2 Samuel 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.
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(15) The time appointed.—Much difficulty has been found with this expression; but, if the Hebrew can bear this meaning, it may be understood well enough of the time (somewhat less than three days, 2Samuel 24:16), which God in His good pleasure determined. The Hebrew, however, probably means “time of assembly,” which is generally understood to signify the time of the evening sacrifice; so the Chaldee understand it, and so also St. Jerome. This would reduce the time of the pestilence to a single day.

When the angel.—The abruptness of the mention of “the angel” here is removed in 1Chronicles 21:15, “And God sent an angel unto Jerusalem to destroy it; and as he was destroying it, the Lord beheld, and he repented,” &c.

Threshing-place.—Better, threshing-floor, as the same word is translated in 2Samuel 24:18; 2Samuel 24:21; 2Samuel 24:24.

Araunah the Jebusite.—The name is variously spelled, “Avarnah” (text), “Aranyah” (2Samuel 24:18, text), and “Aravnah” (margin); in Chronicles it is uniformly “Ornan.” The latter is thought to be the Hebrew, and the former the Jebusite name, slightly varied in. expression in Hebrew. He was a Jebusite, i.e., descended from the former possessors of Jerusalem; but we are not told whether he was now a proselyte.

When he saw the angel.—More fully (1Chronicles 21:16), “And David lifted up his eyes, and saw the angel of the Lord stand between the earth and the heaven, having a drawn sword in his hand stretched out over Jerusalem.”

These sheep.—David seeks to take all blame to himself, and prays that punishment may fall only upon him and his father’s house. But, without mooting the question as to how far the people actively shared in David’s sin, his prayer was impossible to be granted. Such was the divinely ordained federal relation between the ruler and his people that they were necessarily involved in the guilt of their head.

2 Samuel 24:15. So the Lord sent a pestilence upon Israel — The event immediately answered to the choice; a plague instantly ensued. From the morning even to the time appointed — From that morning, in which Gad came to David, to the third day, the time appointed by God for the continuance of the plague. But not to the conclusion of that day, for we learn from the next verse that God, moved by the repentance of the king and his subjects, commanded the destroying angel to stay his hand, which plainly indicates that he had not fully accomplished the commission at first given him. There died of the people seventy thousand — “A calamity,” says Delaney, “which has no parallel in the whole compass of history.” It seems that the Hebrew nation were not only guilty, at this time, of many other sins, but were very culpable in regard to the numbering of the people, as well as David. They gloried, it is probable, in, and relied upon their numbers, and their own strength, instead of trusting in God and in his promises, for protection against, and victory over their enemies. And, therefore, it was with reason that they fell in this sad manner, to show them that all flesh is grass, and that their own strength and numbers availed nothing without God.

24:10-15 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.The time appointed - Perhaps "the time of the assembly," meaning the time of the evening sacrifice, at three o'clock, when the people assembled for prayer, more commonly described as "the time of the evening oblation" Daniel 9:21; 1 Kings 18:29, 1 Kings 18:36; Acts 3:1; Luke 1:10.

Seventy thousand - It is the most destructive plague recorded as having fallen upon the Israelites. In the plague that followed the rebellion of Korah there died 14,700 Numbers 16:49; in the plague, on account of Baal-Peor, 24,000 Numbers 25:9; 1 Corinthians 10:8.

2Sa 24:15-25. His Intercession to God; the Plague Ceases.

15. from the morning—rather that morning when Gad came [2Sa 24:18], till the end of the three days.

there died of the people … seventy thousand men—Thus was the pride of the vainglorious monarch, confiding in the number of his population, deeply humbled.

To the time appointed; either,

1. From morning to evening, which is here called the time appointed; or, the time of the convention, or, public meeting, as this Hebrew word oft signifies, i. e. till the time of the evening prayer and sacrifice, when the people used more solemnly to meet together. See Psalm 141:2 Acts 3:1. Thus God mitigated his sentence, and turned three days into one; it being a thing not unusual with God to qualify his threatenings, and to take off the evil threatened sometimes wholly, as in Nineveh’s case, and sometimes in part. And this God might do here upon the speedy and serious repentance of David, and of his people. Or rather,

2. From the morning (or rather, from that morning; for the article seems to be emphatical, and to denote that very morning in which Gad came to David, 2 Samuel 24:11, and that the plague did immediately ensue after Gad’s offer, and David’s choice,)

even to the time appointed, to wit, by God, i.e. for three days, as God had set the time, 2 Samuel 24:13.

