Useful Bible Studies > 2 Samuel Commentary > chapter 24

The size of Israel’s army

2 Samuel 24:9

1 Samuel 15:4 records the size of the army that Saul gathered for the war against Amalek. It was perhaps the largest army that ever fought for Saul. There were 200,000 men, but only 10,000 men came from Judah. Judah was the southern part of Israel; at that time, Amalek’s men were constantly attacking the towns and villages in Judah, to rob them.

It may have been 50 or 60 years after that, when David ordered Joab to count Israel’s soldiers again. We can see how strong the nation had become during David’s rule. Joab counted 800,000 men who were strong enough to fight in northern Israel. There is an even larger number in 1 Chronicles 21:5. The reasons for the difference in the number in the two books is not clear. Perhaps the passage in 1 Chronicles includes a group of soldiers that 2 Samuel 24:9 does not include.

However, it is the increase in Judah’s men that is truly extraordinary. There were now about 500,000 men in Judah who were able to fight. The most likely explanation is that the wars against Amalek (1 Samuel 27:8 and chapter 30; 2 Samuel 8:12) achieved their purpose. Judah became a safe place to live in. Its people were able to build good homes and to have large families.

David had expected that it would please him to know these numbers. He was leading a strong nation, with a vast army. However, in fact, the report did not please him. He realised that his desire to know these things had spoiled his relationship with God. David saw that he had been trusting in the strength of his army, and not in God.

Next part: David asks God to forgive him (2 Samuel 24:10)


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