ABC:2 Samuel 24
Jim Meritt of Infidels asserts there is a contradiction here and asks, "Moved David to Anger?"
|“||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.
The passages do seem to contradict - not merely because Satan is said to have done the enticing as well as God, but because if God did do the enticing, then it would at first glance make no sense for God to have severely punished David and Israel for numbering Israel like He did with one of the harshest punishments recorded in the Bible. (2 Samuel 24:10-17) As for why both Satan and God would have been said to be involved in the provoking, the likely answer is that God originally allowed Satan to test David as occurred with Job.
The Bible in James 1 makes clear God does not tempt people to do evil:
|“||James 1:13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:
14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.
15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.
Why the Census?
We aren't told what exactly God was punishing David for in 1 Chronicles 21:8, and other censuses were indeed taken without mention of it being a sin. In Numbers 1:1-16 God even specifically commanded Moses - twice - to take a census of warriors similar to what David did here.
|“||Numbers 1:1 And the LORD spake unto Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tabernacle of the congregation, on the first day of the second month, in the second year after they were come out of the land of Egypt, saying,
2 Take ye the sum of all the congregation of the children of Israel, after their families, by the house of their fathers, with the number of their names, every male by their polls;
3 From twenty years old and upward, all that are able to go forth to war in Israel: thou and Aaron shall number them by their armies.
Numbers 26:1 And it came to pass after the plague, that the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest, saying,
Ezra 2:1 Now these are the children of the province that went up out of the captivity, of those which had been carried away, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away unto Babylon, and came again unto Jerusalem and Judah, every one unto his city;
Revelation 7:3 Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.
At any rate, such census-taking can be seen throughout the Bible and nowhere else is called a sin. However, David clearly knew what he'd done was not only wrong but "very foolish" and a great sin.
|“||1 Chronicles 21:7 And God was displeased with this thing; therefore he smote Israel.
8 And David said unto God, I have sinned greatly, because I have done this thing: but now, I beseech thee, do away the iniquity of thy servant; for I have done very foolishly.
Therefore, it follows that taking a census itself was not sinful. Rather, something in HOW David took it was sinful, perhaps a specific way of taking it, or his intention in taking it. Unfortunately we just aren't told what this sin was.
Possible Answer, Building God's Temple?
It may be related to God's commandment to David that David was not to build God's temple because he'd shed bled (including the innocent Uriah's - 2 Samuel 11), but that his son Solomon was to build it. God commended David for his noble intention to make a temple for Him, but said "Thou hast shed blood abundantly, and hast made great wars: thou shalt not build an house unto my name, because thou hast shed much blood."
|“||1 Chronicles 22:6 Then he called for Solomon his son, and charged him to build an house for the LORD God of Israel.
7 And David said to Solomon, My son, as for me, it was in my mind to build an house unto the name of the LORD my God:
8 But the word of the LORD came to me, saying, Thou hast shed blood abundantly, and hast made great wars: thou shalt not build an house unto my name, because thou hast shed much blood upon the earth in my sight.
9 Behold, a son shall be born to thee, who shall be a man of rest; and I will give him rest from all his enemies round about: for his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quietness unto Israel in his days.
10 He shall build an house for my name; and he shall be my son, and I will be his father; and I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel for ever.
11 Now, my son, the LORD be with thee; and prosper thou, and build the house of the LORD thy God, as he hath said of thee.
1 Kings 8:17 And it was in the heart of David my father to build an house for the name of the LORD God of Israel.
1 Chronicles 17:1 Now it came to pass, as David sat in his house, that David said to Nathan the prophet, Lo, I dwell in an house of cedars, but the ark of the covenant of the LORD remaineth under curtains.
1 Chronicles 28:1 And David assembled all the princes of Israel, the princes of the tribes, and the captains of the companies that ministered to the king by course, and the captains over the thousands, and captains over the hundreds, and the stewards over all the substance and possession of the king, and of his sons, with the officers, and with the mighty men, and with all the valiant men, unto Jerusalem.
