David instructs Joab to Enrol the fighting men
Again the anger
of the LORD burned against Israel, and he incited David against
them, saying, “Go and take a census of Israel and Judah.”
king said to Joab and the army commanders with him, “Go throughout
the tribes of Israel from Dan to Beersheba and enroll the fighting
men, so that I may know how many there are.”
But Joab replied
to the king, “May the LORD your God multiply the troops a hundred
times over, and may the eyes of my lord the king see it. But why
does my lord the king want to do such a thing?”
word, however, overruled Joab and the army commanders; so they
left the presence of the king to enroll the fighting men of Israel.
starting point of understanding this is seeing that God was angry
with Israel. 1 Kings 3:2 tells us people were still sacrificing
at ‘high places', a forbidden practice. Quite when this occurred
is unclear. It appears that these last three chapters of this
book come more as an Appendix so they do not appear in the chronological
flow. 1 Chron 21:1 indicates that it was Satan who was God's instrument
and suggested to David that he number the fighting men. Such an
action was one of pure pride and self-aggrandizement. Joab seemed
to sense this and tried to put him off doing it, but David's will
The Census is taken
the Jordan, they camped near Aroer, south of the town in the gorge,
and then went through Gad and on to Jazer.
to Gilead and the region of Tahtim Hodshi, and on to Dan Jaan
and around toward Sidon.
went toward the fortress of Tyre and all the towns of the Hivites
and Canaanites. Finally, they went on to Beersheba in the Negev
had gone through the entire land, they came back to Jerusalem
at the end of nine months and twenty days.
a census is taken from north to south, east to west.]
David smitten for his pride of counting the men
the number of the fighting men to the king: In Israel there were
eight hundred thousand able-bodied men who could handle a sword,
and in Judah five hundred thousand.
was conscience-stricken after he had counted the fighting men,
and he said to the LORD, “I have sinned greatly in what I have
done. Now, LORD, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant.
I have done a very foolish thing.”
taken nine months, when Joab reports back, David has had opportunity
to see it in the right light and see that it was wrong.]
David to Choose a Judgment
got up the next morning, the word of the LORD had come to Gad
the prophet, David's seer:
“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, “Shall there come on you three years
of famine in your land? Or three months of fleeing
from your enemies while they pursue you? Or three
days of plague in your land? Now then, think it over
and decide how I should answer the one who sent me.”
to Gad, “I am in deep distress. Let us fall into the hands of
the LORD, for his mercy is great; but do not let me fall into
of the Lord just bringing a judgment on Israel, possibly for their
poor level of spirituality and failure to keep the Law, wanting
to deal with David's heart, He gives David three options and says
he must choose which one. David is smitten having to choose what
will happen to his people. He concludes remaining in the Lord's
hands (plague) for just three days is better than a long, drawn
out famine or of being on the run from their enemies for three
The Plague comes & David confesses his sin
So the LORD
sent a plague on Israel from that morning until the end of the
time designated, and seventy thousand of the people from Dan to
When the angel
stretched out his hand to destroy Jerusalem, the LORD relented
concerning the disaster and said to the angel who was afflicting
the people, “Enough! Withdraw your hand.” The angel of the LORD
was then at the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.
saw the angel who was striking down the people, he said to the
LORD, “I have sinned; I, the shepherd, have done wrong. These
are but sheep. What have they done? Let your hand fall on me and
disciplinary judgment takes a large number (relatively small in
terms of the population). David is devastated and remarkably asks
for his own life to be taken to spare his people.]
David builds an altar to halt the plague
On that day
Gad went to David and said to him, “Go up and build an altar to
the LORD on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.”
So David went
up, as the LORD had commanded through Gad.
looked and saw the king and his officials coming toward him, he
went out and bowed down before the king with his face to the ground.
“Why has my lord the king come to his servant?” “To buy your threshing
floor,” David answered, “so I can build an altar to the LORD,
that the plague on the people may be stopped.”
to David, “Let my lord the king take whatever he wishes and offer
it up. Here are oxen for the burnt offering, and here are threshing
sledges and ox yokes for the wood.
Araunah gives all this to the king.” Araunah also said to
him, “May the LORD your God accept you.”
But the king
replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will
not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me
nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen and
paid fifty shekels of silver for them.
built an altar to the LORD there and sacrificed burnt offerings
and fellowship offerings. Then the LORD answered his prayer in
behalf of the land, and the plague on Israel was stopped.
prophet Gad reminds David that the ceremonial laws of sacrifice
are for saving the people and seeing how far the plague had got,
David realises if he sacrifices there, it will end the plague,
and that is what happens. For further comments on this, see the