Matthew Poole's Commentary
And again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.David, tempted by Satan, forceth Joab to number the people; who are thirteen hundred thousand fighting men, 2 Samuel 24:1-9. David acknowledgeth his sin in it: having three judgments propounded by God, he is in great distress, and chooseth the pestilence; of which seventy thousand men die, 2 Samuel 24:10-15. David by his humiliation preventeth the destruction of Jerusalem, 2 Samuel 24:16,17. He by Gad’s direction and order from God purchaseth Araunah’s threshing-floor to build an altar there; on which having sacrificed, the plague stayeth, 2 Samuel 24:18-25.
Again, to wit, after the former tokens of his anger, such as the three years’ famine, 2Sa 21.
He moved David he: who? Either,
1. Satan, as is expressed, 1 Chronicles 21:1. Or,
2. God; who is said, in like manner, to stir up Saul against David, 1 Samuel 26:19, and to turn the hearts of the Egyptians to hate his people, Psalm 105:25, and to make men to err from his ways, Isaiah 63:17, and to send strong delusions, &c., and to harden their hearts. All which expressions are not so to be understood, as if God did work these sinful dispositions; which neither was necessary, because they are naturally in every man’s heart, nor possible for the holy God to do; but because he permits them, and withdraws his grace and all restraints and hinderances from them, and giveth occasions and advantages to them; and directs their thoughts to such objects as may indeed be innocently thought of, which yet he knows they will wickedly abuse; and give them up to Satan, who he knows will deceive and entice them to such and such sins; which, being tempted to do by Satan, and being effected by their own wicked hearts, he so orders and overrules, that they shall be punishments for their former sins. Against them, i.e. for Israel’s punishment. To say, or, saying. For this may be referred, either,
1. To God, of whom the same expression is used 2 Samuel 16:10, The Lord said to Shimei, Curse David; which in both places is not to be understood of any command or impulse of God, but of his secret providence disposing things in manner here above expressed. Or,
2. To David; he moved David to say, to wit, to Joab, as he did, 2 Samuel 24:2.
For the king said to Joab the captain of the host, which was with him, Go now through all the tribes of Israel, from Dan even to Beersheba, and number ye the people, that I may know the number of the people.Which expression points at David’s sin in this matter, that he numbered them, not by direction from God, nor for any important business of the church or kingdom; but out of mere curiosity, and pride, and vain-glory; accompanied either with a secret distrust of God’s promise; or rather, with a carnal confidence in the numbers of his people; all which were great sins, and were so manifest, that not only God saw them, and all the degrees and aggravations of them, in David; but even Joab and the captains of the host were very sensible of them, 2 Samuel 24:3,4.
And Joab said unto the king, Now the LORD 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 king delight in this thing?What reason or necessity is there for this action? It is to no purpose, and will be burdensome to thy people, and may offend God, and produce ill effects.
Notwithstanding 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.Joab perceiving the king bent upon it, would not hazard the king’s favour by further disputing or disobeying his command.
And they passed over Jordan, and pitched in Aroer, on the right side of the city that lieth in the midst of the river of Gad, and toward Jazer:They passed over Jordan; they began their computation in the eastern part of David’s dominions, which were beyond Jordan.
Pitched, or encamped. For Joab carried with them divers of his commanders, and others; partly, for his honour, and, the credit of the work; partly, to assist him in that troublesome work; and partly, to overcome the people, in case they should oppose it as sinful or burdensome, or savouring of some evil design which David might have upon them.
Of the river of Gad, i. e. of the river which lay in the tribe of Gad, or upon the borders of Gad and Reuben, which was called Arnon, Deu 2:36.
Toward Jazer, or, near Jazer, which also was upon the river Arnon.
Then they came to Gilead, and to the land of Tahtimhodshi; and they came to Danjaan, and about to Zidon,To Gilead; to Mount Gilead, which lay northward from Arnon.
Tahtim-hodshi; a place so called. Or, the lowland lately gained, i. e. not given by Joshua, but taken lately from the Hagarites by Saul; which was near Gilead, 1 Chronicles 5:10.
