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Contradiction Between II Samuel 24 and I Chronicles 21

Discussion in 'Christian Scriptures' started by Dale, Apr 29, 2019.

  1. Dale

    Dale Senior Veteran Supporter

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    Some people on Christian Forums tell us that God dictated every word of the Bible.

    This is not a very sensible interpretation. In my experience, the people who say that they believe every word of the Bible aren't logical or consistent, so they leave us with muddled results at best.

    One reason to believe that God did not plan or dictate every word of the Bible is that there are some real contradictions in the Bible. I don't enjoy criticizing the Bible, I'd rather defend it as an invaluable collection.

    Here is an example of a real contradiction in the Old Testament. As you may know, I & II Chronicles repeats some of the same stories that we find in I & II Samuel and I & II Kings, just as the Gospels sometimes repeat the same stories about Jesus.


    David Enrolls the Fighting Men

    Again the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, “Go and take a census of Israel and Judah.”
    2 So the king said to Joab and the army commanders with him, “Go throughout the tribes of Israel from Dan to Beersheba and enroll the fighting men, so that I may know how many there are.”
    3 But Joab replied to the king, “May the Lord your God multiply the troops a hundred times over, and may the eyes of my lord the king see it. But why does my lord the king want to do such a thing?”
    4 The king’s word, however, overruled Joab and the army commanders; so they left the presence of the king to enroll the fighting men of Israel.
    2 Samuel 24: 1-4 NIV


    David Counts the Fighting Men
    Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel. 2 So David said to Joab and the commanders of the troops, “Go and count the Israelites from Beersheba to Dan. Then report back to me so that I may know how many there are.”
    3 But Joab replied, “May the Lord multiply his troops a hundred times over. My lord the king, are they not all my lord’s subjects? Why does my lord want to do this? Why should he bring guilt on Israel?”
    4 The king’s word, however, overruled Joab; so Joab left and went throughout Israel and then came back to Jerusalem. 5 Joab reported the number of the fighting men to David: In all Israel there were one million one hundred thousand men who could handle a sword, including four hundred and seventy thousand in Judah.
    6 But Joab did not include Levi and Benjamin in the numbering, because the king’s command was repulsive to him. 7 This command was also evil in the sight of God; so he punished Israel.
    I Chronicles 21: 1-7 NIV


    According to II Samuel, God incites King David to number the population to get a fix on the number of men of military age, the number of men who can be called to go to war. According to I Chronicles, it is Satan who incites David to number the fighting men. Did God do it or did Satan do it? This is a real contradiction, there is no way out. The two accounts agree on virtually every other detail.

    You might wonder why a census is so controversial. The answer lies in the constant reference to fighting men, to soldiers. It sounds like David is planning a war, maybe an unnecessary war. Even his own generals resist him. A census by itself isn't necessarily offensive. In Exodus, God orders a census but it matters why a census is being taken.

    It makes no difference if we use the King James Version.


    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.
    2 For the king said to Joab the captain of the host, which was with him, Go now through all the tribes of Israel, from Dan even to Beersheba, and number ye the people, that I may know the number of the people.
    3 And Joab said unto the king, Now the Lord thy God add unto the people, how many soever they be, an hundredfold, and that the eyes of my lord the king may see it: but why doth my lord the king delight in this thing?
    4 Notwithstanding the king's word prevailed against Joab, and against the captains of the host. And Joab and the captains of the host went out from the presence of the king, to number the people of Israel.
    2 Samuel 24:1-4 KJV


    1 And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.
    2 And David said to Joab and to the rulers of the people, Go, number Israel from Beersheba even to Dan; and bring the number of them to me, that I may know it.
    3 And Joab answered, The Lord make his people an hundred times so many more as they be: but, my lord the king, are they not all my lord's servants? why then doth my lord require this thing? why will he be a cause of trespass to Israel?
    4 Nevertheless the king's word prevailed against Joab. Wherefore Joab departed, and went throughout all Israel, and came to Jerusalem.
    5 And Joab gave the sum of the number of the people unto David. And all they of Israel were a thousand thousand and an hundred thousand men that drew sword: and Judah was four hundred threescore and ten thousand men that drew sword.
    6 But Levi and Benjamin counted he not among them: for the king's word was abominable to Joab.
    7 And God was displeased with this thing; therefore he smote Israel.
    I Chronicles 21:1-7 KJV



    What should we make of this contradiction? As far as I know, no one's theology depends on this point.

    At one time I was a member of the Moravian Church. Their statement on the Bible is that the Bible contains all that is necessary for salvation. Sometimes we just have to leave it at that.
     
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  2. redleghunter

    redleghunter Thank You Jesus! Supporter

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    Who said that?
     
  3. Tree of Life

    Tree of Life Hide The Pain

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    This one is easy. God incited David through the instrumentality of Satan. This sort of thing happens all the time. See footnotes on Pharaoh and Job.
     
