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Paul J. Bucknell
Purpose: 2 Samuel 24:10-15, The Fear of God, emphasizes the severe consequences of David's census by presenting David three choices, each requiring the destruction of Israel. Which would you choose?
“10 Now David’s heart troubled him after he had numbered the people. So David said to the LORD, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done. But now, O LORD, please take away the iniquity of Thy servant, for I have acted very foolishly.” 11 When David arose in the morning, the word of the LORD came to the prophet Gad, David’s seer, saying, 12 “Go and speak to David, ‘Thus the LORD says, “I am offering you three things; choose for yourself one of them, which I may do to you.”’”
13 So Gad came to David and told him, and said to him, “Shall seven years of famine come to you in your land? Or will you flee three months before your foes while they pursue you? Or shall there be three days’ pestilence in your land? Now consider and see what answer I shall return to Him who sent me.” 14 Then David said to Gad, “I am in great distress. 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.” 15 So the LORD sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning until the appointed time; and seventy thousand men of the people from Dan to Beersheba died.” (2 Samuel 24:10-15).
1 and 2 Samuel records David’s flaws but also his willingness to recognize his fault. Unfortunately, he is a bit late this time. Just think if he was willing to catch this sin earlier on! But do we not do the same?
The Lord prompted Joab to caution David, but David did not take God’s warning. Our inability to see our sin early on is often connected to our pride. The Lord prompted Joab to caution David, but David did not take God’s warning through Joab.
The consequences of David’s sin here differed from Bathsheba’s case. In Bathsheba’s case David did not confess his sin until the prophet confronted him. In this case David acknowledged his sin and then the prophet Gad came. Once David heard the number of people counted, he was somehow troubled in his heart. He discovered his sin. David confessed his sin. These words clearly indicate that David sinned by taking the census.
It was at this time Gad the prophet was sent to David. God would speak back to David. The Lord gave David a choice between three painful consequences:
(1) Seven years of famine
(2) Three months of defeat
(3) Three days of pestilence
Each scenario spoke of death on a massive scale. How does one choose? In the end he chose to fall under God’s direct control of pestilence “for His mercies are great (24:14).”
What do you think about God? Could not God have spared the people? Why did He not just kill David? We do not know the answers to these questions but with 2 Samuel 21 in the backgrounds of our minds, we are made more sensitive to how sins incur God’s wrath. The scriptures are clear enough testifying to the Lord’s hand in sending the pestilence.
“So the LORD sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning until the appointed time; and seventy thousand men of the people from Dan to Beersheba died” (2 Samuel 24:15).
70,000 dead people is no game. It is a direct rebuke for improperly counting the people.
Even though we do not see sin quickly judged at times, we should not underestimate God’s wrath. It is true that the prophet did not come until David confessed, but that is no reason to hide sin.
David’s humbling of heart enabled David to make a choice and seek God’s mercy. As bad as things were, it could have been worse. Jerusalem could have been plundered.
Is there some unconfessed sin in your life? Better to deal with it now and seek God’s mercy rather than having God’s judgment fall without mercy.
=>God’s Mercy (2 Samuel 24:16-25)
=> Previous article where it explains why the consequence of taking the census was so severe (2 Samuel 24:1-9)
Check out our Digital Old Testament Library for a huge collection of resources on 1 Samuel and all of the Old Testament!
Scriptures typically quoted from the New American Standard Bible unless noted:
(C) Copyright The Lockman Foundation 1988