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2 Samuel 24:13 So Gad went to David and said to him, “Shall there come on you three years of famine in your land? Or three months of fleeing from your enemies while they pursue you? Or three days of plague in your land? Now then, think it over and decide how I should answer the one who sent me.”

14David said to Gad, “I am in deep distress. Let us fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is great; but do not let me fall into human hands.”

David isn't specifically picking the plague. It couldn't have been famine. Couldn't it?

15So the Lord sent a plague on Israel from that morning until the end of the time designated, and seventy thousand of the people from Dan to Beersheba died.

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Famine could be man-made:

2 Kings 6:25

There was a great famine in the city; the siege lasted so long that a donkey's head sold for eighty shekels of silver, and a quarter of a cab of seed pods for five shekels.

David might have the following in mind in his choice:

Num 16:47 So Aaron did as Moses said, and ran into the midst of the assembly. The plague had already started among the people, but Aaron offered the incense and made atonement for them. 48He stood between the living and the dead, and the plague stopped.

After the plague had started, David interceded for the people:

2 Samuel 24:21 Araunah said, “Why has my lord the king come to his servant?”

“To buy your threshing floor,” David answered, “so I can build an altar to the Lord, that the plague on the people may be stopped.”

David was counting on the mercy of the Lord:

2 Samuel 24:14 David said to Gad, “I am in deep distress. Let us fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is great; but do not let me fall into human hands.”

And it worked.

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The first thing to note is that the plague was NOT famine as famine takes much longer than three days to have its baleful effects. Further, the plague was caused by a "destroying angel" that was, at the time the plague stopped, over the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite (2 Sam 24:16).

Thus, the plague, from a human point of view, was a mysterious and sudden death, but caused by a divine angel.

Apparently, David's faith in the mercies of God were justified because the destroying angel was stopped before finishing its destroying work, 2 Sam 24:16.

David repented of his evil sin and offered a sacrifice in thanks for God's mercy. V18-25.

This divine plague was in contradistinction to the three other options offered to David of:

  1. 3 years of famine in the land
  2. 3 months of fleeing from Israel's enemies
  3. 3 days of the (divine) destroying angel

David chose the last option as the most merciful. He was correct.

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