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II Samuel Ch. 24


Memory verses for this week:  Psa 13:5  But I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation.  Psa 13:6  I will sing unto the LORD, because he hath dealt bountifully with me. 

Overview of II Samuel 24: This final chapter of II Samuel recounts the incident of Davidís sin in numbering the people and Godís chastisement for it. David is confronted with a choice of punishment. In the ensuing events, the land of Araunah was purchased for sacrifice which became the sight of the future temple.


I.  David's Sin in Numbering the People 

2 Sam 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.

2 Sam 24:2  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.

An unfortunate incident late in the life of David here is recorded. This verse is best understood when viewed with I Chronicles 21:1. There, it is noted that it was Satan who provoked David to number the people.  

1 Chr 21:1  And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.

1 Chr 21:2  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. 

The greater thought may be that God was displeased with Israel for their sin and       backslidden condition. Therefore, He allowed Satan to provoke Davidís census.    The problem in numbering the nation (taking a census) was that David was counting his own military assets rather than trusting God. 

His sin was a lack of faith.     David essentially was planning to take things into his own hands.   We struggle with the flesh each day, and we must strive to never put confidence in ourselves, but always look to God for direction and strength.    The ordered census was from one end of the land to the otheróDan in the far north to Beersheba, the extremity of the inhabited south.  

2 Sam 24:3  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?

2 Sam 24:4  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. 

Joab had proved to be a loose cannon in Davidís government and his loyalty from time to time was suspect.   However, here, he gave David sound advice.    He wished Davidís realm and influence to be one hundred times greater than they were. However, he asked, why did David want to do such a thing?    

We have the record there in I Chronicles also. 

1 Chr 21:3  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?

1 Chr 21:4  Nevertheless the king's word prevailed against Joab. Wherefore Joab departed, and went throughout all Israel, and came to Jerusalem. 

Nevertheless, David was king and his orders prevailed over Joabís protests. Officers under Joab therefore spread out across Israel to effect the census. 

2 Sam 24:5  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:

2 Sam 24:6  Then they came to Gilead, and to the land of Tahtimhodshi; and they came to Danjaan, and about to Zidon,

2 Sam 24:7  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.

2 Sam 24:8  So when they had gone through all the land, they came to Jerusalem at the end of nine months and twenty days.

2 Sam 24:9  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.

From the borders of Lebanon, the census takers then moved southward down through the length of Israel through Judah, all the way to Beersheba.  The census took almost ten months to accomplish.  

The army of Israel (even as today) was made up almost entirely of ready reserves. Every adult male in the nation was expected to serve in time of war.   Eight-hundred-thousand men were so enumerated in the northern ten tribes with five-hundred-thousand in Judah-Benjamin.   The strength of the tribe of Judah under David was evident. (Benjamin by this time had come to be considered a subsidiary of Judah.  These were the only two tribes from which any royalty of Israel arose.  Moreover, both tribes shared the city of Jerusalem.)   There were a total of 1.3 million men potentially available for war.  

Some have imagined a discrepancy here with the numbers mentioned in

I Chronicles 21:5. There, a grand total of 1.1 million men are noted.  The difference likely is in that the record there noted only the standing army while the totals here included the officers. 

Matthew Henry had some interesting points about why it was so bad that David numbered Israel. 

