|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
24:1-9 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.
Verse 5. - Aroer. There is some uncertainty as to the Aroer here meant. There is first a city of that name in the tribe of Gad facing Rabbah (Joshua 13:25), and this is apparently the city meant; for it is said that "Joab and his men pitched in Aroer, on the south side of the city situated in the middle of the valley of Gad, and unto Jazer." Now, Jazer is also in Gad, about seven miles west of Rabbah, and as Rabbah is on the extreme east of the Israelite territory towards Ammon, it would be a very convenient spot from which to commence the numbering, But there is another Aroer on the Arnon, to the south of Reuben, and many commentators think that this Aroer must be meant, as otherwise the tribe of Reuben would seem to have been omitted. But this Aroer is regularly called "Aroer on the brink of the valley of Arnon" (Deuteronomy 2:36; Deuteronomy 4:48; Joshua 12:2; Joshua 13:9, 16); or simply Aroer "in the valley of Arnon" (Deuteronomy 3:12; 2 Kings 10:33); and cannot possibly be "the city in the midst of the valley of Gad," nor can this Aroer be "toward Jazer." Really the difficulty is made by commentators whose idea of the method of the census is superficial. Joab, in commencing it, formed an encampment in the open country on the right-hand side, that is, on the south of Aroer in the tribe of Gad, as being central, with Reuben on the south, and Manasseh on the north. It was "toward Jazer," that is, it was on the Jazer side of Aroer, and not on the side opposite Rabbah. We, with our simpler way of describing the points of the compass, would merely say that Joab's camp was in the open pasture land southwest of Aroer. Joab probably selected this spot because, though on the eastern border, it was yet not too far from Jerusalem, was central, and because a brook from Jazer flowing eastward for some distance, and thence to the north past Rabbah, would supply his people with water; and from this camp he would direct the proceedings of those who were to take the census. And as probably there would be considerable opposition - for the people would see in an act which for four centuries had been in desuetude threats of heavier taxation, of heavier forced labour, and of longer service with the army - Joab would require the presence of a body of troops sufficiently powerful to overawe malcontents. And these would be of no use at Aroer on the Arnon, in the distant south, but must lie eneamped in some central position, whence detachments could rapidly be moved to any place where there was danger of resistance.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And they passed over Jordan,.... To take the number of the tribes of Reuben and Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh first:
and pitched in Aroer; for it seems that Joab and the captains had the army with them, and the several captains under their command, partly to assist in numbering the people, and partly to keep them in awe, lest they should oppose them, not knowing what was the design of all this Aroer was a city given to the tribe of Gad, and rebuilt by them, Numbers 32:34,
on the right side of the city; that is, of Aroer, the south side of it, as the Targum, did Joab and his army pitch:
that lieth in the midst of the river of Gad; which was the river Arnon, so called now from the tribe of Gad, which possessed it, and so the Targum, in the midst of the river of the tribe of Gad; for in the midst of the river Arnon Aroer lay, see Joshua 13:9,
and toward Jazer; another city given to the Gadites, Numbers 32:3; and, according to Bunting (u), was sixteen miles from Aroer.
(u) Travels, &c. p. 147.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
5. they passed over Jordan—This census was taken first in the eastern parts of the Hebrew kingdom; and it would seem that Joab was accompanied by a military force, either to aid in this troublesome work, or to overawe the people who might display reluctance or opposition.
the river of Gad—"Wady" would be a better term. It extends over a course estimated at about sixty miles, which, though in summer almost constantly dry, exhibits very evident traces of being swept over by an impetuous torrent in winter (see De 2:36).
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