Story Sixteen

 •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 6
2 Sam. 24:1 to 25; 1 Chronicles 21: 1 to 27
AFTER the death of Ăb́ sa-lŏm, Dā́ vid ruled in peace over Ĭś̝ er-el for many years. His kingdom stretched from the river Ēū-phrā́ tēs̝ to the border of Ḗ ġy̆pt and from the Great Sea on the west to the great desert on the east. But again David did that which was very displeasing to God. He gave orders to Jṓ ăb, who was the commander of his army, to send officers throughout all the tribes of Ĭś̝ ra-el, and to count all the men who could go forth to battle.
It may be that Dā́ vid's purpose was to gather a great army for some new war. Even Jṓ ăb, the general, knew that it was not right to do this; and he said to Dā́ vid, "May the Lord God make his people an hundred times as great as they are; but are they not all the servants of my lord the king? Why does the king command this to be done? Surely it will bring sin upon the king and upon the people.”
But. Dā́ vid was firm in his purpose, and Jó̄ ăb obeyed him, but not willingly. He sent men through all the twelve tribes to take the number of those in every city and town who were fit for war. They went throughout the land, until they had written down the number of eight hundred thousand men in ten of the tribes, and of nearly five hundred thousand men in the tribe of Jū́ dah, who could be called out for war. The tribe of Lḗ vī was not counted, because all its members were priests and Lḗ vītes in the service of the Tabernacle; and Bĕń ja-mĭn, on the border of which stood the city of Jē̇-rṳ́ sā̇-lĕm, was not counted, because the numbering was never finished.
It was left unfinished because God was angry with Dā́ vid and with the people on account of this sin. Dā́ vid saw that he had done wickedly, in ordering the count of the people. He prayed to the Lord, and said, "O Lord, I have sinned greatly in doing this. Now, O Lord, forgive this sin, for I have done very foolishly.”
Then the Lord sent to Dā́ vid, a prophet, a man who heard God's voice and spoke as God's messenger. His name was Găd. Găd came to Dā́ vid, and said to him, "Thus saith the Lord, You have sinned in this thing, and now you and your land must suffer for your sin. I will give you the choice of three troubles to come upon the land. Shall I send seven years of famine, in which there shall be no harvest? Or shall your enemies overcome you, and win victories over you for three months? Or shall there be three days when pestilence shall fall upon the land, and the people shall die every-where?”
And Dā́vid said to the prophet Gad, "This is a hard choice of evils to come upon the land; but let me fall into the hand of the Lord, and not into the hands of men; for God's mercies are great and many. If we must suffer, let the three days of pestilence come upon the land.”
Then the Lord's angel of death passed through the land, and in three days seventy thousand men died. And when the angel of the Lord stretched out his hand over the city of Jē̇-rṳ sā̇-lĕm, the Lord had pity upon the people, and the Lord said to him, "It is enough; now hold back your hand, and cause no more of the people to die.”
Then the Lord opened Dā́ vid's eyes, and he saw the angel standing on Mount Mō̇-rī́ ah, with a drawn sword in his hand, held out toward the city. Then Dā́ vid prayed to the Lord, and he said:
"O Lord, I alone have sinned, and have done this wickedness before thee. These people are like sheep; they have done nothing. Lord, let thy hand fall on me, and not on these poor people.”
Then the Lord sent the prophet Găd to Dā́ vid, and Gad said to him, "Go, and build an altar to the Lord upon the place where the angel was standing.”
Then Dā́ vid and the men of his court went out from Mount Zī́ ŏn, where the city was standing, and walked up the side of Mount Mō̇-rī́ ah. They found the man who owned the rock on the top of the mountain threshing wheat upon it, with his sons; for the smooth rock was used as a threshing-floor, upon which oxen walked over the heads of grain, beating out the kernels with their feet. This man was not an Ĭś̝ ra-el-īte, but a foreigner, of the race that had lived on those mountains before the Ĭś̝ ra-el-ītes came. His name was Ā̇-ra̤ú nah.
When Ā̇-ra̤ú nah saw Dá vid and his nobles coming toward him, he bowed down with his face toward the ground, and said, "For what purpose does my lord the king come to his servant?”
"I have come," said Dá vid, "to buy your threshing-floor, and to build upon it an altar to the Lord, that I may pray to God to stop the plague which is destroying the people.”
And Ā̇-ra̤ú nah said to Dá vid, "Let my lord the king take it freely as a gift, and with it these oxen for a burnt-offering, and the threshing-tools and the yokes of the oxen for the wood on the altar. All this, O king, Ā̇-ra̤ú nah gives to the king.”
"No," said King Dā́ vid, "I cannot take it as a gift; but I will pay you the price for it. For I will not make an offering to the Lord my God of that which costs me nothing.”
So Dā́ vid gave Ā̇-ra̤ú nah the full price for the land, and for the oxen, and for the wood. And there, on the rock, he built an altar to the Lord God, and on it he offered burnt-offerings and peace offerings. The Lord heard Dá̄ vid's prayer and took away the plague from the land.
And on that rock afterward stood the altar of the temple of the Lord on Mount Mō̇-rī́ ah. The rock is standing even to this day; and over it a building called "The Dome of the Rock." Those who visit the place can look upon the very spot where Dā́ vid built his altar and called upon the Lord.