David Takes a Census
(2 Sam 24.1–25)
1Satan wanted to bring trouble on the people of Israel, so he made David decide to take a census. 2David gave orders to Joab and the other officers, “Go through Israel, from one end of the country to the other, and count the people. I want to know how many there are.”
3Joab answered, “May the Lord make the people of Israel a hundred times more numerous than they are now! Your Majesty, they are all your servants. Why do you want to do this and make the whole nation guilty?” 4But the king made Joab obey the order. Joab went out, travelled through the whole country of Israel, and then returned to Jerusalem. 5He reported to King David the total number of men capable of military service: 1,100,000 in Israel, and 470,000 in Judah. 6Because Joab disapproved of the king's command, he did not take any census of the tribes of Levi and Benjamin.
7God was displeased with what had been done, so he punished Israel. 8David said to God, “I have committed a terrible sin in doing this! Please forgive me. I have acted foolishly.”
9Then the Lord said to Gad, David's prophet, 10“Go and tell David that I am giving him three choices. I will do whichever he chooses.”
11Gad went to David, told him what the Lord had said, and asked, “Which is it to be? 12Three years of famine? Or three months of running away from the armies of your enemies? Or three days during which the Lord attacks you with his sword and sends an epidemic on your land, using his angel to bring death throughout Israel? What answer shall I give the Lord?”
13David replied to Gad, “I am in a desperate situation! But I don't want to be punished by people. Let the Lord himself be the one to punish me, because he is merciful.”
14So the Lord sent an epidemic on the people of Israel, and 70,000 of them died. 15Then he sent an angel to destroy Jerusalem, but he changed his mind and said to the angel, “Stop! That's enough!” The angel was standing by the threshing place of Araunah, a Jebusite.
16David saw the angel standing in mid air, holding his sword in his hand, ready to destroy Jerusalem. Then David and the leaders of the people — all of whom were wearing sackcloth — bowed low, with their faces touching the ground. 17David prayed, “O God, I am the one who did wrong. I am the one who ordered the census. What have these poor people done? Lord, my God, punish me and my family, and spare your people.”
18The angel of the Lord told Gad to command David to go and build an altar to the Lord at Araunah's threshing place. 19David obeyed the Lord's command and went, as Gad had told him to. 20There at the threshing place Araunah and his four sons were threshing wheat, and when they saw the angel, the sons ran and hid. 21As soon as Araunah saw King David approaching, he left the threshing place and bowed low, with his face touching the ground. 22David said to him, “Sell me your threshing place, so that I can build an altar to the Lord, to stop the epidemic. I'll give you the full price.”
23“Take it, Your Majesty,” Araunah said, “and do whatever you wish. Here are these oxen to burn as an offering on the altar, and here are the threshing boards to use as fuel, and wheat to give as an offering. I give it all to you.”
24But the king answered, “No, I will pay you the full price. I will not give as an offering to the Lord something that belongs to you, something that costs me nothing.” 25And he paid Araunah 600 gold coins for the threshing place. 26He built an altar to the Lord there and offered burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. He prayed, and the Lord answered him by sending fire from heaven to burn the sacrifices on the altar.
27The Lord told the angel to put his sword away, and the angel obeyed. 28David saw by this that the Lord had answered his prayer, so he offered sacrifices on the altar at Araunah's threshing place. 29The Tent of the Lord's presence which Moses had made in the wilderness, and the altar on which sacrifices were burnt were still at the place of worship at Gibeon at this time; 30but David was not able to go there to worship God, because he was afraid of the sword of the Lord's angel.