2 Samuel 24:9
And Joab reported to the king the total number of the troops. In Israel there were 800,000 valiant warriors who drew the sword, and in Judah there were 500,000.
Sermons
David Numbering the PeopleH. Melvill, B. D.2 Samuel 24:1-25
David Numbering the PeopleF. M. Sadler, M. A.2 Samuel 24:1-25
David's Numbering of the PeopleHomiletic Magazine2 Samuel 24:1-25
In What Respect the Census was SinfulA. F. Kirkpatrick, M. A.2 Samuel 24:1-25
Numbering the PeopleC. S. Robinson, D. D.2 Samuel 24:1-25
The Church's Resources2 Samuel 24:1-25
An, Awakened ConscienceB. Dale 2 Samuel 24:5-10
The Prophet GadB. Dale 2 Samuel 24:9-13, 18, 19


This narrative is highly creditable to both David and these three brave men. It shows the power he had of awakening in his soldiers passionate attachment and devotedness to himself, his high appreciation of such qualities, and, at the same time his unwillingness that they should be displayed in enterprises which hazarded precious lives for no corresponding advantage. In the pouring of the water out as an offering unto the Lord, because it was too costly and sacred for ordinary use, "pure chivalry and pure religion found an absolute union" (Dean Stanley). On the other hand, the heroism of these men, stirred by their love and loyalty to their chief, although displayed in a rash enterprise, is worthy of great admiration. We are reminded of similar qualities found amongst the servants of the Son of David, our Lord Jesus Christ. Notice -

I. THE DEVOTED LOVE OF CHRIST'S FAITHFUL SERVANTS TO HIMSELF.

1. They show sincere and practical regard to his every wish. They do not need explicit commands in detail, still less accompanying threatenings. Enough if they can ascertain what he desires; and their love for him and converse with him enable them to know his wishes without definite verbal revelations or laws. A large portion of the life of many modern Christians, especially in the departments of Christian zeal and benevolence, is founded on no express command, but springs from love and sympathy - from that participation of the Spirit of Christ which produces intuitive discernment of his will, and that devoted attachment which prompts to the gratification of his every wish.

2. They are ready to encounter danger in his service. The work of Christ makes at times great demands on love, zeal, and courage. It cannot be done without hazard; but his true-hearted friends are prepared to endure the toil and brave the peril. Not a few in our own day may be described as "men that have hazarded their lives for the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 15:26). This spirit of Christian heroism is not confined to the more hardy races, but among' the softer tribes of Polynesia and India, the knowledge, of Christ has produced a similar courage. Converted natives offer themselves for service in the most dangerous fields of missionary enterprise; and when some fall at the hand of savages, or through attacks of deadly diseases, others eagerly press forward to take the vacant places. The language of St. Paul is still the language of faithful Christians, "None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself," etc.; "I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die... for the Name of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 20:24; Acts 21:13).

3. They are sometimes moved to extraordinary manifestations of their regard. Like the three heroes whose exploit is here recorded. Like Mary in her lavish anointing of her Lord (John 12:3). Warm love prompts to generous deeds and gifts. There is need of these in the service of Christ; and if ardent love to him were more common, they would be more frequent. Love should, however, submit to the guidance of wisdom, lest it become wasteful or injurious. Our Lord will accept mistaken offerings, but it is well that the offerings should themselves be such as he can approve. One safeguard against mistake is the remembrance that he desires no display of love which is fantastic or useless, no self-denial or daring which answers no proportionate end in the advancement of his kingdom and the promotion of the good either of our own souls or of our fellow men. There is abundant room for all possible generosity, self-denial, and bravery in the practical service of Christ and man; to expend these in fruitless ways is to expose our works to condemnation, however good and acceptable may be our motives. We are to serve God with our reason as well as our feelings.

II. THE REASONABLENESS AND RIGHTNESS OF SUCH LOVE. Because of:

1. His self-sacrificing love for them. "The love of Christ constraineth us" (2 Corinthians 5:14) is their sufficient answer to any who allege that they are "beside themselves" (2 Corinthians 5:13). His love requires and justifies the utmost consecration to him of heart and life.

2. His injunctions. He claims from all who follow him that they should love him more than their nearest relations more than their own life (Matthew 10:37; Luke 14:26), and that, in serving him, they should be fearless of death (Luke 12:4).

