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1 Chronicles 21

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 1 And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.

 2 And David said to Joab and to the rulers of the people, "Go, number Israel from Beersheba even to Dan; and bring the number of them to me, that I may know it."

 3 And Joab answered, "The LORD make his people an hundred times so many more as they be: but, my lord the king, are they not all my lord's servants? Why then does my lord require this thing? Why will he be a cause for trespass to Israel?"1

 4 Nevertheless the king's word prevailed against Joab. Therefore Joab departed, and went throughout all Israel, and came to Jerusalem.

 5 Joab gave the total of the number of the people to David. Those of Israel who drew the sword were a one million one hundred thousand; and of Judah those who drew the sword were was four hundred seventy thousand men.

 6 But Joab did not include Levi and Benjamin in the count because the kings command was an abomination to Israel.

 7 God was displeased with this thing; therefore he struck Israel.

 8 And David said to God, "I have greatly sinned because I have done this thing; but now, I plead you, purge the iniquity of your servant for I have done very foolishly.

 9 And the LORD spoke to Gad, David's prophet, saying,

 10 "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.'"

 11 So Gad came to David, and told him, and informed of the three things from which to choose,

 12 "Either three years' famine; or three months to be destroyed before your foes, while the sword of your enemies overtakes you; or else three days the sword of the LORD, through the pestilence, in the land, and the angel of the LORD destroying throughout all the territories of Israel. Now choose and give me the answer that I shall reply to him who sent me."

 13 And David said to Gad, "I am under a great quandry; 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."

 14 So the LORD sent pestilence upon Israel, and seventy thousand men died in Israel .

 15 And God sent an angel to Jerusalem to destroy it: and as he was destroying, the LORD beheld, and he 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.

 16 And David lifted up his eyes, and saw the angel of the LORD stand between the earth and the heaven, having a drawn sword in his hand stretched out over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders of Israel, who were clothed in sackcloth, fell upon their faces.

 17 And David said to God, "Was it not I who commanded the people to be numbered? 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; but not on your people, that they should be plagued."

 18 Then the angel of the LORD commanded Gad to say to David, that David should go up, and set up an altar to the LORD in the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.

 19 And David went up at the saying of Gad, which he spoke in the name of the LORD.

 20 And Ornan turned back, and saw the angel; and his four sons with him hid themselves. Now Ornan was threshing wheat.

 21 And as David came to Ornan, Ornan looked and saw David, and went out of the threshing floor, and bowed himself to David with his face to the ground.

 22 Then David said to Ornan, "Grant me the place of this threshing floor, that I may build an altar in it to the LORD; you shall grant it me for the full price so that the plague may be stopped from the people."

 23 And Ornan said to David, "Take it for you, and let my lord the king do what is good in his eyes. Lo, I also give you the oxen also for burnt offerings, and the threshing instruments for fire wood, and the wheat for the cereal offering; I give it all."

 24 And king David said to Ornan, No; but truely I will buy it for the full price for I will not take what is yours for the LORD, nor offer burnt offerings without cost."

 25 So David gave to Ornan for the place six hundred shekels of gold by weight.

 26 And David built there an altar to the LORD, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings, and called upon the LORD; and he answered him from heaven by fire upon the altar of burnt offering.

 27 And the LORD commanded the angel; and he put up his sword again into its sheath.

 28 At that time when David saw that the LORD had answered him in the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite, then he sacrificed there.

 29 For the tabernacle of the LORD, which Moses made in the wilderness, and the altar of the burnt offering, were at that season in the high place at Gibeon.

 30 But David could not go before it to inquire of God for he was afraid of the sword of the angel of the LORD.

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1Joab objected to this census, calling it a trespass against Israel. It was wrong because 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

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 do it at God's command and receiving ransom money to "atone" for the counting.


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