Using those five basic rules, the vast majority of "contradictions" can be attributed to one of two possible causes.
2 Samuel 24:9 gives the round figure Of 500,000 fighting men in Judah, which was 30,000 more than the corresponding item in 1
Chronicles 21:5. (Category: misunderstood the historical context)
Observe that 1 Chronicles 21:6 clearly states that Joab did not
complete the numbering, as he had not yet taken a census of the tribe
of Benjamin, nor that of Levi's either, due to the fact that David
came under conviction about completing the census at all. Thus the
different numbers indicate the inclusion or exclusion of particular
unspecified groups in the nation. We find another reference to this in
1 Chronicles 27:23-24 where it states that David did not include those
twenty years old and younger, and that since Joab did not finish the
census the number was not recorded in King David's Chronicle.
The procedure for conducting the census had been to start with the
trans-Jordanian tribes (2 Samuel 24:5) and then shift to the northern
most tribe of Dan and work southward towards Jerusalem (verse 7). The
numbering of Benjamin, therefore, would have come last. Hence Benjamin
would not be included with the total for Israel or of that for Judah,
either. In the case of 2 Samuel 24, the figure for Judah included the
already known figure of 30,000 troops mustered by Benjamin. Hence the
total of 500,000 included the Benjamite contingent.
Observe that after the division of the United Kingdom into the North
and the South following the death of Solomon in 930 BC, most of the
Benjamites remained loyal to the dynasty of David and constituted
(along with Simeon to the south) the kingdom of Judah. Hence it was
reasonable to include Benjamin with Judah and Simeon in the sub-total
figure of 500,000, even though Joab may not have itemized it in the
first report he gave to David (1 Chronicles 21:5). Therefore the
completed grand total of fighting forces available to David for
military service was 1,600,000 (1,100,000 of Israel, 470,000 of
Judah-Simeon, and 30,000 of Benjamin).
(Archer 1982:188-189 and Light of Life II 1992:189)
Does God incite David to conduct the census of his people (2 Samuel 4:1), or does Satan (1 Chronicles 21:1)?
(Category: misunderstood how God works in history)
This seems an apparent discrepancy unless of course both statements
are true. It was towards the end of David's reign, and David was
looking back over his brilliant conquests, which had brought the
Canaanite, Syrian, and Phoenician kingdoms into a state of vassalage
and dependency on Israel. He had an attitude of pride and
self-admiration for his achievements, and was thinking more in terms
of armaments and troops than in terms of the mercies of God.
The Lord therefore decided that it was time that David be brought to
his knees, where he would once again be cast back onto the mercy of
God. So he let him go ahead with his census, in order to find out just
how much good it would do him, as the only thing this census would
accomplish would be to inflate the national ego (intimated in Joab's
warning against carrying out the census in 1 Chronicles 21:3). As soon
as the numbering was completed, God intended to chasten the nation
with a disastrous plague which would bring about an enormous loss of
life (in fact the lives of 70,000 Israelites according to 2 Samuel
What about Satan? Why would he get himself involved in this affair
(according to 1 Chronicles 21:1) if God had already prompted David to
commit the folly he had in mind? It seems his reasons were entirely
malicious, knowing that a census would displease the Lord (1
Chronicles 21:7-8), and so he also incited David to carry it through.
Yet this is nothing new, for there are a number of other occurrences
in the Bible where both the Lord and Satan were involved in
soul-searching testings and trials:
- In the book of Job, chapters one and two we find a challenge to Satan from God allowing Satan to bring upon Job his calamities. God's
purpose was to purify Job's faith, and to strengthen his character by
means of discipline through adversity, whereas Satan's purpose was
purely malicious, wishing Job as much harm as possible so that he
would recant his faith in his God.
- Similarly both God and Satan are involved in the sufferings of persecuted Christians according to 1 Peter 4:19 and 5:8. God's purpose
is to strengthen their faith and to enable them to share in the
sufferings of Christ in this life, that they may rejoice with Him in
the glories of heaven to come (1 Peter 4:13-14), whereas Satan's
purpose is to 'devour' them (1 Peter 5:8), or rather to draw them into
self-pity and bitterness, and down to his level.
- Both God and Satan allowed Jesus the three temptations during his ministry on earth. God's purpose for these temptations was for him to
triumph completely over the very tempter who had lured the first Adam
to his fall, whereas Satan's purpose was to deflect the saviour from
his messianic mission.
- In the case of Peter's three denials of Jesus in the court of the high priest, it was Jesus himself who points out the purposes of both
parties involvement when he says in Luke 22:31-32, "Simon, Simon,
Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you Simon,
that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back,
strengthen your brothers."
- And finally the crucifixion itself bears out yet another example where both God and Satan are involved. Satan exposed his purpose when
he had the heart of Judas filled with treachery and hate (John 13:27),
causing him to betray Jesus. The Lord's reasoning behind the
crucifixion, however, was that Jesus, the Lamb slain from the
foundation of the world should give his life as a ransom for many, so
that once again sinful man could relish in the relationship lost at
the very beginning, in the garden of Eden, and thereby enter into a
relationship which is now eternal.
Thus we have five other examples where both the Lord and Satan were involved together though with entirely different motives. Satan's
motive in all these examples, including the census by David was driven
by malicious intent, while the Lord in all these cases showed an
entirely different motive. His was a benevolent motive with a view to
eventual victory, while simultaneously increasing the usefulness of
the person tested. In every case Satan's success was limited and
transient; while in the end God's purpose was well served furthering
His cause substantially.