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2 Samuel 24

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 1 And again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he moved David1 against them by saying, "Go, number [take a census of] Israel and Judah."

 2 So the king said to Joab, the captain of the host who was with him, "Go now through all the tribes of Israel, from Dan even to Beersheba, and count the people, so I may know the number of the people."

 3 Joab said to the king, "Now may the LORD your God add to the people, however many they are, even one hundred times more, and may the eyes of my lord the king see them; but why does my lord the king delight in this thing?"

 4 Despite Joab's objections,2 the king's word prevailed against Joab and the captains of the host. So Joab and the captains of the host went out from the presence of the king to number the people of Israel.

 5 They passed over Jordan, and encamped in Aroer, on the right side of the city that lies in the midst of the river of Gad, and on toward Jazer.

 6 Then they went to Gilead, and to the land of Tahtimhodshi; and they went to Danjaan, and about to Zidon,

 7 And went to the strong hold of Tyre, and to all the cities of the Hivites, and of the Canaanites; and they went out to the south of Judah, even to Beersheba.

 8 When they had gone through all the land, they returned to Jerusalem; the census had taken nine months and twenty days.

 9 And Joab gave up the total of the number of the people to the king; and there were in Israel eight hundred thousand valiant men who drew the sword; and the men of Judah were five hundred thousand men.3

 10 After he had numbered the people, David's heart condemned him. And David said to the LORD, "I have sinned greatly in what I have done; and now, I beseech you, O LORD, take away the iniquity of your servant for I have done very foolishly."

 11 When David was up in the morning, the word of the LORD came to the prophet Gad, David's seer, saying,

 12 "Go and say to David, 'Thus says the Lord, I offer you the choice of three things; choose one of them, that I may do that thing to you.'"

 13 So Gad came to David, and told him, and informed of the three things from which to choose, "Shall seven years of famine come to you in your land? Or will you flee three months before your enemies, while they pursue you? Or will there to be three days of pestilence in your land? Now choose and give me the answer that I shall reply to him who sent me."

 14 And David said to Gad, "I am under a great quandary; let us fall now into the hand of the LORD for his mercies are great, and let me not fall into the hand of man."

 15 So the LORD sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning even to the time appointed [of three days], and seventy thousand of the people died from Dan even to Beersheba.

 16 When the angel stretched out his hand upon Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD relented of the punishment, and said to the angel who was destroying the people, "It is enough, cease your work." The angel of the LORD was standing by the threshing place of Araunah the Jebusite.

 17 David spoke to the LORD when he saw the angel who destroyed the people, and said, "I have sinned, and I have done wickedly; but these sheep, what have they done? Let your hand, I pray you, be against me, and against my father's house."

 18 And Gad came that day to David, and said to him, "Go up, raise an altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite."

 19 And David, according to the words of Gad, went up as the LORD commanded.

 20 Araunah looked and saw the king and his servants approaching him; so Araunah went out and bowed himself before the king with his face upon the ground.

 21 And Araunah said, "Why has my lord the king come to his servant?" And David said, "To buy your threshing floor on which to build an altar to the LORD, that the plague may be stopped from the people."

 22 And Araunah said to David, "Let my lord the king take and offer up what seems good to him; behold, there are oxen here for burnt sacrifice, and threshing instruments and other wooden instruments of the oxen for wood [to burn].

 23 All these things, O king, I give to the king." Araunah said to the king, "May the LORD your God accept you."

 24 And the king said to Araunah, "No; but I must surely buy it from you at a price; neither will I offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God of what costs me nothing." So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.

 25 And there David built an altar to the LORD, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. So the LORD was satisfied for the land, and the plague was stopped from Israel.


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1 The translators of the New King James Version believe that "He" in this sentence applies to God, because they capitalize it. Yet 1 Chronicles 21:1 tells us, Now Satan stood up against Israel, and moved David to number Israel. The best explanation is that Satan moved David and is the "he" of 2 Samuel 24:1. Yet the Lord at least expressly allowed it because he was angry with the people of Israel; we don't know the exact reason, but the people of Israel had a history of continually deviating from his law, even worshipping other idols, usually because of marrying non-Hebrew women.

2 Joab objected to this census, finding it a strange request. But it was more than strange, it was dangerous. It was dangerous because of a principle stated in Exodus 30:12-16:

When you take the census of the children of Israel for their number, then every man over twenty shall give a ransom [shekel to the priest] for himself to the Lord, when you number them, that there may be no plague among them when you number them.
This is what everyone shall give who crosses over to those who are already numbered: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (a shekel is twenty gerahs); this half shekel shall be the offering of the LORD.
Everyone who crosses over to those who are already numbered, from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering to the LORD.
The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel when they give an offering to the LORD to make an atonement for themselves.
And you shall take the atonement money of the children of Israel and appoint it for the service of the tabernacle of the congregation, that it may be a memorial to the children of Israel before the LORD, to make an atonement for themselves. Exodus 30:12-16
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Israel didn't belong to David; Israel belonged to God. It was up to the Lord to command a counting; and if David counted, he should only have done it at God's command and with receiving ransom money to "atone" for the counting.

3 there were in Israel eight hundred thousand valiant men who drew the sword; and the men of Judah were five hundred thousand men. To get an idea of how fast the population had increased, about 60 years previously Saul had performed a census where the children of Israel were three hundred thousand, and the men of Judah thirty thousand. Judah had increased 17 times.

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