David counts the people of Israel, and Israel is punished
David counts the people
(1 Chronicles 21.1–6)
1The Lord was angry with Israel again, and he made David think it would be a good idea to count the people in Israel and Judah. 2So David told Joab and the army officers,#24.2 Joab … officers: Some manuscripts of one ancient translation (see 24.4); 1 Chronicles 21.2; Hebrew “Joab, the officer of the army”. “Go to every tribe in Israel, from the town of Dan in the north all the way south to Beersheba, and count everyone who can serve in the army. I want to know how many there are.”
3Joab answered, “I hope the Lord your God will give you a hundred times more soldiers than you already have. I hope you will live to see that day! But why do you want to do a thing like this?”
4But when David refused to change his mind, Joab and the army officers went out and started counting the people. 5They crossed the River Jordan and began with#24.5 began with: Some manuscripts of one ancient translation; Hebrew “set up camp in”. Aroer and the town in the middle of the river valley. From there they went towards Gad and on as far as Jazer. 6They went to Gilead and to Kadesh in Syria.#24.6 Kadesh in Syria: Or “the lower slopes of Mount Hermon”. Then they went to Dan, Ijon,#24.6 Dan, Ijon: Or “Danjaan”, an unknown place. and on towards Sidon. 7They came to the fortress of Tyre, then went through every town of the Hivites and the Canaanites. Finally, they went to Beersheba in the Southern Desert of Judah. 8After they had gone through the whole land, they went back to Jerusalem. It had taken them nine months and twenty days.
9Joab came and told David, “In Israel there are eight hundred thousand who can serve in the army, and in Judah there are five hundred thousand.”
The Lord punishes David
(1 Chronicles 21.7–17)
10After David had everyone counted, he felt guilty and told the Lord, “What I did was stupid and terribly wrong. Lord, please forgive me.”
11Before David even got up the next morning, the Lord had told David's prophet Gad 12-13to take a message to David. Gad went to David and told him:
You must choose one of three ways for the Lord to punish you: will there be seven#24.12,13 seven: Hebrew; some manuscripts of one ancient translation “three” (see 1 Chronicles 21.12). years when the land won't grow enough food for your people? Or will your enemies chase you and make you run from them for three months? Or will there be three days of horrible disease in your land? Think about it and decide, because I have to give your answer to God, who sent me.
14David was really frightened and said, “It's a terrible choice to make! But the Lord is kind, and I'd rather be punished by him than by anyone else.”
15-16So that morning, the Lord sent an angel to spread a horrible disease everywhere in Israel, from Dan to Beersheba. And before it was over, seventy thousand people had died.
When the angel was about to destroy Jerusalem, the Lord felt sorry for all the suffering he had caused and told the angel, “That's enough! Don't touch them.” This happened at the threshing place that belonged to Araunah the Jebusite.
17David saw the angel killing everyone and told the Lord, “These people are like sheep with me as their shepherd.#24.17 as their shepherd: The Dead Sea Scrolls, and some manuscripts of two ancient translations (see 1 Chronicles 21.17); these words are not in the Standard Hebrew Text of this verse. I have sinned terribly, but they have done nothing wrong. Please, punish me and my family instead of them!”
David buys Araunah's threshing place
(1 Chronicles 21.18—22.1)
18-19That same day the prophet Gad came and told David, “Go to the threshing place that belongs to Araunah and build an altar there for the Lord.”
So David went.
20Araunah looked and saw David and his soldiers coming up towards him. He went over to David, bowed down low, 21and said, “Your Majesty! Why have you come to see me?”
David answered, “I've come to buy your threshing place. I have to build the Lord an altar here, so this disease will stop killing the people.”
22Araunah said, “Take whatever you want and offer your sacrifice. Here are some oxen for the sacrifice. You can use the threshing boards#24.22 threshing boards: Heavy boards with bits of rock or metal on the bottom. They were dragged across the grain to separate the husks from the kernels. and the wooden yokes for the fire. 23Take them—they're yours! I hope the Lord your God will be pleased with you.”
24But David answered, “No! I have to pay you what they're worth. I can't offer the Lord my God a sacrifice that I got for nothing.” So David bought the threshing place and the oxen for fifty pieces of silver. 25Then he built an altar for the Lord. He sacrificed animals and burnt them on the altar.
The Lord answered the prayers of the people, and no one else died from the terrible disease.