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24 Once again the Eternal grew angry with Israel; so He used David against them, telling the king to go and count the people of Israel and Judah. David spoke to Joab, the commander of his army who was with him.

David: Travel to all the tribes of Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, and take a census of the people. I want to know how many there are.

But Joab cautioned the king.

Joab: May the Eternal God increase the number of your people a hundred times while you are still alive to see it. But why on earth would you desire to do this, my king?

But the king’s order held, and Joab and the other leaders of the army left the king’s presence and went out to count the people of Israel. To begin, they went over the Jordan River and camped at Aroer south of the city that is in the middle of the valley there. Then they moved on toward Gad and Jazer. After that, they traveled to Gilead and to Tahtim-hodshi; then they traveled on north to Dan-jaan, and from Dan they went west to Sidon and then to the fortified city of Tyre and to all the cities of the Hivites and Canaanites. Then they went south to the wilderness of Judah at Beersheba. At last, when they had traveled through all the land, they came back to Jerusalem after 9 months and 20 days. Joab reported these astonishing numbers to the king: Israel had 800,000 soldiers and Judah had 500,000.

10 After he heard this, David was overwhelmed with guilt for counting his subjects. He prayed to the Eternal One.

David: I have committed a great wrong against You. But please, O Eternal One, take away the guilt I feel, for I have done a stupid thing.

11 When David rose the next morning, he was met by the prophet Gad, David’s seer, who had received a message from the Eternal.

Gad: 12-13 I am supposed to tell you this: “The Eternal says, ‘I will offer you three choices. Pick one, and that will be what I will do to you.’”

Do you want to have seven[a] years of famine in the land? Would you rather be on the run from your enemies for three months? Or shall a plague rage for three days through the land? Make a choice, and tell me what answer to give to the One who sent me.

David: 14 This is horrible! But I would rather fall by the hand of the Eternal, because He is merciful, than fall into human hands.

15 So the Eternal One sent a great plague that morning and for three days. It swept through Israel from Dan in the far north to Beersheba in the desert south, killing 70,000 people. 16 But when the heavenly messenger prepared to destroy Jerusalem, He relented; and He commanded the heavenly messenger who had brought the epidemic.

Eternal One: Stop. That is enough.

The heavenly messenger then paused beside the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite; 17 and when David saw him there, the one striking the people, he spoke to the Eternal One.

David: Look, I am the one who offended You, the only one who has done wrong. What have these innocent sheep done? If someone is going to be punished for what I did, it should be me and my family. Punish us.

18 Later that day, the prophet Gad approached David.

Gad: Go, and build an altar to the Eternal on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.

19 So David went to perform this task the Eternal had given him through Gad. 20 Araunah saw the king and his men coming toward him, so he went out into the road and bowed low before him in the dust.

Araunah: 21 Why has my lord, the king, come to see your servant?

David: I have come to buy your threshing floor. We must build an altar to the Eternal there so that this epidemic will be lifted from the people.

Araunah: 22 My lord and king, take and offer what seems right. Here are the oxen you need to make the burnt offering. Take the threshing sledges and the yokes of the oxen for firewood. 23 I will give you all these things, my king. May the Eternal One your God look on your offering with favor.

David: 24 No, I will buy these things from you. Name your price. I will not make an offering to the Eternal One, my True God, that has cost me nothing.

25 David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for 20 ounces of silver. He built an altar there to the Eternal and made burnt and peace offerings on it. The Eternal One heard David’s prayers for the land and lifted the plague from Israel.


  1. 24:12-13 Greek manuscripts read, “three.”

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