David’s Sin in Numbering the People

Scripture Passage: 
2 Samuel 24:1-25

INTRODUCTION: This lesson demonstrates how God looks on pride in His servants and shows the humility He requires. This chapter, when compared with its parallel passage in 1 Chronicles 21:1-30, raises many questions. However, the Bible-believing student approaches these questions with faith that God’s word is always true and that any discrepancy is with our understanding and not with the scripture. He also trusts that the questions that make him study contain within them a special blessing from God.

  1. THE NUMBERING OF THE PEOPLE (2 Samuel 24:1-9)
    1. The Temptation to Number the People (2 Samuel 24:1)
      1. The source of the temptation
        1. Threefold
          1. The Lord
          2. Satan (1 Chronicles 21:1)
          3. David
        2. Explanation
          1. God never tempts anyone to do evil (James 1:13).
          2. Yet, God will remove His protective hedge about us and allow the Devil to tempt us (Job 1:10-12).
          3. Compare these verses and consider the source of death (1 Samuel 2:6 with Hebrews 2:14).
      2. The substance of the temptation: to number Israel and Judah
      3. The sin of the temptation: why was this such a great sin?
        1. David did not take up the required offering (Exodus 30:12-16).
        2. David sinned in the pride of having a great army.
          1. He was counting soldiers (2 Samuel 24:9).
          2. He took his eyes off the Lord and put them on his own resources (2 Samuel 24:3; 1 Chronicles 21:3). The entire purpose of the numbering was so that David might know the number of the people (2 Samuel 24:2).
          3. Even Joab saw the wickedness of this act (1 Chronicles 21:3, 6).
    2. The Command to Number the People (2 Samuel 24:2)
      1. Given to Joab the captain
      2. To be done from Dan to Beersheba
      3. Given for selfish reasons – “that ‘I’ may know the number”
    3. The Protest of Joab against the Act (2 Samuel 24:3)
      1. May the Lord bless David a hundredfold.
      2. But to seek to know the number is wicked.
    4. The Obedience of Joab to the King (2 Samuel 24:4-7)
      1. David’s word prevailed against Joab’s word (2 Samuel 24:4).
      2. Joab went to number the people (2 Samuel 24:4).
      3. The people were numbered throughout the land (2 Samuel 24:5-7).
    5. The Completion of the Numbering (2 Samuel 24:8-9)
      1. They returned to Jerusalem in nine months and twenty days (2 Samuel 24:8).
      2. Joab gave the number of the people (2 Samuel 24:9).
        1. 800,000 valiant men of Israel
        2. 500,000 men of Judah
      3. NOTE: The totals are different from the totals in 1 Chronicles 21:5. The totals evidently differed on the basis of different criteria. Some of the numbers may not have included reserve forces or inactive soldiers. Others may have included these men. A census counts people on many different levels. There is no need for concern because of the apparent differences.
  2. THE JUDGMENT OF THE LORD (2 Samuel 24:10-17)
    1. The Confession of David’s Sin (2 Samuel 24:10)
      1. The conviction occurred after the sin was committed.
      2. David’s confession occurred before God’s judgment.
      3. David sought to be cleansed of his iniquity.
    2. The Choice David Was Given (2 Samuel 24:11-13)
      1. God sent word by the prophet Gad (2 Samuel 24:11).
      2. David was given a choice of three judgments (2 Samuel 24:12-13).
        1. Seven years of famine
          1. NOTE: The passage in 1 Chronicles 21:12 refers only to three years famine.
          2. ANSWER: There had already been four years of famine (cp. 2 Samuel 21:1 with 2 Samuel 24:1, 8). 2 Samuel refers to the entire length the famine would have occurred. 1 Chronicles refers to the additional years God would have sent.
        2. Three months fleeing from his enemies
        3. Three days of pestilence
    3. The Pestilence from the Lord (2 Samuel 24:14-15)
      1. David chose the three days of pestilence (2 Samuel 24:14).
        1. The one fell most directly from God.