It may be that David tried to get around God's commandment and in his zeal to do a good thing disobeyed God, performing a census of Israel for the purpose of building the temple (which God had specifically told him not to do). Perhaps he thought only to prepare things better for Solomon, or perhaps he indeed intended to fully disobey God and build it himself, thinking God would be pleased with the result when he finished.
That would explain why all Israel was punished instead of just David, as they would have all knowingly disobeyed God's commandment for Solomon to build the temple, not David. A census would involve disobedience from all Israel, explaining why all Israel was punished. Without such a nationwide sin, it is tough to explain why the whole nation was punished.
At any rate, we simply aren't told what the exact sin was and can only hypothesize. It may be the discovery of a later scroll will show a fuller reading of what happened just as the discovery of a Dead Sea Scroll, 4qSama, provided a fuller reading of 1 Samuel 11, revealing more detail about an invader putting out the eyes of enemies.
|“||2 Samuel 24:9 And Joab gave up the sum of the number of the people unto the king: and there were in Israel eight hundred thousand valiant men that drew the sword; and the men of Judah were five hundred thousand men.
By my count, 1,300,000 men.
1 Chronicles 21:5 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.
By my count, 1,100,000 men
The "ThinkingAtheist" omits the crucial verse, 1 Chronicles 21:6, which explains the discrepancy. Unlike in 1 Samuel 24, 1 Chronicles 21 states "But Levi and Benjamin counted he not among them." In other words, 1 Chronicles 21 is omitting 2 of the 12 tribes of Israel.
|“||1 Chronicles 21:5 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.
1.1 million is 85% of 1.3 million, and 5/6 is 83%, so it appears that for whatever reason two fewer tribes are being counted in 1 Samuel 24. Why that might be we can only hypothesize, perhaps a separate count of Levi and Benjamin was performed once it was discovered Joab had disobeyed, and the full amount given in 1 Samuel 24. At any rate, the two accounts are perfectly congruent in light of the fact that two fewer tribes were being counted in the second passage.
Infidels.org's Meritt claims a contradiction exists here concerning the "years of famine."
|“||2 Samuel 24:13: So Gad came to David, and told him, and said unto him, Shall seven years of famine come unto thee in thy land? or wilt thou flee three months before thine enemies, while they pursue thee? or that there be three days' pestilence in thy land? now advise, and see what answer I shall return to him that sent me.
1 Chronicles 21:11 So Gad came to David, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Choose thee
Although hypothetically it is possible, as pointed out by CARM, that "the duration of the famine was reduced from seven to three years after David prayed for mercy from the Lord," this is not indicated by the text in any way.
Rather, this appears to be a clear scribal error. The scribe copying an older text probably made a mental error, confusing the 3-year famine mentioned in 2 Samuel 21:1 with the 7-year potential famine in 2 Samuel 24:13 and 1 Chronicles 21:11.
|“||2 Samuel 21:1 Then there was a famine in the days of David three years, year after year; and David enquired of the LORD. And the LORD answered, It is for Saul, and for his bloody house, because he slew the Gibeonites.||”|
It's really not hard to see how such a mistake could be made as the chapters are close together. Fortunately God preserved similar events in 3 different books (which were each subdivided into the 2 of each we have today), Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles so that by comparing them today we can deduce what really happened in the rare cases of scribal errors such as this. The real number is likely 7 years, with the scribe confusing the 3-year famine mentioned in 2 Samuel 21.
The only possibility that in my mind seems an alternate explanation to scribal error is that provided by Answers In Genesis' Michael Belknap:
|“||"So according to the text, numbering the people was nearly a year-long process, and there is no clear indication that God had suspended the initial three-year famine prior to the events in chapter 24. Now if God had combined three additional years of famine (1 Chronicles 21:12) with the three years of initial famine, and a possible intervening year while the census was conducted, the resulting overall famine would have totaled about seven years (2 Samuel 24:13)."