3. His example. Of love to the Father, and complete devotedness to his will and glory (John 14:31; John 4:34; Matthew 26:39, 42; John 12:27, 28).

4. The effects of such love. In purifying and ennobling the character of those who cherish it, and promoting through them the well being of mankind. It is love for all excellence, stimulates to its pursuit and greatly aids its attainment. It is the inspiration and support of the highest and most persistent benevolence; for he who is loved is the Incarnation of Divine holiness and love, and the great Friend and Benefactor of the human race, and the return he asks for his love to us is not a barren, sentimental devotion, but practical obedience (John 14:15, 21, 23), and especially a fruitful love to our brethren (John 15:12-14; 1 John 3:16-18), whom he teaches us to regard as being himself (Matthew 25:35-45). Love to Jesus Christ has been, and still is, the strongest motive-power in the world in favour of all godliness and goodness.

5. Its rewards. Love to Christ is not mercenary, and makes no stipulation for recompense. It is its own reward. Yet in the midst of a cold and unbelieving world it needs all supports. These are to be found in the assurance of the approval and affection of Christ himself, and of the Father (John 14:21, 23; John 16:27), and the prospect of sharing the glory and joy of Christ forever (John 17:24; 2 Timothy 4:8; Matthew 19:29; James 1:12; James 2:5). On the other hand, to be destitute of love to Christ is to be lost (1 Corinthians 16:22). - G.W.







And David built an altar there unto the Lord.
The history of David affords us an instructive lesson of the blessings arising out of sanctified affliction, as well as the dangers of prosperity.

1. At the beginning of the chapter it is said, "the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and He moved David against them to say, go number Israel and Judah." In the parallel passage (1 Chronicles 21.) it is said "Satan provoked David to number Israel," i.e., (as Bishop Hall remarks) God did so by permission, Satan by suggestion; God as a judge, Satan as an enemy.

2. It has occurred to some as difficult to see exactly wherein David's sin consisted.(1) Distrust. God had said Israel should be as the dust of the earth, as the sand on the sea shore, and as the stars in the heavens — why count them then?(2) Pride. David thought no doubt he would appear more formidable by a display of numbers, like Hezekiah afterwards, he wished to make a display of his power.

3. Observe, again, "David's heart smote him after he had numbered the people; after, not before. Sin leaves a sting behind, though it may give a momentary gratification.

4. Remark David's sorrow and confession and guilt: "I have sinned and done very foolishly." Ah! here was grace; this was unnatural, it was supernatural; it was the very opposite of fallen nature to take all the blame to himself.

5. David was, on his repentance and acknowledgment, charged to rear an altar and to offer a sacrifice which was intended, no doubt, to represent that "without shedding of blood, there is no remission."

I. THE ALTAR AND SACRIFICE represent the sacrifice of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, the only sacrifice God will accept as an atonement for sin.

1. David offered "burnt-offerings and peace offerings." The burnt-offerings represent God's justice; the peace offerings represent God's mercy — a striking emblem of our great sacrifice I Here, in Jesus, "Mercy and truth meet together, righteousness and peace kiss each other." Here, God's justice is satisfied, and His mercy manifested. Here, we see God "a just God," and yet "a Saviour" — "just, and the Justifier of all who believe." Where shall we look for the great proofs of God's righteous displeasure against sin? The great proof is found in the sufferings of God's own Son. Again, where shall we look for the great proof of God's mercy? You remind me of the ark in which Noah and his family were saved, or of Zoar, where Lot found refuge? Yes; but the great proof of mercy is to be found in the same garden, and on the same cross where we found the other

1. In one sense, and that a very important sense, our acceptance with God cost us nothing — it is free. Nothing we can do is meritorious: salvation is God's free gift through Christ. This is the vital pulse of a sinner's hope — "By grace he is saved."

2. The other point is: our redemption cost God much. "Ye are bought with a price," said St. Paul to his Corinthian brethren; how great a price he did not say; he could not. "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." "God so loved." Who can say how much? There is no mercy out of Christ, and "no condemnation to them who are in Christ."

