Who Incited David To Count The Fighting Men of Israel?

(2 Samuel 24:1; 1 Chronicles 21:1)

2 Samuel 24:1: "Again the anger of the LORD was aroused against Israel, and He moved David against them to say, "Go, number Israel and Judah."

1 Chronicles 21:1: "Now Satan stood up against Israel, and moved David to number Israel."

The apparent "problem" that skeptics see in 1 Chronicles 21:1 is that Satan is cited as the one who instigates David to number the people of Israel; whereas in 2 Samuel 24:1, the Lord is cited as the instigator. Is there a "contradiction?"

Though these verses may seem contradictory, both of their statements are true. When we think of such great characters of the Bible as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, we realize they had their great strengths, but they also had their flaws. Romans 3:23 teaches "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." David is one of those great characters who showed a display of great faith in God, yet at times he even succumbed to the lusts of the flesh (1 John 2:15-17). David sinned from time to time. He committed adultery with Bathsheba and murdered her husband (2 Samuel 11). In this event under consideration, David placed more faith in the power of the number of his armies (because he wanted to number them to see how many men there were) rather than the all-sufficient power of the Lord of hosts who was able to single-handedly deliver David from foreign nations.

Satan is the one who tempted David to sin against God (cf. Matthew 4:3; 1 Peter 5:8,9), yet it was God who ultimately allowed Satan to tempt David. We know on other occasions that God allowed His faithful servants to be tempted (such as the time when Satan tempted Job in Job 1-2). It was Satan's purpose to destroy the nation of Israel, yet it was God's purpose to teach David and the nation a spiritual lesson that they would never forget. David came to realize that he had sinned against God (2 Samuel 24:10). He would have to be punished as a consequence of his sin. The Lord offered Him three punishments: (1) seven years of famine, (2) three months of the invasions of enemies, or (3) three days of plague (2 Samuel 24:11-13). David chose the plague (2 Samuel 24:15), which cost thousands of lives.

The Lord wanted to remind David that He was ultimately in control. God humbled David to demonstrate that He was, yet also benevolent. David realized he had been foolish for putting his faith in transient and temporary armies. He needed to place his faith in the eternal, living God.



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