Object. If it continued three days, how is it said that God repented him of the evil, and stopped the angel in his course? 2 Samuel 24:16.

Answ. This he did in the beginning of the third day, whereas otherwise it should have gone on to the end of the day. Or it may signify no more but this, At the end of the third day God gave over smiting; for then is God said (after the manner of men) to repent, when he ceaseth to proceed as before he had done. Seventy thousand men; so the number of his people, which was the matter of his pride and glorying, was diminished.

So the Lord sent a pestilence upon Israel,.... Upon the land of Israel, the people of the land, directly employing an angel to go through the coasts of it, and empowering him to inflict a pestilential disease:

from the morning even to the time appointed: from the morning the prophet Gad came to David with a message from the Lord; that very morning the plague began, and lasted to the time set for it, the three days, or at least unto the beginning of the third, when reaching Jerusalem, the Lord repented of it, and stayed his hand; though many think a much shorter time is intended; some think it lasted no more than half a day, if so much; some say but three hours (f); the Septuagint version, until dinnertime; and the Syriac and Arabic versions, until the sixth hour of the day, which was noon; and so Kimchi says, some of their Rabbins interpret it of the half or middle of the day; the Targum is,"from the time the daily sacrifice was slain until it was burnt;''and it is the sense of several learned men that it was only from the morning until the time of the evening sacrifice, or evening prayer, about three o'clock in the afternoon, and so lasted about nine hours:

and there died of the people, from Dan even to Beersheba, seventy thousand men; so that there was a great diminution of the people in all places where they were numbered; and David's sin may be read in the punishment of it; his heart was lifted up by the numbers of his people, and now it must be humbled by the lessening of them.

(f) Pirke Eliezer, c. 43.

So the LORD sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning even to the time appointed: and there died of the people from {h} Dan even to Beersheba seventy thousand men.

(h) From the one side of the country to the other.

15–17. The Plague

15. even to the time appointed] The meaning of these words, which are not found in Chron., is very doubtful. (1) The E. V. follows the Vulg. usque ad tempus constitutum. This would naturally mean until the end of the third day; but the duration of the plague seems to have been mercifully shortened (2 Samuel 24:16). Perhaps a time appointed (there is no definite article) might mean a time determined in the counsel of God, before the expiration of the period originally named. (2) Most commentators render until the time of assembly, i.e. the hour for offering the evening sacrifice, about three o’clock in the afternoon. Cp. 1 Kings 18:29; 1 Kings 18:36; Daniel 9:21; Acts 3:1. This is supported by the explanation given in the Targum: “from the time of the slaying of the perpetual sacrifice until it is burned;” and by Jerome (Quaest. Hebr. in libros Regum): “By the time appointed is meant that at which the evening sacrifice was offered.” (3) The Sept. rendering, until the time of breakfast, i.e. noon, is improbable.

