2 Samuel 23:1 includes that last words of David, king of Israel.

And yet, on the next page we have a story of the kingdom of David (2 Samuel 24) featuring the king himself, and also the prophet Gad who has not been seen in the Bible since 1 Samuel 22:5

It feels like there is a lot of contextual evidence to indicate David's census happens much earlier in his reign. Is there reason to believe the census really was conducted after the king said his dying words?

If the census is a story from earlier in David's rule, why is 2 Samuel 24 in the location that it is - after the king's death? Has 2 Samuel 24 always been the last book of Samuel?

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    – agarza
    Oct 29, 2023 at 13:39
  • "It feels like there is a lot of contextual evidence..." - What evidence? Can you provide supporting information for this statement?
    – agarza
    Oct 29, 2023 at 13:40
  • Since the story sets up the Temple site, that could be one reason to move it closer to Solomon's reign. Oct 29, 2023 at 14:09
  • The Bible chapters do not pretend to be in Chronological order. Of course the census was earlier in David's life but we are not told when. Some information can be gleaned from 1 Chron 20 but not much.
    – Dottard
    Oct 29, 2023 at 20:20

1 Answer 1


The OP asks:

If the census is a story from earlier in David's rule, why is 2 Samuel 24 in the location that it is - after the king's death? Has 2 Samuel 24 always been the last book of Samuel?

According to Jones, 2 Samuel 21–24 contain appendices to the Books of Samuel [Jones, Gwilym H. (2007). "12. 1 and 2 Samuel". Barton, John; Muddiman, John (eds.). The Oxford Bible Commentary. Oxford University Press. pp. 227. ISBN 978-0199277186].

The placing of this chapter at the end of the appendices and of 2 Samuel is no accident. It may have belonged originally to earlier sections of the book, possibly to the account of the conquest of Jerusalem in 5:6-10 or to the arrival of the ark in Jerusalem in Ch6.

On the one hand it [placement] confirms the critical stance taken elsewhere toward David..(..)..On the other hand, David responds to God's invitation..(..).. it is a forward looking narrative...

James Ussher's chronology (known as 'Annals of the world' 1650-1654 English Translation open access Internet Archive) formulates a comprehensive history of the world from its biblical origin thru AD 70. Based upon literal reading of Old Testament Scripture, incorporating secular world history events.

By Ussher's account of David's census, and death, David's census began in 1017 BCE, and his death was in 1015 BCE. Here is Ussher's reasoning:

2987d AM, 3697 JP, 1017 BC

....David desired to have a census taken; whether from Satan or his pride, God's wrath was kindled against the Israelites. Therefore of all the tribes, (except the tribes of Levi and Benjamin), ICh 21:6 27:24 the men older than 20 years were counted. ICh 27:23. This census took 9 months and 20 days. 2Sa 24:8 God sent the prophet Gad to David and gave him the choice of one of three punishments. He was to chose famine, sword or pestilence. 2Sa 2:48 The famine was to last 3 years, that is in addition to the previous famine ICh 21:12 or of 7 years, as from 2Sa 24:13. This included the 3 years of the previous famine 2Sa 21:1 and this present sabbatical year in which no sowing would take place to compensate for the losses of the previous years, for a fourth year of dearth. Three years of famine for the slaughter of the Gibeonites were already past and after this there was a poor harvest for lack of seed. This harvest would not be able to supply the needs of the next two years which the intervening sabbatical year would require. So the famine would still continue in the land, especially among the poor. Now to these past years of famine, God proposed to David three more years of famine, to choose, if he would. The reason for reconciling these two different passages, has led me in these texts ICh 21:12 2Sa 24:13, to refer this history of David's numbering the people to this Sabbatical year.

2990a AM, 3699 JP, 1015 BC

After David gave instructions to his son Solomon, he died. 1 Ki 2:1-10. He had reigned in Hebron for 7 years 6 months and 33 years in Jerusalem over all Israel. 2Sa 5:5 Concerning the forty years which the scripture attributes to his reign, we must take for the term which he reigned before he made Solomon king in his place and after that he lived for 6 more months. So that the years of Solomon's reign as mentioned in the scriptures, are to be reckoned from the first month, a full half year, before David's death.

To address the OP question, by Ussher's reconciliation, the context of 2 Samuel 24 must be non-chronologically sequenced. And that makes sense in terms of events as recorded in OT scripture. According to Jones 2 Samuel 21–24 contain appendices to the Books of Samuel, and placement of 2 Samuel 24 at the end is no accident, though non-chronological, perhaps to convey a forward looking narrative in the potted context of David's reign.

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