-Michael Belknap, Answers In Genesis
Verse 16: Does God Change His Mind?
Dan Barker of FFRF claims there is a contradiction here and makes the following comments (italicized): Don Morgan's list at Infidels also claims this is a contradiction (passages are included with those mentioned by FFRF). Jim Meritt of Infidels includes on his "List of Biblical Contradictions" the question, "[Does] God change?" The EvilBible also makes this claim.
|“||Does God Change His Mind?
Malachi 3:6 For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.
Numbers 23:19 God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?
Ezekiel 24:14 I the LORD have spoken it: it shall come to pass, and I will do it; I will not go back, neither will I spare, neither will I repent; according to thy ways, and according to thy doings, shall they judge thee, saith the Lord GOD.
James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
1 Samuel 15:29 And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent.
Exodus 32:14 And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.
Genesis 6:6-7 ¶ And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.
Jonah 3:10 And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.
Numbers 14:20 ¶ And the LORD said, I have pardoned according to thy word:
1 Samuel 15:35 And Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death: nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul: and the LORD repented that he had made Saul king over Israel.
2 Samuel 24:16 And when the angel stretched out his hand upon Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed the people, It is enough: stay now thine hand. And the angel of the LORD was by the threshingplace of Araunah the Jebusite.
See Genesis 18:23-33, where Abraham gets God to change his mind about the minimum number of righteous people in Sodom required to avoid destruction, bargaining down from fifty to ten. (An omniscient God must have known that he was playing with Abraham's hopes for mercy--he destroyed the city anyway.)
Clearly God by saying "I change not" is referring to His covenants with Abraham, Jacob, and David to preserve a lineage as His chosen people. God does not change His covenants and promises, and this is repeated throughout the Bible. Nonetheless, God can be seen numerous times to change His mind or regret His decisions. (e.g. Ge. 6:6; 1 Sam. 15:11,35; Jon. 3:10) While God does not regret doing wrong (since God does not sin or do wrong), He can be seen to regret justifiable punishments enacted on evil human beings.
Some of the confusion may be caused the archaic usage by the KJV of the word "repent" which is used to mean God simply being sorrowful, even for executing just punishments, and usage of the word "evil" which is used simply to mean a harsh punishment. See for example its usage in Jeremiah 18:8-13 where God says He will "repent of the evil" He does in punishing evil nations as long as they turn from their evil, and that if they do evil then He will "repent of the good."
Perhaps the best answer is that provided by CARM, "When God says that He does not change, He is speaking about His nature and character. But this does not mean that He cannot change how He works with people throughout history." For a similar passage to Malachi 3:6, see Psalms 89:34 - "My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips." Here it is explained why the "sons of Jacob are not consumed" and what change is being discussed.
|“||Psalms 89:29 His seed also will I make to endure for ever, and his throne as the days of heaven.
30 If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments;
31 If they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments;
32 Then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes.
33 Nevertheless my lovingkindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail.
34 My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips.
35 Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David.
36 His seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before me.
Clearly God by saying "I change not" as seen in the above passage is referring to His covenants with Abraham, Jacob, and David to preserve a lineage as His chosen people. It is for this reason that God numerous times when disgusted with Israel did not wipe them off the face of the planet (which judging by his frustration levels expressed numerous times, He would certainly have liked to do). Instead as God promised David, He used punishments (v. 32) but He refused to break His covenant that David's seed would endure for ever. (v. 36)
This can also be seen from the following passage with Moses where God ends up "repenting" for punishing Israel's idolatry of the golden calf:
|“||Exodus 32:11 And Moses besought the LORD his God, and said, LORD, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand?
12 Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people.
13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swarest by thine own self, and saidst unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and they shall inherit it for ever.
