Chapter 21 begins: “Then Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel” (21:1). “In all Israel there were 1,100,000 men who drew the sword, and in Judah 470,000 who drew the sword” (21:5). “But God was displeased with this thing, and he struck Israel” (21:7). What an odd sounding story. Why was God displeased? Surely, the mere numbering of men was not the problem. Rather, it seems, David’s motivation was the problem. In all likelihood, the sin was David’s presumption in thinking that, merely because he had great numbers on his side, victory would always be his.
Would David not have known, however, of Gideon’s 300 men? To Gideon, the Lord had said, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me’” (Judges 7:2). The Lord gave the victory! And what of David’s own experience in defeating Goliath? David himself had declared to Goliath, “This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. . . . that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hand” (1 Samuel 17:46,47).
Jehovah God is on our side,
And He is more, more than all,
And since we in His shadows hide,
No evil can befall. -- Charles Price Jones (1977)