2 Samuel 24


David is tempted by Satan to number Israel and Judah, 1.

Joab remonstrates against it, but the king determines that it

shall be done; and Joab and the captains accomplish the work,

and bring the sum total to the king: viz.: eight hundred

thousand warriors in Israel, and five hundred thousand in

Judah, 2-9.

David is convinced that he has done wrong; and the prophet Gad

is sent to him, to give him his choice of three judgments,

one of which God is determined to inflict upon the nation,


David humbles himself before God; and a pestilence is sent,

which destroys seventy thousand men, 14, 15.

The angel of the Lord being about to destroy Jerusalem, David

makes intercession, and the plague is stayed, 16, 17.

Gad directs him to build an altar to the Lord on the

threshing-floor of Araunah, where the plague was stayed, 18.

He purchases this place for the purpose, and offers

burnt-offerings and peace-offerings. 19-25.


Verse 1. He moved David against them] God could not be angry

with David for numbering the people if he moved him to do it; but

in the parallel place (1Ch 21:1) it is expressly said,

Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number

Israel. David, in all probability, slackening in his piety and

confidence toward God, and meditating some extension of his

dominions without the Divine counsel or command, was naturally

curious to know whether the number of fighting men in his empire

was sufficient for the work which he had projected. See more on

2Sa 24:10. He therefore orders Joab and the captains to take an

exact account of all the effective men in Israel and Judah. God is

justly displeased with this conduct, and determines that the props

of his vain ambition shall be taken away, either by famine, war,

or pestilence.

Verse 3. Joab said unto the king] This very bad man saw that the

measure now recommended by the king was a wrong one, and might be

ruinous to the people, and therefore he remonstrates against it in

a very sensible speech; but the king was infatuated, and would

hear no reason.

Verse 5. And pitched in Aroer] This was beyond Jordan, on the

river Arnon, in the tribe of Gad: hence it appears, says Calmet,

that they began their census with the most eastern parts of the

country beyond Jordan.

Verse 6. Tahtim-hodshi] Where this place was is not exactly

known: some think that the words refer to a newly conquered

country, as our margin, the nether land newly inhabited; and if

so, this was probably the country eastward of Gilead, which the

Israelites, in the time of Saul, had conquered from the Hagarites,

and dwelt in themselves. See 1Ch 5:10, where this transaction is


To Dan-jaan] Or, to Dan of the woods. This is the place so

frequently mentioned, situated at the foot of Mount Libanus, near

to the source of the Jordan, the most northern city of all the

possessions of the Israelites in what was called the promised

land, as Beer-sheba was the most southern: hence the common form

of speech, From Dan to Beer-sheba, i.e., from north to south.

Verse 7. The strong hold of Tyre] This must have been the old

city of Tyre, which was built on the main land: the new city was

built on a rock in the sea.

Verse 8. Nine months and twenty days.] This was a considerable

time; but they had much work to do, nor did they complete the

work, as appears from 1Ch 21:6; 27:24.

William the Conqueror made a survey of all England,

particularizing "how many hides or carucates the land is taxed at;

whose it was in the time of his predecessor Edward; who the

present owners and sub-tenants; what and how much arable land,

meadow, pasture, and wood there is, how much in demesne, i.e.,

held and cultivated by the landowners; how much in tenantcy, and

what number of ploughs it will keep; what mills and fisheries; how

many sockmen, freemen, co-liberti, cotarii, bordarii, radmanni,

radchenisters, villains, maid-servants, and bondmen, there are;

