2 Samuel 24: God orders a census

Synopsis:

 God gets mad at Israel again so David orders a census taken. Joab doesn’t want to do it – but is ordered to and does it anyway. It takes them 9 months and 20 days to complete the census. There are 800,000 men able to draw swords in Israel and another 500,000 in Judah. For some reason, David thinks he has sinned against God and asks for his punishment. God has Gad, David’s seer, deliver the message. I can either give all of Israel 7 years of famine, or have you pursued by your enemies for 3 months or have 3 days of pestilence.  David chooses the pestilence and 70,000 men die.  When the angel of God is getting ready to destroy Jeruselum, God stays his hand. The angel was near the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite, so David purchases the floor for Araunah and some oxen and erects and altar and offers sacrifice. This works and the plague is stayed from Israel.

In other words:

There are now 1,300,000 men in the lands of Israel and Judah and God isn’t happy so he brings a 3 day pestilence that kills 70,000 of them. (5 percent of the population for those keeping count)

First thoughts.

There is NO WAY there were 1,300,000 men in this area. Joab does mention that they will multiply the number 100 fold – so – 13,000 – yeah – that I can believe. Because remember – this is just the able bodied men and does not include women, children or the elderly.

Favorite bit:

2 Samuel 24:20-24 – Araunah wants to give the king his threshing floor and oxen for free for the sacrifice, but David insists on paying. It cost him 50 shekels of silver for the threshing floor and oxen.

2nd favorite bit:

2 Samuel 24:17:Lo, I have sinned, and I have done wickedly: but these sheep, what have they done? (David addressing the angel sent by god  - at David’s request for pestilence).

Least favorite but still amusing bit:

2 Samuel 24:13-15 – 7 years of famine, be pursued by your enemies for 3 months, or 3 days of pestilence.  And David chooses pestilence. This comes off as selfish to me. He would rather his people suffer than he be pursued by his enemies. He’s supposed to be king watching out for his people. Instead, he allows 70,000 of his people to die so he isn’t inconvenienced.

What confused me:

I have NO idea why God is mad at them this time. I suspect that pestilences just happened from time to time and this story was written to explain it and apologize for the fact the king was supposed to be in good with God so that things like this didn’t happen.

Moral Lesson Learned:


  • Figuring out what is moral isn’t always easy (2 Samuel 24)
  • Morality sometimes requires you to choose between the lessor of three evils (2 Samuel 24)