Dan-jaan, i.e. probably the famous city of Dan, as it is called, Joshua 19:47 Judges 18:7; for this was in the northern border of the land, and in the way from Gilead to Zidon.
About to Zidon, i.e. to the city and territory of Zidon; but not into it, because it was not in the power and possession of the Israelites: and the like is to be thought concerning Tyre, and the cities which the Hivites and Canaanites yet possessed in the neighbourhood of Tyre and Sidon.
And came to the strong hold of Tyre, and to all the cities of the Hivites, and of the Canaanites: and they went out to the south of Judah, even to Beersheba.No text from Poole on this verse.
So when they had gone through all the land, they came to Jerusalem at the end of nine months and twenty days.No text from Poole on this verse.
And Joab gave up the sum of the number of the people unto the king: and there were in Israel eight hundred thousand valiant men that drew the sword; and the men of Judah were five hundred thousand men.Eight hundred thousand.
Object. In 1 Chronicles 21:5, they are numbered 1,100,000.
Answ. The sum here expressed is only of such as were not in the ordinary and settled militia waiting upon the king, which being 24,000 for every month, as is largely related, 1Ch 27, amounts to 288,000, which either with their several commanders, or with the soldiers, placed in several garrisons, might very well make up 300,000. Or 288,000 may pass in such accounts for 300,000; it being frequent in such great sums to neglect a smaller number. But in the Book of the Chronicles, which was to gather up the fragments omitted in the former books, both sorts are put together, and so they amount to 1,100,000.
Five hundred thousand. In 1 Chronicles 21:5, but 470,000.
1. They were exactly no more, but are called 500,000 in a round sum, as is usual in Scripture and other authors. Or,
2. The garrison soldiers, and such as were employed in other services about the king, are here included, which are there excluded. Or,
3. They were 300,000 when Joab gave up the number to the king, though presently after that they were but 470,000; 30,000 being slain by the plague in the tribe of Judah; which being David’s own tribe, it was but just and fit it should suffer more than the rest for this sin. And though it be true that Joab gave up the sum before the plague begun, yet the sacred penman of the Book of Chronicles thought fit to make a defalcation of them who had been swept away by the plague, that the judgment of God therein might be observed. Or,
4. There are included here the 30,000 which belonged to the thirty colonels mentioned 2Sa 23, who are excluded 1Ch 21, although it be questionable whether those were all of the tribe of Judah.
And David's heart smote him after that he had numbered the people. And David said unto the LORD, I have sinned greatly in that I have done: and now, I beseech thee, O LORD, take away the iniquity of thy servant; for I have done very foolishly.David’s heart smote him; his conscience discerned his sin, and he was heartily sorry for it. And the occasion of his repentance was God’s message by the prophet Gad, as it here follows, 2 Samuel 24:11, For when, &c.; as formerly God’s message by Nathan had the same effect, 2Sa 12; both which passages are noted, to show how necessary the further and repeated supplies of God’s grace are, even to the best of men, to raise them when they fall into sin.
For I have done very foolishly, because I am sensible of my sin and folly, as it is more fully expressed, Psalm 51:5,6. Or, although, as this particle is oft used.
For when David was up in the morning, the word of the LORD came unto the prophet Gad, David's seer, saying,David’s seer; so called, because he was a prophet, (for such were called seers, 1 Samuel 9:9) now and at other times employed by God to reveal his mind and will to David. See 1 Samuel 22:5 1 Chronicles 29:29.
Go and say unto David, Thus saith the LORD, I offer thee three things; choose thee one of them, that I may do it unto thee.No text from Poole on this verse.
So Gad came to David, and told him, and said unto him, Shall seven 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.Seven years of famine.
Object. In 1 Chronicles 21:12, it is only three years of famine.
Answ. 1. Some conceive that here was an error in the transcriber, and that the true reading is three years, as the LXX. read it in this place, being supposed to have found it so in their copies, and that otherwise they durst never have presumed to make so great a change in the text.