II. DAVID'S RESOLUTION AND CONDUCT on the occasion of God's mercy to him. David's conduct by no means implies he regarded his offering as meritorious. (Psalm 51:16, 17,) "For thou desirest not sacrifice, else would I give it; thou delightest not in burnt-offering; the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt act despise." It proved two things as regarded David's peculiar case, viz., sincerity and thankfulness. Sincerity — unlike the ruler mentioned in the Gospel, he wanted a religion which would cost him nothing, and therefore "he went away sorrowful." Thankfulness. David longed to show what he felt, like the leper (Luke 17.), he "returned to give glory to God." Oh! what a spring it would give to charity, to feel as David felt. Observe, in the parallel passage (1 Chronicles 21.) it is said, David bought the threshing-floor for 600 shekels of gold. We can reconcile the two accounts by merely supposing the author in the book of Samuel stated the price of the oxen, while the author in the book of Chronicles mentioned the price of the threshing floor. Let me now mention a few particulars which the Gospel claims as proofs of gratitude, and God's Word proposes as tests of sincerity.

1. Coming out of the world.

2. The Gospel demands the sacrifice of every known sin — not one, but all; not in part, but entirely.

3. The Gospel demands of us to deny self. "Of all idols," says one, "idol self is worshipped the longest."Let me close with a word or two of direct and personal application.

1. I address those who suppose, by offering to God what cost them much, thereby to merit heaven. Turn, my brethren, to 1 Corinthians 13:3. "Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing." This exactly meets your case.

2. To such as, Gallio like, "care for none of these things," I would say your case is an awful one. A religion which costs you nothing — which allows you to keep your sins — to be conformed to the world, and to indulge the flesh, is not of God.

(W. E. Ormsby, M. A.)

And the plague was stayed from Israel.
These words record the removal of a terrible visitation sent from Heaven on the people of Israel. The circumstances connected with that Divine judgment, and the means by which its terrors were ended, are replete with the most valuable instruction. And therefore choose thee one of these three things — "Shall three 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 thee what answer I shall give to Him that sent me." How forcibly does this part of our subject teach us the great danger of engaging in any scheme or course of action upon which we cannot ask the blessing of God! How carefully ought we to examine and weigh by the balance of the sanctuary, the motives by which we are actuated! How easily can God crush our most favourite plans and blight our dearest hopes, and punish our forgetfulness of Him, and dependence on our own strength, by turning those very things upon which our hearts were most bent, into sources of the bitterest anguish and the most humiliating mortification! Thus a man will often set his heart upon riches, and worship Mammon rather than God; and those riches are taken away from him after they have been for awhile possessed in abundance — a deprivation, which makes poverty far bitterer than ever it was before; or while actually possessed, they in various ways cause him troubles and sorrows more intolerable than any that fall to the lot of the poor.

1. The great danger of prosperity, and the folly of coveting riches and honours as the chief good.

2. The deceitful nature and the terrible consequences of sin. David's heart smote him after, not before, he had numbered the people. This is Satan's method of dealing with his prey, and this is the way he succeeds in beguiling men to ruin. He blinds the eye to the guilt, until the evil deed is done. How deeply is this felt by the penitent, when brought to loathe himself for his iniquity! What a sting is left behind by sin, though it may have been committed with very little alarm, and with scarcely any sense of its malignant nature! What a picture is displayed in this history of sin's terrible consequences — the angel of God running to and fro through the land with the sword of vengeance, and slaying seventy thousand men in less than three days! How it exhibits the Almighty's resolve not to let iniquity go unpunished!

3. The great and invaluable efficacy of the sacrifice of the death of Christ. The Almighty God, who is "angry with the wicked every day," and who has declared that all the nations that forget Him shall be turned into hell, has, nevertheless, made with them who believe in Christ, "a covenant well ordered in all things and sure," and, in that covenant, we have a Divine promise made, and the Divine veracity pledged, that they shall never perish, who rest their hopes on the offered propitiation.

4. The importance of promptitude in applying for mercy, and in deprecating the Divine wrath through the appointed sacrifice.

5. Finally, learn hence the duty of activity, liberality in the service of God, and for the benefit of your fellow sinners. It is a Scriptural precept — "Honour the Lord with thy substance." He who has a religion which costs him nothing has a religion that is worth nothing.

(H. Hughes, B. D.)