I. The orders which David gave to Joab to number the people of Israel and Judah, v. 1, 2. Two things here seem strange:-1. The sinfulness of this. What harm was there in it? Did not Moses twice number the people without any crime? Does not political arithmetic come in among the other policies of a prince? Should not the shepherd know the number of his sheep? Does not the Son of David know all his own by name? Might not he make good use of this calculation? What evil has he done, if he do this? Answer, It is certain that it was a sin, and a great sin; but where the evil of it lay is not so certain. (1.) Some think the fault was that he numbered those that were under twenty years old if they were but of stature and strength able to bear arms, and that this was the reason why this account was not enrolled, because it was illegal, 1 Chr. 27:23, 24. (2.) Others think the fault was that he did not require the half-shekel, which was to be paid for the service of the sanctuary whenever the people were numbered, as a ransom for their souls, Ex. 30:12. (3.) Others think that he did it with a design to impose a tribute upon them for himself, to be put into his treasury, and this by way of poll, so that when he knew their numbers he could tell what it would amount to. But nothing of this appears, nor was David ever a raiser of taxes. (4.) This was the fault, that he had no orders from God to do it, nor was there any occasion for the doing of it. It was a needless trouble both to himself and to his people. (5.) Some think that it was an affront to the ancient promise which God made to Abraham, that his seed should be innumerable as the dust of the earth; it savoured of distrust of that promise, or a design to show that it was not fulfilled in the letter of it. He would number those of whom God had said that they could not be numbered. Those know not what they do that go about to disprove the word of God. (6.) That which was the worst thing in numbering the people was that David did it in the pride of his heart, which was Hezekiahís sin in showing his treasures to the ambassadors. [1.] It was a proud conceit of his own greatness in having the command of so numerous a people, as if their increase, which was to be ascribed purely to the blessing of God, had been owing to any conduct of his own. [2.] It was a proud confidence in his own strength. By publishing among the nations the number of his people, he thought to appear the more formidable, and doubted not that, if he should have any war, he should overpower his enemies with the multitude of his forces, trusting in God only. God judges not of sin as we do. What appears to us harmless, or at least but a small offence, may be a great sin in the eye of God, who sees menís principles, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. But his judgment, we are sure, is according to truth.[1] 

II.   David's Choice of Punishment 

2 Sam 24:10  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.

2 Sam 24:11  For when David was up in the morning, the word of the LORD came unto the prophet Gad, David's seer, saying,

2 Sam 24:12  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.

2 Sam 24:13  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.

2 Sam 24:14  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.

David, however, was by now convicted about what he had done.   A saved person is constantly being reminded by the Holy Spirit whether he or she is doing the right or wrong thing in God's eyes.    When our hearts are tender, we are quick to recognize the wrong when we are convicted.    David realized the folly of what he had done.   He realized his lack of faith was sin.   He sought Godís forgiveness.  Notice that prior to his asking of forgiveness and reconciliation, he first confessed his sin.    The bible is crystal clear that we are to confess our sins if we want God's forgiveness. 

1 John 1:6  If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:

1 John 1:7  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

1 John 1:8  If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

1 John 1:9  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:10  If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 


David's conviction had evidently taken place during the night.  That next morning, God sent a prophet by the name of Gad, who apparently was Davidís personal chaplain.   God had spoken to him to go to the king, offering him three options of chastisement for his sin.  

In verse 13, we find the record of the prophet Gad appearing before David that next day.   The three options God offered David were: (1) seven years famine in the land; (2)     three months of defeat before his enemies; or (3) three days of pestilence in the land.  

God through the prophet told him to make up his mind.   It should be evident that God was dealing with both Israel and David.  Verse 1     indicates that God was angry with Israel.   The chastisements proposed would afflict the nation as much if not more than David himself.  

Israel was backslidden and David apparently was as well and God was about to deal with both of them.   David essentially replied to let God decide.   He knew Godís mercies were great and he trusted Him more than whatever men might do.

III.  God Sends Pestilence Upon Israel   

2 Sam 24:15  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.

2 Sam 24:16  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.

2 Sam 24:17  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. 

ďSo 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.Ē     The pestilence was some undescribed plague which killed seventy thousand men over a period of three days.    It stretched from Dan in the far north to Beersheba in the far south.  

Insight into how God works is here apparent.    God clearly used an angel to effect the pestilence in the land. However, as the death angel approached Jerusalem, ďthe LORD repented him of the evil.Ē   Of interest is that the plague stopped its approach at ďthe threshingfloor of Araunah the Jebusite.Ē  

Though the Jebusites had been defeated and removed from any power, it is clear that some of them still lived in Jerusalem.   A threshingfloor was a place wherein grain was brought to be threshed upon a hard flat surface. That area of Jerusalem atop Mount Moriah to this day is relatively flat rocky ground.  

