Why Does God Punish Israel For Something He Told David To Do?

A capricious and arbitrary God?

HUMANIST QUESTION: The Old Testament contains an interesting contradiction in the story of the census taken by King David and the resulting punishment of the Israelites. God was so angered by the census that he sent a plague that killed 70,000 men. According to II Samuel 24:1, the Lord had caused David to take the census – which makes the punishment appear even more nonsensical. But an attempt was later made, at I Chronicles 21:1, to improve God’s image by claiming that Satan incited the census.

Let's find out what's really happening.

Now again the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and it incited David against them to say, “Go, number Israel and Judah.” - 2 Samuel 24:1

Then Satan stood up against Israel and moved David to number Israel. - 1 Chronicles 21:1

Remember, words are important. What does 2 Samuel 24:1 say? Read it carefully. Why does David order a census to be taken?

Israel was being punished by God and they were under God's anger. Israel's sin that resulted in God's wrath on them is not specified. All we know is that the "anger of God burned against Israel."

Notice 2 Samuel 24:1 says, "It incited David..." What does the word "it" refer to? God's anger.

God's divine wrath apparently upset David, and as a result David made the decision to conduct a census of Israel. The census was in violation of God's will.

David was a man after God's own heart. Why would he intentionally disobey God? 1 Chronicles gives us the reason... Satan. Satan took advantage of David in a weak moment, while he was unjustly upset with God, and Satan moved David to number Israel.

That's it... there is no contradiction. God never commanded David to conduct a census. In fact, God had forbid taking a census. David knew it... and was troubled.

Now David’s heart troubled him after he had numbered the people. So David said to the Lord, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done." - 2 Samuel 24:11

And there were consequences for what David did.

So the Lord sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning until the appointed time, and seventy thousand men of the people from Dan to Beersheba died. - 2 Samuel 24:15

All you need to do is read what scripture says. David decided to conduct the census. Yes, Satan moved David to do it, but David -- the king of Israel -- made the decision and ordered the census to be taken.

There is no contradiction here.

Next question...

The Old Testament is contradictory as to whether the Lord commanded the Israelites to sacrifice animals to him. At Jeremiah 7:22, God denies he ever gave the Israelites commandments about animal sacrifices. In contrast, Exodus 29:38-42 and many other verses depict God as requiring the Israelites to offer animal sacrifices.

By now you know there is an answer, and all you need to do is click on this link.


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