300,000
  • I Chronicles 21:5: Israel - 1,100,000 and Judah - 470,000 for a total of 1,570,000

This assessment of military strength included all male men 20 years of age and older (Numbers 1:3) who were healthy enough to fight. Since the census took nearly 10 months to complete, that number would have varied significantly during that period of time as men turned 20, and some of the older men's health began to fail. Therefore, both accounts obviously are compiled with round numbers given to David by Joab. It is logical to assume that the number for Judah in II Samuel was rounded up from perhaps the more-precise figure given in I Chronicles.

But what about the 300,000 difference between the given troop strengths of Israel? It is likely that I Chronicles includes the number for the regular army of 288,000 found in 1 Chronicles 27:1–15, which when rounded up, accounts for the additional 300,000. II Samuel only counts reserves.

Let's compare verse 1 from both passages:

II Samuel 24:1 And again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.
I Chronicles 21:1 And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.

Notice in II Samuel that the LORD was angry with Israel already for some reason. It's easy to extrapolate from this passage that perhaps David and his people had become less dependent on God because of their prosperity - the prosperity documented in I Chronicles 22:18 (see below).

There's a bit more insight into this issue of the numbering of Israel found in I Chronicles 27:23-24 (see notes), "But David took not the number of them from twenty years old and under: because the LORD had said he would increase Israel like to the stars of the heavens. Joab the son of Zeruiah began to number, but he finished not, because there fell wrath for it against Israel; neither was the number put in the account of the chronicles of king David." Now...view these two verses in the light of two promises made to Abraham:

Genesis 15:5 (see notes) And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.
Genesis 22:17 (see notes) That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies;

There's yet another consideration with regard to this census found in Exodus 30:11-16 (see notes):

Exodus 30:11 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
Exodus 30:12 When thou takest the sum of the children of Israel after their number, then shall they give every man a ransom for his soul unto the LORD, when thou numberest them; that there be no plague among them, when thou numberest them.
Exodus 30:13 This they shall give, every one that passeth among them that are numbered, half a shekel after the shekel of the sanctuary: (a shekel is twenty gerahs:) an half shekel shall be the offering of the LORD.
Exodus 30:14 Every one that passeth among them that are numbered, from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering unto the LORD.
Exodus 30:15 The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel, when they give an offering unto the LORD, to make an atonement for your souls.
Exodus 30:16 And thou shalt take the atonement money of the children of Israel, and shalt appoint it for the service of the tabernacle of the congregation; that it may be a memorial unto the children of Israel before the LORD, to make an atonement for your souls.

We aren't told why, but taking a count of the Tribes of Israel was something not to be taken lightly - so much so that an offering was to be required from each person counted. This offering accompanying the census was to prevent a "plague among them." There is no reference to such an offering accompanying David's census...and the result was a "plague among them."

Further evidence of the gravity of the situation with regard to counting the people is seen in Numbers 31:48-50 (see notes):

Numbers 31:48 And the officers which were over thousands of the host, the captains of thousands, and captains of hundreds, came near unto Moses:
Numbers 31:49 And they said unto Moses, Thy servants have taken the sum of the men of war which are under our charge, and there lacketh not one man of us.
Numbers 31:50 We have therefore brought an oblation for the LORD, what every man hath gotten, of jewels of gold, chains, and bracelets, rings, earrings, and tablets, to make an atonement for our souls before the LORD.

Here again, an offering was required of each man of war. While that may not give us an answer sufficient to our level of curiosity on the matter, it does give us some insight into the issue. Apparently David's motivation and procedure here was unacceptable before God. Furthermore, after the plague is stopped at the threshing floor of Araunah (aka Ornan), David insists on paying the complete price for this future site of the temple. He sees it as a sacrifice (see below at II Samuel 24:18-25; I Chronicles 21:18-22:1). That would indicate that perhaps David finally understood a linkage between the counting of the people without an offering brings plague.

