Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
The Numbering of the People and the Plague
2 SAMUEL 24:1–25
1And again the anger of the Lord [Jehovah] was kindled against Israel, and he moved [incited] David against them to say [saying], Go, number Israel and Judah. 2For [And] the king said to Joab the captain [Joab and the captains1] of the host which was [were] with him, Go now through all the tribes of Israel, from Dan even [om. even] to Beersheba, and number ye the people, that I may know the number of the people. 3And Joab said unto the king, Now [om. Now2] the Lord [Jehovah] thy God add unto the people, how many soever they be, an hundredfold, and that the eyes of my lord the king may see it; but why doth my lord the 4king delight in this thing? Notwithstanding [And] the king’s word prevailed against Joab, and against the captains of the host. And Joab and the captains of the host went out from the presence of the king, to number the people of Israel. 5And they passed over Jordan, and pitched in Aroer on the right side of the city. [better, and began from Aroer and from the city3] that lieth in the midst of the river 6[valley] of Gad [toward Gad] and toward Jazer. Then [And] they came to Gilead and to the land of Tahtim-hodshi [perhaps land of the Hittites to Kadesh], and they came to Dan-jaan, and about to Zidon, 7And 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, even [om. even] to Beersheba. 8So when they had gone through all the land, they came to Jerusalem at the end of nine months and twenty days. 9And Joab gave up the sum of the number [the number of the census] of the people unto the king; and there were in Israel eight hundred thousand valiant men [warriors] that drew the sword; and the men of Judah were five hundred thousand men.
10And David’s heart smote him after that4 he had numbered the people. And David said unto the Lord [Jehovah], I have sinned greatly in that I have done. And now, I beseech thee, O Lord [Jehovah], take away the iniquity of thy servant, for I have done very foolishly. 11For when David was up [And David arose] in the morning—[ins. and] the word of the Lord [Jehovah] came unto the prophet Gad, David’s seer, saying, 12Go and say unto David, Thus saith the Lord [Jehovah], 13I offer5 thee three things; choose thee one of them, that I may do it unto thee. So [And] Gad came to David, and told him, and said unto him, Shall seven [better three6] years of famine come unto thee in thy land? or wilt thou flee three months before thine enemies, while they pursue thee? or that there be three days’ pestilence in thy land? now advise, and see what answer I shall return to him that sent me. 14And David said unto Gad, I am in a great strait; let us fall now into the hand of the Lord [Jehovah], for his mercies are great; and let me not fall into the hand of man.
15So [And] the Lord [Jehovah] sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning even [om. even] to the time appointed; and there died of the people from Dan even [om. even] to Beersheba seventy thousand men. 16And when the angel [And the angel] stretched out his hand upon Jerusalem to destroy it, the Lord [and Jehovah] repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed the people, It is enough, stay now thine hand. And the angel of the Lord [Jehovah] was by the threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite. 17And David spake unto the Lord [Jehovah] when he saw the angel that smote the people, and said, Lo, I have sinned, and I have done wickedly; but these sheep, what have they done? let thine hand, I pray thee, be against me, and against my father’s house.
18And Gad came that day to David, and said unto him, Go up, rear an altar unto 19the Lord [Jehovah] in the threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite. And David, according to the saying of Gad, went up as the Lord [Jehovah] commanded. 20And Araunah looked, and saw the king and his servants coming on toward him; and Araunah went out, and bowed himself before the king on his face upon the ground. 21And Araunah said, Wherefore is my lord the king come to his servant? And David said, To buy the threshing-floor of thee, to build an altar unto the Lord 22[Jehovah], that the plague may be stayed from the people. And Araunah said unto David, Let my lord the king take and offer up what seemeth good unto him; behold, here be [are] oxen for burnt sacrifice, and [ins. the] threshing-instruments 23and other [the] instruments of the oxen for wood. All these things did Araunah, as a king, give unto the king [All gives Araunah, O king, to the king; or, the whole gives the servant of my lord the king to the king7]. And Araunah said unto the king, The Lord [Jehovah] thy God accept thee. 24And the king said unto Araunah, Nay, but I will surely buy it of thee at a price, neither will I [and I will not] offer burnt-offerings unto the Lord [Jehovah] my God of that which doth cost me nothing. So [And] David bought the threshing-floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of sil2 Samuel 24:25And David built there an altar unto the Lord [Jehovah], and offered burnt-offerings and peace-offerings. So [And] the Lord [Jehovah] was entreated for the land, and the plague was stayed from Israel.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
I. 2 Samuel 24:1–8. David’s sin in numbering the people.
2 Samuel 24:1. And again the anger of the Lord was kindled. The “again” evidently refers to the famine in 21:1–14; comp. especially 2 Samuel 24:1 and the identical endings of the two accounts (2 Samuel 24:25 here and 2 Samuel 24:14 there): “Jehovah (God) was entreated for the land.” From this both sections may be inferred to be from the same source. [Hence some regard 21:15–23. as inserted in the midst of this history, and the two poems 22, 23:1–7 as an insertion in the narrative 21:15–22, 23:8–39. Erdmann regards these various sections as separately selected, and put together according to a definite plan.—TR.]—The additions in the parallel section 1 Chron. 21:1–22, are to be referred to another fuller authority that the Chronicler had before him (Mov., Ew.), but not also in part to “pure remodeling by the Chronicler himself.” (Ew.).—The time of this census is certainly to be put in the later years of David’s reign, “partly because the pestilence here described is expressly said to be the second of the two great plagues under David, partly because such a measure as the census, which occupied Joab 9 months and 20 days, could have been begun only in a perfectly quiet year” (Ew.). It cannot belong to the time before the insurrections of Absalom and Sheba (Seb. Schmid), because it presupposes a permanent condition of peace without and within. The late date is also favored by the fact that the Chronicler attaches immediately to this history (in accordance with its conclusion, the purchase of Araunah’s threshing-floor as the site of the future temple) the description of the preparations for the building of the temple and David’s arrangements for divine service, which Chron, puts in this peaceful last period of his reign. “One would not, indeed, think of David’s very last days, when death was daily before him; such great matters are not undertaken at such a time” (Hengst.).—The kindling of God’s anger presupposes a grave offence against God; and this not merely by David (whose guilt is expressly affirmed in 2 Samuel 24:3, 10, 12 sqq.), but also by the whole people, since “Israel” is designated as the object of the divine anger (2 Samuel 24:1), and the punitive plague was intended to include the whole nation (2 Samuel 24:13 sq.). This offence of the people consists, however, not in any “hidden sins” (D. Kimchi), nor in the insurrections under Absalom and Sheba (Keil), but (since God’s anger is obviously causally connected with David’s deed) in their participation in David’s sin.—And He incited David against them, that is, against Israel, and the subject of the Verb is Jehovah, not Satan (so several older expositors [and Ewald] after Chron.), nor David’s thought of numbering the people (Theod.) The outburst of God’s wrath against Israel is produced by a sin of David’s, to which the “incitement came from the Lord;” the statement in Chron: “Satan8 stood up against Israel and incited David” is not in contradiction with this, since Satan is not an independent agent alongside of God, but appears always as subject to and dependent on Him. Job 1; Zech. 3. Buddæus’ explanation: “God and the devil may concur in one and the same evil deed, though in different ways, the latter by impelling, the former by permitting” must be corrected in accordance with this statement.—“The Lord incited David” means, not that He destroyed his free will and forced him, but that He permitted the temptations, resident in the circumstances ordained by Him, to approach David, and so developed the germinal ungodly desire in David’s heart into a determination of the will, and thence into the deed. See on 1 Sam. 26:19, and “Historical and Theological” to that chapter [see James 1:13, 14; there is here involved the whole subject of the co-relation of divine and human action, about which we can only insist on the two unharmonizable facts of the absolute efficient control of God, and the complete independence of man.—TR.]—Saying, go, number Israel and Judah! David’s aim in this census could not have been pleasure at the great number that it would show, and at the growth and well-being of his subjects thus brought out (S. Schmid and other older expositors); that would have been a childish undertaking, considering the great expenditure of time and strength made. Ewald (Hist. III. 218, bibl. Jahrb. 10, 34 sq.) holds that his purpose was to perfect the royal power internally, and establish a strict rule that should embrace the whole life of the nation; the census, he thinks, was intended “to drag the people as far as possible” into all sorts of taxes, such as existed in Egypt and Phenicia, and on this supposition he bases the opinion that the people, apprehensive of the subversion of their liberty by the royal power, withstood this innovation, and David had consequently to recede from the complete execution of his measure. But there is not a sign in the narrative of such a purpose on David’s part; and against it is the military character and aim of the measure. Apart from 1 Chron. 27:23 sq. (according to which it was connected with the military organization of the people, and probably intended to complete it), it is here discussed in the council of military officers, and executed by Joab the commander-in-chief himself in conjunction with them; and the census took account not of all classes of the people, or of all independent men, but only of “valiant men that drew the sword.” As is stated at the outset, military camps were formed for the numbering (mustering). “The military character of the procedure is clear also from the fact that Joab delayed as long as possible carrying it into Benjamin, in order not to arouse the insurrectionary spirit of this tribe, which could not forget the leadership it had possessed under Saul” (Hengst., ubi sup. p. 128).