2. In Chron. he speaks exactly of those years of famine only which came for David’s sin; but here he speaks more confusedly and comprehensively, including those three years of famine sent for Saul’s sin, 2Sa 21. And this sin of David’s was committed in the year next after them, which was in a manner a year of famine; either because it was the sabbatical year, wherein they might not sow nor reap; or rather, because not being able to sow in the third year, because of the excessive drought, they were not capable of reaping this fourth year. And three years more being added to these four, make up the seven here mentioned. So the meaning of the words is this, As thou hast already had four years of famine, shall three years more come? And that it is said of these seven years, that they shall come, it is a synecdochical expression frequent in Scripture, because part of the years were yet to come; even as it is said of the Israelites, that they should wander in the wilderness forty years, Numbers 14:33, when part of that time was already spent.
And David said unto Gad, I am in a great strait: let us fall now into the hand of the LORD; for his mercies are great: and let me not fall into the hand of man.Into the hand of the Lord, to wit, his immediate stroke, which is chiefly in the pestilence; for though the sword and famine be also God’s hand, yet there is also the hand of man or other creatures in them. The reason of this choice was partly his experience in and confidence of God’s great goodness; partly, because the other judgments, especially the sword, had been more dishonourable, not only to David, but also to God, and to his people, and to the true religion; and partly, because he having sinned himself, thought it just and reasonable to choose such a plague to which he was as obnoxious as his people; whereas he had better fences for himself against sword and famine than they had. For his mercies are great; and therefore will not exceed measure in his strokes, as men will do.
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.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.
And when the angel stretched out his hand upon Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD 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 was by the threshingplace of Araunah the Jebusite.The angel appeared in the shape of a man with a sword in his hand, 1 Chronicles 21:16, to convince them more fully that this was no natural nor common plague, but inflicted immediately by the hand of God.
Upon Jerusalem; which he had begun to smite, and was proceeding to make a far greater slaughter.
The Lord repented him of the evil, i.e. he moderated, and in part recalled, his sentence of the plague’s continuance for three whole days, and this he did upon David’s prayers and sacrifices, as appears from 2 Samuel 24:25, though these be mentioned afterward.
Araunah, called also Araniah in the Hebrew of 2 Samuel 24:18, and Ornan, 1 Chronicles 21:22; such changes in the pronunciation of the names being usual in Scripture.
And David spake unto the LORD 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.Let thine hand be against me; wherein David shows his justice, and piety, and fatherly care of his people, and that he was a type of Christ.
Against my father’s house; against my nearest relations, who probably either put David upon, or encouraged him in, this action, because they were no less vain-glorious than David; and the honour which they thought would come to David thereby, would also redound to them; or, at least, they did not use their utmost endeavours to dissuade David from it, as they should have done, and therefore were involved in David’s guilt. Howsoever, it was but fit and reasonable that his family, which did partake of his honour and happiness, should also partake in his suffering, rather than those who were less related to him. Nor doth David absolutely desire that they may suffer, but only speaks comparatively, and by way of supposition, and with reference to God’s good pleasure.
And Gad came that day to David, and said unto him, Go up, rear an altar unto the LORD in the threshingfloor of Araunah the Jebusite.Gad came that day to David, by command from God, 2 Samuel 24:19 1 Chronicles 21:18.
Go up to Mount Moriah.
In the threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite; which place God appointed for this work, partly, in gracious condescension to and compliance with David’s fear of going to Gibeon, which is expressed 1 Chronicles 21:29,30; partly, because this was the place where God by his angel appeared in a threatening posture, where therefore it was meet he should be appeased; and partly, because God would hereby signify the translation of the tabernacle from Gibeon hither, and the erection of the temple here, 2 Chronicles 3:1.
And David, according to the saying of Gad, went up as the LORD commanded.No text from Poole on this verse.
And 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.No text from Poole on this verse.
