Does God Cause Us To Sin? 2 Samuel 24, 1 Chron 21,22

Does God Cause Us To Sin? 2 Samuel 24, 1 Chron 21,22Today’s reading (from the One Year Chronological Bible [NLT]) is from 2 Samuel 24, 1 Chronicles 21 and 22. Both passages describe where David takes a census of his people. God did not like that David took the census. Yet in verse 1 of 2 Samuel 24, we see God “causing” David to take the census:

1 Once again the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and he caused David to harm them by taking a census. “Go and count the people of Israel and Judah,” the Lord told him.

Does God cause us to sin? 

I was very confused by this, so I consulted my trusty footnotes:

footnotes: God does not cause people to sin, but He does allow sinners to reveal the sinfulness of their hearts by their actions.  God presented the opportunity to David in order to deal with a disastrous national tendency, and He wanted this desire to show itself. First Chronicles 21:1 says Satan incited David to do it.  Hebrew writers do not always distinguish between primary and secondary causes.  So if God allowed Satan to tempt David, to them it is as if God did it.

I didn’t understand why taking a census was wrong.  Again, I consulted my footnotes and it said that it amounted to a draft or conscription for the army. So David’s sin was pride and selfish ambition: glory in the size of his army and power he had built.  David had always counted on God for protection and security before – now he had pride in his own accomplishments. His sin was trusting in his army rather than God.

The consequences were great. David cried out to God to forgive and God gave David the choice between three punishments:

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.'” 13 So Gad went to David and said to him, “Shall there come upon 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.”

David chose the three days of plague and as a result, 70,000 people died of severe plague. The angel of the Lord came to destroy Israel, but God had mercy and stopped him.

Once again, we see David, after realizing his sin, going on his face before God, repenting. In 2 Samuel 24 we see that famous passage where David purchases the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite and builds an altar before God.

The lesson for me today is to observe how David, while not perfect, always stops immediately once he realizes his sin and confesses and repents before God. I believe this is why God called David “a man after God’s own heart.”

Lord, thank You for Your Word. Help me to realize my sins and the consequences involved. Help me to be like David and stop immediately and repent before You. Thank You for Your mercy and grace, without which I would be ruined. -amen 


  1. #1 by Shelby on May 6, 2007 - 9:02 pm

    Enjoyed reading your blog and am more inspired to read Scripture daily as I’ve gotten out of the habit. David certainly was a great sinner and a great repenter – and he was greatly loved by God – like the rest of us. I know I’m a sinner, may I always be a repenter – and learner of mistakes.

    Take care.

  2. #2 by L. Sisson on December 29, 2007 - 2:37 am

    In James 1:13 & 14 we read: “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, BY HIS OWN EVIL DESIRE, he is dragged away and enticed.” So it is our own evil desires, not God’s. We must be responsible for our actions, the devil did not “make” us do anything, nor did God.

    You are very correct, that the big lesson with David is that when he sinned, he took responsibility for it and repented. That’s what made him “a man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22).

  3. #3 by emmaustin on March 27, 2008 - 1:53 pm

    also, just an fyi, in 2 Samuel 24:1 the word ‘he’ ‘αὐτοῖς’ that is used when it says “…and ‘he’ incited David against them, saying, “Go, number Israel and Judah…”

    backs up the passage in james that says we are tempted by our own desires…because the word ‘he’ in this passage does not refer to God, but to self, it means self…in other words it would be like the scripture said…and ‘self’ incited David against them…So God was angry with Israel, and saw David’s heart.

    And here is what we can assume based on context. We know write before this counting, in chapter 17 of 1 Chronicles God makes a covenant with David, starting in verse 16 David prays a prayer of complete humility…Then David goes on a killing spree that any conquering king would be proud of – chapter 18 David defeats his enemies, starting in verse 14 we see David’s sweet managerial and recruiting abilities. By chapter 19 Davids men, that he takes pride in are being mocked by the powerful Ammonites. By 19:!0, David Conquers not just the Ammonites but also the Syrians, in chapter 20 he captures Rabbah, kills the philistien Giants…He has a lot to be proud of, considering, he started off with only 400 losers, the man has come a long way…

    And here is what we know about God, when he makes covenant with us, he is ready to reveal self to us, so he can begin to purify us, make us more in his image instead of our own…God allowed David to be in a situation that revealed David’s pride to David. God had to allow this to be revealed, so that David would be a man after God’s heart, instead of a man after ‘selfs’ heart…anyway…sorry that took so long, but there you go…

  4. #4 by Aidhan on October 19, 2008 - 12:50 am

    Thank God for your blog 🙂 I was searching for the explanation on the verse of 2 Samuel 24:1, and the way you explained it (plus the footnotes) sufficed.

    Beautiful prayer at the end. Perfect way to wrap up.

  5. #5 by ruslan on September 28, 2009 - 11:09 pm

    1 chronicles 21 says that satan incited David to take census,which one was it God or satan?

  6. #6 by Uncle MythMan on May 25, 2011 - 9:55 am

    “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s; render unto God that which is God’s.” This is where it looks like King David had to play at being Caesar (who thought HIMSELF a god because of the work of being Emperor) … I guess “announcing” that one is simply a ‘steward’ of God’s people (of whom God is king) sort of takes away from a ruler’s self-importance.

  7. #7 by Donald on August 29, 2011 - 8:33 pm

    I’m a little appalled at the choice David made, of punishments. He was given the choice to have to flee from his enemies for three months. He did not choose that. Instead, he chose that God would inflict a plague on the people of Israel for three days, causing 70,000 people to die, people who had not committed his particular sin. I have always loved and admired King David, but this strikes me strange. What is so commendably repentant about causing 70,000 innocent people to be slain by God, rather than choosing to run from your pursuing enemies for three months? It would seem to me that David’s choice, here, was not very loving or generous or self-sacrificing at ALL. Or am I misinterpreting something? What angle should I be seeing this from???

  8. #8 by Anonymous on June 6, 2013 - 11:40 am

    70000 innocent people ? … “For all have sin and fall short of the glory of God”, are we not Adam’s seed and born in sin ? And the wages of sin are death ? Show me a truely innocent person. Maybe innocent in our eyes. Lets stop judging and leave that to the Lord.

    If David was fleeing from his enemies wouldn’t people be dying along the way too. I think is was a wise choise to fall into God’s hands not mans. I’m sure the justice was equal either way since it was the Lord’s judgement ultimately.

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