2 Samuel 24:2. The king said to Joab: Go now through all the tribes of Israel, … and muster ye the people, that I may know the number of the people—a general mustering for a military-statistical purpose. That is, after having subjected foreign nations and established internal order and quiet, David wished to know the military force of the whole people. [Render: “the king said to Joab and to the captains (or princes) of the host that were with him.”—TR.]—In itself this census by David was no more sinful than that of Moses, Ex. 30:12 sq. Wherein David’s sin consisted is indicated in Joab’s words in 2 Samuel 24:3: May now the Lord thy God add to the people, as it is, a hundred-fold, and may the eyes of my lord the king see it! but why does my lord the king delight in this thing? The speech has the form of a conclusion9 from what precedes, and indicates that Joab perceives David’s purpose to be to please himself with the exhibition of the imposing military strength of his people; and the question at the end conveys a moral reproof. The ungodly feature in this undertaking, therefore, was its motive, David’s haughty overestimation of himself and his people. His sin was one both of the lust of the eyes and of pride. So much is true in Josephus’ explanation (followed by Bertheau), which is otherwise incorrect, namely, that David’s sin consisted in his not demanding the expiation-money that, according to Ex. 30:12 sqq., had to be paid by every man mustered; for this requirement of the law (the aim of which was: “that there be no plague among them”) had reference to the danger in such a census of falling into haughtiness and presumptuousness. “David wished to glory in the multitude of the people” (S. Schm.). And the punishment that followed the attempt—so that the number of warriors was diminished, and the result of the census was not noted in the State-annals (1 Chron. 27:24)—shows that it was made in proud self-feeling without the will of the Lord, Israel’s true king, and for a self-chosen end that did not accord with the aims and purposes of the Lord. It is going too far to regard it as David’s purpose here to summon the whole nation to war for new conquests (J. D. Mich.), or to transform the theocratic State (Kurz in Herz. III. 306). Such a complete recession from the dependence of his kingdom on the Lord, such thought of a political world-dominion of Israel, such a complete abandonment of Israel’s national-theocratic calling, presupposes a complete defection on David’s part from the living God. But doubtless he who had led Israel to so lofty a height, forgetting himself before the Lord, had a proud desire to exhibit the splendid array of his people’s military strength, as pledge of the further advance of his house and people, and of the future development of the promise: “thine enemies shall cringe before thee, and thou shalt tread on their high-places” (Deut. 33:29). “To this height David now thought he could advance without God; the annals should show for all time that he had laid the foundations of this mighty work of the future” (Hengst.). The people also, filled with proud national conceit of their strength, shared David’s sin. Though the chief fault was not with the people (Hengst.), yet the solidarity [unity] of David’s sin and his people’s in this haughty anti-theocratic movement, is beyond doubt.
2 Samuel 24:4. David submits, indeed, to Joab’s opposition now also (comp. 3:27; 19:1–7); but he did not follow the voice of good conscience that he heard from his mouth. The word of the king prevailed against Joab, comp. 2 Chron. 28:3; 27:5; not: “stood fast” (De W.).10 “It is noteworthy that such a man as Joab, without living fear of God, but with natural directness and sound practical sense, sees sooner than David, how such a sinful exaltation does not become a king of Israel” (O. v. Gerl.). “Nothing more was said in opposition” (Grotius). In silence Joab and the officers obey their lord’s command; they went out “before the eyes”11 of the king.
2 Samuel 24:5. Exact geographical statement of the beginning of the census. It began beyond the Jordan in Gad, “because military affairs were in an especially flourishing condition there,12 comp. 1 Chron. 12:8 sqq., 37” (Then.) Comp. Thenius’ remarks on 2 Kings 15:25. And encamped at Aroer on the right of the city; they encamped in the plain instead of going into the city, because of the large number of men engaged in taking the census, and so they doubtless did hereafter. [Another reading, in some respects better, is: “they began from Aroer and from the city.” See “Text, and Gram.”—TR.] In the midst of the brook-valley of Gad, that is, not in the vale of the Jabbok, as the greatest river in Gad (Winer, s. v. Thäler and Aroer, Then., Rüetschi in Herz. s. v. Gad); for it is identical with the Aroer of Josh. 12:25, which was before Rabbah (= Rabbah of the Ammonites), that is, between it and the Jordan; for this reason and from the statement in Judg. 11:33 (Jephthah smote the Ammonites from Aroer to Abel Kernaim) it cannot have lain so far north as the Jabbok, but is probably to be sought in the valley noted on the map south of the Jabbok in the middle of the territory of God. According to Von Raumer (p. 259) it is probably the present Ayra southwest from es-Salt, with which Burckhardt also probably identified it (Reisen in Syrien, etc., p. 609). This Aroer in Gad is to be distinguished from 1) Aroer in Judah, southeast of Beersheba, whither David sent a part of the booty of Ziklag, 1 Sam. 30:28, and 2) Aroer on the right (northern) bank of the Arnon in Reuben (Josh. 12:2; Numb. 32:34. [Bib.-Com. holds that Aroer on the Arnon is here meant, on the ground that the description here agrees perfectly with that in Deut. 2:36 (comp. Josh. 13:16), and that if Aroer before Rabbah is meant, the whole tribe of Reuben would be omitted from the census, which is impossible; and this view is the most natural. For a possible city on the Arnon see Art. Arnon in Smith’s Bible-Dict.—Instead of “in the valley of Gad,” render “towards Gad;” they advanced from the southern limit to Gad and Jazer.—TR.]—They encamped13 as far as towards Jazer, the plain in which this gathering was held extended from Aroer to Jazer; Jazer cannot, therefore, have been far from Aroer. Jazer, formerly belonged to the Ammonites, conquered from them (Numb. 21:32), pertained to Gad (Numb. 32:35, Josh. 13:25), a Levitical city (Josh. 21:39, 1 Chron. 6:81); afterwards Moabitic (Isa. 18:8); after the exile Ammonitish (Jer. 48:32), conquered by Judas Maccabæus (Macc. 5:8). Burckhardt (p. 609) conjectures that the name of the old Jazer is found in the fine spring Ain Hazir, which he found near the ruins of a very considerable city in the valley south of es-Salt, whose water flows into the Wady Shoeb, which empties into the Jordan. But Gesenius, who agrees with this conjecture (on Burckh. p. 1062), thinks it possible that Jazer is the present Sir, a ruin at the source of the Wady Sir, which flows into the Jordan, and this view is adopted by Seetzen, who found several pools at Sir (comp. Jer. 48:32: “sea of Jazer”), Van de Velde and Keil (on Numb. 21:32). According to Eusebius (Onom.), “the city of Jazer extended in Gad as far as Aroer, which is before Rabbah.” In accordance with this Von Raumer, who regards Aroer as the present Ayra, to which the valley of Ain Hazir descends, adopts the view that this Ain Hazir is the ancient Jazer, as it is not five English miles from Ayra (p. 263).
