Who provoked David to number Israel—God or Satan? (See 2 Samuel 24:1 and 1 Chronicles 21:1)?
Let us read both the passages in question.
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.”
In 2 Samuel it says “he” moved David to number God’s people. In the context “he” seems to be the “LORD” because no other name is mentioned in that verse. Also that verse tells us the “anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel”. We are not told as to why the Lord was angry. It is probably the setting in of pride and self confidence because of the greatness that Israel attained under the rule of King David. Instead on depending of God they were relying on the arm of flesh.
When David went to fight the mighty giant Goliath he did not trust in the armor of King Saul and earthly instruments of war. He trusted in the Lord and went with the shepherd’s sling and stones, and filled with faith in God. And the Lord gave him victory. Now David and started to count on the strength of the men of war that he had and was loosing sight of God who was their shield and defense.
Now was it the Lord or Satan who provoked David to number Israel and Judah? Well, both are true. It is the two sides of the same coin. When we place ourselves in the side of Satan and sin then God permits the devil to have his way on us. The Devil cannot touch us unless God’s restraining power is removed as we see in the case of Job. Satan struck Job but it was God who gave him permission to do so for a reason. (See Job chapter 1)
So also in the case of Adam and Eve—God permitted the Devil to tempt the couple. If God didn’t allow the devil to come there he couldn’t. But God warned them what to do. The choice was theirs.
So also in the case of David—it was God who permitted Satan to provoke David to number Israel because God was displeased with David. God removed his restraining power over David in a specific context and Satan was there to instigate David to do wrong, and David fell.
In the case of Jesus we see God was well pleased with His Son and He declared that during His baptism.
Matthew 3:17 “And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
But the Lord permitted the devil to tempt Christ as He needed to be tested severely and prove that He was worthy substitute for man. The scripture makes it clear that it was the Spirit of God that led him to the wilderness to be exposed to the devil’s temptations.
Matthew 4:1 “Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.”
So the two texts of 2 Samuel 24:1 and 1 Chronicle 21:1 are no contradictions but are the two views of how the great controversy takes place!