how many hogs the woods would support; how many churches, priests,

or parsons; what customary rents, prestations, and services, are

to be paid and rendered out of the lands; what has been added to

the manor; what has been withheld from it, and by whom; what land

is waste, and what the whole was let for in the time of King

Edward; and what the nett rent, and whether it was too dear

rented, and whether it might be improved." This survey was begun

in the year 1080, and was finished in the year 1086, six years

having been employed in the work. This most important document is

still preserved; it is in the Chapter House, Westminster, in two

volumes, one in folio, on three hundred and eighty-two leaves of

vellum. the other in quarto, on four hundred and fifty leaves; and

is in as good preservation as it was seven hundred years ago. This

work was much more difficult than that which was performed by Joab

and his fellows. The work itself is known by the name Domesday


Verse 9. In Israel eight hundred thousand-the men of Judah were

five hundred thousand] In the parallel place, 1Ch 21:5, the

sums are widely different: in Israel one million one hundred

thousand, in Judah four hundred and seventy thousand. Neither of

these sums is too great, but they cannot be both correct; and

which is the true number is difficult to say. The former seems the

most likely; but more corruptions have taken place in the numbers

of the historical books of the Old Testament, than in any other

part of the sacred records. To attempt to reconcile them in every

part is lost labour; better at once acknowledge what cannot be

successfully denied, that although the original writers of the Old

Testament wrote under the influence of the Divine Spirit, yet we

are not told that the same influence descended on all copiers of

their words, so as absolutely to prevent them from making

mistakes. They might mistake, and they did mistake; but a careful

collation of the different historical books serves to correct all

essential errors of the scribes. See the Dissertations of Dr.

Kennicott mentioned at the conclusion of the preceding chapter.

See Clarke on 2Sa 23:39.

Verse 10. David said-I have sinned greatly] We know not exactly

in what this sin consisted. I have already hinted, 2Sa 24:1, that

probably David now began to covet an extension of empire, and

purposed to unite some of the neighbouring states with his own;

and having, through the suggestions of Satan or some other

adversary, (for so the word implies,) given way to this covetous

disposition, he could not well look to God for help, and therefore

wished to know whether the thousands of Israel and Judah might be

deemed equal to the conquests which he meditated. When God is

offended and refuses assistance, vain is the help of man.

Verse 11. For when David was up] It is supposed that David's

contrition arose from the reproof given by Gad, and that in the

order of time the reproof came before the confession stated in the

10th verse. 2Sa 24:10

David's seer] A holy man of God, under the Divine influence,

whom David had as a domestic chaplain.

Verse 13. Shall seven years of famine] In 1Ch 21:12, the number

is three, not seven; and here the Septuagint has three, the

same as in Chronicles: this is no doubt the true reading, the

letter zain, SEVEN, being mistaken for gimel, THREE. A

mistake of this kind might be easily made from the similarity of

the letters.

Verse 14. I am in a great strait: let us fall now into the hand

of the Lord] David acted nobly in this business. Had he chosen

war, his own personal safety was in no danger, because there

was already an ordinance preventing him from going to battle. Had

he chosen famine, his own wealth would have secured his and his

own family's support. But he showed the greatness of his mind in

choosing the pestilence, to the ravages of which himself and

household were exposed equally with the meanest of his subjects.

Verse 15. From the morning-to the time appointed] That is, from

the morning of the day after David had made his election till the

third day, according to the condition which God had proposed,

and he had accepted: but it seems that the plague was terminated

before the conclusion of the third day, for Jerusalem might have

been destroyed, but it was not. Throughout the land, independently

of the city, seventy thousand persons were slain! This was a

terrible mortality in the space of less than three days.

Verse 16. The angel stretched out his hand upon Jerusalem] By

what means this destruction took place, we know not: it appears

that an angel was employed in it, and that this minister of Divine

justice actually appeared as an object. of sight; for it is said,

2Sa 24:17,

When David saw the angel that smote the people, he said, &c.;

and both Ornan and his four sons saw him and were affrighted,

1Ch 21:20.