2 Samuel 24:6. Then they came to Gilead, the mountain-land on both sides the Jabbok, and thence into the land of Tahtim hodshi. This local expression (regarded as a proper name by Cler. and De Wette, but as such yielding no sense) is variously given by the ancient Versions: Sept.: “land of the Hittites, which is Adasai” [Stier and Theile’s text], or “land of Thabason” [Vat., Tisch.], or, “land of Ethaon Adasai [Alex.]; Symm.: “to the lower way;” Vulg.: “to the lower land of Hodsi.” No tolerable sense can be gotten from the words except on the supposition that the text is corrupt. The first part of Böttcher’s conjectural emendation “under the sea”14 is a fortunate suggestion, since it requires no change in the letters, and this designation of the Lake of Gennesareth as a “sea” accords with the usage of the language [it is the “sea of Kinnereth”] and with the local statements of the narrative. But the second part of his conjecture, that hodshi = “like the new moon,” in reference to the shape of the lake, is too far-fetched. So also Gesenius’ view, that hodshi is a matronymic from the woman called Hodesh in 1 Chron. 8:9 [= Hodshites]. Ewald’s conjecture, to read Hermon for Hodshi, and render: “the lower regions of Hermon” is without support (Thenius). Thenius conjectures that hodshi is for Kedshi,15 Denominative from Kedesh, understanding thereby the town in Naphtali near lake Merom, so that it would read: “they came into the land under the lake [sea] of Kedesh [Kadesh].” But this designation of lake Merom is strange, and does not elsewhere occur; nor does the term “under or, below]” suit, we should rather expect “over [above].” Retaining the “Kedesh,” it is more probable that the reference is to the Levitical city of that name in Issachar, southwest of the lake of Gennesareth (1 Chron. 7:72 (6:57); in Josh. 19:20; 21:28 = Kishion). Comp. Raumer (p. 132, Rem. 36 b) and the country below the lake of Gennesareth southwest in Raumer’s map. This lake is often called a “sea” (Numb, 34:11; Josh. 12:3; 13:27; Isa. 8:23), called so in the last passage without further description (comp. “Galilean sea.” Matt. 4:18; 15:29; Mk. 1:16; 7:31). Instead of Thenius’ adjective form Kadshi [“sea of Kedesh”], it is better to read: “towards Kedesh” (קֵדְשָׁה, comp. Ges. § 90. 2 a. b), understanding the town in Issachar, and rendering: “they came into the land below the sea towards [or, to] Kadesh.” Hither they came from Gilead, passing through the Jordan-plain below the Galilean sea.—[For other conjectures about this expression see Smith’s Bib.-Dict. s. v., Bib.-com. and Philippson: this whole geographical account is omitted in 1 Chron. 21.—TR.]—And they came to Dan Jaan; according to Schultz and Van d. Velde (Mem. p. 306, in Von Raumer p. 125) the present ruin Danian between Tyre and Aire near Ras en Nakura. But this does not agree with the statement that Joab went from this region below the sea to Dan Jaan, thence to Zidon, and then first to Tyre, whereas according to that view he would have gone from Dan Jaan by the sea to Zidon. This route would naturally lead us to think of the Dan that formed the extreme northern boundary of Israel (comp. 2 Samuel 24:2, 15), the old Laish (Josh. 19:47; Judg. 18:29); but the objection to this is that the name Jaan is not appended to this Dan in 2 Samuel 24:2, 15, and we must therefore seek another Dan between Gilead and Zidon. So Hengst., Pent. II. 194. Keil looks for it in northern Perea, southwest of Damascus, taking it to be the same that is mentioned in Gen. 14:14, which according to Deut. 34:1 belonged to Gilead; but that is none other than the well-known Dan-Laish. And since no other place suiting the geographical relations can be found, we hold to this (Dan-Laish), which by its position was particularly suited for a mustering [so Wordsworth and Bib.-Com.—TR.]. But what does the Jaan mean? Bunsen remarks on this passage: “Dan-Jaan, as the name Baal-Jaan on coins shows, is a Phœnician god (literally: Judge, i.e. ruler, the singer,16 i.e. player), answering to the Greek Pan, who gave the city its name.” But this surname is never elsewhere found with Dan. The Vulg. has: in Dan silvestria, “in Dan of the wood” (יַעַר), which reading Winer, Lengerke, Ewald adopt, and render: “Dan in the (Lebanon) forest.” Thenius regards Laish as the original reading.—And about towards Zidon; the “about” [= roundabout] means not the environs of Zidon, but in the direction of Dan; from the northern border they turned around towards the north-western border of the kingdom.17
2 Samuel 24:7. From Zidon they went southward, and came to the fortified city Zor (= “rock”), comp. Josh. 19:29, the fortress Tyre built on a rock on the mainland (now Sur), in distinction from the insular Tyre. They came, therefore, into the territory of Asher, which bordered on that of Zidon and Tyre.—And into all the cities of the Hivites and Canaanites, that is, in Naphtali, Zebulon and Issachar, the region afterwards called Galilee, “in which the Canaanites were not exterminated by the Israelites, but only made tributary” (Keil). [It hence appears that even as late as this these native tribes had cities of their own. The division into Hivites and Canaanites is remarkable; perhaps these were the most prominent of the surviving native races. The Hivite territory extended down near Jerusalem (Gibeon), see Judg. 3:3; Josh. 11:3; what the “Canaanite” district was is not clear.—TR.]—And went out to the south of Judah to Beersheba, passed along the western border throughout the length of the land from Dan to Beersheba.
2 Samuel 24:8. The return, after nine months and twenty days. According to 1 Chron. 21:6 the census was not extended into Benjamin and Levi, “because the king’s word was an abomination to Joab,” and according to 1 Chron. 27:24 Joab did not finish the numbering “because wrath therefor came upon Israel.” Joab, who had entered unwillingly (2 Samuel 24:3) on the execution of the king’s command, had not made haste; then David saw his wrong, the plague broke out before the census was finished; the numbering had not yet begun in Benjamin, nor in Levi (which, however, was excepted therefrom by Num. 1:47–49).
2 Samuel 24:9. Statement of the total number of the people mustered: Israel had eight hundred thousand arms-bearing men, Judah five hundred thousand. Chron. gives a higher number for Israel, eleven hundred thousand; a lower for Judah, four hundred and seventy thousand. To explain or reconcile this difference in respect to Israel it has been supposed that there were two countings, one according to the private lists in cities and villages (Chron.), the other according to the digests made therefrom for the public registers (2 Sam.) (so Cornelius a Lapide)—or that Joab was less accurate in his numbering than the officers with him (Sanktius)—or that Chron. includes the non-Israelites in the Ten Tribes and the neighboring regions, about three hundred thousand (S. Schmid). Against this last is that only Israelites proper are spoken of in 2 Samuel 24:1, 2; the other suppositions are mere conjectures. Osiander’s opinion that Chron. includes the older men is opposed to 2 Samuel 24:5, and D. Kimchi’s, that Chron. includes also Benjamin and Levi, to 1 Chron. 21:6. [Others suppose that the regular army of two hundred and eighty-eight thousand men (1 Chron. 27:1–15) is included in Israel in Chron., and excluded in Sam., and that a corps of thirty thousand men (commanded by the thirty, 1 Chron. 11:25) is included in Judah in Samuel, and excluded in Chronicles. See Bib.-Com. on 1 Chron. 21:5. These conjectures are without foundation, and errors of text or errors of oral tradition must be supposed.—See notes of Wordsw. and Bib.-Com., on our verse.—TR.]. Apart from the fact that we have round numbers here, the differences explain themselves if we remember that the result of the census was not recorded in the State-annals (1 Chron. 27:24), and the statements here must rest on oral tradition. The numbers are not to be taken as perfectly accurate, but there is no good reason to reject them as unhistorically large, since this fertile country was very thickly peopled. “We see this from the various places, whose ruins stand as near to one another, as villages in our most densely populated regions” (Arnold in Herz. XI. 23 sq.). Taking the military population as about one-fourth of the whole, Palestine [Israel] would have contained, according to this census, a population of from five to six million souls, which is not too large a number. Ewald (Hist. III. 196, Rem. 3) refers to other numerical statements about Israel, that seem to us too large, and yet must be accepted as historical, and remarks: “Though the numbers may be in part round, and sometimes exaggerated, yet in general there is no reason for doubting their historical value. If, for example, the present population of Algeria be estimated at three million, and therein from 300,000 to 400,000 arms-bearing men (see Dawson Borrer, Campaign in the Kabylie) Israel in such happy times as David’s with its wide limits might certainly sustain a larger number.” Rüetschi (Herz. VIII. 89): “Considering the general extent of the levies and the almost incredibly dense population of Palestine, the enormous numerical strength of the Israelitish army (1 Sam. 11:8; 15:4; 2 Sam. 17:11; 1 Chron. 27:1 sqq.) cannot occasion much surprise.”
