King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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2 Samuel 24

David numbers the people. (1-9) He chooses the pestilence. (10-15) The staying the pestilence. (16,17) David’s sacrifice, The plague removed. (18-25)

2 Samuel 24 Audio:

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David numbers the people

1 And again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.

2 For the king said to Joab the captain of the host, which was with him, Go now through all the tribes of Israel, from Dan even to Beersheba, and number ye the people, that I may know the number of the people.

3 And Joab said unto the king, Now the LORD thy God add unto the people, how many soever they be, an hundredfold, and that the eyes of my lord the king may see it: but why doth my lord the king delight in this thing?

4 Notwithstanding the king’s word prevailed against Joab, and against the captains of the host. And Joab and the captains of the host went out from the presence of the king, to number the people of Israel.

5 And they passed over Jordan, and pitched in Aroer, on the right side of the city that lieth in the midst of the river of Gad, and toward Jazer:

6 Then they came to Gilead, and to the land of Tahtimhodshi; and they came to Danjaan, and about to Zidon,

7 And came to the strong hold of Tyre, and to all the cities of the Hivites, and of the Canaanites: and they went out to the south of Judah, even to Beersheba.

8 So when they had gone through all the land, they came to Jerusalem at the end of nine months and twenty days.

9 And Joab gave up the sum of the number of the people unto the king: and there were in Israel eight hundred thousand valiant men that drew the sword; and the men of Judah were five hundred thousand men.

He chooses the pestilence

10 And David’s heart smote him after that he had numbered the people. And David said unto the LORD, 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.

11 For when David was up in the morning, the word of the LORD came unto the prophet Gad, David’s seer, saying,

12 Go and say unto David, Thus saith the LORD, I offer thee three things; choose thee one of them, that I may do it unto thee.

13 So Gad came to David, and told him, and said unto him, Shall seven 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, and see what answer I shall return to him that sent me.

14 And David said unto Gad, I am in a great strait: let us fall now into the hand of the LORD; for his mercies are great: and let me not fall into the hand of man.

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.

The staying the pestilence

16 And when the angel stretched out his hand upon Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed the people, It is enough: stay now thine hand. And the angel of the LORD was by the threshingplace of Araunah the Jebusite.

17 And David spake unto the LORD when he saw the angel that smote the people, and said, Lo, I have sinned, and I have done wickedly: but these sheep, what have they done? let thine hand, I pray thee, be against me, and against my father’s house.

David’s sacrifice, The plague removed

18 And Gad came that day to David, and said unto him, Go up, rear an altar unto the LORD in the threshingfloor of Araunah the Jebusite.

19 And David, according to the saying of Gad, went up as the LORD commanded.

20 And Araunah looked, and saw the king and his servants coming on toward him: and Araunah went out, and bowed himself before the king on his face upon the ground.

21 And Araunah said, Wherefore is my lord the king come to his servant? And David said, To buy the threshingfloor of thee, to build an altar unto the LORD, that the plague may be stayed from the people.

22 And Araunah said unto David, Let my lord the king take and offer up what seemeth good unto him: behold, here be oxen for burnt sacrifice, and threshing instruments and other instruments of the oxen for wood.

23 All these things did Araunah, as a king, give unto the king. And Araunah said unto the king, The LORD thy God accept thee.

24 And the king said unto Araunah, Nay; but I will surely buy it of thee at a price: neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the LORD my God of that which doth cost me nothing. So David bought the threshingfloor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.

25 And David built there an altar unto the LORD, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. So the LORD was intreated for the land, and the plague was stayed from Israel.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. Stirred up, &c. This stirring up, was not the doing of God, but of satan; as it is expressly declared, 1 Chron. xxi. 1. Ch. — David was moved by vanity, &c. thus to displease God. — Among. Heb. “against;” as the king could have done nothing more prejudicial to his people, 70,000 of whom perished on this occasion, v. 15. H. — We might also translate, “The anger of the Lord continued against Israel: for David, for their misfortune, was moved to say, Go,” &c. as this would obviate the harshness of the expression. C. — However, as it is the same in the Sept. &c. and as similar words do not prove that God is the author of sin, we may explain this in the same sense, allowing that he suffered the evil to take place, knowing how to draw good out of it. S. Aug. &c. H. — Some take this Satan to be an evil counsellor. C. — The devil may be styled “the fury of God?” as he is his creature, though rebellious. W.

Ver. 2. Them. He was led by curiosity. M.

Ver. 3. Thing. He speaks in stronger terms, and adds, (1 Par. xxi. 3,) which may be imputed as a sin to Israel. Joab was not extremely religious: yet he perceived the evil consequences, and, along with the other captains, expressed his sentiments with more respect than on former occasions. H.

Ver. 5. God, at the eastern extremity, on the banks of the Arnon.

