2 Samuel 22-24
David’s words (especially v 1-7) sound very familiar to those of us who have sung psalms and hymns, and indeed, the SAB points out that this chapter mirrors Psalm 18. Verses 8-16 get quite fanciful and are full of pre-scientific thinking (earthquakes are caused by god’s wrath), and verses 21-25 are not just self-congratulatory and smug, they are blatantly false. Verses 38-48 are the words of a megalomaniacal tyrant – and it’s David, this time, not Yahweh. Blech! To this whole chapter. But believers love to quote it.
We’re arrived at David’s parting words, and all I can say is that it’s about time; I’m so done with this guy. But instead of some final uplifting words of wisdom, David wastes his final speech listing his best warriors and their vile deeds; well that’s a sure indication of his priorities. There are supposed to be 37 warriors listed according to verse 39, but the SAB points out that the numbers don’t jive. I’m too sick of this litany of cruelty and evil to add them all up and check; so knock yourself out if you want to try.
This makes no sense – David just bade farewell and now he’s back. Is this a flashback? Or is he not dying after all? Well, moving along…. God’s anger at Israel causes him to command David to harm the people by taking a census. So David takes the census, and then he feels guilty and feels the need to atone for it. This begs some questions – why would taking a census be a sin? Why would it cause harm? And why was it a sin for David to do something Yahweh commanded him to do? I looked at some apologist sites for answers:
The taking of a census is not a sin – but the REASON for doing it could be. The primary reason in the Old Testament for taking a census was to know the size of a nation’s army and its ability to win wars against other people. David acted out of pride and a desire to glorify himself. He had come to the point in his life where he was relying far more on his own strength and that of his army rather than on God.
Alternative explanation for why David’s actions were a sin: Exodus 30:12 directs that when you take a census you must pay god a ransom for each person who is counted. This is based on the ancient custom that you may only count things belonging to you; if you count another’s possessions, the owner must be compensated. The Israelites belong to god, and David counted them without paying the ransom.
Or try this:
The parallel account of this incident in 1 Chronicles 21:1 reveals it was Satan, not God, who incited David to take the census. This discrepancy (er…. contradiction) can be explained by the understanding that sometimes God sovereignly permits Satan to act in order to achieve His purposes. God allowed Satan to tempt David, and David took the bait, revealing his pride and causing God to deal with him for it. Thus David harmed the people by bringing God’s punishment upon the nation.
Is this twisted, or what? Yahweh is being manipulative again, taking out his rage on innocent people. His punishment options in verses 11-15 are like the Evil Dictator version of Let’s Make a Deal. In verse 17 it’s apparent that even David (for once) is aware of the injustice. Anyway, in the end Yahweh is appeased with a couple of toasted oxen (v 22), and they all live happily ever after (except for the 70,000 people who were the victims of God’s punishment).
This 9 minute video explains the above issues really well.