II. 2 Samuel 24:10–17. The judgment of the pestilence.
2 Samuel 24:10. David confesses his sin before the Lord, and asks forgiveness. David’s heart smote him, that is, his conscience, just as in 1 Sam. 24:6. Comp. 1 Kings 2:44; Job 27:6; Eccl. 7:22. With anguish of conscience David sees that his sin is an offence against the Lord. As to wherein it consisted see above on 2 Samuel 24:1–3.
2 Samuel 24:11. “In the morning” = the next morning.—David had made his short penitent prayer either as he was going to sleep, or, more probably, after a sleepless night.—The word of Jehovah comes to Gad, see 1 Sam. 22:5. He is called David’s seer as being his confidential counsellor, aiding him constantly with direction from the source of divine revelation.—And the word of the Lord … this revelation had come to Gad independently of human means or occasion.
2 Samuel 24:12. Choice between three judgments set before David. Three things I hold over thee (נטל), not: I lay on thee, but: I hold high over thee, namely, as a load of punishment, which is to be laid on thee according as thou choosest; the sense in Chron. (נטה) is the same: “I turn [stretch] over thee” [so Eng. A. V. here: offer thee].
2 Samuel 24:13. Then came Gad to David.—This is the apodosis to the protasis in verse 11: and when David rose in the morning … then came Gad; what intervenes is a circumstantial sentence.18 Instead of seven years of famine Chron. (so Sept.) has three, agreeing with the figures in the other plagues. For this reason the reading of Chron. is to be preferred; there correspond, therefore, three years of famine, three months of flight before enemies, three days of pestilence.19 [The seven20 in Sam. may be accounted for by the frequent occurrence of that number, possibly from the seven years’ famine in the history of Joseph.—TR.].
2 Samuel 24:14. “I am in a great strait”—the exclamation of a tortured conscience,, whose anguish is heightened by the necessity of choosing between the three punishments. David looks on the pestilence as an immediate stroke of God’s hand, while the other plagues make him and his people dependent on man; at the same time he looks to God’s mercy, whence, if he fall only into God’s hands, he may the sooner hope to draw comfort and help. In view of God’s punitive righteousness his faith holds fast to God’s mercy, and verifies itself therein.—At the close of this verse the Sept. has: “And David chose the pestilence [θάνατον], and it was the days of the wheat-harvest.” But this is nothing but an explanatory remark taken from 1 Chron. 21:20, designed partly to make a direct statement of David’s choice (which is only indirectly stated in the text), partly to account for Araunah’s work at the threshing-floor (2 Samuel 24:18 sq.).
2 Samuel 24:15. Beginning, duration and extent of the pestilence.—And the Lord gave a pestilence, it was a divine punishment. From the morning—the morning when Gad came to David (2 Samuel 24:11, 13). The next words,21 giving the terminus ad quem [Eng. A. V.: “to the time appointed;” Erdmann: “to an appointed time”], offer great difficulties.—The Sept. renders: “till the hour of breakfast,” that is, the sixth hour, to which it adds: “and the plague began among the people,” which Böttcher and Thenius would receive into the text. But this addition of the Sept. had its origin no doubt in the reflection that the time from morning to breakfast was too short for the effects of the plague (70,000 died) therefore the words “from the morning to, etc.,” were regarded as defining the verb gave [Eng. A. V.: sent], that is, the divine arrangement in inflicting the plague, and then the plague itself was made to begin after the sixth hour. But the word “gave” itself includes the destructive effect of the pestilence, and the result is indicated immediately by the word “died.”—We have then here the limit of time of the raging of the pestilence. But what is meant? up to what point? The most natural explanation: “to the appointed time” (Cler., De W., Ew.), that is, to the end of the three days (2 Samuel 24:13) contradicts 2 Samuel 24:16, according to which the pestilence ceased through God’s mercy before this time; besides the Def. Art. is wanting, while elsewhere the word in the sense of a time designated has the Art. The Art. may indeed be omitted when the word (מוֹעֵד) signifies an assembly for divine service and festival. Hos. 9:5; Lam. 2:7, 22. Thus Bochart (Hieroz. I. 2, 38, ed. Ros. I. 396 sq.) renders (after the Chald.), having Acts 3:1 in mind: “the time when the people used to meet for evening prayers, about the ninth hour of the day, that is, the third hour after noon.” Keil adopts this view, and thinks it favors the basis of the rendering of the Vulg.: “to the time appointed” according to Jerome’s explanation (tradit. Hebr. in 2 libr. Reg.): “he calls that the time appointed, in which the evening sacrifice was offered.” Against this Thenius rightly remarks22 that the general expression “time of assembly” could not be used for the afternoon or evening-assembly. Thenius’ conjecture (suggested by the Chald.): “to the time of lighting” (the lamps in the sanctuary or in dwellings) is declared by Böttcher to be contrary to Heb. usage; and Böttcher’s reading: “up to the time of food” is unsupported. The same thing is to be said of Hitzig’s suggestion: “up to the time of dinner.” Instead of adding another to these doubtful, in fact unsuccessful attempts to gain a new text, it seems requisite to return to our masoretic text, which, since the Art is wanting, is to be rendered: “up to an appointed time.” Why should this phrase not give a suitable sense? In view of the fact that the Lord had in mercy determined on a point of time before the expiration of the three days (2 Samuel 24:16), it is here intimated that the pestilence lasted a shorter time fixed by His gracious will. It must be left undetermined whether this “appointed time” falls in the first day of the plague (which seems to be indicated by the “from the morning,” and “that day,” 2 Samuel 24:18, though not necessarily, since the “morning” is the same as in 2 Samuel 24:11, and may point out merely the beginning of the pestilence without reference to the same day), or in the second day. In any case, however, the narrator, combining and, in Heb. fashion, anticipating what follows, means by this expression to say that God in His mercy permitted the pestilence to go on only to a determined point of time within the “three days.”—Seventy thousand men.=Grotius cites the fact (Diod. Sic. l. 14) that in the siege of Syracuse 100,000 men of the Carthaginian army died within a short time.—[Dr. Erdmann’s explanation of the “appointed time” is not a little strained; the fact that he refers to (the shortening of the duration of the pestilence) would hardly have been expressed in this way. The word seems obviously to mean: “time of assembly” (so Wellh., Bib.-Com., and others), and points to some well-known gathering of the people. The most natural suggestion is that the time of evening-prayer is meant, to which some regard it as a fatal objection that the assembly for evening-prayer could not have existed in the time of David, or of the author of the Book of Samuel. But it may be replied that we do not know when the custom of thus gathering began; or, it may be that there was some other regular gathering otherwise unknown to us. It is at any rate better so to render the word, whether it can be satisfactorily explained or not.—TR.]
2 Samuel 24:16. And the angel, namely the angel of the Lord afterwards more exactly described (“that destroyed the people”), the embodiment of His punitive righteousness, the exactor of the judgment, the destroying angel (comp Exod. 12:23)—stretched out his hand to Jerusalem to destroy it; thereupon the Lord repented him of the evil.—Chron.: “And God sent His angel to Jerusalem to destroy it.” According to both accounts the pestilence ceased at the moment when it had reached Jerusalem through the will of the merciful God. This is the moment meant by the “appointed time” of 2 Samuel 24:15. On God’s repentance see on 1 Sam. 13:35, “Historical and Theological,” No. 1 (to 1 Sam. 13.).—The Lord’s command to His angel:—Enough! now stay thy hand! the “thy hand” refers to the “His hand” above. As yet the pestilence had not attacked Jerusalem itself; for “the angel of the Lord was at the threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite.” Threshing-floors were usually in the open air, on heights where it was possible, on account of the chaff and the dust, and for the sake of the wind, which was necessary for the purifying of the grain; comp. Judg. 6:37; Ruth 3:2, 15. So this threshing-floor was without Jerusalem, northeast of Zion, on the hill Moriah; see on 2 Samuel 24:25. The pestilence had reached the houses lying near this threshing-floor. Instead of the form Awarnah (2 Samuel 24:16) or Aranyah (2 Samuel 24:18), the name of the owner of the floor is to be read with the Masorites Araunah (2 Samuel 24:20, 22, 23, 24). Chron. has Ornan (2 Samuel 24:15, 18, 20, 21, 22, 23); Sept. Orna. Ewald: “This form of the name is un-Hebrew, but perhaps all the more Jebusite.” Bertheau: “The form Araunah does not look like Heb., while Orna and Ornan are Heb.; for this very reason the form Araunah seems to rest on an old tradition.” Jebusites still dwelt in the land (Josh. 15:63), and were tributary (1 Kin. 9:20 sq.). See on 2 Sam. 5:6 sq.; Araunah is here represented as a man of property, see on 2 Samuel 24:22, 23.
