Add parallel Print Page Options

21 Then Satan brought disaster upon Israel, for he made David decide to take a census.

“Take a complete census throughout the land[a] and bring me the totals,” he told Joab and the other leaders.

But Joab objected. “If the Lord were to multiply his people a hundred times, would they not all be yours? So why are you asking us to do this? Why must you cause Israel to sin?”

But the king won the argument, and Joab did as he was told; he traveled all through Israel and returned to Jerusalem. The total population figure which he gave came to 1,100,000 men of military age in Israel and 470,000 in Judah. But he didn’t include the tribes of Levi and Benjamin in his figures because he was so distressed at what the king had made him do.

And God, too, was displeased with the census and punished Israel for it.

But David said to God, “I am the one who has sinned. Please forgive me, for I realize now how wrong I was to do this.”

Then the Lord said to Gad, David’s personal prophet, 10-11 “Go and tell David, ‘The Lord has offered you three choices. Which will you choose? 12 You may have three years of famine, or three months of destruction by the enemies of Israel, or three days of deadly plague as the Angel of the Lord brings destruction to the land. Think it over and let me know what answer to return to the one who sent me.’”

13 “This is a terrible decision to make,” David replied, “but let me fall into the hands of the Lord rather than into the power of men, for God’s mercies are very great.”

14 So the Lord sent a plague upon Israel and 70,000 men died as a result. 15 During the plague God sent an Angel to destroy Jerusalem; but then he felt such compassion that he changed his mind and commanded the destroying Angel, “Stop! It is enough!” (The Angel of the Lord was standing at the time by the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.) 16 When David saw the Angel of the Lord standing between heaven and earth with his sword drawn, pointing toward Jerusalem, he and the elders of Israel clothed themselves in sackcloth and fell to the ground before the Lord.

17 And David said to God, “I am the one who sinned by ordering the census. But what have these sheep done? O Lord my God, destroy me and my family, but do not destroy your people.”

18 Then the Angel of the Lord told Gad to instruct David to build an altar to the Lord at the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. 19-20 So David went to see Ornan, who was threshing wheat at the time. Ornan saw the Angel as he turned, and his four sons ran and hid. 21 Then Ornan saw the king approaching. So he left the threshing floor and bowed to the ground before King David.

22 David said to Ornan, “Let me buy this threshing floor from you at its full price; then I will build an altar to the Lord and the plague will stop.”

23 “Take it, my lord, and use it as you wish,” Ornan said to David. “Take the oxen, too, for burnt offerings; use the threshing instruments for wood for the fire and use the wheat for the grain offering. I give it all to you.”

24 “No,” the king replied, “I will buy it for the full price; I cannot take what is yours and give it to the Lord. I will not offer a burnt offering that has cost me nothing!”

25 So David paid Ornan $4,300 in gold$4,300 in gold, literally, “600 shekels of gold by weight.” 26 and built an altar to the Lord there, and sacrificed burnt offerings and peace offerings upon it; and he called out to the Lord, who answered by sending down fire from heaven to burn up the offering on the altar. 27 Then the Lord commanded the Angel to put back his sword into its sheath; 28 and when David saw that the Lord had answered his plea, he sacrificed to him again. 29 The Tabernacle and altar made by Moses in the wilderness were on the hill of Gibeon, 30 but David didn’t have time to go there to plead before the Lord, for he was terrified by the drawn sword of the Angel of Jehovah.


  1. 1 Chronicles 21:2 throughout the land, literally, “from Beersheba to Dan.”
  2. 1 Chronicles 21:25 $4,300 in gold, literally, “600 shekels of gold by weight.”
Living Bible (TLB)

The Living Bible copyright © 1971 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Bible Gateway Sponsors