Bible Question:

Why did God kill the 70,000 men of David's army? Were these men of David Christians and ready to meet God before they were taken? This was the punishment selected by David from three options was offered by God

Bible Answer:

The question that will help us understand why God killed the 70,000 men in 2 Samuel 24:15 and 1 Chronicles 21:14 is explained in the first verse of the account in 2 Samuel 24.

Now again the anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and it incited David against them to say, “Go, number Israel and Judah.” 2 Samuel 24:1 (NASB)

The events that followed in 2 Samuel 24 are explained in the Q&A, “Why did God discipline David after he took the census?” A review of that Q&A will provide important information for this Q&A.

Why Did God Kill the 70,000 Men of David’s Army

The Anger of The LORD Burned Against Israel

Since 2 Samuel 24:1 tells that God was angry with Israel, the question we need to ask is, “Why was God angry?” Unfortunately, Scripture does not explicitly explain what event caused God to be angry. But the two words “again” and “against” give us a clue. We are told that God was angry again against Israel. The word again appears to refer back to the events described in 2 Samuel 21:1-14 when God brought a famine upon Israel because King Saul killed a group of Gibeonites. Why Saul did this and how it occurred is not described in the Bible or in other literature. Therefore, we do not know any more about the event than what is stated in 2 Samuel 24:1. But God punished Israel with famine that lasted three years.

Now there was a famine in the days of David for three years, year after year; and David sought the presence of the LORD. And the LORD said, “It is for Saul and his bloody house, because he put the Gibeonites to death.” 2 Samuel 21:1 (NASB)

This reveals an important biblical principle, that God holds the leaders of nations accountable. When a leader sins, the nation will suffer unless there is repentance. The city of Nineveh is an excellent example of a city that was about to punished but because the king called his nation to repentance they were rescued or saved (Jonah 3:1-10). The king, his nobles and the people fasted and repented and were saved. Romans 13:1-7 tells us that God chooses a nation’s leaders. The responsibility of every nation’s leader is justice. He is to suppress evil.

But King Saul did not suppress evil. He unjustly murdered the Gibeonites and the nation suffered. This is an important lesson. This means that when a nation selects its leader(s), they must choose leaders who are objective and just. When leaders are unjust and favor the wicked, that nation will be judged. When leaders are wicked, a nation suffers. Consequently, Israel suffered according to 2 Samuel 21:1.

The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah are an example of entire cities being destroyed because of sin (Genesis 18:26-33; 19:1-29). Therefore, why was God angry against Israel this time (2 Samuel 24:1)?  We are not told specifically, but it appears that the citizens of Israel sinned on this occasion just like Sodom and Gomorrah. The entire nation deserved to be punished. Consequently, God allowed Satan to motivate David to sin just as He allowed Satan to tempt Job to sin (Job 1:6-12).

Why did God kill the 70,000 men of David’s army?

Consequently, God gave David three choices: 1) seven years of famine, 2) three months of time in which David’s enemies could chase him and 3) three days of pestilence on the nation (2 Samuel 24:13). King David chose the shortest period to time. He chose three days of pestilence on the nation. In the previous section we already discovered that they deserved to be punished due to some unnamed sin and 70,000 men from the tribe of Dan died. This suggests that the tribe of Dan was mainly responsible for God’s anger.

The tribe of Dan was the most idolatrous and evil tribe in the nation of Israel. The Q&A “Why is the tribe of Dan not among the 144,000 in Revelation 7:4-8?” explains that the tribe of Dan was a wicked nation. 2 Samuel 24:16 states that God stopped the pestilence when it moved to Jerusalem.

When the angel stretched out his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD relented from the calamity and said to the angel who destroyed the people, “It is enough! Now relax your hand!” And the angel of the LORD was by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.  2 Samuel 24:16 (NASB)

There is a map of the territories occupied by the tribes of Israel in the Q&A “Did the tribe of Dan move? Does Judges 18:1 contradict Joshua 19:48?”  A close examination reveals that the territory of the tribe of Dan is next to the territory of the tribe of Judah. Therefore, the next tribe to be punished with pestilence after Dan was Judah and Jerusalem was its capital.


Why did God kill the 70,000 men of David’s army? The answer is that Israel had sinned or were habitually sinning and apparently the tribe of Dan were the most guilty of the tribes of Israel. This suggests that the sin was probably idolatry.

Suggested Links:

Why did God discipline David after he took the census?
Why is the tribe of Dan not among the 144,000 in Revelation 7:4-8?
Did the tribe of Dan move? Does Judges 18:1 contradict Joshua 19:48?
Government Is Established By God, part 1 - Sermon