2 Samuel 24:17. David saw the angel; according to Chron. (whose account is fuller) he saw him standing by the threshing-floor between heaven and earth with a drawn sword in his hand, which was stretched out over Jerusalem. The drawn sword is the symbol of the execution23 of the divine judgment, comp. Gen. 3:24; Numb. 22:23; Josh. 5:13.—David said to the Lord: I, etc. By the “I”24 he presents himself as the really guilty person before God, in contrast with the people, whom he declares to be innocent. According to Chron. (2 Samuel 24:16) the elders, clothed in sackcloth and praying, shared with David the vision of the angel; the representatives of the people, therefore, confess that it has part in David’s sin; see on 2 Samuel 24:1. “The punishment was sent for the people’s own sin (2 Samuel 24:1), though David’s offence was the immediate occasion of its execution” (O. v. Gerl.). David is so penetrated with a sense of his guilt, and with sympathy with the suffering of his people, that he now prays God to visit judgment on “him and his house” alone, and spare the people as “His flock” [comp. 1 Chron. 21:17].
III. 2 Samuel 24:18–25. Appeasement of God’s wrath by the purchase of Araunah’s, threshing-floor, and the erection of an altar thereon.
2 Samuel 24:18. God’s announcement of grace (contrasted with His announcement of judgment, 2 Samuel 24:13) is the consequence of “the repentance of the Lord” (2 Samuel 24:16) and the synchronous repentance of David (2 Samuel 24:17), though this did not cause God’s repentance; it occurs at the same time (“that day”) that God stops the plague, at the “appointed time” (2 Samuel 24:15) before the expiration of the three days.—Besides his prayer David has now to make public affirmation of his guilt, and of his willingness henceforth with the people to devote himself as an offering to the Lord, by building an altar. [According to Chron. the angel commanded Gad to go to David; the two accounts do not exclude each other. The relation of time between 2 Samuel 24:16 and 18 is not clear; but God’s repentance is represented as independent of David’s action.—TR.]
2 Samuel 24:19. And David went up; he shows unconditional obedience to the divine command; whereby the altar was already in spirit built, and the offering of an obedient heart well-pleasing to the Lord, was made in truth. Comp. 1 Sam. 15:22.
2 Samuel 24:20. And Araunah looked forth; the verb (שׁקף) means “to lie out over, bend forward, see, look at, look out”—here, to look into the distance, since Araunah was working in the threshing-floor, and saw David coming from the city. Chron. more fully: “And as Ornan was threshing wheat.” [2 Samuel 24:21. David announces his purpose to Araunah to buy his threshing-floor.]
2 Samuel 24:22 sqq. Araunah’s unselfish readiness is shown in the fact that he takes for granted the threshing-floor is to be made over to David, does not even mention it, but offers everything on the place to be used in averting the plague: the oxen that drew the threshing-wagon, the threshing-sledges (the Plural is used because a sledge consisted of several connected iron-pointed rollers), and the instruments of the oxen, the wooden yokes; the “wood” (yokes and sledges) was for the fire, as the oxen for the burnt-offering.
2 Samuel 24:23. Render: “All this gives Araunah, O king, to the king;” the words are a continuation of Araunah’s speech in 2 Samuel 24:22. In the ancient versions (Sept., Vulg., Syr., Ar., Chald.) the first “the king” is omitted, because, taking it as Nominative, they rightly thought it impossible that Araunah should be a king. If the words be taken as the statement of the narrator, and the “king” as Nominative, then [since it says: Araunah gave all this] there is a contradiction with 2 Samuel 24:24, where David buys the threshing-floor, and moreover a historically incorrect statement, namely, that Araunah was king of Jebus before its conquest by David; this view Ewald in fact adopts, against which Thenius rightly says: “this important fact would not have been stated in a single word, and it is in itself, but especially from 5:8., incredible that David should have suffered the Jebusite king to remain at his side.” [For another reading: “all this gives Araunah, the servant of my lord the king, to the king” (which is also a continuation of Araunah’s discourse.), see “Text. and Gram.”—TR.].—And Araunah said to the king; before this we must suppose a pause, or the repetition of the announcing formula [“Araunah said”], without intervening discourse, is to be explained by the fact that the following wish is sharply marked off from what precedes as a word of special significance and wholly new content. “The phrase ‘and he said’ is frequently repeated, where the same person continues to speak, see 15:4, 25, 27” (Keil). The Lord thy God accept thee; the verb is used of the acceptance of persons by God in connection with prayer and offering, Job 33:26; Ezek. 20:40, 41; 43:27; Jer. 14:12; so also here in reference to the offering that David proposes making. Sept., Syr., Arab. have “The Lord bless thee;” Böttcher proposes to combine these texts and read: “the Lord thy God accept and bless thee,” after Gen. 49:25; Numb. 6:24 sqq.; Ps. 67:2 .
2 Samuel 24:24. David does not accept Araunah’s offered gift (which exhibits him as a propertied man), because the offering would seem incomplete in his eyes if it were not his own property that he offered.—For fifty shekels of silver; Chron.: “shekels of gold in weight six hundred.” There would be room for the supposition of an intentional exaggeration in Chronicles (Thenius), only “if it were certain that the Chronicler had before him our present text of Samuel”(Bertheau). Bochart [approved by Bib.-Com.], holds that the word (כֶּסֶף) means here not “silver,” but in general “money,” that David paid money, fifty shekels in gold-pieces, and, as gold was worth twelve times as much as silver, this was = 600 shekels in silver [according to Bochart, Chron. (2 Samuel 24:25) reads: “shekels of gold of the weight (value) of 600 (silvershekels).”—TR.]; but this contradicts the texts of both Sam. and Chron. We have to suppose a corruption of text here. Keil properly points out that, comparing the price (400 silver shekels) that Abraham gave for a burial-place (Gen. 23:15), and especially the smaller value of land in his day, the price here stated, 50 shekels of silver (about 30 American dollars) seems too small. [However, Abraham’s purchase was much greater in extent than this (Bib.-Com.), and peculiar circumstances may here have affected the price. The sum mentioned in Chron. seems too large, but of this we cannot very well judge. Some suppose that the 50 shekels were paid for the materials of the offering, and 600 for the ground (see note in Bib. Com. on 1 Chron. 21:25); but of this there is no hint in the narrative. We cannot with certainty recover the true numbers.—TR.]
2 Samuel 24:25. The building of the altar and the presentation of the offering is the work of humble and obedient faith, whereby David testifies anew his complete devotion of heart and life to the Lord. The burnt-offering precedes, because by it expiation is made, and God’s favor, as Araunah wished for David, restored; comp. Lev. 1:3, 4 “for his acceptance before Jehovah” (comp. 2 Samuel 24:23). Thereon follows the peace and thank-offering (Shelamim). It assumes God’s favor and the peaceful relation between Him and man, and on the ground of this relation, expresses thanks for divine kindnesses already received or hereafter to be received (comp. Oehler in Herz. X. 637).—After “peace-offerings” the Sept. adds: “And Solomon made an addition to the altar afterwards, for it was little at first.” It must be left undetermined whether the Alexandrian translators found these words in their text, they being an addition by an editor or scribe (Then.), or added them by way of explanation. Certainly the place on Araunah’s threshing-floor, where David built the altar and continued to offer, is the consecrated spot that he chose for the Temple, and on which Solomon built it (1 Chron. 21:27–22:1); and this addition of the Sept. agrees with the statement of Josephus, that Araunah’s threshing-floor was on the hill afterwards occupied by the Temple (so Grotius).—Chr. Rosen has attempted to prove the identity of this threshing-floor on Moriah (comp. Arnold in Herz. XVIII. 625) with the sacred rock in the present Mosque es-Sakra, which stands on the site of the ancient Temple (Wochenblatt der Johanniter-Ordens-Balley Brand. Jahrg. 1860 in the Beilage to No. 12).
