What is behind a pandemic plague

Coronavirus pandemic is spreading all over the world unlike any other disease that was known before.

In ancient times, people did not know about bacteria or viruses. They looked at epidemic diseases as judgement from their gods. Even the Israelites understood that diseases come as judgement from the God of Israel.

Today we understand the biology of viruses, we know how to prepare vaccines against most diseases. We have antibiotics against many bacteria.

But once in a while we get a surprising reminder that we are not in control.

What is new about the epidemic of Coronavirus is that it is ubiquitous: It is everywhere. This is something that was never seen in the past (even the Black Death in the 14th century was limited to Europe and the Middle East). But in fact, this was foreseen in prophecies, and I will get to this later on.

In the Bible, there are many stories of plagues, and they are generally appear as a result to disobedience.

I want to focus here on two examples. One is a story that happened in the past, and one is a prophecy of a plague still to come.

What was Davis’s sin?

King David Playing the Harp by Gerard van Honthorst

In the last chapter of 2 Samuel, chapter 24, we read a story about David, that was “incited” to count the people of Israel. The same story is repeated in 1 Chronicles chapter 21.

In 1 Samuel, it was the “anger of the Lord” that incited David, while in 1 Chronicles it is said that it was ‘Satan’ who stood up against Israel.

(Those two different versions may lead us to ask a question and to answer it: Where does Satan gets his power from?)

The story is simple, but the moral is not so clear:

David counted the people of Israel, and as a result of this sin, he had to be punished. Now the punishment is not on David himself, but on all the nation on behalf of David. And David got the freedom to choose which punishment to take.

Gad the prophet was the messenger:

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.”

2 Samuel 24:13

What was the sin that David committed? This sin is not mentioned in the Torah (the law) or anywhere else in the Bible. Isn’t the king allowed to count his people?

In fact, there are so many places in the Bible where people are counted . And one place where the Lord Himself ordered to take a census:

The Lord spoke to Moses in the tent of meeting in the Desert of Sinai on the first day of the second month of the second year after the Israelites came out of Egypt. He said: “Take a census of the whole Israelite community by their clans and families, listing every man by name, one by one. You and Aaron are to count according to their divisions all the men in Israel who are twenty years old or more and able to serve in the army. ….  45 All the Israelites twenty years old or more who were able to serve in Israel’s army were counted according to their families. 46 The total number was 603,550.

Numbers 1:1-3, 45-46

As there is no such sin mentioned in the Torah that prevents from counting people, it is even more intriguing to see what Joab answered David after hearing the command to count the people:

And Joab said to the king, “Now may the Lord your God add to the people a hundred times more than there are, and may the eyes of my lord the king see it. But why does my lord the king desire this thing?” 

2 Samuel 24:3

Joab gave us a hint on what was the problem here: Don’t you trust the Lord to add more people to the nation? Why count? do you want to show off with how many men you have in your army?

There is some more explanation in the Bible itself about this.

In 2 Chronicles 23-27, after citing all the numbers of the different divisions in Israel: Levites and priests, musicians and gatekeepers, treasuries, military divisions and leaders of the tribes,

We read this:

23 But David did not take the number of those twenty years old and under, because the Lord had said He would multiply Israel like the stars of the heavens. 24 Joab the son of Zeruiah began a census, but he did not finish, for wrath came upon Israel because of this census; nor was the number recorded in the account of the chronicles of King David.

What is the problem with a king counting his people?

The Lord said to Abraham:

blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. 

Genesis 22:17

When David counted the people, His sin was unfaithfulness to the Lord who promised that Israel will be countless!

The judgement (that turned into blessing)

Jerusalem by David Roberts

Gad the prophet told David to choose one punishment from three options. Not every day we can choose our judgement from God. The options were:

  • Three years of famine
  • Three months of fleeing from the enemies
  • Three days of plague

David chose the last one, because, as he said: “let us fall into the hand of the Lord, for His mercies are great; but do not let me fall into the hand of man.

How did the plague end? After David built an altar and offered sacrifice to the Lord. David submitted himself obediently to the Lord and made atonement. “And the plague was withdrawn from Israel”

And not only that: David bought the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite, the place that later became the place of the Temple.

How amazing is our God the turns even our sins into blessing!

Plague in prophecy

We read in Zechariah 14:

And this shall be the plague with which the Lord will strike all the people who fought against Jerusalem:

Their flesh shall dissolve while they stand on their feet,
Their eyes shall dissolve in their sockets,
And their tongues shall dissolve in their mouths.

13 It shall come to pass in that day
That a great panic from the Lord will be among them.
Everyone will seize the hand of his neighbor,
And raise his hand against his neighbor’s hand;
14 Judah also will fight at Jerusalem.
And the wealth of all the surrounding nations
Shall be gathered together:
Gold, silver, and apparel in great abundance.

15 Such also shall be the plague
On the horse and the mule,
On the camel and the donkey,
And on all the cattle that will be in those camps.
So shall this plague be.

Zechariah 14:12-15

And what comes after that?

And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. 

Zechariah 14:16

The plague in this prophecy is about to strike all the nations who fight against Jerusalem. Who are those nations? It is easier to ask – who are NOT those nations.

So, after the disaster, comes a great blessing. and feast of Tabernacles is the time of celebration.

Why Feast of Tabernacles?

We will leave this question for another time

Zechariah by Michelangelo

Author: Ran Silberman

I am a tour guide in Israel with a passion for the Bible. For many years I work in the software industry as a software consultant. I blog in http://ransilberman.blog

One thought on “What is behind a pandemic plague”

  1. Interesting article.
    The passage you mentioned from Zechariah is in the context of “that day”, always used to refer the Day of the Lord. So i believe that this passage is about a final plague that will be far worse than this Corina virus.
    However, based on Mathew 24, the beggininng of birth pains does include famine and pestilence. And like birth pains, i believe these things will increase in frequency and intensity before the Lord returns. Prophecy is pattern, these things will be recapitulated and replayed until the final one in my understanding.
    In his mercy, He is giving us a time to repent before its too late. I pray this is a wake up call for everyone, especially the body of Messiah.
    Thanks the blog.
    Blessings

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