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hai Rev

Why is there a contradiction?

2 Samuel 24:1 (ASV)
And again the anger of Jehovah was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them, saying, Go, number Israel and Judah.


1 Chronicles 21:1 (ASV)
And Satan stood up against Israel, and moved David to number Israel.

>That's a BLASPHEMY!!! Can you explain why?

Thanks and L.F.

Hello Dave

Thank you for your question.  There is, indeed, a seeming contradiction in the records of I Samuel, and I Chronicles.  However, this is not the case!

Both of the statements that you quote are true.  This is one of a number of cases, in the Old Testament Scriptures, in which the satan (the word is a description [adversary] rather than a name!) is named, specifically, as the instrument of YHWH to test (a better translation than 'tempt'), in this case, David.  Perhaps the best-known similar situation is that right at the beginning when, in the form of the serpent, the satan tests Eve.  Like David in this instance, she failed the test!  Another well-known situation is that of Job.  The early chapters of the book that bears his name show that the satan was given permission to attack that Godly man - but with restrictions laid down by YHWH.  Job, of course, passed the test.  Jesus, too, was tested by the satan during the forty days in the wilderness (and throughout His earthly ministry) but, thankfully, He too passed the test.

So, YHWH tested David because of the latter's pride, and used the satan to do so.  That this was the case may be determined from II Sam.24:10 where we read that David confessed that he had sinned.  It was not the simple census-taking that was the sin (that was done e.g. to determine the Tabernacle/Temple tax) but the attitude of David's heart.  Even Joab, his senior military commander, opposed the idea (I Sam.24:3).

There are, of course, a number of places in the written Word of God in which some see contradiction.  However, it is my experience that, when verses are taken in context, and the contemporary situation is understood, such apparent contradictions are seen to not exist!  It is His Word, and He has ensured that it stands at all times.

I have just looked up my Commentary on the Bible by Matthew Henry - one of the great commentators of a previous generation.  He confirms what I have written above.  On the I Chron. passage, he writes: "Numbering the people, one would think, was no bad thing.  Why should not the shepherd know the number of his flock?  He did it in the pride of his heart, and there is no sin that has in it more of contradiction and therefore more of offence to God than pride.  The sin was David's.  ... When it is said that He [YHWH] moved David to do it [II Sam.], it must be explained by what is intimated here that, for wise and holy ends He permitted the devil to do it.  ...  The devil does us more mischief by tempting us to sin against our God than he does by accusing us before our God ." (in loc).

We may take such instances, therefore, not as an occasion to criticise the Word, but as a warning that we do not, ourselves, fall foul of such testing!

Kind regards

C.Brian Ross (Rev)

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Rev C.Brian Ross


I am happy to offer answers to anyone with a question that refers to the Christian Faith in its widest possible sense. I believe that the Bible is the living Word of God, and seek to base all of my life on its teaching. I also have some knowledge of some of the cults, and of Islam and Judaism. Of course, my answers are just one man's thoughts, and I would always advise a questioner to check with others, and with the Word of God.


Served as a full-time parish minister in Scotland for about six years, and then spent the last thirty as a teacher (now 'retired') of Religious Education in Secondary Comprehensive schools (ages 11-17) while continuing my own preaching and teaching ministry. I have spent three years as a voluntary Chaplain with Strathclyde Police Force. I also believe that learning is a life-time process, and have recently completed a Master's degree in Divinity. I now spend most of my time in France, ministering mainly to English-speaking groups.

Former Presenter on Revival FM - a local Christian, community radio station, broadcasting in west central Scotland, and online at Involved with a number of organisations that support Christians who are currently suffering persecution in some 70 countries around the world. Until the formation of the new Police Scotland Force, I was a Chaplain with Strathclyde Police Force, deployed within 'Q' and 'N' Divisions, and also responsible for the Force Training and Recruitment Centre.

Various articles in Christian magazines. I also maintain a blog - My first book, Great Words of the Faith, is available as a Kindle e-book at My second book, Foundations of the Faith, is available as a Kindle e-book at*Version*=1&*entries*=0

Diploma of The Bible Training Institute, Glasgow; Licentiate in Theology of the University of Glasgow; Associateship of The Philosophical Society of England; Bachelor of Arts Degree (Hons) in History from The Open University; Post-grad Certificate of Education - Religious Education and History; Post-grad Certificate in Learning and Teaching; Post-grad Diploma in Management and Learning in Education; Master of Science Degree from the University of Strathclyde; Master of Divinity Degree (with Distinction) from Trinity College and Seminary (accredited by the University of Liverpool)

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