HISTORICAL AND THEOLOGICAL
1. The grave sin of proud self-exaltation, which David and the people of Israel here had in common, presupposed the elevation to victory and power that God had bestowed by His gracious might, and its consequence was the judgment that revealed God’s anger against the perversion of His favors into plans of self-aggrandizement. God’s honor does not permit a king and people to seek their own honor in the power conferred by Him. The aims of God’s kingdom cannot, according to God’s laws of moral order, be abridged or obscured with impunity by the aims and purposes of human pride. God’s judgments fail not against false national honor and ambitious, self-seeking pride of rulers, as is shown by the history not only of Israel, but of all nations to the present time.
2. That God, angry with Israel, incites to the sin of numbering the people, and then punishes it, is no contradiction according to the theology of the Old Testament (J. Müller, Lehre von der Sünde I. 322), since inciting to sin does not set aside the holding one responsible for it. Man’s free will is not destroyed by the divine will, and the punishment of the righteous God presupposes man’s guilt. Immersed in the thought of God’s all-fulfilling efficiency, the human mind does not indeed refer to it “evil as well as good” (Müller, ubi supra), for Old Testament theology is far from presenting the divine causality in this like attitude to good and evil; but the divine activity (in its punitive manifestations) is referred to the external production of evil (already present as an inward fact of man’s free will, opposed to God’s will), in so far as the circumstances that produce and incite to sin exist under God’s government, and are used by Him as means to develop man’s sin for the ends of His punitive righteousness. But also, apart from the external realization of sin, God gives man, who freely hardens himself in sin, over to the judgment of the consequence of his sin; Rom. 1:28.—“There is here not mere permission, but real action on God’s part, and such as every one may see in his own experiences. He that allows the sinful disposition to rise within him is, however much he may strive against it, inevitably involved in the sinful deed, which draws down the requiting judgment” (Hengst., Hist. II. 130).
3. The root of the sin in this census is already laid bare in the word of the law relating to the numbering of the people. Hengstenberg excellently remarks (ubi sup. 129): “If David’s eye had been clear, he would have seen in God’s law the special reference to the danger attending the numbering of the people. In Ex. 30:11 sq. it is enjoined that in the census every Israelite shall pay expiatory money, ‘that there be no plague among them when they are numbered;’ by this money they are, as it were, ransomed from the death that they incurred by proud conceit. It recalls the danger of forgetting human weakness, that so easily arises when the individual feels himself a member of a powerful whole. Even the slightest movement of national pride (it is an important lesson for all times) is sin against God, which, if not vigorously repelled, involves the nation in the judgment of God. Indeed the Romans with a similar feeling made an expiatory offering when they took the census.”—The greatness of David’s guilt increases with the maintained opposition of his will to the voice of God, which he hears in Joab’s word, whereby his conscience ought to have been awakened. The degree, of man’s guilt against God rises with the maintained determination of the will against conscience in the inner life, with the outward resolution to act, with the rejection of counsel and instruction, whereby the attainment of better knowledge is frustrated, and with the final performance of the evil determination in spite of protest and opposition from within and from without.
4. The various steps whereon God leads men that yield their conscience to His Spirit to ever deeper humility in sincere penitence are mirrored in this history of David’s repentance. First God rouses David from his sleep of conscience and security by the result of his boastful antigodly undertaking, so that “his heart smote him” (comp. for this expression, 1 Sam. 24:6), that is, his conscience chastised him. So he comes to know that he has sinned and how sorely, and to acknowledge the foolishness of his sin, and to pray for forgiveness (2 Samuel 24:10). But to the inward voice of his smiting conscience is added the voice of the word of God, which comes to him from without through the prophet Gad with the announcement of punitive righteousness. The penitence of the heart proves itself in humble submission to God’s punishing hand, whence David instead of the asked-for pardon takes without murmuring the announcement of punishment, and in the unconditional trustful self-abandonment to God’s mercy (2 Samuel 24:14). Under the sorrowful experience of punishment the feeling of personal guilt is deepened, wherefore he acknowledges himself and his house alone to be the proper object of the divine punitive justice (2 Samuel 24:17). Having suffered himself to be led thus far on the path of penitence by God’s hand, he encounters the prophetically announced divine mercy, which stops the punishment (2 Samuel 24:18), and gives proof of the renewed obedience rising from the depths of true penitence, in the deed (commanded by the Lord) of faith and devotion of his whole life to him (2 Samuel 24:19 sq.). David’s repentance is finished and confirmed by the building of the altar, and his offering on the threshing-floor of Araunah.
On the same spot where once Abraham, the possessor of the primeval promises of salvation, presented the sacrifice of his faith and obedience to the Lord, the royal bearer of the Messianic promises presents his burnt-offering and thank-offering, and therewith consecrates the spot, on which his son was to build a house as the Lord’s dwelling amid His people, and this on the ground of his experience of sin-forgiving grace and divine mercy that puts an end to punitive justice.—Hengstenberg: “It is very remarkable that before the outward foundations of the Temple were laid, God’s forgiving mercy was by God factually declared to be its spiritual foundation.”
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
The glory of God shows itself in the life of His people, not only through His abounding grace but also through His holy wrath, whose fire is kindled by the sins into which they fall through the temptations of their own flesh or of the world without.—No height of the life of faith in the pious secures from a deep fall; the richer the possession of salvation which they have received through divine grace, the greater the loss if they do not preserve it or wish in self-exaltation to boast of it as their own acquirement.—The perverse self-will of man is the fountain of all sin; its guilt is not removed when through God’s action, the evil breaks forth from this fountain, and becomes a deed of disobedience to His holy will; God’s manifestations of grace often become, to man fallen into carnal security, the occasion of grievous acts of sin.—God would annihilate the free will of man if he did not allow the sin, which through that free will has already become an inner deed of the heart, to work itself out in its consequences; but He does not allow this to happen without first sending forth to men the voice of warning, and the call to turn from the way on which with the sinful resolve they have entered.—If God’s exhortation and warning has been uttered in vain through man’s word, His voice afterwards makes itself heard so much the more loudly through the accusation of what is called an evil conscience, but should properly be called a good conscience.
The smitings with which God visits His people, when they have strayed into the ways of sin, are 1) those of conscience, in view of the goodness of God which became the occasion or subject of self-exaltation; 2) Those of the word of God, in view of the holiness of His will against which they have sinned; and 3) Those of outward chastisement, through sufferings in which punitive justice exerts itself.—Whom does the heart smite for his sins? Him who 1) Lets his heart be smitten by God’s earnestness and goodness, and takes to heart the greatness of his sin in contrast to God’s loving-kindness; 2) Recognizes his sin, in the light of God’s word, as a transgression of His holy will; and 3) Maintains in his sinning and in spite of it the fundamental direction of his heart towards the living God, and has been preserved from falling away into complete unbelief.—True and hearty repentance is preserved in the life of God’s children, 1) In the penitent confession of their sin and guilt, before the judgment-seat of God, 2) In fleeing for refuge to the forgiving grace of God, 3) In humbly bowing under the punitive justice of God, and 4) In a confidence, which even amid divine judgments does not waver, in the delivering mercy of God.—The gradual succession in the inner life of a penitent sinner under the chasten-ings of God’s love: 1) Reproving conscience, 2) Penitent confession, 3) Hearty prayer for forgiveness, 4) Humble bowing beneath the punishment imposed, 5) Unreserved submission to the divine mercy.—Conduct of an honestly penitent man beneath the blows of God’s chastening hand: 1) He bows his head under the divine judgment, yet does not lose his head; 2) He is silent before the word of God which judges him, that the Lord alone may be justified, yet his mouth does not remain closed, but opens itself for the one word he has to utter, “Take away the iniquity of thy servant;” 3) He is grieved in heart in view of the punishment he has deserved from the divine justice, yet he does not cast away his confidence,’ but places himself in the hands of the divine mercy.—“Mercy rejoices over judgment:” 1) The penitent man casts himself into the arms of God’s mercy; 2) Mercy falls into the arms of justice, in order to stay its blows; punitive justice must yield to mercy at the command of the Lord, “It is enough: stay now thy hand.”—Rear an altar unto the Lord! 1) In obedience to the Lord’s command (2 Samuel 24:18, 19); 2) With dedication of thyself, and what is thine to the Lord’s honor (2 Samuel 24:21–24); 3) For the continual presentation of spiritual offerings, which are acceptable to the Lord (2 Samuel 24:23, 24); and 4) For the reception of the highest gift of grace, peace with the propitiated God.
