Numbering of the people

Besides the numbering of the tribes mentioned in the history of
the wanderings in the wilderness, we have an account of a
general census of the whole nation from Dan to Beersheba, which
David gave directions to Joab to make (1 Chr. 21:1). Joab very
reluctantly began to carry out the king's command.

This act of David in ordering a numbering of the people arose
from pride and a self-glorifying spirit. It indicated a reliance
on his part on an arm of flesh, an estimating of his power not
by the divine favour but by the material resources of his
kingdom. He thought of military achievement and of conquest, and
forgot that he was God's vicegerent. In all this he sinned
against God. While Joab was engaged in the census, David's heart
smote him, and he became deeply conscious of his fault; and in
profound humiliation he confessed, "I have sinned greatly in
what I have done." The prophet Gad was sent to him to put before
him three dreadful alternatives (2 Sam. 24:13; for "seven years"
in this verse, the LXX. and 1 Chr. 21:12 have "three years"),
three of Jehovah's four sore judgments (Ezek. 14:21). Two of
these David had already experienced. He had fled for some months
before Absalom, and had suffered three years' famine on account
of the slaughter of the Gibeonites. In his "strait" David said,
"Let me fall into the hands of the Lord." A pestilence broke out
among the people, and in three days swept away 70,000. At
David's intercession the plague was stayed, and at the
threshing-floor of Araunah (q.v.), where the destroying angel
was arrested in his progress, David erected an altar, and there
offered up sacrifies to God (2 Chr. 3:1).

The census, so far as completed, showed that there were at
least 1,300,000 fighting men in the kingdom, indicating at that
time a population of about six or seven millions in all. (See
CENSUS T0000751.)