Also for our consideration, based upon I Chronicles 27:23-24 (see notes) in the light of God's promises to Abraham, it would appear to be possible that numbering Israel flew in the face of the Abrahamic Covenant of a seed so plentiful that it could not be numbered. The census does yield some really huge numbers for an Israeli fighting force - over 1.5 million soldiers (regular army plus national guard). To support this notion, we see the following statement by Solomon in I Kings 3:8 (see notes) during his conversation with God after taking over the throne, "And thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude." It is expressed similarly in the same account by Ezra in II Chronicles 1:9 (see notes), "Now, O LORD God, let thy promise unto David my father be established: for thou hast made me king over a people like the dust of the earth in multitude." It would appear from Solomon's prayer to God there that he knew the people were not to be numbered...perhaps a lesson he learned from David's census experience here.

Incidentally, the "chronicles of king David" found in I Chronicles 27:24 is a reference to the log made as a record of the notable events and transactions in a king's reign. It is not a reference to the Book of Chronicles.

Here's a principle that existed from the Garden of Eden and still is God's mode of operation with his people. As in the Book of Job (see notes), God allows Satan to try his people. Incidentally, this is the first occasion in the Old Testament where the Hebrew word "satan" (our English word is transliterated exactly) is used as a proper name (without the definite article). Previously the word was used to describe an adversary. So here's the deal: God is angry with his people, so he allows Satan to tempt David into numbering his big ol' fighting force.

One more verse perhaps needs a conjecture; verse 6 says, "But Levi and Benjamin counted he not among them: for the king’s word was abominable to Joab." You will recall that previously whenever the people were numbered, it was always for the purpose of determining the size of the fighting force. The Levites were never counted in that number (they didn't fight, Numbers 1:49-50, see notes). However, Levites are listed in the composition of David's army in I Chronicles 12 (see notes). The tabernacle itself was located in Jerusalem at this point in time, so there would have been a bigger concentration of Levites there; Jerusalem was located in Benjamin's territory. Joab reluctantly took David's census in the first place; this must be where Joab drew the line on the effort. So, though living in peace and prosperity, David is tempted by Satan to embark upon a nine-month task of assessing the strength of his fighting force. Perhaps this particular temptation was placed before the people of Israel because they were starting to feel self sufficient and proud of their personal accomplishments.

So, David, what's the secret of your military expertise - God on your side leading the way? David might have replied, "Naw...I think it's because I have a really big army. As a matter of fact, I wonder how big my national guard really is," David must have wondered. Even though Joab warns David that it's a really bad idea, what the king wants, the king gets. Just as we thought - David has a really big national guard. God isn't pleased though that David succumbed to the temptation of Satan.

God, through the prophet Gad, gives David a choice of three punishments for this transgression; none of them pleasant.

Behind door #3...a plague! But it's only for three days though - and it's from God rather than from David's enemies (that was door #2). The pestilence costs David 70,000 men, but falls short of the destruction of Jerusalem. As a matter of fact, the angel in charge of pestilence stops at the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite (spelled Araunah in II Samuel) as David pleads for mercy. This threshing floor becomes very important in Jewish history as it becomes the site of the Temple.

To put this incident into perspective, I'm reminded of James 1:14-15 (see notes), "But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death." It started with temptation and ended with sin.

Is it sacrifice if it costs you nothing? (II Samuel 24:18-25; I Chronicles 21:18-22:1)