OSIANDER: Even the holiest people may sometimes be overtaken by their corrupt flesh (Rom. 7:18).—SCHLIER: After David had given up his heart to evil thoughts, the Lord gave occasion and opportunity for these evil thoughts to break forth unto the punishment of the king as well as of his whole people. Much depends, for the understanding of the following history, upon our not forgetting this concealed background, upon our keeping well in view, on the one hand the Lord’s wrath against Israel, and on the other hand the king’s evil thoughts.—[HALL: O the wondrous, and yet just ways of the Almighty! Because Israel hath sinned, therefore David shall sin, that Israel may be punished; because God is angry with Israel, therefore David shall anger Him more, and strike Himself in Israel, and Israel through Himself—TR.]—F. W. KRUMMACHER: Despite all the purifying processes through which we have passed, there is scarcely anything sinful to be named that cannot, even though conquered, come up in us afresh in the way of temptation. The most assured Christian, if his eyes are not blinded, never attains the consciousness that now he can stand justified before God in his own virtue.—[HALL: The Spirit of God elsewhere ascribes this motion to Satan, which here it attributes to God; both had their hand in the work; God by permission, Satan by suggestion; God as a Judge, Satan as an enemy; God as in a just punishment for sin, Satan as in an act of sin; God in a wise ordination of it to good; Satan in a malicious intent of confusion.—TR.]
2 Samuel 24:2–4. DISSELHOFF: Even on the heights of life in God, the favored one remains the child of Adam. The jubilant cry, “according to my righteousness,” may easily become the boast, “on account of my righteousness.”—STARKE: When kings and princes fall into sin, that means much; let us then not forget to pray for them, that God may preserve them (1 Tim. 2:2).—SCHLIER: Pride sticks in the flesh and blood of us all; and the difference is only whether pride has power over us, or whether we rein in and subjugate pride. Either thou slayest pride, or pride slays thee.—[HALL: Those actions which are in themselves indifferent, receive either their life, or their bane, from the intentions of the agent. Moses numbereth the people with thanks, David with displeasure.—TR.]—DISSELHOFF: Humility wishes not to know what it is and possesses, and has done. As soon as the human heart wishes to count the fruits it has brought, its trophies and its booty, piles up before itself the proofs of its faith and zeal, and contemplates them with pleasure, humility is flown, pride has returned. From pride there immediately arises self-satisfied boasting..…Then the second step also is soon taken that the man no longer trusts in the invisible gracious God, but holds flesh for his arm, and in his heart turns away from the Lord,—that he wishes to see and calculate, and no longer to live by faith.
2 Samuel 24:10. J. LANGE: God, the great and universal judge of the world, still holds as it were His secret inferior court in the conscience of the man, and summons him continually before his superior court (Rom. 2:15, 16).—F. W. KRUMMACHER. As the sun always again breaks through the clouds that veiled it, so the conscience once awakened and enlightened by the Spirit of God, however darkened and ensnared it may be, ever victoriously comes forth again, and anew makes efficient its judicial office.—DISSELHOFF: Before God came with the punishment, before He showed him his sin from without, David’s own conscience rose up strong and living, and left him no peace till he had poured out his guilt-laden heart in sincere and earnest confession, and had supplicated forgiveness of his misdeed.—FR. ARNDT: How a man behaves after his fault, whether he persists in it, stands to his purpose, seeks to carry through his self-will and follows it out consistently to the utmost, or whether he enters into himself, humbles himself, repents, takes back, and supplicates forgiveness—that is the proof and the touch-stone for the true state of the heart. The former course is indeed apparent progress, but a progress that leads to hell; the latter is apparently going backward, but going back to heaven and blessedness.
2 Samuel 24:11–13. STARKE: God is not swift to punish, but corrects in measure, only that we may not reckon ourselves innocent (Jer. 30:11).—God is also Lord over the kingdom of nature, and has everything therein under His government (Matt. 10:29).—FR. ARNDT: With His children the Lord is very exact. He is milder towards them, but also stricter than towards others. To whom much is given, of Him much also is required.—F. W. KRUMMACHER: The power to endure ills in proportion as they seem divine manifestation of grace should not serve to obscure the divine justice.—DISSELHOFF: Here lies the sinner a night in confession and supplication, and in the morning God sends him—punishment, and therewith no syllable of grace and forgiveness! We observe it with trembling. To the deeply ruined, and long-lost child the father runs with open arms to meet him, and presses him to his heart. Yet when the favored one, who has tasted the power of atonement, loses himself, when he makes the goodness of God a subject of arrogance and presumptuousness, then the Lord comes upon the penitent with the sharp edge of His sword.—He must punish, the eternal God, when He seees that the old nature is too tough in the new man, too deep-rooted and grown with His growth … but above all must He then come with the sword, when His grace and His gifts have been made the cause of the self-exaltation.
2 Samuel 24:14 sqq. CRAMER: Nowhere have we a better refuge in extremities than in the gracious hands of the Lord (Ps. 90:1; 91:1 sqq.).—S. SCHMID: The mercy of man is nothing in comparison with the divine mercy.—F. W. KRUMMACHER: David is conscious that the Lord “corrects His people in measure,” and the cup of His holy wrath, where He neither can nor should spare them, He never extends to them without adding hidden manifestations of grace, while men, even where they are the executioners of God’s judgments, too easily mistake their position as instruments, and pass beyond the limits of merciful moderation that were assigned them, and give free course in their bosom to the spirits of rage and vengeance.—[HALL: The Almighty, that had fore-determined his judgment, refers it to David’s will as fully as if it were utterly undetermined. God had resolved, yet David may choose: that infinite wisdom hath foreseen the very will of His creature; which, while it freely inclines itself to what it had rather, unwittingly wills that which was fore-appointed in heaven.—TR.]
2 Samuel 24:16. SCHLIER: The Lord our God is a consuming fire to the sinner, and punishes, when it must be, with frightful earnestness, so that it goes through marrow and bone; but in the midst of the most awful judgments the Lord thinks of mercy. He pities us—that is the only reason why He thinks of mercy.—FR. ARNDT: O miracle of mercy! Thus does the Lord in compassion cut short the punishment, when we bow! Thus says He, It is enough, when the evil has first begun to unfold its devastating effects! Thus before the eyes of His omniscience and His compassion do need and help, beginning and end, wonderfully come together!
2 Samuel 24:17. F. W. KRUMMACHER: Not from the virtues of God’s children, but from their tears for their faults, shines upon us the noblest silver light of their new life.—SCHLIER: We are willing to confess our sin, to acknowledge ourselves guilty, to be nothing, just nothing in our own eyes, and we may certainly yet experience in ourselves also that to the humble the Lord always gives grace.—[On this verse JOHN WESLEY has a sermon.—HALL: These thousands of Israel were not so innocent, that they should only perish for David’s sin: their sins were the motives both of this sin and punishment; besides the respect of David’s offence, they die for themselves.—HENRY: Most people, when God’s judgments are abroad, charge others with being the cause of them, and care not who falls by them, so they can escape; but David’s penitent and public spirit was otherwise affected. As became a penitent, he is severe upon his own faults, while he extenuates those of the people.—TR.]
2 Samuel 24:18 sqq. STARKE: Teachers must not go before God sends them (Jer. 23:21).—CRAMER: As God is beginning to punish, He also thinks how He wishes to end.—SCHLIER: The repentance that comes from the bottom of the heart works great miracles; repentance draws down God’s grace, repentance finds nothing but peace and blessing. The more repentance, so much the more blessing—that holds true for heart and house, and also for land and people.—DISSELHOFF: Where the Lord punishes His people, He blesses. Where He chastens is the door of heaven, there is His countenance, there He beholds, there He builds His tabernacle of peace.
2 Samuel 24:19 sqq. S. SCHMID: One prophet must hearken to another (1 Cor. 14:22).
2 Samuel 24:22–24. [HALL: Two frank hearts are well met; David would buy; Araunah would give. … There can be no devotion in a niggardly heart; as unto dainty palates, so to the godly soul, that tastes sweetest that costs most: nothing is dear enough for the Creator of all things. It is an heartless piety of those base-minded Christians that care only to serve God good-cheap.—TR.]—WUERT. B.: Penitent and believing prayer, and obedience to God’s command, can accomplish much (Ps. 145:18; James 5:16).
F. W. KRUMMACHER: Were God’s faithfulness no more unchanging towards us than ours towards Him, what would become of us all? With this humble confession we draw near to contemplate this new judicial proceeding between Jehovah and the king of Israel, and inquire into its subject, its course, and its issue.