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  4. paul1149

    paul1149 that your faith might rest in the power of God Supporter

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    I don't see a problem here. According to Romans 1, if we choose to go our own way God will abandon us to it. And He will do so progressively if we don't turn from our error.

    because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
    Professing to be wise, they became fools,
    and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man--and birds and fourfooted animals and creeping things.
    Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves,
    who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
    For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature.
    Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.
    And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting;
    -Rom 1:21-28​

    The way I would interpret this is that Israel's disobedience caused God to give them up to the ministrations of satan. Israel lost God's protection, and suffered vulnerability to satan's deception and its consequences. The two accounts agree, but are written from different perspectives.
     
  5. crossnote

    crossnote Berean Supporter

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  6. HTacianas

    HTacianas Well-Known Member

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    You are seeing the same story told from two different theological perspectives. One perspective on the census was that Satan incited David to carry it out. Simple enough.

    The ancient Essenes, a sect of Judaism much like the Pharisees and Sadduces, had an expression of sorts that went "all things are best ascribed to God". The meaning is that whatever happens, happens through the will of God. From that theological perspective, it was God who incited David to conduct the census.

    Throughout the old testament you find reflections of those two perspectives. Something to note is that Jesus and John the Baptist were Essenes. The new testament is written from that perspective. Many of the teachings of Paul are spoken in the same way.
     
  7. nonaeroterraqueous

    nonaeroterraqueous Nonexistent Member

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    The word used in 1 Chronicles 21:1 is שָׂטָן, literally pronounced "satan," but the word isn't necessarily a name. It has a literal meaning, also. It means adversary. Strong's defines it as, "adversary, also the name of the superhuman adversary of God," because it can be the name of Satan, or it can simply refer to an adversary of any sort. Most likely, what happened was that David was faced with an adversary, and in his fear he counted his people to determine if he could muster a sufficient army to fight back. His faith was in his own men, rather than God.

    God knew where David's faith was, and he used an adversary to bring it out. Interesting challenge, though.
     
  8. Jonaitis

    Jonaitis Pilgrim

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    First, the apostle Paul clearly stated that all Scripture is breathed-out by God (2 Tim. 3:16), and he referred to the Old Testament during the penning of the book I reference him from. In suggesting that there is a contradiction, this would mean 1) Paul lied or spoke confidently out of his own ignorance, 2) Scripture cannot be reliable since we then don't know what else may be false, 3) God himself wasn't and isn't able to communicate his truth consistently through men, and 4) that some books in the canon, if not all, should not be there.

    Second, the Christian must never settle themselves in such a conclusion that stands against his his/her faith where he/she may not understand the matter. It is not the norm, I repeat, not the norm for a genuine believer to look for, comfort themselves in, and tell others that in certain places Scripture contradicts itself. I would imagine that such a individual would have the deep sense of conviction to keep it to themselves, to investigate for answers, and refrain from publicly encouraging the idea that there is contradictions. This also flies in the face of our witnessing to our lost neighbor, and all those skeptics who want to find an opening to slander our faith and our Lord.

    So what do we make of the two passages? They are both right, and I have always seen them this way. It isn't uncommon for what is attributed to God to also be attributed to the creature of his disposal, this has happened before in Scripture in different ways. Let's look at some examples:

    "But the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him. And Saul's servants said unto him, Behold now, an evil spirit from God troubleth thee. Let our lord now command thy servants, which are before thee, to seek out a man, who is a cunning player on an harp: and it shall come to pass, when the evil spirit from God is upon thee, that he shall play with his hand, and thou shalt be well." - 1 Samuel 16:14-16

    Here we see an evil spirit, and in other places in Samuel, sent from God to torment Saul. However, God is not the one directly tormenting, but the spirit that was sent for that purpose.

    There is another story, if you recall, about the death of King Ahab. Before the war began, he counselled with the king of Judah about retaking the Ramoth-gilead from the hands of Syria, and the king of Judah called for the prophets to inquire a word from God concerning the outcome of the battle. When they all gave an answer, saying that they would be successful and retake the land, the king of Judah was not satisfied and desired yet another prophet - and they called in Micaiah.

    "So he came to the king. And the king said unto him, Micaiah, shall we go against Ramothgilead to battle, or shall we forbear? And he answered him, Go, and prosper: for the Lord shall deliver it into the hand of the king. And the king said unto him, How many times shall I adjure thee that thou tell me nothing but that which is true in the name of the Lord? And he said, I saw all Israel scattered upon the hills, as sheep that have not a shepherd: and the Lord said, These have no master: let them return every man to his house in peace. And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, Did I not tell thee that he would prophesy no good concerning me, but evil? And he said, Hear thou therefore the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left. And the Lord said, Who shall persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramothgilead? And one said on this manner, and another said on that manner. And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the Lord, and said, I will persuade him. And the Lord said unto him, Wherewith? And he said, I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also: go forth, and do so. Now therefore, behold, the Lord hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets, and the Lord hath spoken evil concerning thee." -1 Kings 22:15-23

    We can go on to speak about Job and others!

