Why was King David judged for taking a military census for his nation?

The story of King David taking a military census to his nation is found in 2 Samuel 24. King David ordered Joab, his army commander, “Go, number Israel and Judah” (v.2). David’s increased pride and self-confidence was due to his newly achieved national success.

Determination to reach worldly greatness and a hope to be like the neighboring nations moved him to take a military census of his people. And the number in Israel was eight hundred thousand brave men who drew the sword, and the men of Judah were five hundred thousand men (v. 9).

David’s mistake

As the census was taking place, David began to contemplate over the consequences of what he had done and he knew that he was making a mistake. It was the Spirit of God that convicted him and revealed to him the error of his decision. For his strength was not found in numbers but in God’s mighty power of deliverance. It was the hand of God that brought the nations’ success and not the arms of men.

So, David confessed his mistake before God and asked for forgiveness saying, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done; but now, I pray, O LORD, take away the iniquity of Your servant, for I have done very foolishly” (v. 10). Then, the Lord said to him through the prophet Gad, David’s seer: “I offer you three things; choose one of them for yourself, that I may do it to you …Shall seven years of famine come to you in your land? Or shall you flee three months before your enemies, while they pursue you? Or shall there be three days’ plague in your land?” (v. 11-13).

God’s judgment

David answered, please let us fall into the hand of the LORD, for His mercies are great; but do not let me fall into the hand of man. So, the LORD sent a plague upon nation and seventy thousand men of the people died (v. 14-15).

It was actually Satan who prompted pride and ambition that led Israel’s king to take measures to increase the size of his army for the purpose of extending the boundaries of Israel by new military conquests. David forgot how God has delivered him from all of his enemies (2 Samuel 22).

If this sin was not punished by God immediately, the whole nation would have fallen prey for pride and unbelief. The people, following the example of their king, will put their faith in themselves and rely on their own strength rather than in God.  And this very sin would eventually lead to their defeat before their hostile neighboring nations that were eager to destroy them. Therefore, the nation’s sentiment needed to be corrected.

In His service,

BibleAsk Team

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