The threshing-place of Araunah] These threshing-places, we have

already seen, were made in the open air. In the parallel place,

1Ch 21:15, 20, &c., this person is called

Ornan. The word that we render Araunah is written in this very

chapter Auarnah, 2Sa 24:16,

Araniah, 2Sa 24:18,

Araunah or Araunah, 2Sa 24:20, and the following: but

in every place in 1Ch 21:1-30 where it occurs it is written

Ornan. It is likely he had both names, Araunah and Ornan: but the

varieties of spelling in 2 Sam. must arise from the blunders of


Verse 17. But these sheep, what have they done?] It seems that

in the order of Providence there is no way of punishing kings in

their regal capacity, but by afflictions on their land, in which

the people must necessarily suffer. If the king, therefore, by his

own personal offenses, in which the people can have no part, bring

down God's judgments upon his people, (though they suffer

innocently,) grievous will be the account that he must give to

God. The people generally suffer for the miscarriages of their

governors: this has been observed in every age.

Quicquid delirant reges, plectuntur Achivi.

__________________ "When doting monarchs urge

Unsound resolves, their subjects feel the scourge."

HOR. Ep. lib. i., ep. 2, ver. 14.

Against my father's house.] That is, against his own family;

even to cut it off from the face of the earth.

Verse 18. Go up, rear an altar unto the Lord] This place is

supposed to be Mount Moriah: on which, according to the rabbins,

Cain and Abel offered their sacrifices; where Abraham attempted to

sacrifice Isaac, and where the temple of Solomon was afterwards


Verse 22. Here be oxen for burnt-sacrifice] He felt for the

king; and showed his loyalty to him by this offer. He felt for

the people; and was willing to make any sacrifice to get the

plague stayed. He felt for his own personal safety; and therefore

was willing to give up all to save his life. He felt for the

honour of God; and therefore was glad that he had a sacrifice to

offer, so that God might magnify both his justice and mercy.

Verse 23. As a king, give unto the king.] Literally, All these

did King Araunah give unto the king. That there could not be a

king of the Jebusites on Mount Moriah, is sufficiently evident;

and that there was no other king than David in the land, is

equally so: the word hammelech, "the king," given here to

Araunah, is wanting in the Septuagint, Syriac, and Arabic; in

three of Kennicott's and De Rossi's MSS., and in the parallel

place in Chronicles: and, it is very probable, never made a part

of the text. Perhaps it should be read, All these did Arnunah give

unto the king.

There is, however, a difficulty here. David had taken the

fortress of the Jebusites many years before; yet it is evident

that Araunah was proprietor of the soil at this time. It is not

clear that he was a subject of David; but he paid him respect as a

neighbour and a king. This is merely possible.

Verse 24. Neither will I offer burnt-offerings] It is a maxim

from heaven, "Honour the Lord with thy substance." He who has a

religion that costs him nothing, has a religion that is worth

nothing: nor will any man esteem the ordinances of God, if those

ordinances cost him nothing. Had Araunah's noble offer been

accepted, it would have been Araunah's sacrifice, not David's; nor

would it have answered the end of turning away the displeasure of

the Most High. It was David that sinned, not Araunah: therefore

David must offer sacrifice, and at his own expense too.

Verse 25. David-offered burnt-offerings] And that these

sacrifices were pleasing to the Lord, is evident from a

circumstance marked in the parallel place, 1Ch 21:26:

David called upon the Lord, and he answered him from heaven by

fire upon the altar of burnt-offering.

The plague was stalled] Jerusalem did not share in the common

calamity, seventy thousand being the whole that were slain

throughout the land.

THIS book is unfinished, and requires 1 Chr. 22, 23, 24, 25, 26,

27, 28, and 29, to complete it. A few things relative to this

history may be found in the beginning of the following book; but

the information in 1 Chr. is much more extensive and satisfactory.


IN the time of the Masoretes the two books of Samuel were

considered but as one, and thus divided:-

Number of verses in these two books, 1506.

Number of Masoretic sections, 34.

The middle verse is 1Sa 28:24:

And the woman had a fat calf in the house, and she hasted and

killed it, and took flour and kneaded it, and did bake unleavened

bread thereof.

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