    So in these passages you quoted, God and Satan were in it respectively. He is sovereign over the actions of Satan, but not responsible. We are looking at different perspectives of the same event.
     
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  9. Jonaitis

    Jonaitis Pilgrim

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    ...and here I took the time to write a long post when you said it simply. :)
     
  10. Not David

    Not David Someday an Orthodox

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    Look, man, I don't agree with some people's way of viewing Scripture but there is no contradiction in this text. It's like saying the Babylonians destroy Jerusalem vs God destroyed Jerusalem.
     
  11. Ttalkkugjil

    Ttalkkugjil Social Pastor

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    There are no contradictions in the Bible.
     
  12. redleghunter

    redleghunter Thank You Jesus! Supporter

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    Can you highlight the contradiction?
     
  13. redleghunter

    redleghunter Thank You Jesus! Supporter

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    Your version is also correct and informative.
     
  14. Dale

    Dale Senior Veteran Supporter

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    Paul: << I don't see a problem here. According to Romans 1, if we choose to go our own way God will abandon us to it. And He will do so progressively if we don't turn from our error. >>

    David wasn't going his own way. He was a very devout king, the most devout king Israel ever had. The Bible tells us that David did the will of God in almost all matters except for Bathsheba, and this census.



    Paul: << The way I would interpret this is that Israel's disobedience caused God to give them up to the ministrations of satan. Israel lost God's protection, and suffered vulnerability to satan's deception and its consequences. >>

    Yet according to both II Samuel and I Chronicles, it was David that erred. The difference with whether God or Satan incited David to error. Either way, Israel was punished for David's error.
     
  15. Dale

    Dale Senior Veteran Supporter

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    Paul didn't show us how to resolve difficult passages in the Old Testament.
     
  16. Oscarr

    Oscarr Senior Veteran Supporter

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    The books of Samuel and Chronicles are histories written at different stages of Israel's history. I think that 1 and 2 Samuel were written before the captivity of Israel, and Chronicles was written for the Jews in captivity. With different histories there are cosmetic differences; some things are included and other things are left out in either histories. We see in the book of Job that Satan orchestrated the sufferings of Job, but God let him. Job didn't know what was going on so he thought that God was taking him through the tribulation to humble him. But his friends thought God was punishing him because of his pride and sinfulness. So, for the same set of events, there are three different perspectives - Job's, his friends' and the narrator of the story.

    Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible through revelation and inspiration during his time in the presence of the Lord in the Tabernacle. Moses wrote what was revealed to him in his own words. But in the books of the Prophets, they wrote exactly what God dictated to them, and if we study history, we see that most of these prophesies came true exactly the way they were foretold.
     
  17. paul1149

    paul1149 that your faith might rest in the power of God Supporter

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    Devout != Perfect. The previous chapter in 1 Chr tells of David's wars. Chronicles is not interested in David's personal failings as is 2Sa 11, but this is when David lingered in Jerusalem and sinned with Bathsheba. David, like all of us, was quite capable of getting it wrong. Later on, in both accounts of the numbering, David takes full responsibility for his sin. There is no contradiction here.
     
  18. Dale

    Dale Senior Veteran Supporter

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    You claim that God incites David and other mortals by way of Satan. I don't believe this is sensible. Take a look at James 1:13.

    13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.
    James 1:13 NIV

    James strongly denies that God tempts anyone. I looked up "temptation" in the dictionary and the meaning is close to "seduction." Surely God does not seduce people into evil, directly or indirectly. This verse from James seems to contradict II Samuel 24:1: "Again the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, “Go and take a census of Israel and Judah.”"

    As for footnotes on Pharoah and Job, I don't know what Bible you are reading or what those footnotes have to say.

    Not only does the New Testament contradict this notion of double temptation, it doesn't fit with other verses in the Old Testament.

    30 “‘The people of Judah have done evil in my eyes, declares the Lord. They have set up their detestable idols in the house that bears my Name and have defiled it. 31 They have built the high places of Topheth in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to burn their sons and daughters in the fire—something I did not command, nor did it enter my mind.
    Jeremiah 7: 30-31 NIV

    There is nothing about God working through "the instrumentality of Satan" in this passage from Jeremiah. God says that sacrificing children did not enter His mind.
     
  19. Dale

    Dale Senior Veteran Supporter

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    Jonaitis in post #8
    << So in these passages you quoted, God and Satan were in it respectively. He is sovereign over the actions of Satan, but not responsible. We are looking at different perspectives of the same event. >>


    II Samuel 24:1 says that God "incited David." That goes far beyond saying that God is sovereign, meaning that God did not prevent Satan from tempting or inciting David.
     
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