The Lord Sends a Plague against Israel
1 An adversary opposed Israel, inciting David to count how many warriors Israel had. 2 David told Joab and the leaders of the army, “Go, count the number of warriors from Beer Sheba to Dan. Then bring back a report to me so I may know how many we have.” 3 Joab replied, “May the Lord make his army a hundred times larger! My master, O king, do not all of them serve my master? Why does my master want to do this? Why bring judgment on Israel?”
4 But the king’s edict stood, despite Joab’s objections. So Joab left and travelled throughout Israel before returning to Jerusalem. 5 Joab reported to David the number of warriors. In all Israel there were 1,100,000 sword-wielding soldiers; Judah alone had 470,000 sword-wielding soldiers. 6 Now Joab did not number Levi and Benjamin, for the king’s edict disgusted him. 7 God was also offended by it, so he attacked Israel.
8 David said to God, “I have sinned greatly by doing this! Now, please remove the guilt of your servant, for I have acted very foolishly.” 9 The Lord told Gad, David’s prophet, 10 “Go, tell David, ‘This is what the Lord says: “I am offering you three forms of judgment from which to choose. Pick one of them.”’” 11 Gad went to David and told him, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Pick one of these: 12 three years of famine, or three months being chased by your enemies and struck down by their swords, or three days being struck down by the Lord, during which a plague will invade the land and the Lord’s messenger will destroy throughout Israel’s territory.’ Now, decide what I should tell the one who sent me.” 13 David said to Gad, “I am very upset! I prefer to be attacked by the Lord, for his mercy is very great; I do not want to be attacked by men!” 14 So the Lord sent a plague through Israel, and 70,000 Israelite men died.
15 God sent an angel to ravage Jerusalem. As he was doing so, the Lord watched and relented from his judgment. He told the angel who was destroying, “That’s enough! Stop now!”
Now the Lord’s angel was standing near the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. 16 David looked up and saw the Lord’s messenger standing between the earth and sky with his sword drawn and in his hand, stretched out over Jerusalem. David and the leaders, covered with sackcloth, threw themselves down with their faces to the ground. 17 David said to God, “Was I not the one who decided to number the army? I am the one who sinned and committed this awful deed! As for these sheep – what have they done? O Lord my God, attack me and my family, but remove the plague from your people!”
18 So the Lord’s messenger told Gad to instruct David to go up and build an altar for the Lord on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. 19 So David went up as Gad instructed him to do in the name of the Lord. 20 While Ornan was threshing wheat, he turned and saw the messenger, and he and his four sons hid themselves. 21 When David came to Ornan, Ornan looked and saw David; he came out from the threshing floor and bowed to David with his face to the ground. 22 David said to Ornan, “Sell me the threshing floor so I can build on it an altar for the Lord – I’ll pay top price – so that the plague may be removed from the people.” 23 Ornan told David, “You can have it! My master, the king, may do what he wants. Look, I am giving you the oxen for burnt sacrifices, the threshing sledges for wood, and the wheat for an offering. I give it all to you.” 24 King David replied to Ornan, “No, I insist on buying it for top price. I will not offer to the Lord what belongs to you or offer a burnt sacrifice that cost me nothing. 25 So David bought the place from Ornan for 600 pieces of gold. 26 David built there an altar to the Lord and offered burnt sacrifices and peace offerings. He called out to the Lord, and the Lord responded by sending fire from the sky and consuming the burnt sacrifice on the altar. 27 The Lord ordered the messenger to put his sword back into its sheath.
28 At that time, when David saw that the Lord responded to him at the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite, he sacrificed there. 29 Now the Lord’s tabernacle (which Moses had made in the wilderness) and the altar for burnt sacrifices were at that time at the worship centre in Gibeon. 30 But David could not go before it to seek God’s will, for he was afraid of the sword of the Lord’s messenger.