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THE ANGEL WITH THE DRAWN SWORD ON MOUNT MORIAH
II Samuel xxiv: 1 to 25; I Chronicles xxi: 1 to 27.
FTER 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
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
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 foolishly."
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
Then the Lord's angel of death passed through the land,
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
DAVID GETS THE THRESHING-FLOOR
"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
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.