"And again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah." - 2Samuel 24:1
When I was first converted a brother who was leading Bible study had brought this passage to my attention and asked if I could think of any reason why God would do this, perhaps because further on we read...
[i]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. [/i]
And after this he was given the choice between three terrible things that would happen to the people as a judgement for this.
So you might ask, why did God move David to do this, and what was so wrong about it anyway?
Well, I'd rather not attempt to treat with the first part of that question here, except to say that from our text, it appears as though God was angry with the children of Israel, and He intended to use this act of commision, or perhaps as it might have actually been, an act of omission, on the part of their king to bring judgement upon them. That God intended to bring judgement upon them should appear plainly as the text says...
[i]...the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel[/i]
and so therefore, it goes on, saying...
[i]..he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah[/i]
But apart from that, why was this so wrong anyway? What was wrong with counting the people?
When David told Joab his General, to do this, he replied
"...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 then he asked...
"...but why doth my lord the king delight in this thing?"
Joab must have known something was wrong in this. He says let God multply the people, and let God even allow you to see it. But David, why do you want to do this thing?
Maybe he was even saying in affect, David, why do you care how many people there are?
Why did he? Or why even do we?
Could it be that David had an eye of pride, to be mindfull of how many people there were under his reign? To see how many souls had come into God's kingdom under his wise and gracious kingship?
Well I suppose that is something we just can't know for sure. Maybe. Maybe not. But there is something that is conspicously absent from this passage here which may be an indication of why God brought this judgement. In Exodus chapter 30 and verse 12 we read
"When thou takest the sum of the children of Israel after their number, then shall they give every man a ransom for his soul unto the LORD, when thou numberest them; that there be no plague among them, when thou numberest them."
Now I don't know much about the details of this ordinance, but it appears as though some sort of money was to be collected whenever the children of Israel were numbered and that this was called a ransom. To be short about it, it looks as though this money was to be taken as a reminder that it was the Lord Who had bought them from their slavery. It was the LORD that had redeemed them and that had gotten all these souls unto Himself.
And where was this ransom in David's numbering of the Children of Israel? If this was absent, then why? Why didn't David acknowledge the Lord's hand in getting these souls unto Himself by taking the ransom, if indeed he did not take it?
What was his motive then, in numbering the children of Israel?
And what is our motive in counting the Lord's sheep today?
Christopher Joel Dandrow