Read 2 Samuel 24
David Enrolls the Fighting Men
1 Again the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, “Go and take a census of Israel and Judah.”
2 So the king said to Joab and the army commanders with him, “Go throughout the tribes of Israel from Dan to Beersheba and enroll the fighting men, so that I may know how many there are.”
3 But Joab replied to the king, “May the Lord your God multiply the troops a hundred times over, and may the eyes of my lord the king see it. But why does my lord the king want to do such a thing?”
4 The king’s word, however, overruled Joab and the army commanders; so they left the presence of the king to enroll the fighting men of Israel.
5 After crossing the Jordan, they camped near Aroer, south of the town in the gorge, and then went through Gad and on to Jazer. 6 They went to Gilead and the region of Tahtim Hodshi, and on to Dan Jaan and around toward Sidon. 7 Then they went toward the fortress of Tyre and all the towns of the Hivites and Canaanites. Finally, they went on to Beersheba in the Negev of Judah.
8 After they had gone through the entire land, they came back to Jerusalem at the end of nine months and twenty days.
9 Joab reported the number of the fighting men to the king: In Israel there were eight hundred thousand able-bodied men who could handle a sword, and in Judah five hundred thousand.
10 David was conscience-stricken after he had counted the fighting men, and he said to the Lord, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done. Now, Lord, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing.”
11 Before David got up the next morning, the word of the Lord had come to Gad the prophet, David’s seer: 12 “Go and tell David, ‘This is what the Lord says: I am giving you three options. Choose one of them for me to carry out against you.’”
13 So Gad went to David and said to him, “Shall there come on you three years of famine in your land? Or three months of fleeing from your enemies while they pursue you? Or three days of plague in your land? Now then, think it over and decide how I should answer the one who sent me.”
14 David said to Gad, “I am in deep distress. Let us fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is great; but do not let me fall into human hands.”
15 So the Lord sent a plague on Israel from that morning until the end of the time designated, and seventy thousand of the people from Dan to Beersheba died. 16 When the angel stretched out his hand to destroy Jerusalem, the Lord relented concerning the disaster and said to the angel who was afflicting the people, “Enough! Withdraw your hand.” The angel of the Lord was then at the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.
17 When David saw the angel who was striking down the people, he said to the Lord, “I have sinned; I, the shepherd, have done wrong. These are but sheep. What have they done? Let your hand fall on me and my family.”
David Builds an Altar
18 On that day Gad went to David and said to him, “Go up and build an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.” 19 So David went up, as the Lord had commanded through Gad. 20 When Araunah looked and saw the king and his officials coming toward him, he went out and bowed down before the king with his face to the ground.
21 Araunah said, “Why has my lord the king come to his servant?”
“To buy your threshing floor,” David answered, “so I can build an altar to the Lord, that the plague on the people may be stopped.”
22 Araunah said to David, “Let my lord the king take whatever he wishes and offer it up. Here are oxen for the burnt offering, and here are threshing sledges and ox yokes for the wood. 23 Your Majesty, Araunah gives all this to the king.” Araunah also said to him, “May the Lord your God accept you.”
24 But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”
So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen and paid fifty shekels of silver for them. 25 David built an altar to the Lord there and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. Then the Lord answered his prayer in behalf of the land, and the plague on Israel was stopped.
Every one of us knows the temptation of placing our trust in resources, money, and human strength. We often believe we’ll succeed against challenges when we depend upon material possessions. We think we find victory in the size of our budget, the weight on the bench press, or the number of people on our side. In Psalm 20:7, David provides a different source for our dependence: “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” David says we find victory when we trust in the Lord, not in our stuff.
But, in 2 Samuel 24, it seems as though David forgot his own words from Psalm 20. Instead, David trusts in the size of the army and number of fighting men. Against counsel from his advisor Joab, David sends his men out on a nine-month quest to count the number of fighting men in Israel and Judah. Threatened by his enemies, David believed a large enough army would provide the strength needed to take on his foes. He chose to trust in chariots and horses (and fighting men) and NOT in the name of the Lord.
In doing so, David sinned against the Lord. While he did plainly acknowledge his sin and foolishness (see verse 10), God brought consequences against His people for David’s sin. This chapter provides a powerful reminder that our sin very rarely, if ever, affects just the individual. Instead our sin affects many and hurts our relationship with the Lord. 70,000 people died as a direct result of David’s foolishness and sin.
We’re also reminded of the importance of sacrifice. In verse 24, David writes, “I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” Sacrifice comes at a cost, and no one knows this more than the Lord. In sending His Son Jesus to die as a sacrifice for our sins, God paid the greatest and highest cost ever paid. Just like sin comes at a cost (i.e., 70,000 lives), so sacrifice comes at a cost.
- What do you do when your community advises Decision A but you prefer Decision B (i.e., when Joab advised David not to take a census)? What do you do when you disagree with your community/Life Group?
- When was the last time you humbly admitted and confessed your sin to the Lord?
- Does your service or sacrifice cost you anything? Does your giving come at a cost to you, or do you simply give out of your excess?
Did You Know?
In 2 Samuel 24:1 the text says the Lord incited David to take the census. In the parallel passage in 1 Chronicles 21:1, the text says Satan incited David to take the census. So who did the “inciting?”—was it God or Satan? Just like Satan took on Job (in the book of Job), Satan is the one who led David to place his dependence on the size of the army and to take the census. In His sovereignty, the Lord allowed it, similar to how He allowed so many challenges to come against Job.
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3 thoughts on “2 Samuel 24”
Verse 14 says “Let us fall into the hand of the Lord, for his mercy is great, but let me not fall into the hand of man.” Even at the height of his sin, David knew the character of God. He knew that God’s mercy would triumph over his judgment. He trusted (rightly so) in God’s merciful judgment over flawed, human judgment. David knew that the safer place to be was in God’s hands, even if there would still be judgment involved. And guess what? God did relent & lessen the punishment for the people of God. May this serve as a reminder to me to never place my security, trust, identity, or value in flawed, unmerciful human hands. May I surrender daily to God’s just & merciful hands. They are the safest place to be. Even as those hands direct me to places I might not want to go, or call me to do difficult things I might not want to do, or convict me of sin I don’t want to give up, they are still the safest place for me to be. God’s hands are the only ones I want controlling my life. May I surrender daily and allow Him free reign.
2 Proverbs pair well with this chapter:
All a man’s ways seem right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the motives (Proverbs 16:2).
Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall (Proverbs 16:18).
It was not the census that displeased God, but rather the condition of David’s heart. Instead of relying solely on God alone, he choose to focus on the military to defend Israel. It seems God wanted to destroy this idol in David’s heart. Checking my heart today for “gods” that entice me away from the one true God.
I admit there are things in my own heart that have become idols. Things I have placed more importance upon than my faith in the Lord. I pray the Lord’s deliverance from these idols. Cleanse my heart O God! I want to trust in You and You alone and help my wife to see that God is the Way not what we can do in our own strength. I have been foolish to think that money can bring peace when the peace of God comes from His presence. It is my own lack of faith and seeking after false idols that has been the cause of our poverty. Help me, Jesus, to hear Your voice only!