The Bible – Old Testament
1 The LORD’S anger against Israel flared again, and he incited David against the Israelites by prompting him to number Israel and Judah.
Accordingly the king said to Joab and the leaders of the army who were with him, “Tour all the tribes in Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba and register the people, that I may know their number.”
But Joab said to the king: “May the LORD your God increase the number of people a hundredfold for your royal majesty to see it with his own eyes. But why does it please my lord the king to order a thing of this kind?”
The king, however, overruled Joab and the leaders of the army, so they left the king’s presence in order to register the people of Israel.
Crossing the Jordan, they began near Aroer, south of the city in the wadi, and went in the direction of Gad toward Jazer.
They continued on to Gilead and to the district below Mount Hermon. Then they proceeded to Dan; from there they turned toward Sidon,
going to the fortress of Tyre and to all the cities of the Hivites and Canaanites, and ending up at Beer-sheba in the Negeb of Judah.
Thus they toured the whole country, reaching Jerusalem again after nine months and twenty days.
Joab then reported to the king the number of people registered: in Israel, eight hundred thousand men fit for military service; in Judah, five hundred thousand.
2 Afterward, however, David regretted having numbered the people, and said to the LORD: “I have sinned grievously in what I have done. But now, LORD, forgive the guilt of your servant, for I have been very foolish.”
When David rose in the morning, the LORD had spoken to the prophet Gad, David’s seer, saying:
“Go and say to David, ‘This is what the LORD says: I offer you three alternatives; choose one of them, and I will inflict it on you.'”
Gad then went to David to inform him. He asked: “Do you want a three years’ famine to come upon your land, or to flee from your enemy three months while he pursues you, or to have a three days’ pestilence in your land? Now consider and decide what I must reply to him who sent me.”
David answered Gad: “I am in very serious difficulty. Let us fall by the hand of God, for he is most merciful; but let me not fall by the hand of man.”
Thus David chose the pestilence. Now it was the time of the wheat harvest when the plague broke out among the people. (The LORD then sent a pestilence over Israel from morning until the time appointed, and seventy thousand of the people from Dan to Beer-sheba died.)
But when the angel stretched forth his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD regretted the calamity and said to the angel causing the destruction among the people, “Enough now! Stay your hand.” The angel of the LORD was then standing at the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.
3 When David saw the angel who was striking the people, he said to the LORD: “It is I who have sinned; it is I, the shepherd, who have done wrong. But these are sheep; what have they done? Punish me and my kindred.”
On the same day Gad went to David and said to him, “Go up and build an altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.”
Following Gad’s bidding, David went up as the LORD had commanded.
Now Araunah looked down and noticed the king and his servants coming toward him while he was threshing wheat. So he went out and paid homage to the king, with face to the ground.
Then Araunah asked, “Why does my lord the king come to his servant?” David replied, “To buy the threshing floor from you, to build an altar to the LORD, that the plague may be checked among the people.”
But Araunah said to David: “Let my lord the king take and offer up whatever he may wish. Here are oxen for holocausts, and threshing sledges and the yokes of the oxen for wood.
All this does Araunah give to the king.” Araunah then said to the king, “May the LORD your God accept your offering.”
The king, however, replied to Araunah, “No, I must pay you for it, for I cannot offer to the LORD my God holocausts that cost nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty silver shekels.
Then David built an altar there to the LORD, and offered holocausts and peace offerings. The LORD granted relief to the country, and the plague was checked in Israel.
1 [1-3] This story was probably joined at one time to ⇒ 2 Sam 21:1-14.
2  The narrative supposes that since the people belonged to the Lord rather than to the king, only the Lord should know their exact number.
3  Before this verse a Qumran manuscript (4Q Sam[a]) gives the fuller text of ⇒ 1 Chron 21:16 an alternative to the words When David saw the angel who was striking the people.