The Senseless Census
1. The Sovereignty of God in the Census
1 Again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, “Go, number Israel and Judah.” 2 Samuel 24:1 (ESV)
1 Then Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel. 1 Chronicles 21:1 (ESV)
Though God is sovereign over all circumstances, the Bible affirms that He is never the author of sin. James 1:13
Walter Kaiser put it this way:
It is also true, according to the Hebrew thinking, that whatever God permits he commits. By allowing this census-taking, God is viewed as having brought about the act. The Hebrews were not very concerned with determining secondary causes and properly attributing them to the exact cause. Under the divine providence everything ultimately was attributed to him; why not say he did it in the first place?
11 so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs. 2 Corinthians 2:11 (ESV); Romans 12:2
2. The Sin of David in the Census
2 So the king said to Joab, the commander of the army, who was with him, “Go through all the tribes of Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, and number the people, that I may know the number of the people.” 3 But Joab said to the king, “May the LORD your God add to the people a hundred times as many as they are, while the eyes of my lord the king still see it, but why does my lord the king delight in this thing?” 4 But the king’s word prevailed against Joab and the commanders of the army. So Joab and the commanders of the army went out from the presence of the king to number the people of Israel. 5 They crossed the Jordan and began from Aroer, and from the city that is in the middle of the valley, toward Gad and on to Jazer. 6 Then they came to Gilead, and to Kadesh in the land of the Hittites; and they came to Dan, and from Dan they went around to Sidon, 7 and came to the fortress of Tyre and to all the cities of the Hivites and Canaanites; and they went out to the Negeb of Judah at Beersheba. 8 So when they had gone through all the land, they came to Jerusalem at the end of nine months and twenty days. 9 And Joab gave the sum of the numbering of the people to the king: in Israel there were 800,000 valiant men who drew the sword, and the men of Judah were 500,000. 2 Samuel 24:2-9 (ESV)
9 "The abundant in years may not be wise, Nor may elders understand justice. Job 32:9 (NASB); Exodus 30:12
I believe that the best explanation for the sin of numbering Israel probably relates to a nationalistic pride, also seen within the heart of David, that robbed the Lord of His glory. In this regard, God ordained Satan to bring out what was already in the heart of His people. Hosea 7:10
David’s sin was aggravated because he refused to listen to counsel.
3. The Conviction of David in the Census
10 But David’s heart struck him after he had numbered the people. And David said to the LORD, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done. But now, O LORD, please take away the iniquity of your servant, for I have done very foolishly.” 2 Samuel 24:10 (ESV)
A million plus men are of no benefit if God is your enemy.
To David’s credit, when he was assaulted or convicted of his sin, he responded with confession and repentance.
18 If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. Psalm 66:18 (ESV)