Why the change from “God incited” to “Satan incited” in 2 Sam 24 and in 1
Chronicles 21? Ponder also on the theological change from “ha-satan” a
helper of God who sometimes asked people hard questions to test their
faith such as Job, into “the Prince of this World” and an adversary of
God, Satan. Note also that the change occurs in the Persian period.


Like I said, this is a difficult one. It parallels what we have in Job 1
in which we have God allowing Job to be tempted by the devil. Another
relevant passage is James 1:13f which says, “When tempted, no one should
say, ?God is tempting me.? For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he
tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is
dragged away and enticed?.” So, on the one hand, the Bible says that God
does not tempt anyone, yet on the other hand, from Job 1 we know that God
will allow Satan to tempt us, and James 1 adds that even when we are
tempted by Satan, it is ultimately our own evil desires which must combine
with Satan?s work of tempting in order to bring about evil behavior. I
believe that taking these passages together yields a balanced theology of
temptation and sin. Actually, this is just a further working out of
Genesis chapter three and the fall of mankind. In Genesis three, God
allowed the temptation to be in place, Satan did the tempting, but it was
the ultimate responsibility of Adam and Eve for their giving in to

Now, let me get to the issue of whether God incited or Satan incited
David. I will have to concede that at first blush this appears to be a
blatant contradiction. Nevertheless, I believe there is a unity in these
passages, in view of what I already stated above. 1 Chronicles 21:1 says
that Satan rose up against Israeland incited David to take a census of
Israel. 2 Samuel 24:1 says that, “the anger of the Lord burned against
Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, ?Go and take a census
of Israeland Judah.?” Here is how I see these passages working together.
I believe that God allows us to be tested by evil so that our hearts may
be revealed and so that we may come to humility and repentance and turn
toward him. God allows Satan to tempt us toward evil, but it is
ultimately our own evil, working with the temptation, which leads toward
evil. This is exactly what happened with David. His heart had become
hardened and prideful. In order to reveal his sinful heart, God allowed
(you could say caused if you like, but I prefer allowed) Satan to incite
David to do the evil which was more or less already in his heart. So who
incited? Satan incited David, but it is not inaccurate to say that God,
in a sense incited David.

The net result of God?s allowing and Satan?s inciting David toward sin was
that trouble was brought on Israel, but David repented of his sin. In
fact, 2 Samuel 24:13-25 is one of my favorite scenes in the Old Testament.
In 2 Sam 24:17 we have, “When David saw the angel who was striking down
the people, he said to the Lord, ?I am the one who has sinned and done
wrong. These are but sheep. What have they done? Let your hand fall
upon me and my family.?” David did indeed recognize his sin and his heart
turned back toward God, which was the reason God allowed the incident to
happen in the first place. As a result, David built an altar on the
threshold of Araunah. He offered a sacrifice which saved Jerusalem. This
sacrifice was a prefigure of Jesus who also offered a sacrifice on the
same hill to save Israel. It is also the same mountain on which Abraham
offered his son. Truly God worked powerfully to bring about good for his
people through this scene. I do not think it is inaccurate for the writer
of 2 Samuel to say that God incited David, nor is it inaccurate for the
writer of 1 Chronicles to say that Satan incited David. In either case,
God used this incident to bring about repentance and to provide a
wonderful prefigure of the saving sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

As to whether a change in the theology of Satan occurred in the Persian
period, I would say that the truth did not change. It is the nature of
the scripture to show progressive revelation. I am not at all
uncomfortable with the thought that God progressively revealed his nature
to his people with more detail and clarity over time. God revealed the
doctrine of heaven and hell gradually over the course of the Bible. The
idea of heaven and hell are in the Old Testament, but they are more veiled?
being taught in foreshadows and prefigures mainly, rather than in direct
statements. However, the truth was there all along. In the story of Adam
and Eve, we have Satan as tempter and opponent of God right from the
beginning. I reject the idea that Satan was ever a buddy with God, at
least in the Bible. The story of Job is consistent with Genesis 1 and
with 2 Sam 24.

John Oakes

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