Scripture reading – 2 Samuel 24; 1 Chronicles 21

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Today’s Scripture readings are parallel accounts of the same tragic event…David’s decision to number the warriors in Israel. Because 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21 are essentially mirror images of the same incident, I will take today’s devotional from each of those accounts.


David’s Sin: He Numbered the People (2 Samuel 24:1-9; 1 Chronicles 21:1-6)


In the latter years of David’s life, the king made a proud, foolish decision. He commanded, “Go, number Israel and Judah.” In doing so, he provoked the “anger of the LORD…against Israel” (2 Samuel 24:1). From where, or whom, did this provocation arise? The writer of 2 Samuel states, “he moved David against them to say, “Go, number Israel and Judah” (2 Samuel 24:1).

Who was “he?”


The historian of 1 Chronicles revealed that Satan inspired David to number the people. We read, “Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel” (1 Chronicles 21:1). How did that happen? Why would a man, after God’s heart (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22), do what was contrary to His will? Various explanations might be put forward, but I suggest the central one is PRIDE. Satan targeted a “bullseye,” a common area of weakness for most men, and provoked the natural inclination of the proud king’s heart.

We read, “Joab, the captain of the host (i.e., army),” questioned the king’s motive for the census (2 Samuel 24:3; 1 Chronicles 21:3) and appealed to him with gracious words, saying, “Why doth my lord the king delight in this thing?” (2 Samuel 24:3) Joab knew the king’s command was a provocation of God’s judgment. He suggested, “The Lord make his people an hundred times so many more as they be…why then doth my lord require this thing? why will he be a cause of trespass to Israel?” (1 Chronicles 21:3; 2 Samuel 24:3). Despite the king’s command, Joab did not number the tribes of Benjamin and Levi, for he knew the census was contrary to God’s will (Numbers 1:47-49).


David’s Confession (2 Samuel 24:10; 1 Chronicles 21:7-8)


David’s census lasted nine months and twenty days, and when the number was given, David’s heart was convicted. He confessed, “I have sinned greatly in that I have done: and now, I beseech thee, O LORD, take away the iniquity of thy servant; for I have done very foolishly” (2 Samuel 24:10).

God’s Judgment (2 Samuel 24:11-15; 1 Chronicles 21:9-14)


We then read, “The word of the LORD came unto the prophet Gad, David’s seer” (2 Samuel 24:11). David was mercifully allowed to choose which of three judgments would befall him and Israel (1 Chronicles 21:10-12): Seven years of famine, three months of being overrun and pursued by adversaries, or three days of pestilence (2 Samuel 24:12-13). David chose three days of pestilence, reasoning he would rather trust in God’s mercies than fall into the hand of an enemy (2 Samuel 24:14).

2 Samuel 24:15 – “So the LORD sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning even to the time appointed: and there died of the people from Dan even to Beersheba seventy thousand men.”

God’s Mercy (2 Samuel 24:16-17; 1 Chronicles 21:15-17)


The angel’s path of death and destruction spanned Israel, slaying 70,000 men, but as he neared Jerusalem, “the Lord beheld, and he repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed, It is enough, stay now thine hand. And the angel of the Lord stood by the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite” (1 Chronicles 21:15).

God did not repent of wrongdoing, but in His mercy, He changed His mind and halted His judgment for David’s sin.

David and the elders of Israel called upon the LORD, and as the shepherd king of Israel, he prayed, “Is it not I that commanded the people to be numbered? even I it is that have sinned and done evil indeed; but as for these sheep, what have they done? let thine hand, I pray thee, O Lord my God, be on me, and on my father’s house; but not on thy people, that they should be plagued” (1 Chronicles 21:17).


A Lasting Memorial (2 Samuel 24:18-25; 1 Chronicles 21:18-30)


The prophet Gad returned with a message from the LORD and instructed David to buy the “threshingfloor of Araunah the Jebusite (the Jebusites being the original inhabitants of Jerusalem)” and build an altar there (2 Samuel 24:18). [Note – 1 Chronicles 21:18 names one “Ornan” as the owner of the threshingfloor; they are the same man.]

David purchased the threshing floor, and there he sacrificed to the LORD the oxen he had bought. According to 1 Chronicles 21:26, the LORD sent fire from heaven and consumed the oxen as a sign that David’s offering had satisfied His wrath (1 Chronicles 21:26).

Closing thoughts –


What became of the land David purchased? Let us take a moment for a brief lesson from history:

The threshingfloor of Araunah was where God tried Abraham, and he offered his son Isaac (Genesis 22). This was also the place the LORD promised Jacob, “I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of” (Genesis 28:15). When Jacob awakened, “he said, Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not. 17And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven” (Genesis 28:16-17). That same place would later be where Solomon built the Temple (1 Chronicles 22:1-2; 2 Chronicles 3:1).

Of course, it was not far from the place that would one day be beloved as Calvary. There, Jesus Christ was crucified, suffered, and died for our sins and the sins of the world. In the words of a blessed old gospel song:


“O, how marvelous! O, how wonderful!  Is my Savior’s love for me!”

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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