The Angel with the Drawn Sword on Mount Moriah
David and the prophet Gad
II Samuel xxiv: 1
to 25; I Chronicles xxi: 1 to 27
the death of Absalom, David ruled in peace over
Israel for many years. His kingdom stretched from
the river Euphrates to the border of Egypt, 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 Joab, who was
the commander of his army, to send officers
throughout all the tribes of Israel, and to count
all the men who could go forth to battle.
It may be that David's purpose was to gather a great
army for some new war. Even Joab, the general, knew
that it was not right to do this; and he said to
David, "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 David was firm in his purpose, and Joab 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 Judah, who could be called out for war.
The tribe of Levi was not counted, because all its
members were priests and Levites in the service of
the Tabernacle; and Benjamin, on the border of which
stood the city of Jerusalem, was not counted,
because the numbering was never finished.
It was left unfinished because God was angry with
David and with the people on account of this sin.
David 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
Then the Lord sent to David, a prophet, a man who
heard God's voice and spoke as God's messenger. His
name was Gad. Gad came to David, 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 everywhere?"
And David 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 Jerusalem, 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 David's eyes, and he saw the
angel standing on Mount Moriah, with a drawn sword
in his hand, held out toward the city. Then David
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 Gad to David, and Gad
said to him, "Go, and build an altar to the Lord
upon the place where the angel was standing."
Then David and the men of his court went out from
Mount Zion, where the city was standing, and walked
up the side of Mount Moriah. 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
Israelite, but a foreigner, of the race that had
lived on those mountains before the Israelites came.
His name was Araunah.
When Araunah saw David 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 David, "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 Araunah said to David, "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, Araunah gives to the king."
"No," said King David; "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 David gave to Araunah 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 David'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 Moriah. 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 David built
his altar and called upon the Lord.
David and the prophet Gad