David Displeases the Lord by Taking a Census
1 The Lord’s anger again raged against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, “Go count Israel and Judah.”sn The parallel text in 1 Chr 21:1 says, “An adversary opposed Israel, inciting David to count how many warriors Israel had.” The Samuel version gives an underlying theological perspective, while the Chronicler simply describes what happened from a human perspective. The adversary in 1 Chr 21:1 is likely a human enemy, probably a nearby nation whose hostility against Israel pressured David into numbering the people so he could assess his military strength. See the note at 1 Chr 21:1.
2 The king told Joab, the general in command of his army, “Go through all the tribes of Israel from Dan to Beer Sheba and muster the army, so I may know the size of the army.”
3 Joab replied to the king, “May the Lord your God make the army a hundred times larger right before the eyes of my lord the king! But why does my master the king want to do this?”
4 But the king’s edict stood, despite the objections oftn Heb “and the word of the king was stronger than.” Joab and the leaders of the army. So Joab and the leaders of the army left the king’s presence in order to muster the Israelite army.
5 They crossed the Jordan and camped at Aroer, on the south side of the city, attn Heb “in the middle of.” the wadi of Gad, near Jazer.
6 Then they went on to Gilead and to the region of Tahtim Hodshi, coming to Dan Jaan and on around to Sidon.map For location see Map1-A1; JP3-F3; JP4-F3.
7 Then they went to the fortress of Tyremap For location see Map1-A2; Map2-G2; Map4-A1; JP3-F3; JP4-F3. and all the cities of the Hivites and the Canaanites. Then they went on to the Negev of Judah, to Beer Sheba.
8 They went through all the land and after nine months and twenty days came back to Jerusalem.map For location see Map5-B1; Map6-F3; Map7-E2; Map8-F2; Map10-B3; JP1-F4; JP2-F4; JP3-F4; JP4-F4.
9 Joab reported the number of warriorstn Heb “and Joab gave the number of the numbering of the people.” to the king. In Israel there were 800,000 sword-wielding warriors, and in Judah there were 500,000 soldiers.
10 David felt guiltytn Heb “and the heart of David struck him.” after he had numbered the army. David said to the Lord, “I have sinned greatly by doing this! Now, O Lord, please remove the guilt of your servant, for I have acted very foolishly.”
11 When David got up the next morning, the Lord had already spokentn Heb “and the word of the Lord came.” to Gad the prophet, David’s seer:
12 “Go, tell David, ‘This is what the Lord says: I am offering you three forms of judgment. Pick one of them and I will carry it out against you.’”
13 Gad went to David and told him, “Shall seventc The LXX has here “three” rather than “seven,” and is followed by NAB, NIV, NCV, NRSV, TEV, NLT. See 1 Chr 21:12. years of famine come upon your land? Or shall you flee for three months from your enemy with him in hot pursuit? Or shall there be three days of plague in your land? Now decidetn Heb “now know and see.” what I should tell the one who sent me.”
14 David said to Gad, “I am very upset! I prefer that we be attacked by the Lord, for his mercy is great; I do not want to be attacked by men!”tn Heb “There is great distress to me. Let us fall into the hand of the Lord, for great is his mercy, but into the hand of man let me not fall.”
15 So the Lord sent a plague through Israel from the morning until the completion of the appointed time. Seventy thousand men died from Dan to Beer Sheba.
16 When the angeltn Heb “messenger.” extended his hand to destroy Jerusalem, the Lord relented from his judgment.tn Heb “concerning the calamity.” He told the angel who was killing the people, “That’s enough! Stop now!”tn Heb “Now, drop your hand.” (Now the Lord’s angel was near the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.)
17 When he saw the angel who was destroying the people, David said to the Lord, “Look, it is I who have sinned and done this evil thing! As for these sheep – what have they done? Attack me and my family.”tn Heb “let your hand be against me and against the house of my father.”
David Acquires a Threshing Floor and Constructs an Altar There
18 So Gad went to David that day and told him, “Go up and build an altar for the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.”
19 So David went up as Gad instructed him to do, according to the Lord’s instructions.
20 When Araunah looked out and saw the king and his servants approaching him, hetn Heb “Araunah.” The name has been replaced in the translation by the pronoun (“he”) for stylistic reasons. went out and bowed to the king with his facetn Heb “nostrils.” to the ground.
21 Araunah said, “Why has my lord the king come to his servant?” David replied, “To buy from you the threshing floor so I can build an altar for the Lord, so that the plague may be removed from the people.”
22 Araunah told David, “My lord the king may take whatever he wishestn Heb “what is good in his eyes.” and offer it. Look! Here are oxen for burnt offerings, and threshing sledgessn Threshing sledges were heavy boards used in ancient times for loosening grain from husks. On the bottom sides of these boards sharp stones were embedded, and the boards were then dragged across the grain on a threshing floor by an ox or donkey. and harnessestn Heb “the equipment of the oxen.” for wood.
23 I, the servant of my lordtc The Hebrew text is difficult here. The translation reads עֶבֶד אֲדֹנָי (’eved ’adoni, “the servant of my lord”) rather than the MT’s אֲרַוְנָה (’Aravnah). In normal court etiquette a subject would not use his own name in this way, but would more likely refer to himself in the third person. The MT probably first sustained loss of עֶבֶד (’eved, “servant”), leading to confusion of the word for “my lord” with the name of the Jebusite referred to here. the king, give it all to the king!” Araunah also told the king, “May the Lord your God show you favor!”
24 But the king said to Araunah, “No, I insist on buying it from you! I will not offer to the Lord my God burnt sacrifices that cost me nothing.”
So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty pieces of silver.tn Heb “fifty shekels of silver.” This would have been about 20 ounces (568 grams) of silver by weight.
25 Then David built an altar for the Lord there and offered burnt sacrifices and peace offerings. And the Lord accepted prayers for the land, and the plague was removed from Israel.