II Samuel 24
I Chronicles 21
18 And Gad came that day to David, and said unto him, Go up, rear an altar unto the LORD in the threshingfloor of Araunah the Jebusite.
19 And David, according to the saying of Gad, went up as the LORD commanded.
20 And Araunah looked, and saw the king and his servants coming on toward him: and Araunah went out, and bowed himself before the king on his face upon the ground.
21 And Araunah said, Wherefore is my lord the king come to his servant? And David said, To buy the threshingfloor of thee, to build an altar unto the LORD, that the plague may be stayed from the people.
22 And Araunah said unto David, Let my lord the king take and offer up what seemeth good unto him: behold, here be oxen for burnt sacrifice, and threshing instruments and other instruments of the oxen for wood.
23 All these things did Araunah, as a king, give unto the king. And Araunah said unto the king, The LORD thy God accept thee.
24 And the king said unto Araunah, Nay; but I will surely buy it of thee at a price: neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the LORD my God of that which doth cost me nothing. So David bought the threshingfloor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.
25 And David built there an altar unto the LORD, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. So the LORD was intreated for the land, and the plague was stayed from Israel.
18 Then the angel of the LORD commanded Gad to say to David, that David should go up, and set up an altar unto the LORD in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite.
19 And David went up at the saying of Gad, which he spake in the name of the LORD.
20 And Ornan turned back, and saw the angel; and his four sons with him hid themselves. Now Ornan was threshing wheat.
21 And as David came to Ornan, Ornan looked and saw David, and went out of the threshingfloor, and bowed himself to David with his face to the ground.
22 Then David said to Ornan, Grant me the place of this threshingfloor, that I may build an altar therein unto the LORD: thou shalt grant it me for the full price: that the plague may be stayed from the people.
23 And Ornan said unto David, Take it to thee, and let my lord the king do that which is good in his eyes: lo, I give thee the oxen also for burnt offerings, and the threshing instruments for wood, and the wheat for the meat offering; I give it all.
24 And king David said to Ornan, Nay; but I will verily buy it for the full price: for I will not take that which is thine for the LORD, nor offer burnt offerings without cost.
25 So David gave to Ornan for the place six hundred shekels of gold by weight.
26 And David built there an altar unto the LORD, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings, and called upon the LORD; and he answered him from heaven by fire upon the altar of burnt offering.
27 And the LORD commanded the angel; and he put up his sword again into the sheath thereof.
28 At that time when David saw that the LORD had answered him in the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite, then he sacrificed there.
29 For the tabernacle of the LORD, which Moses made in the wilderness, and the altar of the burnt offering, were at that season in the high place at Gibeon.
30 But David could not go before it to enquire of God: for he was afraid because of the sword of the angel of the LORD.
22:1 Then David said, This is the house of the LORD God, and this is the altar of the burnt offering for Israel.

The prophet Gad told David he should go erect an altar to God there where the pestilence ceased - there on the threshing floor (a big outdoor open spot) that belonged to Ornan (aka Araunah) the Jebusite. You may recall that the Jebusites were the previous owners of Jerusalem before David came to town. Understand, David was not opposed to taking property, but this is different; it's the future site of God's Temple. If there is no price to pay, there is no sacrifice. Even though Araunah the Jebusite offers to donate the property, David insists that he pay for the site of his altar. After all, the welfare of all Israel is at stake here - no mistakes or shortcomings allowed.

So, how much did David pay for this property - 50 shekels of silver (II Samuel) or 600 shekels of gold (I Chronicles)? The I Chronicles text explicitly says that David bought "the site," which included the whole area of Mount Moriah. Samuel's account includes only the price for the oxen and the threshing floor. Both accounts are accurate.

A word of explanation is in order regarding the Tabernacle located at Gibeon. Prior to Gibeon, it had been located at Nob in I Samuel 22 (see notes). It was perhaps Saul who had the tabernacle moved to Gibeon after he massacred the priests there at Nob. While we see in I Chronicles 21:29 that sacrifices were still being made at the Tabernacle located in Gibeon, David had moved the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem to another tabernacle back in II Samuel 6; I Chronicles 13 (see notes). So, the tabernacle in Jerusalem contained the Ark of the Covenant at this point in time, while the priests were making sacrifices at the Tabernacle located in Gibeon.

Solomon! We have a really big project for you (I Chronicles 22:2-19)