And Araunah said, Wherefore is my lord the king come to his servant? And David said, To buy the threshingfloor of thee, to build an altar unto the LORD, that the plague may be stayed from the people.Wherefore is my lord the king come to his servant? wherefore doth the king do me this honour, and give himself the trouble of coming to me?
And Araunah said unto David, Let my lord the king take and offer up what seemeth good unto him: behold, here be oxen for burnt sacrifice, and threshing instruments and other instruments of the oxen for wood.Here be oxen; which were employed by him in his present work, which was threshing, 1 Chronicles 21:20. See Poole "Deu 25:4".
All these things did Araunah, as a king, give unto the king. And Araunah said unto the king, The LORD thy God accept thee.As a king; the particle as being understood, as it oft is in the Hebrew, i.e. with a royal bounty. Or, Arannab the king, as he might be called, either because he was king of the Jebusites before David took their city, or because he was the son and heir of that king.
These things did Araunah give; he not only offered, but actually gave them, i.e. he actually resigned his right and property in them unto David; for so he did; and David by his refusal returned it to Araunah again.
The Lord thy God accept thee; he was a Jebusite by nation, but a hearty proselyte; which made him so liberal in his offers to God’s service, and the common good of God’s people.
And the king said unto Araunah, Nay; but I will surely buy it of thee at a price: neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the LORD my God of that which doth cost me nothing. So David bought the threshingfloor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.Of that which doth cost me nothing; for this would be both dishonourable to God, as if I thought him not worthy of a costly sacrifice; and a disparagement to myself, as if I were unable and unwilling to offer a sacrifice of my own goods; and unsatisfactory to the command of God, which obligeth all offenders, and me in a particular manner, to offer sacrifice of their own estate.
For fifty shekels of silver.
Object. In 1 Chronicles 21:25, he is said to give for the place six hundred shekels of gold by weight.
Answ. These two places may be fairly reconciled divers ways. First, Here he speaks of the price paid for the threshing-floor, and oxen, and instruments; and there for the whole place adjoining, on which the temple and its courts were built, which certainly was very much larger than this threshing-floor, and probably had Araunah’s house, if not some others, now built upon it. Secondly, The shekels here may be of gold, and in 1Ch 21 of silver; and so the proportion of gold to silver being that of twelve to one, fifty shekels of gold make six hundred shekels of silver. And whereas it may be objected, that on the contrary these fifty shekels are said to be of silver, and the six hundred of gold, this they answer by another translation of the words. For they render this place thus, agreeably enough to the words and the order of the Hebrew text, he bought them for silver, (or, for money, as the Hebrew word chesoph oft signifies, and particularly in this very history in the parallel place, 1 Chronicles 21:24, where David desires to buy it for the full price, or for full money, where in the Hebrew it is for full silver,) even for fifty shekels, to wit, of gold, as it is expressed 1 Chronicles 21:25; which place they render thus, and that consonantly to the Hebrew, he gave shekels of gold of the value (for the Hebrew word mishkal signifies value as well as weight, as was before noted on 2 Samuel 12:30) of six hundred shekels, to wit, of silver. And this may seem added in the Book of the Chronicles, lest it should be thought that the fifty shekels here mentioned were but common and silver shekels. Thirdly, There is a considerable difference in the phrase in these two places: here he mentions for what David
bought it, or what he was obliged to give for it; and in Chronicles what he actually gave for it, to wit, of his royal bounty, over and besides the full price of it; which was decent and convenient for so great a king, and especially upon so great an occasion, and to him who had given him such a noble example.
And David built there an altar unto the LORD, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. So the LORD was intreated for the land, and the plague was stayed from Israel.David built there an altar unto the Lord; which he might well do, having God’s command for it, and the place being sanctified by God’s special presence in and by the angel.
Offered burnt-offerings, to make atonement for his sins.
And peace-offerings, to praise God for his gracious manifestation of himself.
The Lord was entreated for the land, as appears both by fire from heaven, which consumed the sacrifice, as was usual in such cases; and by the speedy cessation of the plague.