So who did it?

21 07 2008
2 Samuel 24:1 And again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.

1 Chronicles 21:1 And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.

These are two verses from two different tellings of the same event (both from KJV).

In my Bible, to the left of the word ‘he’ in the 2 Samuel verse there is a (1) which points to a footnote which reads: “That is, Satan; see 1 Chr. 21:1″

So, in other words, if the note is included in the text, the verse looks like this:

2 Samuel 24:1 And again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he (That is, Satan; see 1 Chr. 21:1) moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.

If this isn’t one of the biggest contortion acts I’ve ever seen, I don’t know what is. Why in the world would the 2 Samuel verse use ‘he’ to refer to Satan without actually calling him by his name, when the LORD is mentioned directly beforehand? It seems the publishers of my Bible were afraid to admit that possibly there is a contradiction in two different verses, so they found whatever reason they could to explain it away.

So, who provoked David? God? Satan? Or maybe a little bit of both?

To be honest, I don’t really think these verses are a contradiction, even if we don’t believe the explanation from my Bible’s note.

“the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel”

We aren’t told why God was angry, just that He was. If you take this verse as it is written, it’s not because David numbered the people that He was angry, but the LORD moved him to do so in His anger.

“Satan stood up against Israel…”

It seems that this is in perfect accordance with God’s will, since He was angry at Israel at this time anyway.

“and provoked David to number Israel.”

OH NOES! I’m confused again! In the other verse, it just said that the LORD (in case you’re wondering why I keep capitalizing that, it’s because it stands for the Hebrew name YHWH, which is also translated Jehovah, but for some reason the original translators used the word ‘LORD’ instead of the others) provoked David, not Satan! How can good and evil do the same thing? What’s going on here?

Could it be that God used Satan to accomplish His purposes? Could it be that Satan is not an equal and opposing force to God, and that he has a specific purpose given him by the LORD? If this is true, the first verse is not contradicted by the second. God still provoked David, but used Satan to do so.

Maybe Satan actually has a purpose. Carrying this further, this would imply that evil itself has a purpose. Is it possible to trust a God Who would use evil to carry out His will?

So what was the result of David doing this?

2 Samuel 24:10 And David’s heart smote him after that he had numbered the people. And David said unto the LORD, I have sinned greatly in that I have done: and now, I beseech thee, O LORD, take away the iniquity of thy servant; for I have done very foolishly.

2 Samuel 24:15 So the LORD sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning even to the time appointed: and there died of the people from Dan even to Beersheba seventy thousand men.

So, let me get this straight:

  • The LORD gets mad at Israel
  • The LORD uses Satan to provoke David to sin by numbering the people of Israel
  • David repents of his foolishness
  • The LORD slays seventy thousand men

Doesn’t seem very fair, does it? Now, I’m not going to get into why God would kill so many people over one man’s prideful sin (that’s for another time… maybe), but it seems that the LORD used David as a scapegoat in order to kill the people He was mad at before David even did anything.

I’m not trying to be blasphemous here, only trying to make sense of the passages. I don’t know why God would do such a thing, but I do know that I trust Him and His purposes. I’m not going to get into my views of the Old Testament here (like I said), but I know that I can trust that He will do whatever is best for Himself and for His creation. So, whether He uses good or evil to accomplish His will, I know that we can trust that everything will work out the way that He planned it. Nothing surprises Him. Satan cannot ambush God. Satan is on a tight leash and cannot do anything outside of God’s will.

If we would meditate on this, I believe we would find it much easier to rest in God and trust that He only has our welfare in mind, whatever it is He plans to do.

(originally written 5/19/08 )



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