Today’s reading starts with David’s last speech to the Israelites and concludes with the battle for the throne of Israel shortly before the death of David.
Under David’s rule the kingdom of Israel had grown and prospered. David had been successful in his military campaigns and conflicts with surrounding nations were becoming fewer and farther between. For whatever reason the text of this passage mentions that the anger of the LORD was kindled against the people of Israel. The reason for the LORD’s anger isn’t made clear, but as a result, the text states that the LORD incited David against the people of Israel and David called for a census of the armies of Israel.
David’s commander Joab realized that not trusting the LORD and taking a census of the fighting men was an unfaithful action that the LORD would be displeased with, but David insisted and so Joab did as he was told. After taking the census, David realized his breach of faith against the LORD and confessed his sin to Him. At this time the prophet Gad came to David and told him that the LORD intended to punish him for his lack of faith and that David would have the choice of one of three consequences: three years of famine, three months of defeat against his enemies, or three days of pestilence throughout Israel.
David’s response again spoke to his trust in the grace and mercy of the LORD. He told Gad that it was his desire that the LORD bring pestilence on the land of Israel because he reasoned, “I am in great distress. Let us fall into the hand of the LORD, for his mercy is great; but let me not fall into the hand of men.” 2 Samuel 24:14 ESV
In response, the LORD sent pestilence throughout all the land of Israel and a total of 70,000 people died as a result. The angel of the LORD was just about to strike Jerusalem when the LORD interceded and stopped the angel from bringing the pestilence into the city. An interesting statement is made at this point in the text: “And the angel of the LORD by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. Then David spoke to the LORD when he saw the angel who was striking the people, and said, ‘Behold, I have sinned, and I have done wickedly. But these sheep, what have they done? Please let your hand be against me and against my father’s house.'” 2 Samuel 24:16c-17
It’s not clear how David knew the location of the angel of the LORD, but the pestilence ceased at that time. In response, David bought the threshing floor of Araunah and the oxen he had to make a burnt offering to the LORD on an altar to be constructed at that place. Araunah was more than willing to give David all that he needed, but again, David shows his fear for the holiness of the LORD: “No, but I will buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God that cost me nothing.” 2 Samuel 24:24a So David bought the threshing floor of Araunah, built an altar there and sacrificed to the LORD. At that time, the LORD ceased the plague against the people.
David’s life is always held up as an example of the attitude should be evident in the lives of those who come into a relationship with God. Certainly, David was a sinful man. From a human standpoint, David committed greater sin that you or I are capable of committing, and yet God holds him up as the example for us in our relationship with God. The legalistic mindset of me and many others ought to be changed by such grace and favor in the face of such grave immorality. I don’t know what that looks like, but it’s definitely worthy of greater understanding.