ABC:1 Chronicles 21

From BibleStrength

Verse 1

Jim Meritt of Infidels asserts there is a contradiction here and asks, "Moved David to Anger?"[1]

The passages do "seem" to contradict - not merely because Satan is said to have done the enticing as well as God, but because if God did do the enticing, then it would at first glance make no sense for God to have severely punished David and Israel for numbering Israel like He did with one of the harshest punishments recorded in the Bible. (2 Samuel 24:10-17) As for why both Satan and God would have been said to be involved in the provoking, the likely answer is that God originally allowed Satan to test David as occurred with Job.

The Bible in James 1 makes clear God does not tempt people to do evil:

The probable solution is that God allowed Satan to try David, perhaps because David and Israel were being disobedient, just like Job had been tested.

Why the Census?

We aren't told what exactly God was punishing David for in 1 Chronicles 21:8, and other censuses were indeed taken without mention of it being a sin. In Numbers 1:1-16 God even specifically commanded Moses - twice - to take a census of warriors similar to what David did here.

At any rate, such census-taking can be seen throughout the Bible and nowhere else is called a sin. However, David clearly knew what he'd done was not only wrong but "very foolish" and a great sin.

Therefore, it follows that taking a census itself was not sinful. Rather, something in HOW David took it was sinful, perhaps a specific way of taking it, or his intention in taking it. Unfortunately we just aren't told what this sin was.

Possible Answer, Building God's Temple?

It may be related to God's commandment to David that David was not to build God's temple because he'd shed bled (including the innocent Uriah's - 2 Samuel 11), but that his son Solomon was to build it. God commended David for his noble intention to make a temple for Him, but said "Thou hast shed blood abundantly, and hast made great wars: thou shalt not build an house unto my name, because thou hast shed much blood."

It may be that David tried to get around God's commandment and in his zeal to do a good thing disobeyed God, performing a census of Israel for the purpose of building the temple (which God had specifically told him not to do). Perhaps he thought only to prepare things better for Solomon, or perhaps he indeed intended to fully disobey God and build it himself, thinking God would be pleased with the result when he finished.

That would explain why all Israel was punished instead of just David, as they would have all knowingly disobeyed God's commandment for Solomon to build the temple, not David. A census would involve disobedience from all Israel, explaining why all Israel was punished. Without such a nationwide sin, it is tough to explain why the whole nation was punished.

At any rate, we simply aren't told what the exact sin was and can only hypothesize. It may be the discovery of a later scroll will show a fuller reading of what happened just as the discovery of a Dead Sea Scroll, 4qSama, provided a fuller reading of 1 Samuel 11, revealing more detail about an invader putting out the eyes of enemies.[2]

Verse 5 claims the Bible is wrong about the following passage, and makes the following comments (italicized):[3] Wikipedia also claims this is a contradiction.[4]

The "ThinkingAtheist" omits the crucial verse, 1 Chronicles 21:6, which explains the discrepancy. Unlike in 1 Samuel 24, 1 Chronicles 21 states "But Levi and Benjamin counted he not among them." In other words, 1 Chronicles 21 is omitting 2 of the 12 tribes of Israel.

1.1 million is 85% of 1.3 million, and 5/6 is 83%, so it appears that for whatever reason two fewer tribes are being counted in 1 Samuel 24. Why that might be we can only hypothesize, perhaps a separate count of Levi and Benjamin was performed once it was discovered Joab had disobeyed, and the full amount given in 1 Samuel 24. At any rate, the two accounts are perfectly congruent in light of the fact that two fewer tribes were being counted in the second passage.

Verse 11's Meritt claims a contradiction exists here concerning the "years of famine."[1]

Although hypothetically it is possible, as pointed out by CARM, that "the duration of the famine was reduced from seven to three years after David prayed for mercy from the Lord,"[5] this is not indicated by the text in any way.

Rather, this appears to be a clear scribal error. The scribe copying an older text probably made a mental error, confusing the 3-year famine mentioned in 2 Samuel 21:1 with the 7-year potential famine in 2 Samuel 24:13 and 1 Chronicles 21:11.

It's really not hard to see how such a mistake could be made as the chapters are close together. Fortunately God preserved similar events in 3 different books (which were each subdivided into the 2 of each we have today), Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles so that by comparing them today we can deduce what really happened in the rare cases of scribal errors such as this. The real number is likely 7 years, with the scribe confusing the 3-year famine mentioned in 2 Samuel 21.

Possible Answer

The only possibility that in my mind seems an alternate explanation to scribal error is that provided by Answers In Genesis' Michael Belknap:

Verse 25 claims the Bible is wrong about the following passage, and makes the following comments:[3]

There is no definite contradiction here because different things are mentioned as being purchased. As numerous commentaries point out, the first passage mentions the purchase price for the threshing floor and oxen for 50 shekels, while the second passage gives the price paid for the entire site.[7] Answers In Genesis concludes, "The account found in 2 Samuel 24 records only David’s purchase of the threshing floor and oxen... the account in 1 Chronicles 21 records a higher price for the full purchase, including the surrounding land."[8]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Meritt, Jim (1992). A list of Biblical contradictions. Retrieved from
  2. Tahor, Leb. Missing I Schmuel Passage. Retrieved from
  3. 3.0 3.1 TheThinkingAtheist. Bible Contradictions. Retrieved from
  4. Wikipedia Editors (2019, August 22). "Internal Consistency of the Bible." Wikipedia.
  5. Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry. God sent his prophet to threaten David with how many years of famine? Retrieved from
  6. Belknap, Michael (2012, August 14). Contradictions: A Famine of Three or Seven Years? Answers In Genesis. Retrieved from
  7. 2 Samuel 24:24. BibleHub.
  8. Runge, K. (2011, August 23). Contradictions: Balancing the Budget. Answers in Genesis.