2 Samuel 24 “David Counts the People”

At the end of his life David falls again. As I catch myself thinking “what a stupid move there David” I was immediately convicted. I am just like David. I sin in similar ways (if not worse) over and over and just like David, I find myself confessing and repenting of sins and begging God for mercy.

Thankfully, the Bible doesn’t only show us the sin of David it also tells us about his repentance. It’s good to remember that David didn’t sin and then never deal with it. When David sinned, he also repented (though sometimes not as quickly as he should), and he often repented in big public ways.

Here in 2 Samuel, David numbers the people. Joab tells him it’s a bad move but David moves forward. Something for me to learn there. When others who are around me throw up red flags of caution, I should listen. If David would have stopped and considered the advice of those around him throughout his life he could have avoided so many problems.

Israel had 800,000 valiant men who drew the sword and Judah had 500,000. Together that’s 1.3 million. I wondered how that compares with our military here in the USA and per Wikipedia that’s about the size of our military without the reserves. That’s a big army for them!

What’s the takeaway?

The military was huge! Compare the country size of the USA with Israel. The USA is much larger and yet Israel had roughly the same size military. For that country it would have probably been an obvious fact that their military was very large. Plus, they had won many wars. Plus, they had a warrior as their king. Plus, all those who were David’s closest friends were his “Mighty Men” (i.e. military). It would have been obvious that the military was healthy and the country was blessed by God and it was doing well. Yet, David wanted to number them. David wanted the stats. David wanted the details. This only happens when you desire to boast about something. You never want the details of an event that was embarrassing, but if someone mentions that someone else said something positive about us we cry out “tell me more!” It was a total pride issue. Maybe even along the lines of Nebuchadnezzar “Is this not Babylon the great which I have built” (Daniel 4:30).

Application: I need to be on guard of the same pride when God works in my life or uses me in someone else’s. It is only by His grace and it needs to be for His glory alone, not my own.

The Doctrine of Concurrence
There is also one more important illustration from this chapter and it is the doctrine of Concurrence. Here is a helpful definition of concurrence:

“The doctrine of concurrence affirms that God directs, and works through, the distinctive properties of each created thing, so that these things themselves bring about the results that we see. In this way it is possible to affirm that in one sense events are fully (100 percent) caused by God and fully (100 percent) caused by the creature as well. However, divine and creaturely causes work in different ways. The divine cause of each event works as an invisible, behind-the-scenes, directing cause and therefore could be called the “primary cause” that plans and initiates everything that happens. But the created thing brings about actions in ways consistent with the creature’s own properties [which God unchangeably gave and sustains], ways that can often be described by us or by professional scientists who carefully observe the processes. These creaturely factors and properties can therefore be called the “secondary” causes of everything that happens, even though they are the causes that are evident to us by observation.” (Reference:  Bible Doctrine: Essential Teachings of the Christian Faith, Zondervan, http://www.zonderan.com, 1999, p. 145.)

You can also listen to this message on Concurrence by RC Sproul, click here.

Why is 2 Samuel 24 such a good illustration of this doctrine? Because multiple persons are said to be involved with the act of numbering the people. Here take a look:

God is said to be involved

Now again the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and it incited David against them to say, “Go, number Israel and Judah.” (2 Samuel 24:1)

Satan is said to be involved

“Then Satan stood up against Israel and moved David to number Israel.” (1 Chronicles 21:)

David is shown to  be responsible

“Nevertheless, the king’s word prevailed against Joab and against the commanders of the army” (2 Samuel 24:4)

“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 Your servant, for I have acted very foolishly.”” (2 Samuel 24:10)

“Then David spoke to the Lord when he saw the angel who was striking down the people, and said, “Behold, it is I who have sinned, and it is I who have done wrong; but these sheep, what have they done? Please let Your hand be against me and against my father’s house.”” (2 Samuel 24:17)

So who was is that moved David to number the people? Was is God? Was is Satan? Or was it David? The answer is YES! All three are involved. God had a sovereign plan for David’s good and God’s glory (Rom 8:28, Gen 50:20). Satan wanted to tempt David to sin (Job 1, Matthew 4). David is responsible and decided to sin on his own (Gal 6:4-5, Rom 14:10-12, James 1:12-16).

For more on this issue please see my post on trials and temptations.

Grace to you and peace…


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