2 Samuel 24

1 Again the LORD’s anger burnt against Israel, and he moved David against them, saying, “Go, count Israel and Judah.” 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.” 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?” 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. 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; 6 then they came to Gilead, and to the land of Tahtim Hodshi; and they came to Dan Jaan, and around to Sidon, 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. 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. 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. 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.” 11 When David rose up in the morning, the LORD’s word came to the prophet Gad, David’s seer, saying, 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.”’” 13 So Gad came to David, and told him, and said to him, “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.” 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.” 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. 16 When the angel stretched out his hand towards 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. 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.” 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.” 19 David went up according to the saying of Gad, as the LORD commanded. 20 Araunah looked out, and saw the king and his servants coming on towards him. Then Araunah went out, and bowed himself before the king with his face to the ground. 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.” 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 instruments and the yokes of the oxen for the wood. 23 All this, O king, does Araunah give to the king.” Araunah said to the king, “May the LORD your God accept you.” 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. 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.

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Questions about today’s reading? See if Matthew Henry can help.
Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, 1706

Verses 1–9

For the people’s sin David was left to act wrong, and in his chastisement they received punishment. This example throws light upon God’s government of the world, and furnishes a useful lesson. The pride of David’s heart, was his sin in numbering of the people. He thought thereby to appear the more formidable, trusting in an arm of flesh more than he should have done, and though he had written so much of 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 discerns the thoughts and intents of the heart. Even ungodly men can discern evil tempers and wrong conduct in believers, of which they themselves often remain unconscious. But God seldom allows those whom he loves the pleasures they sinfully covet.

Verses 10–15

It is well, when a man has sinned, if he has a heart within to smite him for it. If we confess our sins, we may pray in faith that God would forgive them, and take away, by pardoning mercy, that sin which we cast away by sincere repentance. What we make the matter of our pride, it is just in God to take from us, or make bitter to us, and make it our punishment. This must be such a punishment as the people have a large share in, for though it was David’s sin that opened the sluice, the sins of the people all contributed to the flood. In this difficulty, David chose a judgment which came immediately from God, whose mercies he knew to be very great, rather than from men, who would have triumphed in the miseries of Israel, and have been thereby hardened in their idolatry. He chose the pestilence; he and his family would be as much exposed to it as the poorest Israelite; and he would continue for a shorter time under the Divine rebuke, however severe it was. The rapid destruction by the pestilence shows how easily God can bring down the proudest sinners, and how much we owe daily to the Divine patience.

Verses 16–17

Perhaps there was more wickedness, especially more pride, and that was the sin now chastised, in Jerusalem than elsewhere, therefore the hand of the destroyer is stretched out upon that city; but the Lord repented him of the evil, changed not his mind, but his way. In the very place where Abraham was stayed from slaying his son, this angel, by a like countermand, was stayed from destroying Jerusalem. It is for the sake of the great Sacrifice, that our forfeited lives are preserved from the destroying angel. And in David is the spirit of a true shepherd of the people, offering himself as a sacrifice to God, for the salvation of his subjects.

Verses 18–25

God’s encouraging us to offer to him spiritual sacrifices, is an evidence of his reconciling us to himself. David purchased the ground to build the altar. God hates robbery for burnt-offering. Those know not what religion is, who chiefly care to make it cheap and easy to themselves, and who are best pleased with that which costs them least pains or money. For what have we our substance, but to honour God with it; and how can it be better bestowed? See the building of the altar, and the offering proper sacrifices upon it. Burnt-offerings to the glory of God’s justice; peace-offerings to the glory of his mercy. Christ is our Altar, our Sacrifice; in him alone we may expect to escape his wrath, and to find favour with God. Death is destroying all around, in so many forms, and so suddenly, that it is madness not to expect and prepare for the close of life.

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