Why Does God Punish Israel For Something He Told David To Do?
A capricious and arbitrary God?
THE HUMANIST's ACCUSATION: The Old Testament contains an interesting contradiction in the story of the census taken by King David and the resulting punishment of the Israelites. God was so angered by the census that he sent a plague that killed 70,000 men. According to II Samuel 24:1, the Lord had caused David to take the census which makes the punishment appear even more nonsensical. But an attempt was later made, at I Chronicles 21:1, to improve Gods image by claiming that Satan incited the census.
That is what the humanists say. Let's find out what's really happening. Here is the scripture:
Now again the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and it incited David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah. - 2 Samuel 24:1
Then Satan stood up against Israel and moved David to number Israel. - 1 Chronicles 21:1
Remember, words are important. However, sometimes the words do not tell us everything we would like to know. What does 2 Samuel 24:1 say? Read it carefully. Why does David order a census?
Israel was being punished by God. They were under God's wrath. The sins the nation of Israel had committed included rebel-lion (2 Samuel 15:1-2 and 2 Samuel 20-1-2) as well as strife and murder among David’s commanders (2 Samuel 16:7-13 and 1 Kings 22:20-23), and so the "anger of God burned against Israel."
Notice 2 Samuel 24:1 says, "It incited David..." To what is the word "it" referring? We cannot say for sure. Some say it is God, oth-ers say it is God's anger. What we know is that David was angry. That opened the door for Satan to temp him, and David gave in to the temptation. As a result, David made the decision to conduct a census of Israel. The Lord did not command David to take a census.
In 1 Samuel 13:14 David is called “a man after God's own heart.” If he was that close to God, why would he intentionally disobey God? 1 Chronicles gives us the reason... Satan. He saw an op-portunity, and Satan took advantage of David in a weak moment. While he was unjustly upset with God, Satan moved David to number Israel.
Why was taking a census a problem? First, only the one who owned what was to be counted had a right to count it. For example, even today could you go to your neighbor’s home, open a drawer, and count their money. No! It is not yours, it belongs to them. You have no right to count their money. The people of Israel belonged to God. Only God could order a census.
Secondly, God had established rules for a census. Exodus 30:12 states:
When you take a census of the sons of Israel to number them, then each one of them shall give a ransom for himself to the LORD, when you number them, so that there will be no plague among them when you number them.
David was conducting a census on his own initiative, with a wrong motive, and doing so in violation of God’s commands for how a census was to be conducted.
Why was Israel punished? In his anguish over his sin, David asked God this question in 2 Samuel 24:13. However, God does not provide David with an answer. So we do not know God’s reasoning.
There is no contradiction. God never commanded David to conduct a census. David decided to conduct a census. That census did not conform to God’s requirements. David knew scripture, and knew he had violated God’s commands for a census.
Now Davids heart troubled him after he had numbered the people. So David said to the Lord, I have sinned greatly in what I have done." - 2
There were consequences for what David did.
So the Lord sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning until the appointed time, and seventy thousand men of the people from Dan to Beersheba died. - 2
All you need to do is to carefully read what scripture says. Da-vid decided to conduct the census. Yes, Satan moved David to do it, but David—the king of Israel—made the decision and ordered the census.
There is no contradiction here.
The Old Testament is contradictory as to whether the Lord commanded the Israelites to sacrifice animals to him. At Jeremiah 7:22, God denies he ever gave the Israelites commandments about animal sacrifices. In contrast, Exodus 29:38-42 and many other verses depict God as requiring the Israelites to offer animal sacrifices.
If you've been reading through these in order, by now you know there is an answer, and all you need to do is click on this link.