David’s Military Census
(Exodus 30:11–16; 1 Chronicles 21:1–6)
Again the anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and He stirred up David against them, saying, “Go and take a census of Israel and Judah.”
So the king said to Joab the commander of his army, who was with him,*Go now throughout the tribes of Israel from Dan to Beersheba and register the troops, so that I may know their number.”
But Joab replied to the king, “May the LORD your God multiply the troops a hundred times over, and may the eyes of my lord the king see it. But why does my lord the king want to do such a thing?”
Nevertheless, the king’s word prevailed against Joab and against the commanders of the army. So Joab and the commanders of the army departed from the presence of the king to count the troops of Israel.
They crossed the Jordan and camped near Aroer, south of the town in the middle of the valley, and proceeded toward Gad and Jazer. Then they went to Gilead and the land of Tahtim-hodshi, and on to Dan-jaan and around to Sidon. They went toward the fortress of Tyre and all the cities of the Hivites and Canaanites. Finally, they went on to the Negev of Judah, to Beersheba.
At the end of nine months and twenty days, having gone through the whole land, they returned to Jerusalem. And Joab reported to the king the total number of the troops. In Israel there were 800,000 men of valor who drew the sword, and in Judah there were 500,000.
Judgment for David’s Sin
(1 Chronicles 21:7–13)
10 After David had numbered the troops, his conscience was stricken and he said to the LORD, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done. Now, O LORD, I beg You to take away the iniquity of Your servant, for I have acted very foolishly.”
11 When David got up in the morning, a revelation from the LORD had come to Gad the prophet, David’s seer: 12 Go and tell David that this is what the LORD says: ‘I am offering you three options. Choose one of them, and I will carry it out against you.’ ”
13 So Gad went and said to David, “Do you choose to endure three § years of famine in your land, three months of fleeing the pursuit of your enemies, or three days of plague upon your land? Now then, think it over and decide how I should reply to Him who sent me.”
14 David answered Gad, “I am deeply distressed. Please, let us fall into the hand of the LORD, for His mercies are great; but do not let me fall into the hands of men.”
A Plague on Israel
(1 Chronicles 21:14–17)
15 So the LORD sent a plague upon Israel from that morning until the appointed time, and seventy thousand of the people from Dan to Beersheba died.*
16 But when the angel stretched out his hand to destroy Jerusalem, the LORD relented from the calamity and said to the angel who was destroying the people, “Enough! Withdraw your hand now!” At that time the angel of the LORD was by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.
17 When David saw the angel striking down the people, he said to the LORD, “Surely I, the shepherd, have sinned and acted wickedly. But these sheep, what have they done? Please, let Your hand fall upon me and my father’s house.”
David Builds an Altar
(1 Chronicles 21:18–30)
18 And that day Gad came to David and said to him, “Go up and build an altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.” 19 So David went up at the word of Gad, just as the LORD had commanded.
20 When Araunah looked out and saw the king and his servants coming toward him, he went out and bowed facedown before the king. 21 Why has my lord the king come to his servant?” Araunah said.
To buy your threshing floor,” David replied, “that I may build an altar to the LORD, so that the plague upon the people may be halted.”
22 Araunah said to David, “My lord the king may take whatever seems good and offer it up. Here are the oxen for a burnt offering and the threshing sledges and ox yokes for the wood. 23 O king, Araunah gives all these to the king.” He also said to the king, “May the LORD your God accept you.”
24 No,” replied the king, “I insist on paying a price, for I will not offer to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”
So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.§ 25 And there he built an altar to the LORD and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings.
Then the LORD answered the prayers on behalf of the land, and the plague upon Israel was halted.
* 24:2 LXX to Joab and the army commanders with him 24:6 Hebrew; some LXX manuscripts to Gilead and to the land of the Hittites 24:7 Or to the south of Judah § 24:13 LXX (see also 1 Chronicles 21:12); Hebrew seven * 24:15 Literally and of the people from Dan to Beersheba, seventy thousand men died 24:16 Araunah is a variant of Ornan; see 1 Chronicles 21:15 and 2 Chronicles 3:1. 24:17 DSS and LXX; MT does not include the shepherd. § 24:24 50 shekels is approximately 1.26 pounds or 569.8 grams of silver.