David Numbers the Fighting Men
How to Explain Discrepancies
Chapter 21 is a repeat of the original record in 2 Samuel 24. There are few discrepancies in these two records on the numbers mentioned in this event, the following are the explanations of the discrepancies:
- David was incited by God or Satan?
- 2 Sam 24: [..the anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and He incited David against them…]
- 1 Chro 21: [Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel]
- Both are true, God permitted Satan to tempt David in order to accomplish the purposes He had in mind. This is the only one of the four times Satan is named specifically at work in OT (Gen 3, Job 1-2, Zech 3)
- Men who could handle a sword:
- 2 Sam 24: 800k in Israel and 500k in Judah, total of 1.3 M
- 1 Chro 21: 1.1 M in Israel and 470k in Judah
- 2 Sam 24:9 says the 800k men were able-bodied men who could handle a sword. The additional 300k men in 1 Chronicle was possible men that are less experienced in battle but could still handle a sword, in another word, the reserved army. 30k less men in Judah was due to Benjamin was not counted in the 1 Chro number (v6)
- How much David paid for the threshing floor?
- 2 Sam 24: 50 shekels (v24)
- 1 Chro 21: 600 shekels (v25)
- Maybe David initially paid 50 shekels for the oxen for sacrifices and the wooden yokes for fuel, but later he bought the whole land with 600 shekels.
- Seven or three years of famine?
- 2 Sam 24 Seven years
- 1 Chro 21: three years
- It was possibly a copy error on 2 Sam 24 on the Hebrew Bible. Septuagint says three years, which match 1 Chronicle 21.
Why Did God punish Israel?
God allows census (Ex 30:11-16), He had asked Israel to carry out censor twice while in the wilderness (Num 1, Number 26). However David’s motive of the censor was not to glorify God, but to glorify himself. David’s desire to count his the men in Israel because:
- he wanted to show off the number of his army
- he started to depend on the size of his army as the reason to win wars, instead of depend on the power of God
David was the one who sinned against God, but why did God punish the Israelites, which killed 70,000 men but spare David’s life?
Why David choose three days of plague?
These three punishments are part of God’s covenant with Israel (Deut 28:21,22,25,27,28). [if you do not obey the LORD your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come upon you…] (Deut 28:15).
Because David rather fall into the hands of the LORD then into the hands of men, for His mercy is very great. David knew the Lord will be more merciful than his enemies. 70,000 men died as a result of the plague, the dead counts would be must greater if Israel was under the attacks of the enemies for three months.
Plague could not have came from men, so it is a more direct punishment from the hands of God compares to falling into the swords of the enemies.
In famine, the people could put their hope on the ones who have access to preserved food supply. So comparing a famine with a plague, a plague is a more direct punishment from the hands of God.
The Significant of the Threshing Floor of Araunah
The threshing floor was the place where Abraham offered Isaac as sacrifice to the LORD.
It is also the place where the temple of the LORD was built upon.
David may have told Soloman to built the template in the threshing floor because it was where God heard his prayers and answered him with fire from heaven on the altar (v26).