Numbering the people – ATA

Who tempted David to number the people of Israel? Was it Satan (1 Chronicles 21:1) or God (2 Samuel 24:1)? Is there a contradiction?

James 1:13 reads:

Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.

Add this to the fact that 1 Chronicles 21:1 specifically says Satan tempted David, and it seems we should conclude that it was Satan, not God who tempted David to number the people.

But what about 2 Samuel 24:1? There are times when God has allowed something to be when His permission is ascribed in this manner. Consider a few examples:

  • As the plagues from God ravished Egypt, we’re told that Pharaoh hardened his heart (Exodus 8:15, 32; 9:34). We are also told that the LORD hardened his heart (Exodus 9:12; 10:1, 20, 27; 11:10; 14:8). Both are true. God hardened his heart by giving him a command he did not want to obey (let My people go). Pharaoh hardened his own heart by not obeying.
  • In Job 1, Satan accuses God of placing a hedge around Job’s life. He challenged the LORD to stretch out His hand against Job (1:11; 2:5). The LORD did not stretch out His hand, but allowed Satan to harm Job (1:12; 2:6). Of the hardships he endured, Job stated, “…the LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away…” (1:21). It was actually Satan who took away, but what the LORD permitted to happen was attributed to Him.
  • In 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12, we are introduced to “…the lawless one…” who is “…according to the working of Satan…” (v 9). If folks take pleasure in unrighteousness and do not love the truth, Paul says “…God will send them strong delusion…” (v 11).

God did not make Pharaoh not obey His command; Pharaoh did that himself. But God did give him a commanded that he did not want to obey. God did not destroy Job’s property, family and health; Satan did that. But God did permit Satan to rise up against Job. God does not lead people away from the truth; they do it themselves. But, if they do not love His word, He will allow them to believe whatever deception they choose.

Equally, God did not tempt David to number the people of Israel; Satan did that. And David chose to follow Satan, stroking his own ego, rather than humbly serve the LORD. God did not tempt David, nor did He restrain the devil from influencing him. The end result is that God would punish David and the people of Israel.

There is no contradiction.

A response to 1001 Bible Contradictions.

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