2 And David commanded to gather together the strangers that were in the land of Israel; and he set masons to hew wrought stones to build the house of God.
3 And David prepared iron in abundance for the nails for the doors of the gates, and for the joinings; and brass in abundance without weight;
4 Also cedar trees in abundance: for the Zidonians and they of Tyre brought much cedar wood to David.
5 And David said, Solomon my son is young and tender, and the house that is to be builded for the LORD must be exceeding magnifical, of fame and of glory throughout all countries: I will therefore now make preparation for it. So David prepared abundantly before his death.
6 Then he called for Solomon his son, and charged him to build an house for the LORD God of Israel.
7 And David said to Solomon, My son, as for me, it was in my mind to build an house unto the name of the LORD my God:
8 But the word of the LORD came to me, saying, Thou hast shed blood abundantly, and hast made great wars: thou shalt not build an house unto my name, because thou hast shed much blood upon the earth in my sight.
9 Behold, a son shall be born to thee, who shall be a man of rest; and I will give him rest from all his enemies round about: for his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quietness unto Israel in his days.
10 He shall build an house for my name; and he shall be my son, and I will be his father; and I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel for ever.
11 Now, my son, the LORD be with thee; and prosper thou, and build the house of the LORD thy God, as he hath said of thee.
12 Only the LORD give thee wisdom and understanding, and give thee charge concerning Israel, that thou mayest keep the law of the LORD thy God.
13 Then shalt thou prosper, if thou takest heed to fulfil the statutes and judgments which the LORD charged Moses with concerning Israel: be strong, and of good courage; dread not, nor be dismayed.
14 Now, behold, in my trouble I have prepared for the house of the LORD an hundred thousand talents of gold, and a thousand thousand talents of silver; and of brass and iron without weight; for it is in abundance: timber also and stone have I prepared; and thou mayest add thereto.
15 Moreover there are workmen with thee in abundance, hewers and workers of stone and timber, and all manner of cunning men for every manner of work.
16 Of the gold, the silver, and the brass, and the iron, there is no number. Arise therefore, and be doing, and the LORD be with thee.
17 David also commanded all the princes of Israel to help Solomon his son, saying,
18 Is not the LORD your God with you? and hath he not given you rest on every side? for he hath given the inhabitants of the land into mine hand; and the land is subdued before the LORD, and before his people.
19 Now set your heart and your soul to seek the LORD your God; arise therefore, and build ye the sanctuary of the LORD God, to bring the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and the holy vessels of God, into the house that is to be built to the name of the LORD.

David explains to Solomon that he'll have to build the temple because God told David he couldn't do it - too much blood on his hands. One such occasion of excessive blood on his hands could be II Samuel 8:1-18 (see notes) when he executed some Moabite prisoners of war after their defeat. However, that doesn't prevent Dad from setting Solomon up for success in the project though. He gets all the people behind his boy and donates a massive amount of resources to the building of the temple. By 2006 exchange rates, David allocated $36 billion (yes, I said billion) in gold and another $4.2 billion in silver along with lots of other building materials. Even with the typical cost overruns, you can build a really nice temple for that amount of money.

By the way, as David recounts his "word of the LORD" in verses 8-10, he includes the provisions of the covenant known as "The Davidic Covenant" when he says in verse 10, "I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel for ever." For additional scripture regarding God's covenant with David, click here.

It is important to note in this passage that David calls the leadership of Israel together to formally announce Solomon as his successor (verse 17) and to charge them to assist Solomon in the temple-building project. However, later on, Adonijah (Solomon's half brother) unsuccessfully attempts to hijack the throne before David even gasps for his last breath (I Kings 1:5-10, see notes).

There's an interesting aspect here that is not evident, except in the Hebrew language. David had been denied the opportunity to build the Temple because of blood on his hands. So, he turns the project over to his son, Solomon. It just so happens that Solomon's name is based on the familiar Hebrew word for "peace," which is "shalom." As a matter of fact, Solomon's name begins with the exact same three Hebrew letters that spell "shalom" with the additional Hebrew letter "he" added to the ending to turn the word into a name. It appears that David named his boy with the intention that he would fulfill the role of being the peaceful agent to whom would be given the privilege by God to build his Temple.

God is my strength (Psalm 30)

A Psalm and Song at the dedication of the house of David.
1 I will extol thee, O LORD; for thou hast lifted me up, and hast not made my foes to rejoice over me.
2 O LORD my God, I cried unto thee, and thou hast healed me.
3 O LORD, thou hast brought up my soul from the grave: thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit.
4 Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.
5 For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.
6 And in my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved.
7 LORD, by thy favour thou hast made my mountain to stand strong: thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled.
8 I cried to thee, O LORD; and unto the LORD I made supplication.
9 What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit? Shall the dust praise thee? shall it declare thy truth?
10 Hear, O LORD, and have mercy upon me: LORD, be thou my helper.
11 Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness;
12 To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever.

The title to this Psalm says, "A Psalm and Song at the dedication of the house of David." Israel certainly has a lot to be thankful for. This Psalm summarizes it nicely. While not specifically stated, the personal nature of the comments in this Psalm strongly suggests Davidic authorship.

This Psalm may be summarized as follows:

 


For commentary on another passage, click here.


Copyright 2003-2011 by Wayne D. Turner