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the authority of David prevailed, and the obedient officer proceeded, with his military corps, to make the circuit of the kingdom, and take the number of the people.
“Nine months and twenty days " were occupied in fulfilling this order; and Joab returned to Jerusalem with an incomplete census, having omitted the tribes of Benjamin and Levi, from the growing apprehensions he entertained of the Divine displeasure. David also now perceived his folly, and his “heart 'smote him. 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.” Although he might yet repent, still the act and its public influence could not be recalled. He had sinned before the
eyes of the nation; and that sin, before it could be forgiven, consistently with public justice, must be rebuked before all. It was not the mere circumstance of taking the number of the people in which the sin consisted, for this had been done before, by the Divine order; (Numbers i, 1-4;) but, as above intimated, there were some peculiar circumstances in the case, some motive or ulterior purpose of the king, which the people well understood, which gave to the act, at this time, a dangerous tendency, and made it punishable by the laws of the commonwealth. The grand genius of the theocracy was, to bring both the king and the people into an immediate reliance on God for their preservation and all their blessings, and to a constant submission to his authority. The tendency of this measure of David was publicly understood to be just the reverse; calculated to divert confidence from God, their real sovereign and benefactor, and to place it in the multitude of the population, or the number and prowess of their warriors.
In rebuking this self-praise and self-confidence, the king and people must be made to feel that all lives are in the hands of God, without whose blessing neither strength, nor skill, nor myriads of warriors, would avail. The Prophet Gad is therefore commissioned to wait upon the king, and offer him his choice of the three following judgments, namely: “seven years of famine,” “three months fleeing before his enemies," or “three days of pestilence.” David's answer was characteristic of his general piety. “I am in a great strait,” said he. “Let us now fall into the hands of the Lord; for his mercies are great: and
let me not fall into the hand of man.” The days of pestilence came, “and there died of the people, from Dan even to Beersheba, seventy thousand men.” Three days the angel of death spread his wings over the cities of all the tribes, but as yet the capital had been spared. On the third day, the angel of the Lord stood over Mount Moriah, “by the threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite," with a drawn sword, and "stretched out his hand upon Jerusalem to destroy it.” The eyes of David were opened to see the angel, as he stood over the city; and his heart melted within him, while he and the elders of Israel, who were clothed in sackcloth, prostrated themselves. “And David spake unto the Lord when he saw the angel that smote the people, and said, 'Lo, I have sinned, and I have done wickedly; but these sheep, what have they done? let thy hand, I pray thee, be against me, and against my father's house.'” And the Lord "said to the angel that destroyed the people, 'It is enough : stay now thy hand.'”
The king is now directed to prepare a sacrifice, and offer it in that same place where he saw the angel, although it was outside of the city wall, and not in a place where sacrifice might ordinarily be offered. It was, however, by designation, a holy place. It was there, on Mount Moriah, that Solomon afterward built the temple; and probably the same place where, ages before, "in the land of Moriah," Abraham had offered up his son Isaac. (Genesis xxii, 1-14.) The ground itself was merely a small area upon the top of a hill, or rather rock, and was not sufficient afterward for the foundations of the temple, except as the workmen built up, with immense labor, a rocky abutment of solid masonry from the bottom of the valley. This insignificant spot, which has ever since been regarded as holy ground, and is more celebrated in history than any other place of equal dimensions, David bought of Araunah, or Ornan, the Jebusite, for six hundred gold shekels by weight, or about $479,520.
The sacrifice is prepared and offered, and God was entreated for the land. And God "answered him from heaven by fire upon the altar of burnt-offering. And the Lord commanded the angel, and he put up his sword again into the sheath thereof." The following Psalm seems to have been written on the occasion of this deliverance, and the dedication of this threshing-floor. The varied sentiments and feelings of the
author befit the occasion of such judgments and such deliverance.
