At a glance, we see Satan being credited with David’s numbering of the children of Israel in 1 Chronicles 21 and then we see the Lord being credited with the SAME THING in 2 Samuel 24. But that’s the problem: “At a glance…”
(Caps for emphasis only… Not shouting.)
We need to look carefully at EXACTLY what the text says. That is ALWAYS the case. And when we look at the EXACT wording and EXACTLY what these texts tell us, we see something that is not only NOT a contradiction but is FASCINATING.
Those who make much of this and try to use it to prove a “contradiction” are not usually open to the answer because they approach the Bible with the attitude that IT must match THEIR view of what God SHOULD do, IF there were a God. Most of these “skeptics” are simply Psalm 14:1 “agnostics” and atheists, even if they are called “theologians” or “Bible professors” or “pastors” or “Reverend” or “Priest,”…
But the answer is very simple. Satan moved David to sin, so God allowed it and directed (moved) David’s arrogance toward numbering Israel so that the Lord could bring down judgment on Israel as a nation.
This is simply an example of the free will of a man (in David) whose heart is in a state of rebellion (at that time) being used by God for His ultimate purpose. And, although many died as a result of God’s judgment, the ultimate end is for GOOD: the preservation of the remnant of true believers in Israel AND the repentance and restitution of David to God.
Romans 8:28 (KJV) “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
But the hardened skeptic cannot see the “big picture”. They do not begin with a holy God who is just in judging sin. They begin with an unholy figment of their imagination who is SUBJECT to their opinion. So, they ignore what the text SAYS:
2 Samuel 24:1 (KJV) “And again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them …”
1 Chronicles 21:1 (KJV) “And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David…”
Satan had his agenda and God used him to exact judgment. No contradiction. But a very incredible look into the workings “behind the scenes” in the spirit realm. A place we only understand insomuch as we are given such “light” in the words of God.