“Gad the Seer” – Towards the end of King David’s life, he undertakes to take a census of the People of Israel. Counting people directly, without collection of an object such as a half-shekel per capita, is prohibited. The motivation for this census is somewhat mysterious, as we find (II Samuel 24:1), “And again the wrath of HaShem was kindled against Israel, and it incited David against them, saying ‘Go, count Israel and Yehudah.’ ” Perhaps the “wrath of HaShem” can be understood as a term for the Satan, as the Satan in the Book of Iyov attempts unsuccessfully to incite Iyov to sin. Radak suggests that the People were punished for not requesting the building of the Temple. Yoav ben Zeruya, the officer with highest rank in the Army of David, attempts unsuccessfully to dissuade the King from proceeding, saying “Now may HaShem your G-d increase the population of Israel, whatever it may be, a hundredfold, and may the King see it, but why does my lord the King desire to do this thing?” (II Samuel 24:3) But David is adamant and commands Yoav and his fellow officers to carry out the census.
Immediately upon receiving the results of the census, David is struck by pangs of guilt. We read, “And his heart smote him after he counted the People. And David said to HaShem, ‘I have sinned greatly in what I have done. But now, HaShem, remove, I beg of You, the sin of your servant…’ And the Word of HaShem came to the Prophet Gad, the Seer of David, saying… ‘So says HaShem, ‘I am giving you the choice of three punishments:’
– That there be a 7-year famine in the Land
– That you be pursued for 3-months by your enemies
– That a 3-day Plague of Pestilence will afflict the People (II Samuel 24:10-13)”
David responds with the immortal line that has entered the Siddur, the Prayerbook of the Jewish People, in the “Tachanun” Prayer, the petition for Divine Mercy, “And David said to Gad, ‘I am greatly troubled; let us fall into the Hand of HaShem, for His mercies are great, but let us not fall into the hand of Man.’ ” (II Samuel 24:14)
After seventy thousand Jews had perished from the plague, and the Angel of HaShem had stretched forth his hand against Yerushalayim to destroy it, HaShem said “…‘Now stay your hand,’ when the Angel stood at the threshing floor of Aravnah HaYevusi… Gad came to David that day and said, ‘Arise and make an altar to HaShem at the threshing floor of Aravnah…’.” David purchased the threshing floor and the cattle from Aravnah with silver valued at fifty shekalim. “And David built an altar there, and offered Burnt Offerings and Peace Offerings; and HaShem was reconciled with the Land, and the plague ceased from the People of Israel.” (II Samuel 24:15-25)
Earlier, Gad had accompanied David and given him practical advice during his flights from his enemies. (I Samuel 22:5)
Another of the accomplishments of Gad was that he was one of the editors of the Books of Samuel. And, according to Masechet Ta’anit, Gad helped David train the Levi’im for their duties as singers of Chapters of Tehilim in the “Beit HaMikdash,” the Holy Temple of his son, Solomon.