If we knew how to enjoy our blessings in the fear of God, they would be continued unto us; but it is the sin of man that he extracts, even from the mercies of God, the poison which destroys his comforts: ha grows fat upon the bounty of Heaven, spurns its laws, and awakens it vengeance. This was the case with the Israelites at the period to which our text refers. It is probable their sin was a general forgetfulness of God, and a vain confidence in the strength, numbers, and valour of the nation; for with this feeling of national vanity David was affected. The time was come when punishment could be no longer delayed; and the pestilence received its commission. Seventy thousand men died from Dan to Beersheba; and that the judgment might be known to proceed from God, an angel was made visible, with a drawn sword, directing, by His terrible agency, the vengeance and the death. The history indicates to us:

I. THE STRICT REGARD PAID BY THE ALMIGHTY TO THE CONDUCT OF HIS CREATURES. This is a consideration which ought ever to impress our minds. The want of it is one of the causes of the misconduct of men. All are not openly infidels; they do not deny a God; nor do they allow His existence, and deny His omniscience. All do not confine Him to His own heaven, and make it part of His greatness and grandeur to avert His eyes from earth. All do not make Him indifferent to sin. and say, with the unbelief of those of old, "The Lord shall not see, neither shall the God of Jacob regard it." But though we may not, say this, we may be influenced by the very principle from which it proceeds. All who sin forget God; act as though there were no God, or He had no omniscience, or that He is indifferent to their conduct. To awaken us to a consciousness of the regard he pays to our actions, to His ever-bending, ever-watchful eye, it is, that he has so often specially interposed to punish sin, and in a manner which could leave no doubt of His agency. For this, among other purposes, the histories in the Old Testament have been preserved; that observing the displays of His power and justice, we might "sanctify the Lord in our hearts," and that the whole earth might "tremble and keep silence before Him." Does any one suppose that because He is but an individual, one amidst the myriads of the human race, he shall pass in the crowd, and escape the notice of his Judge? Let him learn that David was an individual, yet his individual sin was noticed, dragged to light, reproved, and punished.

II. WE ARE INSTRUCTED BY THE HISTORY TO CONSIDER SIN AS AN EVIL FOLLOWED BY THE MOST DISASTROUS CONSEQUENCES. The pride, and forgetfulness of God, of which David and his people were guilty, might appear, if sins at all, sins of a very venial kind, the common infirmities of human nature; yet they were followed by the dreadful choice of evils, and with the destruction of seventy thousand persons. One of the most fatal habits of mind is to treat sin lightly or with 'indifference. It is exhibited as a mark of eminent folly. "Fools make a mock at sin."

III. THE HISTORY ALSO EXHIBITS TO US THE ONLY MEANS OF FORGIVENESS AND ESCAPE FROM PUNISHMENT. The altar was built unto the Lord: "David offered burnt-offerings and peace-offerings; so the Lord was entreated for the land, and the plague was stayed." In other words, sin was expiated by the intervention of a sacrifice. This is the doctrine of every book of Scripture, of every age, and of every nation. Let us, then, observe that the testimony of the Church of God, from every age, is that the anger of Him whom we have offended can only be propitiated, and that He only can be approached, by sacrifice. When man became a sinner, then an altar marked the place in which he worshipped, and his offering was a bloody sacrifice. When Noah left the ark, his first act was to erect an altar, to reconcile God to a world which bore so many marks of His wrath; and at the Smell of the sweet savour of the offerings, He gave the promise, "I will no more curse the ground for man's sake." When the first-born of Egypt fell beneath the stroke of the angel, it was the blood of the lamb sprinkled upon the door-posts that guarded in safety the offspring of Israel. When the plague broke forth against the rebels in the wilderness, Aaron ran between the living and the dead with his censer and incense, and the plague was stayed; but it was incense inflamed by fire from the altar of sacrifice. Thus, on ordinary occasions by stated, and on extraordinary displays of the Divine anger by extraordinary sacrifices, did the Church show forth the intended death of the true Sacrifice. This is our method of salvation: "We are saved by His blood," and it is important for us to know that, in this single doctrine of a substituted sacrifice, the whole method of our salvation is included. The manner in which sacrificial rites were performed illustrates even now the method of salvation. The offerer confessed the fact of his offence by bringing his victim; and he that believes in Christ, by assenting to this method of expiation, confesses the fact too: "I have sinned, and therefore I fly to Christ as my atonement." The offerer was prompted by the fear of punishment to slay his victim, and sprinkle the blood; so David in the text. If we are properly alarmed at our, danger, we shall haste to the only refuge of a Saviour's bleeding side. The sacrifice was the instrument of sanctification; it supposed a covenant with God; the sacrifice was eaten; the parties were made friends; and sin, which only could make them enemies, was renounced for ever. Thus, the appointment of sacrifices supposes the confession of sin; a salutary fear of the terrors of a holy God; a just apprehension of the desert of sin, death in its most painful forms; and a reliance and trust in God's appointed means of salvation, and the renunciation of all sin, and the recovery of His blessing and friendship. All these are taught you and enjoined upon you by the death of Christ; and on these terms we invite you to receive pardon and salvation.

