Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
And again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.4. David’s Failure: the Altar on the Threshing Floor of Araunah
1. The numbering of the people (2Samuel 24:1-9)
2. The sin acknowledged and Gad’s message (2Samuel 24:10-14)
3. The pestilence (2Samuel 24:15-17)
4. The altar on the threshing floor of Araunah (2Samuel 24:18-25)
The final chapter of the books of Samuel is of much interest and importance. “And again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and He moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.” In 1Chronicles 21:1 we read “And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.” This has often been pointed out as a discrepancy and contradiction. Criticism has explained it in the following way: “Of surpassing interest for the study of the progressiveness of revelation in the Old Testament period is the form which the chronicler has given to this verse. To his more developed religious sense the idea was abhorrent that God could be subject to moods, and incite men to a course of action for which He afterwards calls them to account. Accordingly he writes: ‘And Satan stood up against Israel and moved David to number Israel.’“ There is no contradiction here nor do the two accounts need an explanation as the above. Israel had committed some sin which brought upon them the displeasure of Jehovah. Satan the accuser was then permitted to influence David. The statement, “He (God) moved David,” also means in Hebrew, “He suffered him to be moved.” He permitted Satan to do his work. In 1Timothy 3:6 we read that pride is the condemnation (or as it is literally “the crime”) of the devil. And Satan the accuser moves David with national pride to number the people. It is significant that preceding this record are the names and achievements of the mighty men of David. No doubt his heart swelled with much elation over his victories and great achievements. While David’s eyes were blinded by Satan, Joab saw the danger. In 1Chronicles 21:3 we read that he said to David: “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 doth my lord require this thing? Why will he be a cause of guilt to Israel?” The King’s word prevailed and reluctantly Joab and the captains went forth to carry out the King’s command. It was altogether a military census. But the census was not completed (1Chronicles 27:24).
David’s heart then smote him and we see him coming to the Lord and confessing his sin. “I have sinned greatly in that I have done; and now I beseech thee, LORD, take away the iniquity of Thy servant; for I have done very foolishly.” It was a true confession he made that night. Then the Lord sent the answer through the prophet Gad. The Lord leaves the choice to David. Either three years of famine, three months of flight or three days of pestilence. (This is according to 1Chronicles 21:12; 2Samuel 24:13 records seven years, which must be the error of some copyist.) And here the man of faith asserts himself “Let us now fall into the hand of the LORD; for His mercies are great, and let me not fall into the hand of man.” And the Lord did not disappoint His servant’s faith in His mercy. When the angel stretched out his hand upon Jerusalem to destroy it the Lord said, It is enough; stay now thine hand. And the angel of the Lord, the same who appeared to the patriarchs, to Moses, Joshua and others, was by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. Once more David’s voice is heard in confession. “I have sinned, and I have done wickedly; but these sheep, what have they done? Let Thy hand, I pray thee, be against me, and against my father’s house.” He was willing to be the one sufferer for his people; in this he is a type again of our Lord, the sinbearer. He is commanded to rear an altar upon the threshing floor of Araunah. “It was a fitting spot for mercy upon Israel, this place where of old faithful Abraham had been ready to offer his only son unto God; fitting also as still outside the city; but chiefly in order that the pardoning and sparing mercy now shown, might indicate the site where, on the great altar of burnt-offering, abundant mercy in pardon and acceptance would in the future be dispensed to Israel” (A. Edersheim). It was the place upon which the temple was built (1Chronicles 21:28-30; 1Chronicles 22:1). And Araunah the Jebusite offered willingly the threshing floor and the sacrificial animals. But David would not consent. “Neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the LORD my God of that which doth cost me nothing.” For fifty shekels of silver he bought the oxen and the threshing floor. Then the burnt offerings and peace offerings ascended unto Jehovah as a sweet savour. And Jehovah answered by fire (1Chronicles 21:26). And David before that altar, who buys and offers, thus meeting the claim of God, is a type of our Lord who bought us with the great price and offered Himself And even so as this book closes with the Lord being merciful to His land and people, the plague stayed, so will Israel in the future receive and enjoy His mercy. It will be the result of the one sacrifice.