IT WAS I WHO SINNED, TAKING A CENSUS OF THE PEOPLE. BUT THESE, THIS FLOCK, WHAT HAVE THEY DONE?
King David said to Joab and to the senior army officers who were with him, “Now go throughout the tribes of Israel from Dan to Beersheba and take a census of the people; I wish to know the size of the population.”
Joab gave the king the figures for the census of the people; Israel numbered eight hundred thousand armed men capable of drawing sword, and Judah five hundred thousand men.
But afterwards David’s heart misgave him for having taken a census of the people. “I have committed a grave sin,” David said to the Lord. “But now, Lord, I beg you to forgive your servant for this fault. I have been very foolish.” But when David got up the next morning, the following message had come from the Lord to the prophet Gad, David’s seer, “Go and say to David, ‘The Lord says this: I offer you three things; choose one of them for me to do to you.'”
So Gad went to David and told him. “Are three years of famine to come on you in your country,” he said, “or will you flee for three months before your pursuing enemy, or would you rather have three day’s pestilence in your country? Now think, and decide how I am to answer him who sends me.” David said to Gad, “This is a hard choice. But let us rather fall into the power of the Lord, since his mercy is great, and not into the power of men.” So David chose the pestilence.
It was the time of the wheat harvest. The Lord sent a pestilence on Israel from the morning till the time appointed and plague ravaged the people, and from Dan to Beersheba seventy thousand men of them died. The angel stretched out his hand towards Jerusalem to destroy it, but the Lord thought better of this evil, and he said to the angel who was destroying the people, “Enough! now withdraw your hand.” The angel of the Lord was beside the threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite. When David saw the angel who was ravaging the people, he spoke to the Lord. “It was I who sinned”; he said, “I who did this wicked thing. But these, this flock, what have they done? Let your hand lie heavy on me then, and on my family.”
V. The word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.