In Verse 17, in seeing the suffering and death brought by this plague, David could only confess his sin before God.    He admitted, ďLo, I have sinned, and I have done wickedly.Ē  Though God perceived sin in Israel, David did not.

He asked the Lord to deal with him rather than his people.

The selflessness of David is again evident.    David buys Araunah's threshingfloor and erects an altar. 

1 Chr 21:18  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.

1 Chr 21:19  And David went up at the saying of Gad, which he spake in the name of the LORD.

1 Chr 21:20  And Ornan turned back, and saw the angel; and his four sons with him hid themselves. Now Ornan was threshing wheat.

1 Chr 21:21  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.

1 Chr 21:22  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.


2 Sam 24:18  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.

2 Sam 24:19  And David, according to the saying of Gad, went up as the LORD commanded.

2 Sam 24:20  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.

2 Sam 24:21  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. 

God directed the prophet Gad to go and build an altar to God at the threshingfloor of Araunah the Jebusite. David therefore prepared to do so.  

In verse 20, Araunah saw the king with his entourage coming.  He inquired as to Davidís purpose in so coming.   David informed him that he had come to buy his land to build an altar there to God.   The reason was to halt the plague which had moved through the land.  

2 Sam 24:22  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.

2 Sam 24:23  All these things did Araunah, as a king, give unto the king. And Araunah said unto the king, The LORD thy God accept thee.

Upon learning Davidís purpose, Araunah prepared to give not only the land, but the wooden implements at hand for firewood and his personal oxen for a sacrifice.    Of interest is his comment, ďThe LORD thy God accept thee.Ē   He did not say, the Lord my God.   Rather, he referred to him as Davidís God.

Araunah was a gentile and may not have been an active worshiper of Jehovah God.     However, even as a gentile, he was willing to give his all to God.

2 Sam 24:24  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.

2 Sam 24:25  And David built there an altar unto the LORD, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. So the LORD was entreated for the land, and the plague was stayed from Israel. 

J. Vernon McGee said that God's people should be willing to help in the finances of the church. 

It is a noble thing that David does. Oh, that Godís people would learn this lesson! Some folk feel that we should not mention finances in Godís work today. I recognize that there is an overemphasis on money, but consider what David did. Araunah wanted to give David the threshingfloor. David said, ďYou canít give it to me. I am going to pay for it.Ē Why? David continued, ďNeither will I offer burnt offerings unto the Lord my God of that which doth cost me nothing.Ē God have mercy on folk today who are taking a spiritual free ride. My friend, pay your way, and God will honor and bless you. This action of Davidís is heart-searching. Are we attempting to give to God that which costs us nothing? God forgive us for being negative in regards to money with Him. May we give as David gaveóDavid, the man after Godís own heart.[2]


David insisted upon buying the land and Araunahís possessions. Apparently, the market value thereof was fifty shekels of silver.   David built there an altar unto the LORD, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings.   God accepted that sacrifice of David and stopped the plague against the land.  

According to I Chronicles 22:1, this became the place of the future temple.   Of interest is that this was the same general spot where Abraham had come to offer Isaac as a sacrifice.   (Which was stopped by the angel and a ram substituted.)  

It was here that Jesus was crucified.   Mount Moriah is the flat hilltop where the temple was built.    Golgotha is a rock outcropping atop Moriah adjacent to the site where the temple was    built.   It is apparent that God ordained this place as holy ground for all ages.     God does not judge sin as we do. What appears to us to be a small offense may be a great sin in the sight of God who knows menís principles, being a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.   His judgments are always according to the truth. 


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Prov 4:18  But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.


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[1]              Henry, Matthew, Matthew Henryís Commentary on the Bible, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers) 1997.

[2]              J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible commentary [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1981 by J. Vernon McGee.