Now Satan stood up against Israel, and moved David to number Israel. 1 Chr 21:1
Then the anger of the LORD was aroused against Israel, and He moved David against them to say, “Go, number Israel and Judah.” 2 Sam 24:1
That the account in Chronicles differs from the account in Samuel, is often used by skeptics and atheists to prove that the Scripture is full of contradictions, thus man can dismiss it as a serious book. This is not the only place either, where a detail in Chronicles differs from a detail in Samuel or Kings. So what about it?
A popular Bible contradictions answered website provided three explanations to explain this contradiction:
(1) Biblical writers often dismissed secondary causes and attributed all things that happened to God, since He is over all things. Thus, God is did not tempt David, He allowed Satan to influence him.
(2) Arthur Hervey believes 2 Sam 24:1 is better translated as, “For one moved David against them.” In this case, the numbering of the people was the cause of God’s anger, not the result. After all, without this interpretation, it is not clear why God was angry with Israel.
(3) The verse in 1 Chron translated as “satan” could also be translated as “adversary.” Strictly speaking, in this situation, God was Israel’s adversary.
Possible answers 2 and 3 are invalid, because no translation error was made in this instance. I checked with the Hebrew Bible in English website, since their translation into English they have posted was made by those fluent in Hebrew, and their translation matches in this instance the translation we have in our English Bibles. (I should note that our English Bibles were also translated by those fluent in Hebrew.) Although I will allow that translation error could explain some alleged biblical contradictions, it does not explain this one.
That leaves (1): that Biblical writers often dismissed secondary causes and attributed all things to God. This is especially true in matters concerning Satan, because God deliberately limited the revelation of him and his fallen kingdom in the Old Testament. Have you ever noticed before, how often the LORD or angels are mentioned in the Old Testament, but almost no mention can be found of Satan or demons? In fact, demonic possession seems to not exist in the Old Testament , while in the Gospels, Jesus regularly ran into Israelites who suffered from demonic oppression and/ or possession. In the New Testament, much mention is made of Satan and his work and the nature of the his fallen kingdom.
A classic example is the distressing spirit sent to Saul by the LORD to trouble him after the Holy Spirit departed from him (1 Sam 16:14-23). The distressing spirit was in fact a demonic spirit – angels don’t torment people, and neither does the Holy Spirit. So does the LORD send demonic spirits to torment people? No – this is a classic example of a secondary cause being attributed to God as He is over all things. It is a classic example that the LORD deliberately limited the revelation of Satan and his fallen kingdom in the Old Testament.
In fact, in 1 Chr 21:1, we know it had to have been Satan who moved David to number Israel, because numbering Israel was a sin for which he received judgment (1 Chr 21:8), and God does not move people to sin!
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. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Jam 1:13-14
I believe that God allowed revelation concerning Satan and his kingdom since the advent of Yeshua, because in Yeshua God provided for Satan’s defeat and for our authority and victory over that fallen kingdom, in Yeshua’s name. He did not reveal the problem, until He had also provided for the solution to that problem.
For further reading:
Why are doctrines like heaven and hell not mentioned in the OT?
Tektonics apologetics ministry – comprehensive apologetics from a Protestant perspective
Countering Bible Contradictions