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.