Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible
back to: 2 Samuel
Book: 2 Samuel
Chapter: 24

David Numbers the people. (1-9) He chooses the pestilence.
(10-15) The staying the pestilence. (16,17) David's Sacrifice,
The Plague removed. (18-25)

1-9 For the people's Sin David was left to act wrong, and in
his chastisement they received Punishment. This Example throws
Light upon God's government of the world, and furnishes a useful
lesson. The pride of David's Heart, was his Sin in numbering of
the people. He thought thereby to appear the more formidable,
trusting in an Arm of Flesh more than he should have done, and
though he had written So much of trusting in God only. God
Judges not of Sin as we do. What appears to us harmless, or, at
least, but a small Offence, may be a great Sin in the Eye of
God, who discerns the thoughts and intents of the Heart. Even
ungodly men can discern evil tempers and wrong conduct in
believers, of which they themselves often remain unconscious.
But God seldom allows those whom he loves the pleasures they
sinfully covet.

10-15 It is Well, when a Man has sinned, if he has a Heart
within to smite him for it. If we confess our sins, we may pray
in Faith that God would forgive them, and take away, By
pardoning Mercy, that Sin which we cast away By sincere
Repentance. What we make the matter of our pride, it is just in
God to take from us, or make Bitter to us, and make it our
Punishment. This must be such a Punishment as the people have a
large share in, for though it was David's Sin that opened the
sluice, the sins of the people all contributed to the Flood. In
this difficulty, David chose a Judgment which came immediately
from God, whose mercies he knew to be very great, rather than
from men, who would have triumphed in the miseries of Israel,
and have been thereby hardened in their Idolatry. He chose the
pestilence; he and his family would be as much exposed to it as
the poorest Israelite; and he would continue for a shorter time
under the Divine rebuke, however severe it was. The rapid
Destruction By the pestilence shows how easily God can bring
down the proudest sinners, and how much we owe daily to the
Divine patience.

16,17 Perhaps there was more wickedness, especially more pride,
and that was the Sin now chastised, in Jerusalem than elsewhere,
therefore the Hand of the Destroyer is stretched out upon that
City; but the Lord repented him of the evil, changed not his
mind, but his way. In the very place where Abraham was stayed
from slaying his son, this Angel, By a like countermand, was
stayed from destroying Jerusalem. It is for the sake of the
great Sacrifice, that our forfeited lives are preserved from the
destroying Angel. And in David is the Spirit of a true Shepherd
of the people, Offering himself as a Sacrifice to God, for the
Salvation of his subjects.

18-25 God's encouraging us to offer to him spiritual
sacrifices, is an evidence of his reconciling us to himself.
David purchased the ground to build the Altar. God hates Robbery
for burnt-Offering. Those know not what religion is, who chiefly
care to make it cheap and easy to themselves, and who are best
pleased with that which costs them least pains or Money. For
what have we our substance, but to honour God with it; and how
can it be better bestowed? See the Building of the Altar, and
the Offering proper sacrifices upon it. Burnt-offerings to the
Glory of God's Justice; peace-offerings to the Glory of his
Mercy. Christ is our Altar, our Sacrifice; in him alone we may
expect to escape his wrath, and to find favour with God. Death
is destroying all around, in So many forms, and So suddenly,
that it is Madness not to expect and prepare for the close of