Now we have a difficult chapter in 2 Sam 24. Why is it that the anger of the LORD was aroused against Israel? We are not told why. However, we do know God is just and He does not punish without a cause. So to find an occasion against Israel, He incited David to number the people. We can even see that Joab was very reluctant to carry out the king’s orders. Why is numbering so bad?
When Moses numbered the people, it was specifically commanded by the LORD for a specific purpose. To Abraham and the patriarchs, God promised that their descendants would increase until they could not be numbered, as the sand of the seashore or the stars of heaven cannot be numbered. So perhaps to number the people was an act of disbelief in God’s promise.
Be that as it may, we can see that it was a sin for David to do so. The sin that was committed was David’s sin and not Israel’s, however, it was Israel who paid the price for the sin. By this we learn, that a king is not a private person, and his sin does not just impact himself or his family and stop there. A king is responsible for a whole nation, and when he sins, it is the nation that suffers and not just the king.
Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: “When you take the census of the children of Israel for their number, then every man shall give a ransom for himself to the LORD, when you number them, that there may be no plague among them when you number them.” Exo 30:11-12
The LORD gave David a choice of threes for punishment: three years of famine, three months of fleeing before his enemies, or three days of plague. Israel had already suffered three years of famine, because of the sin of Saul concerning the Gibeonites (2 Sam 21:1); Israel had already suffered three months with David fleeing before his enemies, when he fled before Absalom and those who were with him (2 Sam 15-19). So he chose three days of plague, for his faith in the mercy of God was great, and he believed that perhaps Israel would not suffer the complete judgment of the plague.
It is interesting that each of the punishments was for a length of three. We learned that the number three was a sign of Messiah in Torah. Could it also be a sign of Messiah here? I believe so — because for three days and nights Yeshua suffered death, but at the end of the third day and night, He was raised from the dead! Death, in other words, was no more and was negated by life at the end of the third day! So when the time span of three was completed, the judgment was finished and the people suffered from it no more, and life was restored!