The title of Psalm xxx reads: "A Psalm or Song, at the dedication of the house of David." Dr. Alexander translates it thus: “A Psalm. A Song of Dedication for the house. By David.” It was not the palace of David, as some have supposed, but the place where the temple of Solomon afterward actually stood, and which David expressly calls the “house of God," (see 1 Chronicles xxii, 1,) that was here dedicated. So the mere halting-place of the patriarch was called Bethel, i. e., house of God. (Genesis xxviii, 17-22.) “The title,” says Hengstenberg, “indicates that the Psalm was sung at the dedication, by David, of the site of the future temple. The object of the Psalm is very correctly given by Venema: “That the remembrance might be perpetuated, to all posterity, of the occasion on which the site of the temple to be erected by Solomon was selected, and the temple itself consecrated by a sign from heaven.»
I have inserted Psalm cxxxi in this connection solely from its fitness to the occasion. Many commentators suppose it was written by David, during the persecutions of Saul, to repel the accusations of his enemies, who charged him with treasonable and ambitious designs. But if it has a historic occasion at all, it seems more fitly to belong to David's circumstances after his repentance and punishment for the sin of numbering the people. If his former military successes and regal prosperity had in any wise lifted him up, he was now humbled. If he had been actuated by worldly policy and vain glory to take a census of his kingdom, he was now chastened, subdued, and his soul was like "a weaned child.” If he had been tempted to trust in the multitude of his people and the strength and prowess of his army, he now could admonish Israel to "hope in the Lord, from this time forth, and for evermore.” Read 2 Samuel xxiv, 1 Chronicles xxi.
ON DAVID'S ACCEPTANCE, AND THE DEDICATION OF THE
THRESHING-FLOOR OF ARAUNAH, AFTER THE THREE DAYS OF PESTILENCE.
David praiseth God for his deliverance, 1-3; he exhorteth others to praise him, 4, 5;
he calleth to mind his own former self-confidence, 6; the judgments of God on that account, 7; his prayer and humiliation, 8-10; and his gracious deliverance, 11, 12.
TA Psalm and Song at the Dedication of the House of David.
1 I will extol thee, O LORD! For thou hast lifted me up,
And hast not made my foes to rejoice over me. 2 O LORD my God, I cried unto thee,
And thou hast healed me. 3 O LORD, thou hast brought up my soul from the grave: Thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down
to the pit. Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of his, And give thanks 'at the remembrance of his holiness. 5 For 'his anger endureth but a moment; In a his favour is life: Weeping may endure 'for a night, But 'joy cometh in the morning.
And bin my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved. ? Lord, by thy favour, thou hast made my mountain
to stand strong:
1 Or, to the memorial.
his anger. Psa. 108. 9. Isa.
a Psa. 63. 8.
Job 29. 18. * Heb. settled strength for
8 I cried to thee, O LORD;
And unto the LORD I made supplication9 “What profit is there in my blood, when I go down
to the pit ? Shall “the dust praise thee? shall it declare thy truth ?” 10 Hear, O Lord! and have mercy upon me:
Lord! be thou my helper. 11 Thou d hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: Thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with
gladness; 12 To the end that 'my glory may sing praise to thee,
and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever.
c Pos. 6. 5. and 118. 17.
Isa. 38. 18.
d 2 Sam. 6. 14. Isa. 61. 8.
Jer. 31. 4
That is, my tongue, or, my soul.
See Gen. 49. 6. Psa. 16. 9.
ON DAVID'S HUMILIATION AND ACCEPTANCE, AFTER THE
THREE DAYS OF PESTILENCE.
David professing his humility, 1, 2; exhorteth Israel to hope in God, 3.
TA Song of Degrees of David.
LORD, my heart is not haughty,
Or in things too 'high for me.
1 Heb. walk. Rom. 12. 16. Heb. wonderful. Job 42. 8.
Heb. my soul. Mat. 18. 8.
1 Cor. 14. 20.
a Psa. 180. 7 + Heb. nov.