Verse 15. - Even to the time appointed. This rendering, though very uncertain, is retained in the Revised Version. It would mean, of course, the end of the third day, as the pestilence was to last for that time. The objections to it are that there is no article in the Hebrew, so that literally it would be "unto a time appointed." Secondly, the pestilence did not continue unto the time appointed, but was mercifully stayed. And thirdly, these words are a literal translation, indeed, of the Vulgate, but a violation of its meaning. For Jerome, who made the translation, says, "'tempus constitutum' means the hour when the evening sacrifice was offered" ('Tradd. Hebrews in Duos Libres Regum'). The versions all agree that the pestilence lasted only a few hours. Thus the Syriac translates, "From morning until the sixth hour," i.e. noon. So too the Septuagint, "From morning until the midday meal." The Vulgate adds on thrice hours, as the evening sacrifice was at the ninth hour; and this is the meaning of the Chaldee Paraphrase: "From the time the daily sacrifice was slain until it was burnt." As the word moed used here means both a time or place appointed for a meeting, and also the meeting itself, the right translation probably is, "From the morning even to the time of assembly," or, as we should say, "the hour of service." Moed was the regular word for the time of the temple service, derived from the old name of the tabernacle, which was called "the tent of moed" (see Numbers 16:19, etc.), rendered iu the Authorized Version, "the tabernacle of the congregation," and in the Revised Version, "the tent of meeting." The hour would thus be the ninth, or three o'clock in the afternoon. Seventy thousand men. This is a vast number to fall victims of the pestilence in so short a time, as even the most dangerous forms of sickness take some days for their development. But similarly the army of Sennacherib was cut off in a night (Isaiah 37:36); as were the firstborn in Egypt, whose visitation more nearly resembles the course of this pestilence; and the rapidity of the death blow, striking down so vast a multitude suddenly throughout all parts of the land, would be proof to every mind that the mortality was the Divine chastisement for national sin. It is possible, nevertheless, that the black death cloud, bringing with it the plague, may have been settling down upon the land previously, and have alarmed David, and brought him to repentance; and though no new cases occurred after the offering of his burnt offerings (ver. 25), yet it by no means follows that all cases of infection were miraculously cured. The malady may have run in them its normal course. It was Jerusalem that was saved from the blow, and, after the offering of the burnt offering, the pestilence smote down no more. 2 Samuel 24:15God then gave (sent) a pestilence into (upon) Israel, "from the morning till the time of the assembly;" and there died of the people in the whole land (from Dan to Beersheba) seventy thousand men. "From the morning:" on which Gad had foretold the punishment. The meaning of מועד ועד־עת is doubtful. The rendering "to the time appointed," i.e., "till the expiration of the three days," in support of which the Vulgate (ad tempus constitutum) is wrongly appealed to, is precluded not only by the circumstance that, according to 2 Samuel 24:16, the plague was stayed earlier because God repented Him of the evil, so that it did not last so long as was at first appointed, but also by the grammatical difficulty that מועד עת has no article, and can only be rendered "for an (not for the) appointed time." We meet with two different explanations in the ancient versions: one in the Septuagint, ἕως ὥρας ἀρίστου, "till the hour of breakfast," i.e., till the sixth hour of the day, which is the rendering also adopted by the Syriac and Arabic as well as by Kimchi and several of the Rabbins; the other in the Chaldee (Jonathan), "from the time at which the sacrifice is commonly slain until it is consumed." Accordingly Bochart explains מועד את as signifying "the time at which the people came together for evening prayers, about the ninth hour of the day, i.e., the third hour in the afternoon" (vid., Acts 3:1). The same view also lies at the foundation of the Vulgate rendering, according to the express statement of Jerome (traditt. Hebr. in 2 libr. Regum): "He calls that the time appointed, in which the evening sacrifice was offered." It is true that this meaning of מועד cannot be established by precisely analogous passages, but it may be very easily deduced from the frequent employment of the word to denote the meetings and festivals connected with the worship of God, when it generally stands without an article, as for example in the perfectly analogous מועד יום (Hosea 9:5; Lamentations 2:7, Lamentations 2:22); whereas it is always written with the article when it is sued in the general sense of a fixed time, and some definite period is referred to.

(Note: The objections brought against this have no force in them, viz., that, according to this view, the section must have been written a long time after the captivity (Clericus and Thenius), and that "the perfectly general expression 'the time of meeting' could not stand for the time of the afternoon or evening meeting" (Thenius): for the former rests upon the assumption that the daily sacrifice was introduced after the captivity, - an assumption quite at variance with the historical facts; and the latter is overthrown by the simple remark, that the indefinite expression derived its more precise meaning from the legal appointment of the morning and evening sacrifice as times of meeting for the worship of God, inasmuch as the evening meeting was the only one that could be placed in contrast with the morning.)

We must therefore decide in favour of the latter. But if the pestilence did not last a whole day, the number of persons carried off by it (70,000 men) exceeded very considerably the number destroyed by the most violent pestilential epidemics on record, although they have not unfrequently swept off hundreds of thousands in a very brief space of time. But the pestilence burst upon the people in this instance with supernatural strength and violence, that it might be seen at once to be a direct judgment from God.

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