Ver. 6. Hodsi. Sept. Alex. (5) “of Gad and Eliazer, (6) and they came into Galaad, and into the land of Ethaon Adasai, and they went into Dan Jaran.” The other editions vary. Heb. means, “to the land of new subjects,” or “lately conquered” (Junius) from the Agarites, (1 Par. v. 10,) which agrees with this situation. C. Lyran. — The commissioners first took an account of the tribe of Ruben, (M.) and then proceeded northward, till they returned from Dan towards the south. H. — Woodlands. S. Jerom reads jar, instead of jan. By transposing a letter, ain would signify Dan, “the spring,” which feeds the Jordan.

Ver. 7. Tyre, the ancient; about 4000 paces from the new city, which stands in an island. Strabo xvi. See Jos. xix. 29.

Ver. 8. Land. Yet they did not number the Levites or Benjamin, nor even the rest exactly, as Joab acted with reluctance. 1 Par. xxi. 6. and xxvii. 24. M.

Ver. 9. Eight…and five. Theodotion says nine and four, which comes to the same sum. H. — But 1 Par. xxi. 5, reads, eleven hundred thousand, and four hundred and seventy thousand fighting men: though even there the Arab. version has the number here specified, which is less incredible. The fighting men are not above a fifth part of the population; and we may allow that David might have about seven million subjects. It seems, therefore, best to abandon the latter number as incorrect, since all commentators confess that similar mistakes have been made by the transcribers; and to maintain the contrary, would be indirectly to throw the blame upon the sacred writers. C. — Yet some account for the variation, by saying, that Joab gave not in the full number here, (M. Abul. &c.) which seems contrary to the text, there were found, &c. H. — A. Lapide supposes, that the excess of number was occasioned by the subsequent list of the Levites, &c. But could they amount to so many? C. — And what proof is there that they were numbered, after the anger of God had manifested itself so severely? H. — Others affirm, that Joab did not take an account of the 288,000 chosen out of the twelve tribes, that 24,000 of them might guard the palace by turns, in each of the twelve months. 1 Par. xxvii. 1. Bochart Anim. p. 1. B. ii. 37. Grot. &c. — But thus there will be 18,000 more than even in Paral. where we find in all 1,570,000, though the tribe of Juda have fewer, by 30,000, than in this book. To account for this, some say, (H.) the proselytes are here taken in, or the inhabitants of all the territory, which was at first assigned to Juda. Jos. xix. 29. M. — All this is conjecture, (H.) and must remain among the systems of history. C. — If Joab chose to diminish the numbers of Israel, why has he increased those of Juda? Did he wish to flatter the king’s vanity, or partiality for his own tribe? It is difficult to say what interest Joab could have in withholding the truth; and for the sacred historian to countenance his delusion, would expose us to the same danger of mistake, and overthrow the authority of Scripture, therefore, most rational to suppose that we have here the true list of the warriors, and that the book of Paral. has been injured by the negligence of transcribers, as it has on many other occasions. H.

Ver. 10. David’s heart struck him, after the people were numbered. That is, he was touched with a great remorse for the vanity and pride which had put him upon numbering the people. Ch. — His sin must have been internal, and probably involved a secret confidence in his riches and power, without referring all to God, (H.) or trusting entirely in him. S. Amb. pœn. c. 9. S. Aug. c. Faust. xxii. 66. &c. — There was otherwise no prohibition for David’s taking this account, (C.) which is so natural for a prince, and may frequently prove of great service. H. — Josephus (vii. 13.) and others assert, that he neglected to require the payment of half a sicle. T. E. — But where does God complain of this neglect? and how do they know that the injunction which was once given to Moses, when the tabernacle was furnished, (Ex. xxx. 12.) was to remain in force afterwards? Oleaster (on Exod.) says David acted against God’s intention, who had promised that the Israelites should be innumerable. But this reason seems childish; and did not the king abstain, on that very account, from numbering any but those who were fit for war? 1 Par. xxvii. 23. C. — Struck him. Contrition and confession are specified here, as satisfaction is, v. 12. Temporal sufferings are inflicted, even after the sin has been remitted, v. 16. W.

Ver. 11. And seer. This was a peculiar distinction of the prophet, (H.) who was appointed to direct David, (M.) to whom he had been long attached. 1 K. xxii. 5. C.

