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Twice Enticed

Was it God or Satan who incited David to number Israel?

While the Bible unashamedly proclaims itself to be God’s Word thousands of times, hundreds of apparent contradictions are held up by its critics as evidence against those declarations. Yet, closer inspection of said inconsistencies reveals no true errors at all.

For example, one of the supposed conflicts is found between the parallel passages of 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21. 2 Samuel 24:1 says that because God was angry with Israel, He incited David to take a census of Israel and Judah which was a sin in the Lord’s eyes. But then in 1 Chronicles 21:1 (which records the very same event) it says that it was an adversary (and very possibly the adversary, Satan) who incited David to number the people. So, who was it that enticed David to sin—God or the adversary?

“David chose to sin, as God knew he would, and God appropriately punished David and Israel for their sins.

Jason Lisle

This alleged difficulty is just a simple case of cause and effect. In one verse God is the cause of the outcome (or the effect). But in the other verse the adversary is the cause of the outcome. Though at first glance this appears to be problematic, to claim that these two verses are contradictory commits a logical fallacy known as bifurcation which assumes “that a given effect must have only one cause.”[1] But in actual fact, most events have multiple causes. Take rain for example. What is it that causes rain? “Is it moisture in the air, the air temperature dropping below the dew point, a cold front, gravity pulling on the water droplets, natural forces, or God?”[2] Obviously, all these things cause rain and yet they are not contradictory. As another example consider the Bible. Was Scripture written by God or by men? The answer is both. Men wrote as they were moved by the Holy Spirit of God to do so (See 1 Peter 1:21, 2 Timothy 3:16, also 2 Samuel 23:2, Ezekiel 1:3, Micah 1:1, etc.).[3]

In the same way, it can be said without any contradiction that both God and an adversary enticed David to sin. But does this then mean that God is responsible for David’s sin? Of course not. As Scripture reveals elsewhere, God Himself never commits evil nor does He tempt anyone. God was not David’s tempter, but because the Lord was angry, He didn’t prevent the adversary from tempting David either. And it is in that sense that both God and the adversary provoked David to sin. Of course, David still had a choice. He could have resisted the temptation.  But instead “David chose to sin, as God knew he would, and God appropriately punished David and Israel for their sins.”[4] And yet this was all in accordance with God’s purpose because this episode ultimately led to David purchasing the plot of land on which the future temple(s) would be built. Far from a contradiction, this is just one of many instances in the Bible in which God used evil and sinful agents to accomplish His purposes. And we must never forget that God is sovereign and ultimately overrules sinful activity for His glory and the ultimate good of mankind.

Ryan Hembree is a daily co-host, speaker, and writer of Bible Discovery. He also hosts a YouTube channel that shows the unity of the Bible and how science and Scripture fit together. Ryan also has an honorary Masters of Ministry in Creation Science from Phoenix University of Theology.

[1] Jason Lisle, Keeping Faith in An Age of Reason, P.85
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid., P.100
[4] Ibid.

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