I recently  read 2 Samuel 24 and I don’t understand how I should understand it.  (V1) Why did God burn against Israel? And why did he incite David to take a census?  Also, why does it say in 2 Chron 21:1 that it was Satan who incited David?  (V10) Also, why did David say he sinned greatly against God? What sin is that?
(V25) Why did God stop sending plague simply because of a burnt offering and a fellowship offering? Please help me to understand this one. Thanks.


The traditional interpretation of conservative scholars is that God was upset at Israel because of the unfaithful actions of David.  God wanted David to trust in Him, not in the numbers of his troops.  The sin of taking a census of the truth was that it represented not relying on God.   It would be like us spending hours and hours counting our money rather than serving God and letting God take care of our wealth.

I do not believe that God literally incited David to sin by taking a census.  He did this indirectly, as I will explain.  I will have to admit that 1 Samuel 1:24 can be confusing and hard to understand.   Maybe I am wrong, but I believe that God allowed Satan to tempt David to take the census.   I would use Job 1, in which God allows Satan to tempt Job as an analogous situation.  One could say that God tempted Job, but in reality, God allowed Satan to tempt David.  James 1:13-15 tells us that God does not tempt us, but that it is our own desires which lead to temptation.  We know from other passages that, although it is our own sinful desires which lead to temptation, it is at times Satan who puts the temptation in our path.  God allows this to happen.   

Perhaps I am wrong and perhaps God literally tempted David, but I doubt this.  Another related passage is found in 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12.  This passage deserves a detailed quote.  “The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles,signs and wonders,and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.  For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.”  It is a biblical teaching that when we give ourselves over to sin, God will give us over to the sin we have already given ourselves to.  It is his hope that when we suffer the consequences of indulging in our sin, we will come to our senses.  God will allow us to go into a pit of our own creation in hopes that we will come to our senses.   This happened to the Prodigal Son.  It seems to be mentioned in 2 Thessalonians.  God allows those who choose to give themselves to satanic teaching to become fully absorbed in that teaching. This is a sort of last opportunity/hope that they will see the evil of their actions and come to their senses.

Therefore, I view 2 Sam 24:1 in light of Job 1 and 2 Thessalonians 2.   It is consistent with what I have said above that in 1 Sam 23 the Bible says that God tempted David and in 1 Chron (not 2 Chron) 21 that it was Satan who tempted David.   It was David’s sinful nature which made him susceptible to the temptation.  It was Satan who tempted him, and it was God who allowed Satan to tempt David.

Why did God stop the destroying angel when David gave a sacrifice?  This is typical behavior of God.  I use the word “typical” in more than one sense.  It is typical in that it is a type/symbol pointing to Christ.   In Genesis 22 Abraham offered a sacrifice of his only son on Mount Moriah (Jerusalem) which was a type of the sacrifice of Jesus whom God offered as an only son on the same mountain to save us from a death sentence.   Similarly, David offered a sacrifice on the threshold of Araunah in 2 Sam 23 which saved Israel.  The threshold of Araunah was later made the location of Solomon’s temple.  David offered a sacrifice to save Israel on the same mountain that God offered his one and only Son to save us from our sins, on the same mountain that Abraham offered his only son.  In that sense, the sacrifice offered by David was “typical.”

It was also “typical” because this is how God always worked through Israel.  He gave them sacrifices as atonement for our sins.   It does not seem reasonable to us that the sacrifice of a sheep or a bull could pay for our sins, but that is the system God established for the Jews.  Their sins spared them the wrath of God.  Israel lived in a special relationship with God.   This relationship required that they be ceremonially clean through the giving of sacrifices.  Therefore, when David sinned and God brought judgment, from a Jewish perspective, it should not surprise us that God overlooked the sin of David when he offered a sacrifice at the house of Araunah.  This is typical of how God dealt with the Jews.

I hope this helps.

John Oakes

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