The Message

1 Chronicles 21

David, Satan, and Araunah

11-2 Now Satan entered the scene and seduced David into taking a census of Israel. David gave orders to Joab and the army officers under him, “Canvass all the tribes of Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, and get a count of the population. I want to know the number.”

Joab resisted: “May God multiply his people by hundreds! Don’t they all belong to my master the king? But why on earth would you do a thing like this—why risk getting Israel into trouble with God?”

4-7 But David wouldn’t take no for an answer, so Joab went off and did it—canvassed the country and then came back to Jerusalem and reported the results of the census: There were 1,100,000 fighting men; of that total, Judah accounted for 470,000. Joab, disgusted by the command—it, in fact, turned his stomach!—protested by leaving Levi and Benjamin out of the census-taking. And God, offended by the whole thing, punished Israel.

Then David prayed, “I have sinned badly in what I have just done, substituting statistics for trust; forgive my sin—I’ve been really stupid.”

9-10 God answered by speaking to Gad, David’s pastor: “Go and give David this message: ‘God’s word: You have your choice of three punishments; choose one and I’ll do the rest.’”

11-12 Gad delivered the message to David: “Do you want three years of famine, three months of running from your enemies while they chase you down, or three days of the sword of God—an epidemic unleashed on the country by an angel of God? Think it over and make up your mind. What shall I tell the One who sent me?”

13 David told Gad, “They’re all terrible! But I’d rather be punished by God whose mercy is great, than fall into human hands.”

14-15 So God unleashed an epidemic in Israel—seventy thousand Israelites died. God then sent the angel to Jerusalem but when he saw the destruction about to begin, he compassionately changed his mind and ordered the death angel, “Enough’s enough! Pull back!”

15-16 The angel of God had just reached the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. David looked up and saw the angel hovering between earth and sky, sword drawn and about to strike Jerusalem. David and the elders bowed in prayer and covered themselves with rough burlap.

17 David prayed, “Please! I’m the one who sinned; I’m the one at fault. But these sheep, what did they do wrong? Punish me, not them, me and my family; don’t take it out on them.”

18-19 The angel of God ordered Gad to tell David to go and build an altar to God on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. David did what Gad told him in obedience to God’s command.

20-21 Meanwhile Araunah had quit threshing the wheat and was watching the angel; his four sons took cover and hid. David came up to Araunah. When Araunah saw David, he left the threshing floor and bowed deeply before David, honoring the king.

22 David said to Araunah, “Give me the site of the threshing floor so I can build an altar to God. Charge me the market price; we’re going to put an end to this disaster.”

23 “O Master, my king,” said Araunah, “just take it; do whatever you want with it! Look, here’s an ox for the burnt offering and threshing paddles for the fuel and wheat for the meal offering—it’s all yours!”

24-27 David replied to Araunah, “No. I’m buying it from you, and at the full market price. I’m not going to offer God sacrifices that are no sacrifice.” So David bought the place from Araunah for six hundred shekels of gold. He built an altar to God there and sacrificed Whole-Burnt-Offerings and Peace-Offerings. He called out to God and God answered by striking the altar of Whole-Burnt-Offering with lightning. Then God told the angel to put his sword back into its scabbard.

28 And that’s the story of what happened when David saw that God answered him on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite at the time he offered the sacrifice.

29-30 At this time the Tabernacle that Moses had constructed in the desert, and with it the Altar of Burnt Offering, were set up at the worship center at Gibeon. But David, terrified by the angel’s sword, wouldn’t go there to

New International Reader's Version

1 Chronicles 21

David Counts His Fighting Men

1Satan rose up against Israel. He stirred up David to count the men of Israel. So David said to Joab and the commanders of the troops, “Go! Count the men of Israel from Beersheba all the way to Dan. Report back to me. Then I’ll know how many there are.”

Joab replied, “May the Lord multiply his troops 100 times. King David, you are my master. Aren’t all the men under your control? Why would you want me to count them? Do you want to make Israel guilty?”