        2. David counted on the mercies of God.
        3. David feared falling into the hand of men (perhaps after the rebellions of Absalom and Sheba).
      2. The Lord sent the pestilence upon the land (2 Samuel 24:15).
        1. From Dan to Beersheba
        2. Killing 70,000 men
    4. The Mercy of the Lord at Jerusalem (2 Samuel 24:16)
      1. The angel prepared to destroy Jerusalem.
      2. God repented of the evil He was doing (see Jonah 3:10).
        1. In scripture, the word evil often refers to things that are generally bad (earthquakes, famine, etc.) and not always to things that are sinful.
        2. The word repent has the general meaning of changing one’s mind or direction (as here).  It does not always refer to a turning from sin.
      3. God halted the destroying angel at the threshingplace of Araunah.
        1. The Jebusites originally held Jerusalem and it was called Jebus (1 Chronicles 11:4).
        2. David obviously allowed some of the Jebusites to remain in the city.
        3. Araunah was probably of the royal line of the Jebusites.
          1. He lived on Mount Moriah. Kings would usually inhabit the highest place in the city.
          2. 2 Samuel 24:23 states, “All these things did Araunah, as a king, give unto the king.” He gave as a king. He probably would have been king except for his city being conquered by David.
        4. This place became the site of Solomon’s temple (2 Chronicles 3:1).
    5. The Plea of David for the People (2 Samuel 24:17)
      1. David again confessed his sin.
      2. David plead for the innocence of the people.
      3. David offered himself for judgment.
  3. THE OFFERING OF KING DAVID (2 Samuel 24:18-25)
    1. The Command God Gave to David (2 Samuel 24:18-19)
      1. God told David to rear up an altar (2 Samuel 24:18).
      2. David went up according to God’s command (2 Samuel 24:19).
    2. The Obedience of David to the Lord (2 Samuel 24:20-21)
      1. Araunah bowed himself before the king (2 Samuel 24:20).
      2. Araunah asked the purpose of David’s visit (2 Samuel 24:21).
      3. David told the purpose of his visit (2 Samuel 24:21).
        1. To buy the threshingfloor
        2. To build an altar to the Lord
        3. To stop the plague
    3. The Purchase of Araunah’s Threshingfloor (2 Samuel 24:22-24)
      1. Araunah offered all that was needed as a gift (2 Samuel 24:22-23).
      2. David insisted on paying for everything he took (2 Samuel 24:24).
        1. He will not give to God that which costs him nothing.
        2. He gave 50 shekels of silver for the threshingfloor and oxen.
        3. He gave 600 shekels of gold for everything (1 Chronicles 21:24-25).
    4. The Sacrifice Made by David (2 Samuel 24:25)
      1. David built an altar to the Lord.
      2. David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings.
      3. The Lord withdrew the plague from the land.
  4. ARAUNAH’S GIFT
    1. His Example of Giving – He Gave as a King (2 Samuel 24:23).
      1. He must have been of the royal house of the Jebusites.
      2. Our other example for giving is also of a royal line; He is Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:2; Philippians 2:5-8).
    2. The Extent of His Giving – He Gave It All (1 Chronicles 21:18-23).
      1. Araunah gave the threshingfloor, the oxen, the threshing instruments, and the wheat. Nothing was held back.
      2. We are to give our bodies a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2).
      3. We are to give ourselves to the Lord (2 Corinthians 8:5).
    3. The Exchange for His Giving – He Received Full Price of All He Gave (1 Chronicles 21:24-25).
      1. Araunah gave without condition, but David paid him anyway.
      2. The Lord blesses our giving in the same way (Luke 6:38).

CONCLUSION: Like Saul, David sins against the Lord; but unlike Saul, David repents and offers himself up to the judgment of God.

David Reagan and Andrew Ray

Daily Proverb

Proverbs 24:22

For their calamity shall rise suddenly; and who knoweth the ruin of them both?