Study Notes

2Samuel 24:1-25

24:1 Incited

Depending on the translation of the Bible that you read, this passage indicates that it was either the Lord that incited David or the anger of the Lord that incited David. Also, it is unclear as to whether the Lord said, "Number Israel," or whether David said that. To mix things up even more, the parallel passage in 1Chronicles says,

1Chr. 21:1 Then satan stood up against Israel and moved David to number Israel.

What in the world is going on here? Did satan do this or did God? If it was satan, why is the Lord mentioned here? If it was God, then why does the book of James say,

James 1:13 ...God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.

To get some perspective, we need to go to a book of the Bible that shows us some of this "behind the scenes" stuff. The book of Job gives us an indication as to how this might have worked.

Job 1:6-12 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and satan also came among them. And the LORD said to satan, "From where do you come?" Then satan answered the LORD and said, "From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it." And the LORD said to satan, "Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil." Then satan answered the LORD, "Does Job fear God for nothing? Hast Thou not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? Thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But put forth Thy hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse Thee to Thy face." Then the LORD said to satan, "Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him." So satan departed from the presence of the LORD.

Job's servants were subsequently massacred by marauders, his property destroyed by fire from the sky, and his sons and daughters killed in a tornado-like wind.

Job 2:1-6 Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and satan also came among them to present himself before the LORD. And the LORD said to satan, "Where have you come from?" Then satan answered the LORD and said, "From roaming about on the earth, and walking around on it." And the LORD said to satan, "Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man fearing God and turning away from evil. And he still holds fast his integrity, although you incited Me against him, to ruin him without cause." And satan answered the LORD and said, "Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life. However, put forth Thy hand, now, and touch his bone and his flesh; he will curse Thee to Thy face." So the LORD said to satan, "Behold, he is in your power, only spare his life."

Job was afflicted with a terrible disease that was so terrible and painful that he wished he was dead.

The devil did this to attack Job. God allowed this to test Job. Did God attack Job? No, but God used satan's attack for His own purposes - even saying to satan, "you incited Me against him." The attack was allowed by God, but not ordered by God. The devil assaulted Job, but only as far as he was allowed. And it was all for God's glory.

So the mystery here is that everything we experience in our lives is not necessarily judgment from God, but it all works to God's purpose. That's why the book of Colossians says,

Col. 1:16 For by Him all things were created, {both} in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities —all things have been created by Him and for Him.

Another example of this is found in Revelation 20, when satan in bound for a thousand years (Rev. 20:2) during the Millennial reign of Christ. During that thousand years, Jesus will rule with a rod of iron, giving people little opportunity to rebel. But in their hearts, they desire rebellion. So God allows satan to be released for a short time, to deceive the nations and lead an attack against Jerusalem.

Even there, satan is accomplishing God's plan and purpose. So the two accounts of David's numbering of Israel are actually both true. The devil stood up against Israel, but God's purpose for judging Israel was accomplished.

24:2-4 David's Side Of The Census

We've looked at the spiritual side of things. Now we see the worldly side. David is moving in pride - he wants to know how many people there are. This was not for the purpose of a census, but for David to feed his flesh. Once numbered, he could tell himself, "I am the supreme commander over this many millions! I can raise an army of this many hundreds of thousands of men!"

24:5-9 Numbering The People

2Sam. 24:5-6 And they crossed the Jordan and camped in Ar-o-AYR, on the right side of the city that is in the middle of the valley of Gad, and toward Yah-ZARE. Then they came to Gilead and to the land of Takh-TEEM Khod-SHEE, and they came to Dawn YAH-an and around to Tsee-DONE

It took David's army nearly ten months to count the people of Israel and Judah before they got back to the area around Jerusalem for the local count.

24:10-14 David's Heart Troubled

David knew that his motivation had been pride. Even before the census was finished, David put a stop to it. We read in 1Chronicles 27,

1Chr. 27:24 Joab the son of Zeruiah had begun to count {them,} but did not finish

David had sinned against God, confessed his sin and asked for forgiveness. But the Lord didn't forget the sin. judgment would come. But why? Don't we know God as a God who hears confession and forgives? Yes, but there is also a spiritual law in effect: that of reaping and sowing. We are warned,

Gal. 6:7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.

If we drink to drunkenness, get behind the wheel of a car, and kill someone, there can be forgiveness from God. But what we've sown is already reaped. We're still suffering from the injuries, still going to court, still having our names in the papers, and still going to jail. A man reaps what he sows. David will reap the earthly judgment for what he has sown in pride.

Three Choices

The prophet tells him that God has given him a choice between three judgments: Famine, the victory of his enemies, or pestilence. David chose the right course, saying,

2Sam. 24:14 ..."Let us now fall into the hand of the LORD for His mercies are great, but do not let me fall into the hand of man."

God is always merciful, and man is seldom merciful. David knew that it is better to be subject to the judgment of God than the judgment of man. Even as Job said,

Job 13:15 "Though He slay me, I will hope in Him..."

David trusted that God would be merciful.

24:15-16 The judgment Of God

Although 70,000 men of Israel died because of the judgment, the Lord was indeed merciful. He stopped short and said, "It is enough." Remember that God was not judging them for David's sin, but for their own (2Sam. 24:1).

24:17 Self-sacrificing Love

David saw the angel that was bringing this judgment over by the threshing floor of Ar-av-NAW the Jebusite. He interceded on behalf of the people, asking that the judgment be upon him and his own house.

I see the heart of David here, as he desires that he be the one to be punished for the sin. I think of the heart of the apostle Paul, who said,

Rom. 9:2-3 ...I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, {separated} from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh

Paul would have even given up his own salvation to save the people of Israel. Love is evidenced in self-sacrifice. No greater example could be made than Jesus, who said,

John 15:13 "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.

Indeed, Jesus demonstrated that love for each of us.

24:18-25 Offering To The Lord

David was commanded to build a sacrificial altar there on Ar-av-NAW's threshing floor. When Ar-av-NAW offered him the threshing floor, the oxen, and the wood for the sacrifice in generosity, David refused. He said, "I will not offer to the LORD that which cost me nothing."

As we discussed in the last study, worship is expensive. It's not sacrifice if it's not a sacrifice.

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