The census (1 Chr 21:1-21:6)

“Satan stood up against Israel. He incited King David to count the people of Israel. So King David said to Joab and the commanders of the army. ‘Go, number Israel, from Beer-sheba to Dan. Bring me a report, so that I may know their number.’ But Joab said. ‘May Yahweh increase the number of his people a hundredfold! Are they not, my lord the king, all of them my lord’s servants? Why then should my lord require this? Why should he bring guilt upon Israel?’ But the king’s word prevailed against Joab. So Joab departed and went throughout all Israel. He came back to Jerusalem. Joab gave the total count of the people to King David. In all Israel there were one million one hundred thousand men who drew the sword. In Judah there were four hundred seventy thousand who drew the sword. But he did not include Levi and Benjamin in the numbering, for the king’s command was abhorrent to Joab.”

This time, the biblical chronicler loosely follows 2 Samuel, chapter 24. However, as opposed to 2 Samuel, Satan, instead of an angry Yahweh, incited King David to take this census. Satan has become a personification of evil. King David then wanted a head count of all the people in Israel and Judah so that he told Joab and his army commanders to do this. Joab did not want to do it. He complained about it. In the end King David prevailed. Instead of explaining in detail about how it took 9 months and 20 days and where Joab had to go, as in 2 Samuel, here the biblical writer just explained that Joab went throughout all Israel and then reported back to Jerusalem. However, the results are different. In 2 Samuel, Joab reported to King David that there 800,000 men in Israel, while there were 500,000 in Judah, totaling 1,300,000 men, not counting the women and children. Here the number is 1,100,000 men in Israel and 470,000 in Judah, totaling 1,770,000, nearly a half million more. Besides, here Joab does not count the people of Benjamin or the Levites for reasons that are not clear. Both these numbers of people are extremely large, meaning that over 2 and a half million people might have been in Israel and Judah at this time. Archeologists are very skeptical of these numbers. Notice that this assumes the division of the kingdom into north and south, Israel and Judah, which did not take place until after the death of Solomon.

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