Ver. 13. Seven. Par. three; which makes the contrast more striking. H. — The Sept. and some copies of the Arab. version, have the latter number. C. — Gad might first propose seven, and then reduce it to three. M. — But did the prophet deliver the message twice? Usher pleads for the truth of both numbers, though he says, “It was always my opinion, that the Hebrew copy of the Old Testament has been no less exposed to the errors of writers, than that of the New, and all other books.” Synt. p. 219. Boxtorf also declares, “it is better piously to believe that both is right.” Why? “because both is written.” Antic. p. 401 and 420! The contradiction, in fact, seems to have been occasion by the mistake of a numeral letter, g (3) for z (7.) Kennicott. — Usher, Malvenda, &c. adopt an hypothesis, beautiful enough, but destitute of proof, when they say that God proposed three years in punishment of David’s criminal curiosity. But as that famine would have immediately followed the three years’ scarcity, already endured, (C. xxi.) and during the seventh, or sabbatical year, nothing could be reaped, the famine would thus rage for seven years. C. — Salien places the 62nd sabbatical year at this very time, A. 3017, and terminates the famine occasioned by the cruel injustice of Saul, A. 1013, which cannot agree with the aforesaid system. H.

Ver. 14. Lord, and be exposed to the violence of pestilence, which attacks both rich and poor; whereas the rich can frequently escape the dangers of war, or of famine. C. — David knew that he had sinned, and he did not wish to screen himself from suffering the temporal punishment due to sin. H. — God punishes us equally by the hand of men, as by other means; but the king thus intimates, that he looks upon Him as an indulgent father, who is less severe than the ministers of justice. M.

Ver. 15. And. Sept. insert, “And David chose death, (the pestilence, as they usually render it; Salien). And it was the time of the wheat-harvest. And the Lord gave death in Israel, from morning till dinner-time.” H. — Appointed, for three days; though before the end of the last, God took pity on the people, ver 16. C. — Bochart thinks the pestilence ceased to rage at some hour of the first day. Syr. and Arab. “till the sixth hour.”

Ver. 16. Areuna. Heb. styles him, Araniah, (v. 18. C.) i being substituted for u, and placed after n. He is called Ornan, 1 Par. xxi. 18, (H.) and has the title of Jebusite, as he was originally of that nation, and had been permitted to retain his effects, on his embracing the true religion. Moria was his property, and seems not to have been much inhabited. It was not yet enclosed within the city walls. Here David saw the angel, in the air, ready to strike the inhabitants, and heard the voice from heaven. C. — He had already witnessed the death of many in the city. 1 Par. xxi. 14. The angel waited for God’s orders how many to destroy. H. — He did not sheath his sword till David had offered sacrifice to appease the Lord; (v. 21) though others think that the sacrifice was to thank God for the deliverance. C.

Ver. 17. Are, like sheep. M. — They were not accountable for the fault of their shepherd, or king; nor were they punished for it, (H.) but for joining in the revolts of Absalom, Seba, &c. (Salien) as well as for other secret offences. H. — Some groundlessly condemn the people, for entertaining sentiments of pride, along with David. Both king and people suffer, when either draws down the vengeance of heaven.

Ver. 18. Altar. This was done by a positive order. People still had the liberty of sacrificing on the heights of Gabaon. C. — This place was honoured with the tabernacle; and David would have gone thither, if he had not been so much terrified. 1 Par. xxi. 30. H.

Ver. 22. Wain. So Josephus reads. Sept. “wheels.” Heb. “rollers,” to beat out the corn. C. — Prot. “threshing instruments, and other instruments of the oxen for wood.” Paral. adds, that Areuna offered wheat, and saw the angel, as his four sons, and probably most of the inhabitants of Jerusalem did.

Ver. 23. As a king. Lit. “king Areuna:” e may have been substituted for c, “like,” though the latter word is often understood. H. — Some suppose that he was formerly king of the Jebusites, (Vatab.) or one of their descendants, (Grot.) or possessed of great riches, &c. But why is the title never given to him elsewhere? Bochart. — The Sept. Syr. and many Latin copies, do not recognize it; nor was it found in the Chaldean, in the 12th age. Yet without making any changes, we may translate, “O king, Areuna has given all these things to the king.” The Jews often speak of themselves in the third person, out of respect. Le Clerc. C.

Ver. 24. Free-cost, or given gratis. This shews that subjects have property, otherwise they could only yield what was due to the king, as his own. W. — Silver. Sept. “for the silver of fifty sicles.” H. — Bochart explains for the money of 50 sicles of gold, which makes 600 sicles of silver. Gold was formerly as twelve to one, compared with silver. Plato in Hipparcho. — But the best method of reconciling this passage with 1 Par. is to say, that David gave the 50 sicles for the oxen and floor, and afterwards purchased the whole piece of ground for 600 (C.) sicles of gold, (or 902l. 5s. sterling. H.) being informed that the temple was to be erected there, (C.) where Isaac had formerly been brought to be sacrificed. M. — We might make a colon, or pause, at floor, as if its price were specified elsewhere, and the fifty sicles were given for the oxen. D. M. — The sum amounts to only about 1l. 14s. H.

Ver. 25. Holocausts; a second time. The former victims had been consumed by fire from heaven. 1 Par. xxvi. 28. C.