2 Samuel 24


‘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.’ So the king said to Joab and the army commanders with him, ‘Go throughout the tribes of Israel from Dan to Beersheba and enrol the fighting men, so that I may know how many there are.’ 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?’ The king’s word, however, overruled Joab and the army commanders; so they left the presence of the king to enrol the fighting men of Israel. After crossing the Jordan, they camped near Aroer, south of the town in the gorge, and then went through Gad and on to Jazer. They went to Gilead and the region of Tahtim Hodshi, and on to Dan Jaan and around toward Sidon. 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. After they had gone through the entire land, they came back to Jerusalem at the end of nine months and twenty days. 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.’ 2 Samuel 24:1-9

David Enrols The Fighting Men

In this final chapter, we read that the Lord’s anger burned against Israel once again, 1 Chronicles 21:1-17. We know when God’s anger is let loose, then the consequences for those on the receiving end wasn’t going to end well.

Notice how God incited David against Israel, we must be careful how we interpret this because if we are to understand this to mean that God incited David to do something sinful to punish Israel for some sin which isn’t mentioned.

However when we read 1 Chronicles 21:1 where it says, ‘Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel’, along with what is written here we can understand that this means that God allowed Satan to tempt David as He allowed Satan to tempt Job, Job 1:8-12.

David tells Joab and the commanders of his army to take a census and count how many people there were among Israel and Judah, from Dan to Beersheba, Judges 20:1 / 1 Samuel 3:20 / 2 Samuel 3:20 /2 Samuel 17:11.

The reason for the counting of people was possibly a lack of faith in God, on David’s part, and so God was going to teach Israel not to trust in the strength of their army but to trust in God who was working through their army. God was angry with Israel because they didn’t trust that He was working in and through their army.

They began at Aroer, south of the town in the gorge, and then went through Gad and on to Jazer, these places are mentioned in Deuteronomy 2:36, they formed the southern boundary of the land taken by Israel from Sihon.

Joab found David’s commands repulsive, 1 Chronicles 21:6, and although Joab and his men went almost everywhere in Israel, they didn’t fully obey David’s commands, because they left out the tribes of Levi and Benjamin from the census.

‘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.’ Before David got up the next morning, the word of the LORD had come to Gad the prophet, David’s seer: ‘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.’ 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.’ 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.’ 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. 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. 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.’ 2 Samuel 24:10-17

It appears that David came to his senses after he had counted the fighting men. He didn’t need to be rebuked and told he had sinned by a prophet as he did earlier with Nathan, 2 Samuel 12:7-14. He openly confesses his sin to God but he knows he has to pay the consequences of his actions.

David’s seer, Gad, tells him he has three choices, either Israel as a nation could endure seven years of famine, or David himself could endure three months as a fugitive, or Israel could suffer three days of plagues, and so, he chooses the three days of plagues.

As a result of David’s sin and his choice, 70,000 people died and the plague came to end by God’s command when it reached Jerusalem at the threshing floor of Araunah, the Jebusite.

David Builds An Altar

‘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.’ So David went up, as the LORD had commanded through Gad. 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. 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.’ 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. Your Majesty, Araunah gives all this to the king.’ Araunah also said to him, ‘May the LORD your God accept you.’ 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. 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.’ 2 Samuel 24:18-25

Gad, David’s seer, told David to build an altar to the Lord, so David buys the threshing floor from Araunah as the place to build the altar, this is the very place where God stopped the plague. The altar was built in order to thank God for sparing the nation of Israel, 1 Chronicles 21:18-26.

Although Araunah wanted to give his threshing floor to David for free, David insist on paying for it and he pays fifty shekels not only for the land but also for the oxen and the threshing sledges and ox yokes of wood.

1 Chronicles 21:25 says that David paid 600 shekels, this would be the price for the entire surrounding area. Some believe that this site is where the temple was going to be eventually built.

After building the altar and sacrificing a burnt offering and fellowship offering, the Lord answered David’s prayer and stopped the plague completely.


"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."