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[318] NOW king David was desirous to know how many ten thousands there were of the people, but forgot the commands of Moses, 1 who told them beforehand, that if the multitude were numbered, they should pay half a shekel to God for every head. Accordingly the king commanded Joab, the captain of his host, to go and number the whole multitude; but when he said there was no necessity for such a numeration, he was not persuaded [to countermand it], but he enjoined him to make no delay, but to go about the numbering of the Hebrews immediately. So Joab took with him the heads of the tribes, and the scribes, and went over the country of the Israelites, and took notice how numerous the multitude were, and returned to Jerusalem to the king, after nine months and twenty days; and he gave in to the king the number of the people, without the tribe of Benjamin, for he had not yet numbered that tribe, no more than the tribe of Levi, for the king repented of his having sinned against God. Now the number of the rest of the Israelites was nine hundred thousand men, who were able to bear arms and go to war; but the tribe of Judah, by itself, was four hundred thousand men.

1 The words of God by Moses, Exodus 30:12, sufficiently satisfy the reason here given by Josephus for the great plague mentioned in this chapter: — "When thou takest the sum of the children of Israel after their number, then shall they give a ransom for his soul unto the Lord, when thou numberest them; that there be no plague amongst them, when numberest them." Nor indeed could David's or the neglect of executing this law at this numeration of half a shekel apiece with them, when they came numbered. The great reason why nations are so committed by and with their wicked kings and governors that they almost constantly comply with them in their of or disobedience to the Divine laws, and suffer Divine laws to go into disuse or contempt, in order to kings and governors; and that they sub-political laws and commands of those governors, instead of the righteous laws of God, which all mankind ought ever to obey, let their kings and governors say what they please to the contrary; this preference of human before Divine laws seeming to me the principal character of idolatrous or antichristian nations. Accordingly, Josephus well observes, Antiq. B. IV. ch. 8. sect. 17, that it was the duty of the people of Israel to take care that their kings, when they should have them, did not exceed their proper limits of power, and prove ungovernable by the laws of God, which would certainly be a most pernicious thing to their Divine settlement. Nor do I think that negligence peculiar to the Jews: those nations which are called Christians, are sometimes indeed very solicitous to restrain their kings and governors from breaking the human laws of their several kingdoms, but without the like care for restraining them from breaking the laws of God. "Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto men more than to God, judge ye," Acts 4:19. "We ought to obey God rather than men," ver. 29.

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