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Craziest. Biblical Contradiction. Ever.

Craziest. Biblical Contradiction. Ever.

Whether you are a believer or not, you've had to have heard about contradictions in the Bible. Believers usually try to dismiss the contradictions by claiming they aren't truly contradictions. (e.g. the contradictions in the Gospels about who finds the empty tomb.)

However, I ran into a contradiction this week that blew my mind because it's a huge contradiction and one which is undeniable. It's not a matter of omission. It's a direct, and frankly WILD, contradiction. I had never seen it before, because the chapters are kind of obscure, rarely referenced on their own and the contradiction only becomes apparent when you look at them together. 

2nd Samuel chapter 24 tells a story about King David. Here's the short version:

  • God is angry at Israel and incites King David to take a census.
  • Joab tries to talk David out of it.
  • David overrules Joab.
  • Joab performs the census. 
  • David feels guilty about taking the census (even though God incited him to do it).
  • God says He's going to punish David and make David choose 1 of 3 punishment options.
    • Option 1: 3 years of famine in the land.
    • Option 2: 3 months of fleeing from your enemies.
    • Option 3: 3 days of plague in the land.
  • David chooses to protect himself and picks Option 3 and 70,000 Israelites die.

 

1st Chronicles chapter 21 tells the same story, in slightly different words with some minor differences. In order to show you how close these two chapters are, here are those two chapters, side-by-side, with part of verse 1 omitted. 

2 Samuel 24 1 Chronicles 21
1 Again the anger of ... burned against Israel and he incited David against them, saying, “Go and take a census of Israel and Judah.” 1 ... rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel.
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 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.”
3 But Joab replied to the king, “May the Lord your God multiply the troops a hundred times over, and may the eyes of my lord the king see it. But why does my lord the king want to do such a thing?” 3 But Joab replied, “May the Lord multiply his troops a hundred times over. My lord the king, are they not all my lord’s subjects? Why does my lord want to do this? Why should he bring guilt on Israel?”
4 The king’s word, however, overruled Joab and the army commanders; so they left the presence of the king to enroll the fighting men of Israel. 4 The king’s word, however, overruled Joab; so Joab left and went throughout Israel and then came back to Jerusalem.

5 After crossing the Jordan, they camped near Aroer, south of the town in the gorge, and then went through Gad and on to Jazer. 6 They went to Gilead and the region of Tahtim Hodshi, and on to Dan Jaan and around toward Sidon. 7 Then they went toward the fortress of Tyre and all the towns of the Hivites and Canaanites. Finally, they went on to Beersheba in the Negev of Judah.

8 After they had gone through the entire land, they came back to Jerusalem at the end of nine months and twenty days.

9 Joab reported the number of the fighting men to the king: In Israel there were eight hundred thousand able-bodied men who could handle a sword, and in Judah five hundred thousand.

5 Joab reported the number of the fighting men to David: In all Israel there were one million one hundred thousand men who could handle a sword, including four hundred and seventy thousand in Judah.

6 But Joab did not include Levi and Benjamin in the numbering, because the king’s command was repulsive to him. 7 This command was also evil in the sight of God; so he punished Israel.

10 David was conscience-stricken after he had counted the fighting men, and he said to the Lord, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done. Now, Lord, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing.” 8 Then David said to God, “I have sinned greatly by doing this. Now, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing.”
11 Before David got up the next morning, the word of the Lord had come to Gad the prophet, David’s seer: 12 “Go and tell David, ‘This is what the Lord says: I am giving you three options. Choose one of them for me to carry out against you.’” 9 The Lord said to Gad, David’s seer, 10 “Go and tell David, ‘This is what the Lord says: I am giving you three options. Choose one of them for me to carry out against you.’”
13 So Gad went to David and said to him, “Shall there come on you three years of famine in your land? Or three months of fleeing from your enemies while they pursue you? Or three days of plague in your land? Now then, think it over and decide how I should answer the one who sent me.” 11 So Gad went to David and said to him, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Take your choice: 12 three years of famine, three months of being swept away before your enemies, with their swords overtaking you, or three days of the sword of the Lord—days of plague in the land, with the angel of the Lord ravaging every part of Israel.’ Now then, decide how I should answer the one who sent me.”
14 David said to Gad, “I am in deep distress. Let us fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is great; but do not let me fall into human hands.” 13 David said to Gad, “I am in deep distress. Let me fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is very great; but do not let me fall into human hands.”

 

The contradiction I'm talking about is not the different census numbers. The contradiction is in the omitted parts of verse 1. You're going to love this. 

2 Samuel 24 1 Chronicles 21
1 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.” 1 Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel.

 

Did you see that? These two chapters are clearly the same story, but one of them claims that GOD incited David and the other claims SATAN incited David!

After I recovered from having my mind blown, I immediately wondered if different translations had this same contradiction? I looked up the five most popular english translations: New International Version (NIV), King James Version (KJV), New King James Version (NKJV), English Standard Version (ESV), and New American Standard Bible (NASB)

  2 Samuel 24 1 Chronicles 21
NIV 1 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.” 1 Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel.
KJV 1 And again the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah. 1 And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.
NKJV 1 Again the anger of the Lord was aroused against Israel, and He moved David against them to say, “Go, number Israel and Judah.” 1 Now Satan stood up against Israel, and moved David to number Israel.
ESV 1 Again the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, “Go, number Israel and Judah.” 1 Then Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel.
NASB 1 Now again the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and it incited David against them to say, “Go, number Israel and Judah.” 1 Then Satan stood up against Israel and moved David to number Israel.

 

If this was the inspired Word of God, you'd expect them to know if it was God or Satan who incited David. Doesn't it make a lot more sense to think these stories were simply uninspired writings by humans and in one case they decided to be nice to David and attribute his bad actions to Satan instead of God?

 

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