In the story In 2 Samuel 24, David took a census in Israel and God punished Israel killing 70,000 thousand men.

At the first verse of the story it reads (NASB):

Now the anger of the Lord burned against Israel again(...)
2 Samuel 24:1 (first part)

It states that God was angry at Israel.

(...) and He incited David against them to say, “Go, count Israel and Judah.”
2 Samuel 24:1 (second part)

It was clear to people that this was wrong.

But Joab said to the king, “May the Lord your God add to the people a hundred times as many as they are, while the eyes of my lord the king can still see; but why does my lord the king delight in this thing?” 4 Nevertheless, the king’s order prevailed against Joab and against the commanders of the army. So Joab and the commanders of the army left the presence of the king to conduct a census of the people of Israel. 2 Samuel 24:3-4

After the census is done, Joab reports back:

And Joab gave the number of the census of the people to the king: in Israel there were eight hundred thousand valiant men who drew the sword, and the men of Judah were five hundred thousand men. 2 Samuel 24:9

Now, it states that David 'came to his senses'. (To me, it is as though when David commanded it, he was 'out of his mind', if you get what I'm saying.) And David assumes the blame.

Now David’s heart [b]troubled him after he had counted the people. So David said to the Lord, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done. But now, Lord, please [c]overlook the guilt of Your servant, for I have acted very foolishly.” 2 Samuel 24:10

Now God gives David three options:

And when David arose in the morning, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Gad, David's seer, saying, 12 “Go and say to David, ‘Thus says the Lord, Three things I offer[e] you. Choose one of them, that I may do it to you.’” So Gad came to David and told him, and said to him, “Shall three[f] years of famine come to you in your land? Or will you flee three months before your foes while they pursue you? Or shall there be three days' pestilence in your land? Now consider, and decide what answer I shall return to him who sent me.” 14 Then David said to Gad, “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 man.” 2 Samuel 24:11-14 (ESV)

Then the Lord strikes Israel:

So the Lord sent a pestilence on Israel from the morning until the appointed time. And there died of the people from Dan to Beersheba 70,000 men. 16 And when the angel stretched out his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, the Lord relented from the calamity and said to the angel who was working destruction among the people, “It is enough; now stay your hand.” And the angel of the Lord was by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. 17 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 24:15-17 (ESV)

In the end I understood that God did not punish David or his house, but Israel, which at the first verse said He was angry at and then He incited David against them.

It sounds to me that God worked on David in order to bring punishment to Israel (maybe they were doing some evil?).

Now in 1 Chronicles 21:1-2 it reads:

  1. Then Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel.
  2. So David said to Joab and the commanders of the army, “Go, number Israel, from Beersheba to Dan, and bring me a report, that I may know their number.”

One view of this could possibly be that God punished Israel because David gave in to the temptation of Satan (and because of this God was angry at Israel?).

But since God did not punish David nor his House and the anger of the Lord burned against Israel (not: burned against David), could it be that God used a means to punish Israel indirectly? (If Israel were being evil, usually some prophet would come up and warn the people to repent or that God had already decided and destruction would come). But in this case if God indeed did it through David, it seems that God had reasons that he wanted to punish Israel implicitly this time. (And it seems like that David didn't know this).

Could it be understood that God indeed used David to punish them?

2 Answers 2


Did God use David in order to punish Israel?

In the ultimate sense, God uses everyone. God used David to punish Israel. The phrase "in order" is a bit too much.

2 Samuel 24:1

Again the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, “Go and take a census of Israel and Judah.”

In this sense, God used David against Israel because David was the head of Israel.

13 So Gad went to David and said to him,   “Shall there come on you three years of famine in your land?   Or three months of fleeing from your enemies while they pursue you?   Or three days of plague in your land? Now then, think it over and decide how I should answer the one who sent me.”

At this point, David had to choose one evil out of 3. God used David to choose the form of punishment.

14 David said to Gad, “I am in deep distress. Let us fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is great; but do not let me fall into human hands.”

David was saying here: Don't let me be the direct object of the punishment. Let all of us be the target of the punishment. So yes, God used David to even choose the target and the form of the punishment.


No! God did not use David to ‘punish’ Israel. God doesn’t ‘punish’ anyone ‘for sin’ - but that’s another question Let’s stay with yours...

Israel was under the ‘Law’. And the Law clearly stated ...

EXODUS 30:12 ”When you take the census of the children of Israel for their number, then every man shall give a ransom for himself to the Lord, when you number them, that there may be no plague among them when you number them.”

Under ‘Law’, there is no Mercy, nor Grace. David broke the Law, he did not collect the half shekel as demanded by the Law, so the penalty was ‘as prescribed’.

You need to understand Justice - as it related to Israel. It’s about representation. You were accountable for your violations, but also for the violations of those who represented you! the High Priest, and your King. If the ‘High Priest’ was ‘good’, so it was with the people. If bad, you would await the day he passed away, and hope his successor would be better.

So David ‘represented’ the people. If your King was blessed by God, so would you be. But, if your King was ‘wicked’, the nation [therefore the people] would be judged.

1 CHRON 21:1 Now Satan stood up against Israel, and moved David to number Israel*

Prior to this chapter in Chronicles, there were many skirmishes with the surrounding neighbours. Satan was ‘using’ them to ‘needle’ Israel. And, in times like these a leader of an army might want to count up resources. Now, Satan could only ‘attack’ if God removed his protection.

In previous chapters, David had been staying home, instead of leading his men. This ‘staying behind’ instead of being where your meant to be is also what lead to the Bathsheba incident. But he nevertheless took part of the spoils, wearing the ‘crown’ of the defeated king due to its worth

This action lead to ‘the anger of God’. You must understand ‘God anger’. It is essentially God ‘turning his back’ - and this gave Satan the opportunity to ‘needle’ David by using Israel’s neighbours.

Interesting to note that through David’s repentance, to protect Jerusalem, he ended up purchasing [redeeming!] the land on which the temple would be built. This purchase prevented the angel from destroying Jerusalem, as the destroyer after this had no ‘hold’ on Mt Zion.

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