Satan1 rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census2 of Israel.
So David said to Joab and the commanders of the troops, "Go and count3 the Israelites from Beersheba to Dan. Then report back to me so that I may know how many there are."
But Joab replied, "May the LORD multiply his troops a hundred times over.4 My lord the king, are they not all my lord's subjects? Why does my lord want to do this? Why should he bring guilt on Israel?"
The king's word, however, overruled Joab; so Joab left and went throughout Israel and then came back to Jerusalem.
Joab reported the number of the fighting men to David: In all Israel5 there were one million one hundred thousand men who could handle a sword, including four hundred and seventy thousand in Judah.
But Joab did not include Levi and Benjamin in the numbering, because the king's command was repulsive to him.
This command was also evil in the sight of God; so he punished Israel.
Then David said to God, "I have sinned greatly by doing this. Now, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing."
The LORD said to Gad,6 David's seer,710
"Go and tell David, 'This is what the LORD says: I am giving you three options. Choose one of them for me to carry out against you.' "
So Gad went to David and said to him, "This is what the LORD says: 'Take your choice:
three years of famine,8 three months of being swept awaya before your enemies, with their swords overtaking you, or three days of the sword9 of the LORD10--days of plague in the land, with the angel of the LORD ravaging every part of Israel.' Now then, decide how I should answer the one who sent me."
David said to Gad, "I am in deep distress. Let me fall into the hands of the LORD, for his mercy11 is very great; but do not let me fall into the hands of men."