Biblical Q&A: Why Did God Get Angry At David For Taking A Census?

Thank you, Rose, for your question.

Rose’s question:



Let’s start by putting 2 Samuel 24:1 & 1 Chronicles 21:1-2 side by side.

Again the anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and He stirred up David against them, saying, “Go and take a census of Israel and Judah.” -2 Samuel 24:1 BSB

1 Then 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 and bring me a report, so that I may know their number.” -1 Chronicles 21:1-2 BSB

Which one is it? Did God make David take the census or, was it Satan? There’s no contradiction. Only one of them went against David to cause him to sin against the Lord. The first thing we must look at is, can God tempt you to sin?

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone. -James 1:13 BSB

As you can see in James 1:13, God does not tempt anyone to sin against Him. So, how do we understand 2 Samuel 24:1 and 1 Chronicles 21:1-2? To understand what those two passages can mean, we have to look at Job Chapter 1.

Satan presented himself to God to give Him an account of his whereabouts on the earth.

6 One day the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them. 7 “Where have you come from?” said the LORD to Satan. “From roaming through the earth,” he replied, “and walking back and forth in it.” 8 Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one on earth like him, a man who is blameless and upright, who fears God and shuns evil.” -Job 1:6-8 BSB

Satan took notice of Job and his faithfulness to God, which Satan hated immensely. Satan went to God and asked Him permission to attack Job to destroy his relationship with God to show Him that Job is not as faithful as God’s boasting of him was. God permitted Satan to attack Job and his family.

When God allows evil to fall upon us, it feels as if God Himself wanted to bring a stumbling block so that we may have the potential of falling into sin.

For the arrows of the Almighty have pierced me; my spirit drinks in their poison; the terrors of God are arrayed against me. -Job 6:4 BSB

Job felt that God was the one bringing this disaster upon him. But, in reality, it was Satan who troubled Job. God wanted to show Satan that Job loves God, not because He blessed him with wealth, but Job’s love was based on a righteous and loving God. Let’s take a look at Job 2.

3 Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one on earth like him, a man who is blameless and upright, who fears God and shuns evil. He still retains his integrity, even though you incited Me against him to ruin him without cause.” 4 “Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give up all he owns in exchange for his life. 5 But stretch out Your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse You to Your face.” 6 “Very well,” said the LORD to Satan. “He is in your hands, but you must spare his life.” -Job 2:3-6 BSB

The language in the passages above clearly identifies Satan as the one doing the tempting by destroying everything he has so that Job would eventually curse God and die (Job 2:9)—to commit suicide.

The reason 2 Samuel 24 seems to identify God as the one pushing David to take the census, it’s because God allowed Satan to go forth and tempt David through persuasion to take the census.

To put it into perspective, 2 Samuel 24:1 shows God as being sovereign over all things and allows Satan’s attacks. 1 Chronicles 21:1-2 reveals Satan—as the one who caused David to stumble and sinned against the Lord. 

Jesus Is The Jewish Messiah

Who is the Messiah? He is Divine[Emphasis added]

The LORD [Yahweh] says to my Lord [Messiah]: “Sit at My right hand
Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.
-Psalm 110:1, NASB 2020

The Messiah is the Son of God

11 Serve the LORD with reverence And rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son [worship the Messiah], that He not be angry and you perish on the way, For His wrath may be kindled quickly. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him! [Put your hope in the Messiah]
-Psalm 2:11-12, NASB 2020

Who has ascended into heaven and descended?
Who has gathered the wind in His fists?
Who has wrapped the waters in His garment?
Who has established all the ends of the earth?
What is His name or His Son’s name? [referring to the Messiah]
Surely you know!
-Proverbs 30:4, NASB 2020

The Messiah [the Son of God], died on the cross for your sins

For dogs have surrounded me; A band of evildoers has encompassed me; They pierced my hands and my feet. [The Messiah was crucified for the sins of the world] -Psalm 22:16, NASB 2020

5 But He was pierced [Crucified] for our offenses,
He was crushed for our wrongdoings;
The punishment for our well-being was laid upon Him,
And by His wounds we are healed. [Through faith in the Messiah, your sins will be forgiven]
6 All of us, like sheep, have gone astray, [No one seeks after God]
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the LORD has caused the wrongdoing of us all
To fall on Him
[The Messiah died for our sins] -Isaiah 53:5-6, NASB 2020

My Jewish friends, the Messiah, had to come to deal with our sins first. How can a person with sin enter into heaven? They must first be purified and have their sins forgiven by the Living God. God is a righteous God and has to punish sin. God sent His one and only Son [the Messiah] to pay with His life [be our sacrificial Lamb] for the sins of the world so that the Father can extend forgiveness to those who place their trust and hope in the Messiah.

“Come now, and let us debate your case,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are as scarlet, They shall become as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be like wool. -Isaiah 1:18, NASB 2020

Who is the Messiah? Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God.

16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but so that the world might be saved through Him. -John 3:16-17, NASB 2020

Ask the Father to reveal the Messiah to you and He will.