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David Displeases the Lord by Taking a Census

24 The Lord’s anger again raged against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, “Go count Israel and Judah.”[a] The king told Joab, the general in command of his army, “Go through all the tribes of Israel from Dan to Beer Sheba and muster the army, so I may know the size of the army.”

Joab replied to the king, “May the Lord your God make the army a hundred times larger right before the eyes of my lord the king! But why does my master the king want to do this?”

But the king’s edict stood, despite the objections of[b] Joab and the leaders of the army. So Joab and the leaders of the army left the king’s presence in order to muster the Israelite army.

They crossed the Jordan and camped at Aroer, on the south side of the city, at[c] the wadi of Gad, near Jazer. Then they went on to Gilead and to the region of Tahtim Hodshi, coming to Dan Jaan and on around to Sidon. Then they went to the fortress of Tyre and all the cities of the Hivites and the Canaanites. Then they went on to the Negev of Judah, to Beer Sheba. They went through all the land and after nine months and twenty days came back to Jerusalem.

Joab reported the number of warriors[d] to the king. In Israel there were 800,000 sword-wielding warriors, and in Judah there were 500,000 soldiers.

10 David felt guilty[e] after he had numbered the army. David said to the Lord, “I have sinned greatly by doing this! Now, O Lord, please remove the guilt of your servant, for I have acted very foolishly.”

11 When David got up the next morning, the Lord’s message had already come to the prophet Gad, David’s seer: 12 “Go, tell David, ‘This is what the Lord has said: I am offering you three forms of judgment. Pick one of them and I will carry it out against you.’”

13 Gad went to David and told him, “Shall seven[f] years of famine come upon your land? Or shall you flee for three months from your enemies with them in hot pursuit? Or shall there be three days of plague in your land? Now decide[g] what I should tell the one who sent me.” 14 David said to Gad, “I am very upset! I prefer that we be attacked by the Lord, for his mercy is great; I do not want to be attacked by human hands!”[h]

15 So the Lord sent a plague through Israel from the morning until the completion of the appointed time, and 70,000 people died from Dan to Beer Sheba. 16 When the angel[i] extended his hand to destroy Jerusalem, the Lord relented from his judgment.[j] He told the angel who was killing the people, “That’s enough! Stop now!”[k] (Now the angel of the Lord was near the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.)

17 When he saw the angel who was destroying the people, David said to the Lord, “Look, it is I who have sinned and done this evil thing! As for these sheep—what have they done? Attack me and my family.”[l]

David Acquires a Threshing Floor and Constructs an Altar There

18 So Gad went to David that day and told him, “Go up and build an altar for the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.” 19 So David went up as Gad instructed him to do, according to the Lord’s instructions.

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  1. 2 Samuel 24:1 sn The parallel text in 1 Chr 21:1 says, “An adversary opposed Israel, inciting David to count how many warriors Israel had.” The Samuel version gives an underlying theological perspective, while the Chronicler simply describes what happened from a human perspective. The adversary in 1 Chr 21:1 is likely a human enemy, probably a nearby nation whose hostility against Israel pressured David into numbering the people so he could assess his military strength. See the note at 1 Chr 21:1.
  2. 2 Samuel 24:4 tn Heb “and the word of the king was stronger than.”
  3. 2 Samuel 24:5 tn Heb “in the middle of.”
  4. 2 Samuel 24:9 tn Heb “and Joab gave the number of the numbering of the people.”
  5. 2 Samuel 24:10 tn Heb “and the heart of David struck him.”
  6. 2 Samuel 24:13 tc The LXX has here “three” rather than “seven,” and is followed by NAB, NIV, NCV, NRSV, TEV, NLT. See 1 Chr 21:12.
  7. 2 Samuel 24:13 tn Heb “now know and see.”
  8. 2 Samuel 24:14 tn Heb “There is great distress to me. Let us fall into the hand of the Lord, for great is his mercy, but into the hand of man let me not fall.”
  9. 2 Samuel 24:16 tn Heb “messenger.”
  10. 2 Samuel 24:16 tn Heb “concerning the calamity.”
  11. 2 Samuel 24:16 tn Heb “Now, drop your hand.”
  12. 2 Samuel 24:17 tn Heb “let your hand be against me and against the house of my father.”