David counts his soldiers
1The LORD became angry with Israel. So he caused David to cause trouble for them. He said to David, ‘Go and count the people in Israel and Judah.’
2So the king said to Joab and the leaders of the army, ‘Go from Dan to Beersheba, through all the tribes of Israel. Count all the men who can fight. I want to know how many they are.’ #24:2 ‘From Dan to Beersheba’ was a common phrase. Dan was at the north end of Israel. Beersheba was at the south end.
3But Joab spoke to the king, ‘I pray that the LORD your God will make their numbers very much greater. So then there might be 100 men for each man that there is now. And I pray that you will see it. But, my master, it is not good that you want to do this!’
4But the king caused Joab and his officers to obey him. So they went out to count the people in Israel.
5They crossed the River Jordan. And they stayed south of the town called Aroer in a valley. Then they went through Gad to Jazer. 6They went to Gilead and to Kadesh in the land of the Hittites. Then they went on to Dan and west to Sidon. 7Then they went south to the strong city called Tyre. And they went to all the towns of the Hivites and the Canaanites. Then they came to Beersheba in the south of Judah.
8After 9 months and 20 days they had been through the whole country and they returned to Jerusalem.
9Joab gave a report to the king. The numbers of men who were able to use a sword to fight were 800,000 in Israel and in Judah 500,000.
The LORD punishes David for his sin
10David had counted the men who were able to fight. But now he was sorry that he had done it. He said to the LORD, ‘What I have done was a bad sin. Please forgive me. I have been a fool.’
11The LORD spoke to Gad, David's prophet, the next morning. He spoke before David got up. 12He said, ‘Go and say this to David: “Choose one out of three things for me to do against you.” ’
13So Gad went to David and he said, ‘Would you choose three years when you have no food. Or would you choose three months when you are running from your enemies? Or should there be three days of strong illness in the country? Now think carefully. I will take your answer to him who sent me.’
14David said to Gad, ‘I am in a lot of trouble. But I do not want men to punish me. I want the LORD to punish us, because he is kind.’
15So, from that morning, the LORD caused illness to Israel for three days. And 70,000 Israelites died in that time. 16The LORD's angel was ready to destroy Jerusalem. But the LORD was sorry for the people and he said to the angel, ‘Stop killing the people! Put your hand down now.’ The angel was then at the place where Araunah worked with his grain. Araunah was from the people called Jebusites.
17David saw the angel who was killing the people. So he spoke to the LORD. ‘I have sinned. These people have followed me like sheep. They have done nothing that is wrong. Punish me and my family. Do not punish the people’, he said.
David builds an altar
18Gad went to David on that day and Gad said to him, ‘Go up. And build an altar to the LORD at the place where Araunah works with his grain.’ 19So David went up to that place as the LORD had said by Gad the prophet. 20Araunah looked and he saw the king and his men. They were coming towards him. So he went out in front of the king. He bent with his face to the ground.
21Araunah said, ‘My lord, why have you come to your servant?’
‘I have come to buy this place where you work with your grain’, David answered. ‘I want to build an altar to the LORD. Then he will stop this illness.’
22‘Take anything that you want, my lord’, said Araunah, ‘Here are male cows, and tools and yokes of wood. 23My lord, I give all this to the king.’ And he said, ‘I pray that the LORD your God will accept your offering.’
24But the king replied to Araunah, ‘No, I must pay you for it. I will not sacrifice an offering that costs me nothing.’
So David bought the cows and the land for 1¼ pounds (0.6 kilos) of silver. 25Then he built an altar and he sacrificed burnt offerings and peace offerings there. Then the LORD answered David's prayer and the illness stopped.