In spite of what Joab said, the king’s order had more authority than Joab’s reply did. So Joab left and went all through Israel. Then he came back to Jerusalem. Joab reported to David how many fighting men he had counted. In the whole land of Israel there were 1,100,000 men who could use their swords well. That included 470,000 men in Judah.

But Joab didn’t include the tribes of Levi and Benjamin in the total number. The king’s command was sickening to Joab. It was also evil in the sight of God. So he punished Israel.

Then David said to God, “I committed a great sin when I counted Israel’s men. I beg you to take away my guilt. I’ve done a very foolish thing.”

The Lord spoke to Gad, David’s prophet. The Lord said, 10 “Go and tell David, ‘The Lord says, “I could punish you in three different ways. Choose one of them for me to punish you with.” ’ ”

11 So Gad went to David. Gad said to him, “The Lord says, ‘Take your choice. 12 You can have three years when there will not be enough food in the land. You can have three months when your enemies will sweep you away. They will catch up with you. They will destroy you with their swords. Or you can have three days when the sword of the Lord will punish you. That means there would be three days of plague in the land. My angel would strike down people in every part of Israel.’ So take your pick. Tell me how to answer the one who sent me.”

13 David said to Gad, “I’m suffering terribly. Let me fall into the hands of the Lord. His mercy is very great. But don’t let me fall into human hands.”

14 So the Lord sent a plague on Israel. And 70,000 Israelites died. 15 God sent an angel to destroy Jerusalem. But as the angel was doing it, the Lord saw it. The Lord decided to end the plague he had sent. So he spoke to the angel who was destroying the people. He said, “That is enough! Do not kill any more people!” The angel of the Lord was standing at Araunah’s threshing floor. Araunah was from the city of Jebus.

16 David looked up. He saw the angel of the Lord standing between heaven and earth. The angel was holding out a sword over Jerusalem. David and the elders fell with their faces to the ground. They were wearing the rough clothing people wear when they’re sad.

17 David said to God, “I ordered the fighting men to be counted. I’m the one who has sinned. I am the shepherd of these people. I’m the one who has done what is wrong. These people are like sheep. What have they done? Lord my God, punish me and my family. But don’t let this plague continue to strike your people.”

David Builds an Altar

18 Then the angel of the Lord ordered Gad to tell David to go up to the threshing floor of Araunah, the Jebusite. He wanted David to build an altar there to honor the Lord. 19 So David went up and did it. He obeyed the message that Gad had spoken in the Lord’s name.

20 Araunah was threshing wheat. He turned and saw the angel. Araunah’s four children were with him. They hid themselves. 21 David approached the threshing floor. Araunah looked up and saw him. So Araunah left the threshing floor. He bowed down to David with his face toward the ground.

22 David said to him, “Let me have the property your threshing floor is on. I want to build an altar there to honor the Lord. When I do, the plague on the people will be stopped. Sell the threshing floor to me for the full price.”

23 Araunah said to David, “Take it! King David, you are my master. Do what you please. I’ll even provide the oxen for the burnt offerings. Use boards from the threshing sleds for the wood. Use the wheat for the grain offering. I’ll give it all to you.”

24 But King David replied to Araunah, “No! I want to pay the full price. I won’t take what belongs to you and give it to the Lord. I won’t sacrifice a burnt offering that hasn’t cost me anything.”

25 So David paid Araunah 15 pounds of gold for the property. 26 David built an altar there to honor the Lord. He sacrificed burnt offerings and friendship offerings. He called out to the Lord. The Lord answered him by sending fire from heaven on the altar for burnt offerings.

27 Then the Lord spoke to the angel. And the angel put his sword away. 28 When the angel did that, David was still at the threshing floor of Araunah, the Jebusite. David saw that the Lord had answered him. So he offered sacrifices there. 29 At that time, the Lord’s holy tent was at the high place in Gibeon. The altar for burnt offerings was there too. Moses had made the holy tent in the desert. 30 David couldn’t go to the tent to pray to God. That’s because he was afraid of the sword of the angel of the Lord.