On the whole chapter, J. DISSELHOFF: How God meets the presumptuousness of His favored ones: 1) He comes upon them with the edge of the sword; 2) His sword is not to kill, but to loose the chains of pride; 3) Where the sword of the Lord has done its work, there He builds His temple of peace.
[2 Samuel 24:1. Vengeance against a nation often comes through the infatuation of its rulers.—The sin of national pride and vain-glory. “Fourth of July oratory” may be something worse than bad rhetoric.
2 Samuel 24:3. Good advice from a bad man. Fas est et ab hoste doceri. Luke 16:8. Much of life’s best wisdom lies in knowing how to take advice.
2 Samuel 24:10. Delusion lasting throughout the process of performing the wrong deed, and ceasing the moment the deed is done.—Often, alas! is there occasion to say, in bitterness and shame, What a fool I have been!
2 Samuel 24:10, compared with 22:20 sqq. There, rewarded because righteous and wise; here, seeks to be forgiven because sinful and foolish.—TR.]
[2 Samuel 24:12, 13. How sad a consequence of sin and folly, when there is left to us only a “choice of evils,” yea, a choice amid terrible calamities.—Which do we find harder to bear, which bringing more wholesome discipline, our less violent but long-continued distresses, or those which are briefer and more intense?
2 Samuel 24:14. It is always easier to endure ills in proportion as they seem more directly and exclusively providential, with the least possible intervention of human agency.
2 Samuel 24:17. It is a very bitter reflection to a good man, that his folly and sin should have brought evil upon others. And what sin or folly ever fails to have such a result, directly or indirectly?
2 Samuel 24:24. People often say, “You can give that and never feel it.” If this be true, then a devout man ought to give more, till he does feel it. Here, only what costs will pay. The widow’s mite was felt deeply, for it was all she had.—Chap. 24. 1) David’s sin. 2) His self-reproach and confession. 3) His punishment. 4) His supplication and expiatory offering. 5) His forgiveness.—TR.]
[Upon the Life of David, the following groups of topics may aid, by way of suggestion, in devising some series of sermons.—David as shepherd, warrior, father, king, psalmist.—David’s conflicts: with the enemies of his flock, Goliath, Saul, the Philistines in general, Absalom, himself.—David’s friends: Samuel, Jonathan, Ahimelech, Achish, Joab, Nathan, Ittai, Hushai, Barzillai, his own sons, and best friend of all, the Lord God.—David’s early piety, series of great sins, bitter repentance, subsequent chastenings, hope in death.—David’s impulsiveness, generosity, penitence, trust in God, gratitude, delight in worship.—TR.]
1[2 Samuel 24:2. So in 1 Chron. 21:2, and required by the phrase “with him,” and by the plural verb “number ye.”—TR.]
2[2 Samuel 24:8. Böttcher shows (against Thenius) that the וְ here must be given up (it is wanting in Chron.). Erdmann retains it.—TR.]
3[2 Samuel 24:5. Syr., Vulg.: “came to Aroer (Syr.: Sarub) on the right of the city.” But the reading (given above in brackets) of the Holmes MSS. 19, 82, 93, 108, as cited by Wellh., commends itself as more natural. We should not here expect the statement that they encamped, but it is natural that the point where they began should be mentioned; moreover the phrase: “on the right of the city” is a strange one. The amended text would read: וַיָּחֵלוּ מֵעֲרוֹעֵר וּמִן הָעִיר.—TR.]
4[2 Samuel 24:10. The אַחֲרֵי־כֵן (which is an Adverb) here followed by the finite verb סָפַר is contrary to usage. Either, one of the two (the “afterwards” or “he numbered the people”) must be omitted (Wellh.), or עַל אֲשֶׁר must be inserted: “after this, because he had numbered” (Bib.-Com.), or אֲשֶׁר must be written instead of כּן, and the Conjunction retained (as in the Vulg. and Eng. A. V.).—What the Pisqas in 2 Samuel 24:10, 12 signify, is uncertain.—TR.]
5[2 Samuel 24:12. נָטַל “lay upon;” Eng. A. V. rather translates the verb in Chronicles (2 Samuel 24:10) נָטָה “stretch out.” Erdmann: “I hold over thee;” Philippson: “I lay before thee.”—TR.]
6[2 Samuel 24:13. So Chron. (2 Samuel 24:12), and so the symmetry of the statement requires.—TR.]
7[2 Samuel 24:23. So Böttcher, writing אֲדנִי for ארונה and inserting עֶבֶד. The words must be regarded as part of Araunah’s speech, since it is not true that he gave the things to the king; he offered them, but they were not accepted (Wellh.).—TR.]
8[Bib.-Com. (on 2 Sam. 24:1) renders this “an adversary” (otherwise unknown), on the ground that the Art. (found in Job and Zech.) is wanting, and similarly translates here “one (an unknown enemy) moved David.” But the absence of the Art. in the late-composed Chron. is explained by the fact that Satan had then become a proper name, and here the natural connection points to Jehovah as subject; if another person had been concerned, distincter mention would have been made of him.—TR.]
9Indicated by the וְ before יוֹסֵף, as in 2 Kings 4:41; Ps. 4:4 , comp. Ges. § 155, 1 d. [Against this see “Text, and Gram.”—TR.]
10Vulg.: obtinuit sermo regis verba Joab.—Instead of אֶל־יוֹאָנ should perhaps be written עַר־י׳ (Chron.).
11It is unnecessary to write מִפְּנֵי (Vulg., Syr., Ar.) for לפנְיֵ, for the latter means simply “before the king” without a necessary intimation that the king went along with them.
12[Or, because this point was exactly at the opposite end of the land (going in a circuit) from Judah.—TR.]
13The “and to Jazer” defines not the verb “came” (Keil), but the “encamped.”
14 תחת ים = תחתים.
17[Instead of יַעַן וְסָבִיב Wellh. proposes to read וּמִדָּן סָבְבוּ, and render: “and they came to Dan, and from Dan turned about to Zidon” (comp. the repetition of Dan in the Sept.), which gets rid of the Jaan.—TR.]
18[On the criticism of the text here see “Text. and Gram.”—TR.]
19 תָבוֹא, Fem. with an abstract Plu., Ew. § 317 a.—נֻסְךָ (Inf.) “thy fleeing” = “that thou fleest.” The Sing. וְהוּא collects the צָרִים into one conception: “enemy.”
20“The numeral letter ג was changed into ז” (Thenius).
21 וְעד־עֵת מוֹעֵד. Sept.: ἕως ὤρας ἀρίστου, to which it adds: και ἤρξατο ἡ θραῦσις ἐν τῲ λαῷ, after which Thenius and Böttcher write: וַתָּחֶל הַמַּגֵּפָּה בָּעָם.
22Thenius: עֵת־מִבְעָר, out of which מוֹעֵד by change of ב into ו and of ר into ד. Against this Böttcher shows that מִבְעָר is not a Heb. word, and (according to the use of בער) would mean burning, comp. Judg. 15:14;.2 Sam. 22:9; he (Böttch.), after the Sept., reads סוֹעֵד “strengthener” = “repast,” from סָעַד “to support, strengthen” by food, comp. Gen. 43:5; Judg. 19:5, 8; 1 Kings 13:7; as, then, in Chald. סְעוּדָה means “heartstrengthening” = “food, dinner,” so in Heb. סוֹעֵד “strengthener” may have meant the first meal of the day (about 11 or 12 o’clock). But against this Böttcher himself says that the form קוֹטֵל is elsewhere used only of acting persons; further, such a designation of breakfast occurs nowhere else; since in the passages cited סָעַד obtains the signification “strengthen” only from the connection (especially by the addition of “heart” and “food”), so much the more ought the connection to show when it is intended to mean breakfast, since it usually means only in general “to strengthen by food.”—If breakfast-time is here spoken of, Thenius (following the Sept.) would take the form מִסְעָד; but Böttcher says rightly that “the language would not have used the same word for ‘breakfast’ and ‘furniture’ (1 Kings 10:12).” Hitzig (according to Then., p. 290 sqq.), thinks that if the ἀρίστου of the Sept. is not based on a סְעוּדָה, then to מִסְעָד (Then.) is to be preferred מָעוֹג (kitchen-cakes), which he tries to show means prandium.
23On בְּ with הְכָּה see Ew. § 217, 2.
24[The Pronoun is emphatic in the original.—TR.]
And again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.