Satan rose up against Israel. He stirred up David to count the men of Israel.
So David spoke to Joab and the commanders of the troops. He said, "Go! Count the men of Israel from Beersheba all the way to Dan. Report back to me. Then I'll know how many there are."
Joab replied, "May the LORD multiply his troops 100 times. King David, you are my master. Aren't all of the men under your control? Why would you want me to count them? Do you want to make Israel guilty?"
In spite of what Joab said, the king's word had more authority than Joab's word did. So Joab left and went all through Israel. Then he came back to Jerusalem.
Joab reported to David how many fighting men he had counted. In the whole land of Israel there were 1,100,000 men who could use a sword well. That included 470,000 men in Judah.
But Joab didn't include the tribes of Levi and Benjamin in the total number. The king's command was sickening to Joab.
It was also evil in the sight of God. So he punished Israel.
Then David said to God, "I committed a great sin when I counted Israel's men. I beg you to take away my guilt. I've done a very foolish thing."
The LORD spoke to David's prophet Gad. He said,
"Go and tell David, 'The LORD says, "I could punish you in three different ways. Choose one of them for me to use against you." ' "
So Gad went to David. He said to him, "The LORD says, 'Take your choice.
You can have three years when there will not be enough food in the land. You can have three months when your enemies will sweep you away. They will catch up with you. They will cut you down with their swords. Or you can have three days when my sword will punish you. That means there would be three days of plague in the land. My angel would strike people down in every part of Israel.' "So take your pick. Tell me how to answer the One who sent me."
David said to Gad, "I'm suffering terribly. Let me fall into the hands of the Lord. His mercy is very great. But don't let me fall into the hands of men."
So the LORD sent a plague on Israel. And 70,000 Israelites died.
God sent an angel to destroy Jerusalem. But as the angel was doing it, the LORD saw it. He was very sad because of the plague. So he spoke to the angel who was destroying the people. He said, "That is enough! Do not kill any more people!" The angel of the LORD was standing at Araunah's threshing floor. Araunah was from the city of Jebus.
David looked up. He saw the angel of the LORD standing between heaven and earth. The angel was holding out a sword over Jerusalem. David and the elders fell with their faces to the ground. They were wearing black clothes.
David said to God, "I ordered the fighting men to be counted. I'm the one who has sinned. I'm the one who has done what is wrong. These people are like sheep. What have they done? LORD my God, let your powerful hand punish me and my family. But don't let this plague continue to strike your people."