There is an apparent contradiction in the Old Testament–or is it there on purpose?
All Scripture is God-breathed [inspired] and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the person of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17
The apparent contradiction is as follows:
Again the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, “Go and take a census of Israel and Judah.”
2 So the king said to Joab and the army commanders with him, “Go throughout the tribes of Israel from Dan to Beersheba and enroll the fighting men, so that I may know how many there are.” 2 Samuel 24:1-2
Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel. 2 So David said to Joab and the commanders of the troops, “Go and count the Israelites from Beersheba to Dan. Then report back to me so that I may know how many there are.” 1 Chronicles 21:1-2
So, which is it? Was it a clerical error? Was it the authors’ own opinions? Why would God allow a “mistake” in His Word? I’m glad you asked!
We know that “the words of the LORD are flawless, like silver purified in a crucible, like gold refined seven times” (Psalm 12:6). Proverbs also tells us, “Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar” (Proverbs 30:5-6). Taking the words of the LORD as our foundation, everything else is built on top of it. If God allowed both editorials on who motivated David to take the census, then we must accept that God wanted us to see this apparent contradiction. Consider this:
Could it be that God wanted us to understand that every person born before Christ had a veiled view of Him (2 Corinthians 3:14-15)? The version given by the author of Kings had a traditional view of God as King of Israel. Less than 100 years previously, God WAS the King and Leader of Israel (theocracy). Then, the people asked for a king, so God gave them Saul. Saul died, and David became king. Given the troubled history of the Israelites from the Exodus (1459 BC), through the rule of the judges to Saul (1050 BC), it was no wonder that the people had a warrior view of God, especially since the writer of Kings (possibly Jeremiah according to Jewish tradition) lived during the Diaspora (605-535 BC).
What I appreciate is God’s way of setting the record straight. The writer of Chronicles was a priest (possibly Ezra according to Jewish tradition) during the Diaspora, and gives the corrected view of how God works in our lives:
- Satan rises up against us (either actively or passively through our sinful world and our corrupt flesh) and tempts us.
- We succumb and fall into sin.
- God punishes/corrects His children through the consequences of our sin. The good news is that He walks with us through them and, somehow, turns them into blessings (Romans 8:28).
For me, the coolest part of the story is the end as told in 1 Chronicles:
- The angel of the LORD (the pre-incarnate Christ?) stood at the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. v15
- David repented. vs 16-17
- The Angel of the LORD had David build an altar there. v18
- When David offered the sacrifice and “called on the LORD, the LORD answered him with fire from heaven on the altar of burnt offering.” v26
- The plague was stopped. v27
- The threshing floor is the place upon which the Temple was built! It was also the place where Abraham offered his son to the LORD in sacrifice (God intervened). Twice, on this very place, God had mercy!
God is, indeed, a Romans 8:28 God!
Abba, Your thoughts are so much higher than our thoughts! Thank You for showing us that without You to open our eyes, ears, thoughts, and our hearts, we cannot comprehend Your Word. May we always look to You for wisdom, insight, and understanding. May we not be afraid to ask, to seek, and then to knock. Amen.