21:1 An adversary opposed Israel, inciting David to count how many warriors Israel had. 21:2 David told Joab and the leaders of the army, “Go, count the number of warriors from Beer Sheba to Dan. Then bring back a report to me so I may know how many we have.” 21:3 Joab replied, “May the Lord make his army a hundred times larger! My master, O king, do not all of them serve my master? Why does my master want to do this? Why bring judgment on Israel?”
21:4 But the king’s edict stood, despite Joab’s objections. So Joab left and traveled throughout Israel before returning to Jerusalem. 21:5 Joab reported to David the number of warriors. In all Israel there were 1,100,000 sword-wielding soldiers; Judah alone had 470,000 sword-wielding soldiers. 21:6 Now Joab did not number Levi and Benjamin, for the king’s edict disgusted him. 21:7 God was also offended by it, so he attacked Israel.
21:8 David said to God, “I have sinned greatly by doing this! Now, please remove the guilt of your servant, for I have acted very foolishly.” 21:9 The Lord told Gad, David’s prophet, 21:10 “Go, tell David, ‘This is what the Lord says: “I am offering you three forms of judgment from which to choose. Pick one of them.”’” 21:11 Gad went to David and told him, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Pick one of these: 21:12 three years of famine, or three months being chased by your enemies and struck down by their swords, or three days being struck down by the Lord, during which a plague will invade the land and the Lord’s messenger will destroy throughout Israel’s territory.’ Now, decide what I should tell the one who sent me.” 21:13 David said to Gad, “I am very upset! I prefer to be attacked by the Lord, for his mercy is very great; I do not want to be attacked by men!” 21:14 So the Lord sent a plague through Israel, and 70,000 Israelite men died.
21:15 God sent an angel to ravage Jerusalem. As he was doing so, the Lord watched and relented from his judgment. He told the angel who was destroying, “That’s enough! Stop now!”
Now the Lord’s angel was standing near the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. 21:16 David looked up and saw the Lord’s messenger standing between the earth and sky with his sword drawn and in his hand, stretched out over Jerusalem. David and the leaders, covered with sackcloth, threw themselves down with their faces to the ground. 21:17 David said to God, “Was I not the one who decided to number the army? I am the one who sinned and committed this awful deed! As for these sheep – what have they done? O Lord my God, attack me and my family, but remove the plague from your people!”