The Lord punishes the Israelites
1 Then Satan caused David to bring trouble to Israel. He caused David to count all the men in Israel. 2 So David said to Joab and to the officers in his army, ‘Go and count the men everywhere in Israel, from Beersheba to Dan. Then come and give me a report. I want to know how many men there are.’
21:1Satan or an enemy of Israel.
3 But Joab replied, ‘I pray that the Lord will make your army grow 100 times bigger! All your men are your faithful servants, my lord the king. But why do you want to do this? You will cause all Israel to become guilty.’
4 But Joab had to obey the king's command. So Joab left. He went through all Israel and then he returned to Jerusalem. 5 Joab reported to David about the number of soldiers who could fight. There were 1,100,000 men in all Israel who could fight with swords. There were 470,000 men in Judah who could fight with swords.
6 But the king's command had seemed disgusting to Joab. So he did not count the men from the tribes of Levi and Benjamin. 7 God was also angry because David had done this thing. So he decided to punish Israel. 8 Then David said to God, ‘What I have done was a bad sin. Please forgive me. I have done a foolish thing.’
9 Gad was David's prophet. The Lord said to him, 10 ‘Go and give my message to David: “There are three ways that I could punish you. You must choose one of them, and that is what I will do to punish you.” ’
11 So Gad went to David and he said to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: “You must choose one of these punishments: 12 You may choose to have three years when there will be a famine. Or you may choose to have three months when you have to run away from your enemies' swords so that they do not kill you. Or you may choose to have three days when a very bad illness comes to your people. The angel of the Lord would kill many people in every part of Israel.” Now decide which punishment you will choose. I will take your answer to God, who sent me with this message.’
13 David said to Gad, ‘I am very upset. I do not want men to punish me. The Lord is kind and he forgives people. So it is better if he punishes me.’
14 So the Lord caused a very bad illness to kill people in Israel. 70,000 Israelite men died. 15 God sent his angel to destroy Jerusalem. But as the angel started to kill people, the Lord saw what was happening. He decided to stop the punishment that he was causing. He said to the angel who was killing the people, ‘That is enough. Stop what you are doing!’ When the Lord said that, his angel was standing near the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.
16 David looked up and he saw the Lord's angel. The angel was standing between the earth and the sky. He had his sword in his hand and it was pointing towards Jerusalem. David and the leaders fell down with their faces towards the ground. They were wearing clothes that were made of rough sackcloth.
17 David said to God, ‘I am the person who has done an evil thing. I told Joab to count the number of men in my army. These people have followed me like sheep that follow a shepherd. They have not done anything wrong. Lord my God, you should only punish me and my family. But please take this illness away from your people.’
18 Then the angel of the Lord said to Gad, ‘Tell David to go up to the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. Build an altar there to worship the Lord.’ 19 So David obeyed the Lord's message that Gad had spoken to him.
20 Araunah and his four sons were threshing wheat. Araunah turned around and he saw the Lord's angel. His sons hid themselves. 21 Then David came to meet Araunah. When Araunah saw David, he came out from the threshing floor. He bent down low in front of David, with his face towards the ground. 22 David said to Araunah, ‘Let me buy this threshing floor from you. I want to build an altar here to worship the Lord. Then he will stop this bad illness from killing the people. I will pay you the whole price for the land.’
23 Araunah replied, ‘My lord the king, please take it for yourself. You may do what you would like to do. Look, I will give you the bulls for the burnt offerings. You can use the wood from these tools for the fire. Take my wheat to make an offering to the Lord. I will give all these things to you.’
24 But King David said to Araunah, ‘No, I must pay you the whole price. I cannot offer something that belongs to you as a sacrifice to the Lord. I cannot offer to him a burnt offering that has cost me nothing.’
25 So David paid Araunah 600 gold coins to buy the place. 26 Then he built an altar there to worship the Lord. He offered burnt offerings and friendship offerings on it. He prayed to the Lord and the Lord answered him. The Lord sent fire from the sky to burn up the sacrifice on the altar. 27 Then the Lord told the angel to put his sword away into its pocket.
28 David saw that the Lord had answered his prayer at the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. So he offered sacrifices to God there. 29 At that time the Lord's tabernacle was at Gibeon, where the Israelites worshipped God. The tabernacle was the special tent that Moses had made in the wilderness. The altar for burnt offerings was also at Gibeon. 30 But David was not able to go there to meet with the Lord, because he was afraid of the sword of the Lord's angel.