2 Samuel 23-24

Good morning! Today at the end of 2 Samuel we have three separate items that don’t really fit together; they’re a hodgepodge of different things from the era of David. Those in 2 Samuel 23 valorize David and celebrate the successes of his fighting men, but in chapter 24 we have a more puzzling story of a failure and David’s response to God’s judgment.

The song-pronouncement at the beginning of chapter 23 is supposedly David’s final oracle, but it doesn’t “sound” like him at all, according to the characterizations of humility we’ve heard elsewhere. There’s too much braggadocio in this hymn of praise, which names David as God’s favorite (presumably ever)! More likely, this was written in honor, praise or memory of the king near the end of his life. What follows are characterizations of the mighty warriors who fought alongside or for David, as well as some descriptions of their valor in battles. One curiosity here is the rankings referred to—the men are described as among “the Thirty” and “the Three”. Evidently these are ascending orders of prominence in David’s military hierarchy, perhaps something like our Cabinet Secretaries and generals today.

The final story of this book comes in chapter 24. God commands a census be taken as a judgment against Israel. There are a number of things puzzling about this setup, chief among them this question: why would counting the people be wrong? I’m not certain, but we have seen this prejudice against a census before. Perhaps it was a sign of pride from David (counting the successful expanse of his power), or the census results could be put to ungodly uses such as extortive taxes or conscription into the army. Joab and the other commanders protest, but David overrules them. Almost a year later, they report the results (in terms of the number of “soldiers able to draw the sword”). Once the evil deed that God incited is done, David has to choose which of three punishments from God he will have befall him and all Israel. David chooses three days of pestilence, and seventy thousand die—only Jerusalem is spared by the will of God. Trying to avert further casualties, David hurriedly follows the command of his prophet Gad, buys the threshing floor where the avenging angel of the Lord was at and builds an altar with appeasing offerings. The sacrifice demonstrates David’s penitence and God answers with a cessation of the plague. This story is a strange one to end on; perhaps the takeaway is David’s struggle for faithfulness even when it seems like even God is working against him? I welcome your theories, and happy reading!

Read 2 Samuel 23-24.

Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is 1 Kings 1-3. Thanks for reading!

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