The Census Taken
24 Now again the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and [a]He incited David against them to say, “Go, [b]count [the people of] Israel and Judah.” 2 So the king said to Joab the commander of the army who was with him, “Go now through all the tribes of Israel, from Dan [in the north] to Beersheba [in the south], and conduct a census of the people, so that I may know the number of the people.” 3 But Joab said to the king, “May the Lord your God add to the people a hundred times as many as there are, and let the eyes of my lord the king see it; but why does my lord the king [c]want to do this thing?” 4 Nevertheless, the king’s word prevailed against Joab and the commanders of the army. So they went from the king’s presence to take a census of the people of Israel. 5 They crossed over the Jordan and camped in Aroer, on the south side of the city which is in the middle of the river valley [of the Arnon] toward Gad, and on toward Jazer. 6 Then they came to Gilead and to the land of Tahtim-hodshi, and they came to Dan-jaan and around to Sidon, 7 and they came to the stronghold of Tyre and to all the cities of the Hivites and Canaanites, and they went out to the south of Judah, to Beersheba. 8 So when they had gone about through all the land [taking the census], they came to Jerusalem at the end of nine months and twenty days. 9 And Joab gave the sum of the census of the people to the king. In Israel there were 800,000 valiant men who drew the sword, and the men of Judah were 500,000.
10 But David’s heart (conscience) troubled him after he had counted the people. David said to the Lord, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done. But now, O Lord, please take away the sin of Your servant, for I have acted very foolishly.” 11 When David got up in the morning, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Gad, David’s seer, saying, 12 “Go and say to David, ‘Thus says the Lord, “I am giving you three choices; select one of them for yourself, and I will do it to you.”’” 13 So Gad came to David and told him, and said to him, “Shall seven years of famine come to you in your land? Or will you flee three months before your enemies as they pursue you? Or shall there be three days of pestilence (plague) in your land? Now consider this and decide what answer I shall return to Him who sent me.” 14 Then David said to Gad, “I am in great distress. Let us fall into the hands of the Lord, for His mercies are great, but do not let me fall into the hands of man.”
15 So the Lord sent a pestilence (plague) [lasting three days] upon Israel from the morning until the appointed time, and seventy thousand men of the people from Dan to Beersheba died. 16 When the [avenging] angel stretched out his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, the Lord relented from the disaster and said to the angel who destroyed the people, “It is enough! Now relax your hand.” And the angel of the Lord was by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. 17 When David saw the angel who was striking down the people, he spoke to the Lord and said, “Behold, I [alone] am the one who has sinned and done wrong; but these sheep (people of Israel), what have they done [to deserve this]? Please let Your hand be [only] against me and my father’s house (family).”
David Builds an Altar
18 Then Gad [the prophet] came to David that day and said to him, “Go up, set up an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite [where you saw the angel].” 19 So David went up according to Gad’s word, as the Lord commanded. 20 Araunah looked down and saw the king and his servants crossing over toward him; and he went out and bowed before the king with his face toward the ground. 21 Araunah said, “Why has my lord the king come to his servant?” And David said, “To buy the threshing floor from you, to build an altar to the Lord, so that the plague may be held back from the people.” 22 Araunah said to David, “Let my lord the king take and offer up whatever seems good to him. Look, here are oxen for the burnt offering, and threshing sledges and the yokes of the oxen for the wood. 23 All of this, O king, Araunah gives to the king.” And Araunah said to the king, “May the Lord your God be favorable to you.” 24 But the king said to Araunah, “No, but I will certainly buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God which cost me nothing.” So David purchased the [d]threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver. 25 David built an altar to the Lord there, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. So the Lord was moved [to compassion] by [David’s] prayer for the land, and the plague was held back from Israel.
- 2 Samuel 24:1 See 1 Chr 21:1. As in the case of Paul’s thorn in the flesh (2 Cor 12:7; cf 1 Cor 5:5), God sometimes accomplishes His purposes by allowing Satan to inflict injury or cause trouble.
- 2 Samuel 24:1 Ordinarily taking a census would have been a routine procedure for a nation as a way of assessing taxes or conscripting and assigning men to an army. But in Israel none of this was necessary unless it was commanded by God, and David’s action was the product of ego and an uncharacteristic shift of trust and dependence from God to human resources (as Joab suspected, v 3). To his credit, David eventually realized this and came to God in repentance.
- 2 Samuel 24:3 Lit delight in.
- 2 Samuel 24:24 Later Solomon would build his temple on this site.