Once again the anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and he caused David to harm them by taking a census. "Go and count the people of Israel and Judah," the LORD told him.
So the king said to Joab, the commander of his army, "Take a census of all the people in the land -- from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south -- so that I may know how many people there are."
But Joab replied to the king, "May the LORD your God let you live until there are a hundred times as many people in your kingdom as there are now! But why do you want to do this?"
But the king insisted that they take the census, so Joab and his officers went out to count the people of Israel.
First they crossed the Jordan and camped at Aroer, south of the town in the valley, in the direction of Gad. Then they went on to Jazer,
then to Gilead in the land of Tahtim-hodshi and to Dan-jaan and around to Sidon.
References for 2 Samuel 24:6
Then they came to the stronghold of Tyre, and all the cities of the Hivites and Canaanites. Finally, they went south to Judah as far as Beersheba.
Having gone through the entire land, they completed their task in nine months and twenty days and then returned to Jerusalem.
Joab reported the number of people to the king. There were 800,000 men of military age in Israel and 500,000 in Judah.
But after he had taken the census, David's conscience began to bother him. And he said to the LORD, "I have sinned greatly and shouldn't have taken the census. Please forgive me, LORD, for doing this foolish thing."
The next morning the word of the LORD came to the prophet Gad, who was David's seer. This was the message:
"Go and say to David, 'This is what the LORD says: I will give you three choices. Choose one of these punishments, and I will do it.'"
So Gad came to David and asked him, "Will you choose three years of famine throughout the land, three months of fleeing from your enemies, or three days of severe plague throughout your land? Think this over and let me know what answer to give the LORD."
References for 2 Samuel 24:13
"This is a desperate situation!" David replied to Gad. "But let us fall into the hands of the LORD, for his mercy is great. Do not let me fall into human hands."
So the LORD sent a plague upon Israel that morning, and it lasted for three days. Seventy thousand people died throughout the nation.
But as the death angel was preparing to destroy Jerusalem, the LORD relented and said to the angel, "Stop! That is enough!" At that moment the angel of the LORD was by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.
When David saw the angel, he said to the LORD, "I am the one who has sinned and done wrong! But these people are innocent -- what have they done? Let your anger fall against me and my family."
That day Gad came to David and said to him, "Go and build an altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite."
So David went to do what the LORD had commanded him.
When Araunah saw the king and his men coming toward him, he came forward and bowed before the king with his face to the ground.
"Why have you come, my lord?" Araunah asked.And David replied, "I have come to buy your threshing floor and to build an altar to the LORD there, so that the LORD will stop the plague."
"Take it, my lord, and use it as you wish," Araunah said to David. "Here are oxen for the burnt offering, and you can use the threshing tools and ox yokes for wood to build a fire on the altar.
I will give it all to you, and may the LORD your God accept your sacrifice."
But the king replied to Araunah, "No, I insist on buying it, for I cannot present burnt offerings to the LORD my God that have cost me nothing." So David paid him fifty pieces of silver for the threshing floor and the oxen.
References for 2 Samuel 24:24
David built an altar there to the LORD and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. And the LORD answered his prayer, and the plague was stopped.