Useful Bible Studies > 2 Samuel Commentary > chapter 24

The task to count Israel’s men

2 Samuel 24:4-8

It was not only Joab who opposed David’s plan to count Israel’s men. The other army commanders also opposed it. However, David insisted that they must do it. As he was the king, he had the authority to force them to do it.

The plan was to count all the men from Israel who could fight in the army. Most of these men only fought in the army on rare occasions. Israel’s main army probably had only about 3,000 men, who lived in Jerusalem (18:1-2). In addition, there were 12 groups of 24,000 men, who worked in the army for one month each year (1 Chronicles 27:1-15). However, in emergencies, David could order any man who could use a sword to fight for him. It was those men that David wanted to count.

It was a long and difficult process to count them. They lived, of course, in every town and village in Israel. However, many of them were living and working abroad, because David was ruling over several countries (8:1-14). So, the army commanders had to travel across the whole region. In each place, they ordered all the men to come to them. They probably prepared a register with the name of each man, his town, his father’s name and his family.

Joab hated this work. For that reason, he refused to count the men from the tribes (family groups) called Levi and Benjamin (1 Chronicles 21:6). However, it still took him more than 9 months to complete the task.

Next part: The size of Israel's army (2 Samuel 24:9)


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