How do you respond to 2 Samuel 24:1 and 1 Chronicles 21:1?

One text says the Lord incited David to count the warriors of Israel and Judah. The other text says that Satan incited David to count the warriors of Israel. (The Lord had forbidden this, as it displayed a confidence in military strength rather than in Yahweh’s power).

Compatibilists frequently cite this as an example of how Satan always carries out God’s plan. God’s plan, they insist, is always good, though Satan is evil in carrying it out. The “paradox”—or (I believe) contradiction—that this viewpoint creates is unnecessary. These texts do not imply that Satan always carries out God’s plan, only that he sometimes does so. In this case, God planned on judging Israel and so he allowed Satan to bring it about. For editorial reasons, the author of 1 Chronicles attributes the act to Satan while the author of 1 Samuel attributes it to God who allowed Satan to do what he wanted to do.

As a parallel example, we should consider the way God sometimes uses the sinful, violent tendencies of one nation to punish another nation. As punishment on Israel, for example, the Lord allowed a wicked Assyrian nation to have its way with Israel (Isa. 10). Yet, God then punished Assyria for being the kind of nation that could be used by God in this way. Sometimes–but not always–the wicked intentions of an evil nation (or an evil being) convene with God’s purposes.

Related Reading

What is the significance of Jeremiah 36:1-6

The Lord has Jeremiah write his prophecy on a scroll, telling him, “Perhaps when the people of Judah hear about every disaster I plan to inflict on them, they will each turn from their wicked ways; then I will forgive their wickedness and their sin” (Jer. 36:3). Jeremiah then tells his scribe to take the…

Topics:

Revelation 17:8 refers to people whose names haven’t been written in “the book of life from the creation of the world.” Doesn’t this conflict with open theism?

As in Revelation 13:8, the clause “from the foundation” (apo kataboleis) need not mean “from before the foundation” but simply “from the foundation” (= since the foundation). It’s not that names either were or were not written in the “book of life” before they were ever born. Rather, throughout history, in response to the choices…

What is the significance of Genesis 6:5–6?

Seeing the wickedness of the whole human race which preceded the great flood, the Bible says, “The Lord was sorry that he made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.” If everything about world history was exhaustively settled and known by God as such before he created the world, God had…

Topics:

Is homosexuality a sin?

There are three passages in the Old Testament (Gen. 19: 1-13; Lev 18:22; 20:13) and three in the New Testament (Rom. 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; I Tim. 1:10) that have traditionally been read as prohibiting homosexuality. On top of this, the entire biblical narrative presupposes that sex is supposed to take place between a man…

Three Arguments Against Determinism

There was an interesting article in the NY Times yesterday by John Tierney entitled “Do You Have Free Will? Yes, It’s The Only Choice.” The article reviews research that suggests that everybody intuitively believes people are morally responsible only for actions they could have refrained from doing and that when people don’t believe they are free…

What is the significance of Exodus 13:17?

The Lord didn’t lead Israel along the shortest route to Canaan because Israel would have had to fight the Philistines. The Lord wanted to avoid this, “Lest the people change their minds when they see war, and they return to Egypt.” [NIV: “If they face war they might change their minds and return to Egypt”].…

Topics: