King David

Counting publications and soldiers

I was working on my CV today (I’m not applying for jobs, I just update it regularly), and I decided to count up my publications by category (books, articles, dictionary articles, book reviews). As the number grew, I suddenly thought, “Perhaps this isn’t a good thing for me spiritually…


Then I thought of David and the census. I’ve been thinking about David and the Israelite monarchy a lot lately since last week I was at Logos Bible Software taping courses on 1, 2 Kings and 1, 2 Samuel. The book of 2 Samuel ends with a bizarre story where YHWH is angry at his people so he incited David to count the people (2 Sam. 24:1-17).

1 Again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, “Go, number Israel and Judah.” 2 So the king said to Joab, the commander of the army, who was with him, “Go through all the tribes of Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, and number the people, that I may know the number of the people.” 3 But Joab said to the king, “May the LORD your God add to the people a hundred times as many as they are, while the eyes of my lord the king still see it, but why does my lord the king delight in this thing?” (2 Sam. 24:1-3)

In Chronicles it was Satan who incited David to count the people (1 Chron. 21:1). Did the biblical authors sometimes get confused between God and Satan? That’s not something you want to mix up.

The text of 2 Samuel 24 isn’t exactly clear what’s wrong with counting the people. After all, the book of Numbers does a lot of counting (hence the catchy title). But Joab clearly knows David shouldn’t do it.  For David, it seems to be related to pride in the size and strength of his military.

Gideon, after all, had too many soldiers and had to whittle down his army to 300 which was still ample to defeat the Midianites (Judg. 7) since it was YHWH that was fighting for Israel. Just as Gideon needed to depend upon YHWH and not the size of his military, David should do the same. By counting the people under his control, David would know how large his forces would be. He would then be tempted to rely on his enormous standing army for victory in battle, and not on the God who had delivered him from Goliath, the Philistine giant (1 Sam. 17).

Tragically, for David the divine punishment was severe upon the people. But why did YHWH punish them, for something David did that he provoked David to do? Great question–any thoughts?

For me counting publications, book sales or speaking requests can lead to pride, arrogance and a lack of dependence upon the God who’s given me my gifts, experiences and abilities.  As an act of penance, I decided to write a blog about the topic.

Next time I feel like counting, I’ll count my blessings.  I may even name them one by one.

How do we “take a census” today? Why is census-taking unhelpful spiritually?

David and Bathsheba: Who’s to blame? (2 Sam. 11)

David and BathshebaWho’s to blame for the adulterous affair between David and Bathsheba (2 Sam. 11)?  

1) Bathsheba.  David was innocent, a man after God’s own heart, seduced into committing adultery by the temptress Bathsheba.

2) David.  Bathsheba was innocent, the powerless wife of Uriah, who’s away at battle.  She was forced to have sex with the king to fulfill his lust.

Take the poll and/or comment: 1) Who’s to blame?  2) Why?

Results will show up in my next book.

Confessing Sexual Sin (Psalm 51)

Nathan confronts David (Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld)Where do you confess your sexual sins?

David confessed his in the best-selling book of all time.

I probably wouldn’t want to do that.  (In case you weren’t sure, I was talking about the Bible, not God Behaving Badly.)

We discussed this topic in a recent class after studying Psalm 51, David’s confession after committing adultery.  Read about it here in this recent post for Biblical Seminary’s Faculty blog: Confessing Sexual Sin (Psalm 51).

Image of Nathan confronting David (Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld) from

MLK and the death of King David’s son

Google MLKGoogle comes through again.  How could anyone prefer Bing, when Google is so much cooler.

How have you celebrated MLK day?  I went to work because I don’t get the day off.  And I posted a very short note on my blog about MLK.  See my MLK post from a year ago.

On a completely unrelated note, a few days ago, a friend sent me this email asking advice about a question that came up during their family’s devotions (they have young kids):

This morning the devotional brought up David & Bathsheba (personally I thought, why would a devotional for kids deal with that? but I digress…). It didn’t get very specific. Just said ‘David wanted to marry a beautiful woman so he had her husband killed.’ But it did say that as a result God said his child had to die. Our daughter responds like any 10 year-old who is inquisitive would respond, ‘Why did God punish David by killing his son? Why not kill David?’

Of course I answered the only way I knew how: ‘That’s a great question and I don’t really know. We know God loves us but we don’t understand everything he does.’

David and BathshebaI made 5 comments to my friend:

1) I think its great that the devotional material includes the story of David and Bathsheba (2 Sam. 11-12).  Although, I understand why you’d wonder about that.  I don’t have girls.  But we’re supposed to teach the Bible to our kids, and God inspired the whole thing, so I think it’s good to talk about it.  Children that discuss sex and sexuality with their parents are more likely to take on their parents values on sex.

2) I’d tell your daughter that she’s asking a great question.  How clever of her!  It’s tough to understand, but by asking good questions, you’re taking a step in the right direction.

3) In the OT, God often punishes children for sins of parents.  It doesn’t make sense to us, but we tend to think individualistically.  In many ways, to punish a child is a more severe form of punishment for parents.  Most parent’s would rather suffer, than allow their children to suffer.  God punishes the sons of Jeroboam and Ahab.  Jonathan is prevented from becoming king because of the sins of his father Saul.

4) God promised David an eternal dynasty (2 Sam 7), so perhaps that promise was meant to keep him alive.  God also said that the sword would never leave his house, and violence did characterize the remaining years of his reign.  His sons Absalom and Adonijah both tried to rebel against their father, so other consequences came his way.

5) Your response of “I don’t understand” is great.  It models humility.  That’s great parenting.

So, what would you have said to this 10 year-old girl? 

No, I haven’t seen the Gregory Peck portrayal of this story.  Have you?  Is it any good?