14 And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.
God does not change His covenants and promises, and this is repeated throughout the Bible:
|“||Numbers 23:19 God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?
Lamentations 3:22 It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.
Romans 11:29 For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.
While God does not regret doing wrong (since God does not sin or do wrong), He can be seen to regret justifiable punishments enacted on evil human beings. (e.g. Ex. 32:14; Deut. 32:36; Jg. 2:18; 2 Sam. 24:16; 1 Chr. 24:15; Ps. 90:13; 106:45; 135:14; Jer. 26:19; Am. 7:3-6; Jon. 3:10)
Some of the confusion may be caused the archaic usage by the KJV of the word "repent" which is used to mean God simply being sorrowful, even for executing just punishments, and usage of the word "evil" which is used simply to mean a harsh punishment. See for example its usage in Jeremiah 18:8-13 where God says He will "repent of the evil" He does in punishing evil nations as long as they turn from their evil, and that if they do evil then He will "repent of the good". In KJV-speak, verse 12 even continues with "Thus saith the Lord; Behold I frame evil against you... return ye now every one from his evil way, and make your ways and your doings good."
|“||Jeremiah 18:8 If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them.
9 And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it;
10 If it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them.
11 ¶ Now therefore go to, speak to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I frame evil against you, and devise a device against you: return ye now every one from his evil way, and make your ways and your doings good.
12 And they said, There is no hope: but we will walk after our own devices, and we will every one do the imagination of his evil heart.
Unfortunately, the KJV's continued popularity results in confusion over archaic wording that is centuries out of date. Perhaps people forget that words in the English language meant different things when the KJV was translated in 1611 than they do now, over 400 years later.
TheThinkingAtheist.com claims the Bible is wrong about the following passage, and makes the following comments:
|“||2 Samuel 24:24: And the king said unto Araunah, Nay; but I will surely buy it of thee at a price: neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the LORD my God of that which doth cost me nothing. So David bought the threshingfloor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.
1 Chronicles 21:25: So David gave to Ornan for the place six hundred shekels of gold by weight. 600 shekels.
There is no definite contradiction here because different things are mentioned as being purchased. As numerous commentaries point out, the first passage mentions the purchase price for the threshing floor and oxen for 50 shekels, while the second passage gives the price paid for the entire site. Answers In Genesis concludes, "The account found in 2 Samuel 24 records only David’s purchase of the threshing floor and oxen... the account in 1 Chronicles 21 records a higher price for the full purchase, including the surrounding land."
- Meritt, Jim (1992). A list of Biblical contradictions. Retrieved from http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/jim_meritt/bible-contradictions.html. Cite error: Invalid
<ref>tag; name "meritt" defined multiple times with different content
- Tahor, Leb. Missing I Schmuel Passage. Retrieved from http://www.lebtahor.com/ScribalChanges/missIschmuel.htm.
- TheThinkingAtheist. Bible Contradictions. Retrieved from http://www.thethinkingatheist.com/page/bible-contradictions.
- Wikipedia Editors (2019, August 22). "Internal Consistency of the Bible." Wikipedia.
- Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry. God sent his prophet to threaten David with how many years of famine? Retrieved from http://carm.org/bible-difficulties/joshua-esther/god-sent-his-prophet-threaten-david-how-many-years-famine.
- Belknap, Michael (2012, August 14). Contradictions: A Famine of Three or Seven Years? Answers In Genesis. Retrieved from http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2012/08/14/contradictions-famine-three-seven-years.
- Barker, D. (2019). "Bible Contradictions." FFRF.
- Morgan, Donald. Bible Inconsistencies: Bible Contradictions? Internet Infidels.
- Thiefe, Chris. Biblical Contradictions. EvilBible.com.
- Does the Lord Change or Not? Christian Apologetics Research Ministry.
- 2 Samuel 24:24. BibleHub.
- Runge, K. (2011, August 23). Contradictions: Balancing the Budget. Answers in Genesis.