When Considering Matters of Life and Death

Explore the Bible Series

November 30, 2008


Background Passage: II Samuel 21:1-24:25 (I Chronicles 11:10-41; 20:4-8; 21:1-26)

Lesson Passage: II Samuel 22:1-7; 23:1-7




The writers of the Old Testament often punctuated their work with great hymns of praise, and it seems fitting that Samuel would begin with Hannahís praise (See I Samuel 2:1-11) and conclude with Davidís hymn (actually, this lesson contains two poems).This wonderful poetry, echoed in Psalm 18, sums up Davidís reflections on his life and reign.God had certainly not shielded David from hardship, but the Lord had protected the king in hardship. This hymn extols the Lordís faithfulness, providential care, and gracious forgiveness.


Oddly, this narrative ends with Davidís sin of numbering the people (Chapter 24).Again, the text reminds us that David had many fault and failures. God did not use David because the king deserved the Lordís grace; instead, David rose to great usefulness and prominence because of Godís gracious designs and covenant. The precise nature of Davidís sin remains a mystery, and Godís judgment may create problems for modern readers. Nevertheless, David did experience the forgiveness of the Lord.


Lesson Outline:


I.                   Davidís First Hymn of Praise (22:1-51)

A.    Prologue (v.1): The opening verse may indicate that David wrote this at the time of his victory over Saul, and, after other military successes, he may have repeated the hymn.

B.     Davidís summary of Godís faithfulness (vv.2-4): The poet, at the outset of the chapter, detailed his conclusions about Godís faithfulness. He used several images to reflect his understanding of the character of God: rock, fortress, deliverer, refuge, shield, horn of salvation, stronghold, and savior.

C.     The depths of Davidís hardships (vv. 5-6): In these verses the poet employed bold images to depict his hardships: waves of death, torrents of destruction, cords of Sheol, and snares of death.

D.    Godís answer to Davidís prayers (vv. 7-20): David recounted his earnest prayers for Godís deliverance, and he relished the Lordís great power, justice, wrath, mystery, and compassion.

E.     Davidís claim of innocence (vv. 21-25): Frankly, these words seem a bit out of place in this context. David vigorously asserted his righteousness before God, but surely he did not mean these assertions in any absolute sense.Rather, he may have meant that, in regard to his enemies, he had a clear conscience.

F.      Godís benevolence toward his righteous, humble people (vv. 26-51): David concluded this hymn with praise for Godís kindness toward his people.The king blessed the Lord for victory over Israelís enemies, providing light in dark places, and honor among the nations of the earth.


II.                The Glory of Davidís Kingdom (3:1-39):

A.    Davidís final hymn of praise (vv. 1-7): As Davidís life neared its conclusion, the ďsweet psalmist of IsraelĒ penned this praise of the Lord.This praise takes the form of an oracle, a prophecy initiated by the Holy Spirit.The psalmist extolled Godís faithfulness to the covenant he made with David.

B.     The mighty men of Israel (vv. 8-39): The writer of II Samuel included a list of the warriors who had fought for David.A similar list (somewhat longer) appears in I Chronicles 11:10-47).


III.             Davidís Census of the People (24:1-25)

A.    Davidís sin (vv. 1-9): Late in his life David chose to take an account of the number of soldiers at his disposal.The Bible does not reveal why David did this, nor is nature of the kingís sin explained.Perhaps David numbered the men out of pride or insecurity, but, whatever his motive, his actions displeased the Lord.I Chronicles 21:1 says that Satan incited David to number the people.

B.     Godís judgment on David (vv.10-17): According to the text, God gave David an option of three punishments: a famine, war, or pestilence.The king simply asked that he fall into the hands of God rather than face the difficulty of another war.Samuel tells us that an angel killed 70,000 people with a severe pestilence.As weíve seen before in II Samuel, this passage puzzles me.The story is unmistakable.David, in some way, displeased the Lord, and, in response, God killed 70,000 people.Did the punishment fit the ďcrimeĒ?Why did the angel kill 70,000 innocent people because of Davidís sin?I do not, of course, have answers to these questions, but honest dealings with the Scripture should never cause Godís people to recoil from honest questions.Matthew Henry, Matthew Poole, and B.H. Carroll did not deal with this problem in their commentaries, and even the more liberal commentators do not address this.It appears that these Bible scholars did not have easy answers either.

C.     Davidís repentance (vv.18-25): Even before the confrontation with the Prophet Gad, Davidís conscience bothered him (See v. 10).Gad told David to go to a large threshing floor and raise an altar to turn away the wrath of God.The king bought oxen from the owner of the threshing floor, at a price of fifty shekels of sliver (I Chronicles 21:25 mentions a much higher price).The sacrifice appeased the anger of God, and the plague ended.