Second Samuel 24 Commentary
David is in the news again. The reason? Unauthorized census. Really? Unauthorized? Is not David the final authority? This chapter is very interesting.
As was often the case, his long-serving army commander and nephew Joab is also in the story. But this time Joab is the voice of righteousness. It is from him that we can safely begin to speculate on the reasons why the LORD wasn’t happy with a mere census.
We can look at two possibilities. The first one rises from David’s position of fear and subsequent doubt. There is a possibility that David is now looking at his military strength as a way of fending off his inner fear. In moments of low spirituality, man feels insecure. These are times when you want to ensure every door is securely locked. You want to take stock of your bank account. When the LORD becomes less visible, you want your physical strength to become more visible. So, why not? Go ahead and assess it.
Pride is another possibility. Is this not Israel that I David have built? Look at the size! Joab, go and check my military strength.
The reasonable Joab responds by discouraging the King from conducting the census. The scripture is pointing to the fact that the LORD does provide a way of escape from temptations. Strangely, it is Joab who provides it. He is completely ignored.
Again we can read further into this incidence by looking at David’s reaction in the aftermath. He is conscience-stricken. He knows he has done something wrong before the LORD, replacing trust with statistics. Immediately, punishment is decreed for the King. David is a lucky boy, he chooses his own punishment!
Punishment does come, heavily. And as expected, mercy also shows up. This is the highlight of this chapter and probably a suitable point at which to end the book. With mercy is an instruction from the LORD to David. He has to build an altar to the LORD at a specific place. After the sacrifice, “the LORD answered his prayer in behalf of the land”.
We have seen how the LORD elevated David in victories over Israel’s enemies. By the hand of the LORD, Israel is safe, but by the hand of man, Israel is unsafe again. This problem can only be solved by an altar. Calvary is pictured here. But in the immediate future, the instruction to construct an altar is actually detailed in the Book of Chronicles. This very site, Araunah’s piece of land, becomes the plot on which ‘the Son’, Solomon would build God the promised house.
The chapter ends by raising questions on the strange punishment by the LORD on the people. Equally strange is the method used to atone for David’s sin. And the altar? Well, that too becomes another point to reflect on as we get into the Book of Kings.
We are closing the Book with David still on the throne. This is miraculous! Sin, repentance, and then forgiveness; that is the reason why David is still on the throne.
Thanks for loving the scripture. The story of the LORD and his people continues into the Book of Kings.
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