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Answering The Atheist
June 23, 2002 / Volume 2, Issue 25

Who moved David to number the people, God (2 Samuel 24:1) or Satan (1 Chronicles 21:1)?

Let us look at the two passages in question:

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

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."

We are told that God does not tempt man to commit sin (James 1:13), however, Scripture often describes God as doing what He has permitted to be done. Such is the case here, as God allowed Satan to tempt David (see examples in Exodus 7:13; 1 Samuel 26:19; 2 Samuel 16:10; Psalm 105:25). By God's absence (for he was angry against Israel), and Satan's activity in provoking David to do evil, David was moved to number the children of Israel.

Note, as we look at the case of Job, one might conclude that God brought turmoil upon Job, as Satan came before the presence of the Lord, asking that he might test Job (Job 1:6-12; 2:1-6). God permitted Satan to lay trial after trial upon Job, but consider what Job thought concerning the things which were upon him (Job 1:21; 2:9-10). Consider also the perspective of Job's friends (Job 5:17). Surely it is clear, God is at times spoken of as the cause of those things which He allows to take place.

There is no contradiction.

This article is a response to Skeptic's Annotated Bible