IV. WE OBSERVE THAT THE ERECTION OF THIS ALTAR BY DAVID WAS A PUBLIC ACT, an act in which the public were interested; and in this respect it agreed with the practice of all ages. The building of an altar was ever a public act; the place was separate from common purposes; and it stood as a religious memorial for the instruction of mankind.

1. The erections themselves, and more especially the acts and observances of worship, are memorials of religious facts and doctrines. They keep a sense of God upon the minds of men; they turn She thoughts of the public, whether they will or not to serious subjects.

2. Our worship is public, and the places we erect are places of public resort.

3. Besides this, our places of worship are to be considered as the places where the Gospel, the good and glad tidings of salvation, are announced to men. They are the places of treaty and negotiation between God and man. Ministers are the ambassadors of God. Clothed with authority by Him, they enter His house, and a rebellious world is summoned to hear from them God's gracious terms of pardon, and His authoritative demand of submission.

4. They are houses of prayer, and remind us of our dependence upon God, and of His condescension to us. They are houses of shelter from the storms and cares of life; the places where we cast our care on Him, and prove that He careth for us; the place where He is known, eminently known, for a refuge.

V. THE ZEAL AND LIBERALITY WHICH GOOD MEN HAVE EVER DISCOVERED IN THE ERECTION OF HOUSES AND ALTARS TO GOD. The words of the text are an instance. When Araunah saw David coming, he went to meet him; and, when informed of the occasion — "to buy the threshing-floor, to build an altar to the Lord" — he spontaneously makes him the offer of his threshing-floor.

(R. Watson.)

In the modern city of Rome is a fortress, once the mausoleum of the Emperor Hadrian, and bearing his name. About twelve hundred years ago so tradition says, there raged a devastating plague in that old imperial town; and while people and pope and priests were making a procession with prayers, there appeared on the summit of the citadel the form of the Archangel Michael, in the act of sheathing his sword, to show that the pestilence was stayed. So there, in the place the vision, Gregory erected the statue of the angel poising on his beautiful pinions, and hovering over the city he had saved. Ever since, this edifice, converted into a stronghold, had been called "San Angelo," the Castle of the Holy Angel. Nobody asserts that an exquisite marble can render a fable true; the legend is only a poor little travesty of our grand old Bible story; but it may help in making our picture, as it shines out at the closing of our lesson.

(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)

Century Bible.
The last entry in the appendix to Samuel consists of a document which may be described as the charter of the most famous of the world's holy places. By the theophany here recorded the threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite received a consecration which has made it holy ground not only for Judaism and Christianity, but for Islam as well. Upon this spot, we can scarcely doubt, stood the great altar of Solomon's temple. To-day, as all the world knows, the site is covered by the magnificent mosque, the Kubbet es-sahara, or Dome of the Rock, the most sacred of Mohammedan shrines after those of Mecca and Medina.

(Century Bible.)

Starr King, one of the most eloquent champions of the Socinians, paid the following tribute to the doctrine of the vicarious atonement: "It is embodied by the holiest of memories, as it has been consecrated by the loftiest talent of Christendom. It fired the fierce eloquence of in the early Church, and gushed in honeyed periods from the lips of ; it enlisted the life-long zeal of to keep it pure; the sublimity of it fired every power, and commanded all the resources of the mighty soul of ; the learning of and the energy of , were committed to its defence; it was the text for the subtle eye and analytic thought of Aquinas; it was the pillar of Luthers soul, toiling for man; it was shapen into intellectual proportions and systematic symmetry by the iron logic of Calvin; it inspired the beautiful humility of Fenelon; fostered the devotion and self-sacrifice of Oberlin; flowed like molten metal into the rigid forms of Edwardss intellect, and kindled the deep and steady rapture of Wesleys heart... All the great enterprises of Christian history have been born from the influence, immediate or remote, which the vicarious theory of redemption has exercised upon the mind and heart of humanity.".

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