I often read with both interest and amusement the
battles that rage over the accuracy of this translation or that
translation. Most of the war is waged
by those who proclaim that the King James Version is the ONLY accurate
text. This is understandable since the
KJV has been the standard of English Bible translations for such a long period,
and tradition is difficult, if not impossible to overcome.
But the proponents for the
KJV can rest easy, along with all the other proponents and opponents for
various translations, because this article will deal with two verses which all
translations agree upon. The only problem
is that the verses themselves, reporting on the exact same incident, do not
agree. Within the constraint of the
space available, I will examine these verses and try to lead us to some
understanding as to why these verses are in conflict.
First let us look at the
verses, beginning with the oldest record, namely II Samuel 24. Since all translations agree in the content
of the verses to be quoted, we will use the KJV.
2 Sam. 24:1: And
again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and He moved David
against them to say, “Go number Israel and Judah."
Now let us look at the
report of this same incident as reported by the Chronicler in I Chronicles
And Satan stood up against
Israel, and provoked David to go and number Israel.
Although the overall wording
is not identical in each of the verses, the event and the consequences are the
same. The obvious difference in the
verses is the conflict as to who "moved against" or "provoked"
David to number Israel ‑ God or Satan.
The first and most obvious
question is: "Did the writer of the book of Chronicles, a much later book
(circa 500 B.C.), consider God and Satan as one and the same?"
Or perhaps the writer, given
the result of this action, namely the destruction of 70,000 people, was
unwilling to attribute such an act to God and simply substituted Satan as the
influence behind David's apparent disobedience.
Or we may insist that there
was indeed some development in the life of Israel that produced a view of an
individual entity that influenced men to do evil.
Or we might find that a
better understanding might come from a linguistic approach and see if the word Satan must be understood as a personal
name for an evil supernatural being.
There are many other
possibilities which we could consider, but let us take the four questions we
have posed and deal with them.
You can, on your own,
develop questions which will having meaning to you in understanding this
apparent problem in the text. However,
in developing your thoughts please bear in mind the following. The verses in question are a part of the
Hebrew Scriptures (Christianity calls them the Old Testament) and must be
viewed in light of Hebraic concepts.
Thus the concept of Satan as
presented in the New Testament cannot be carried backward and imposed upon the
From a Hebrew perspective
there is no independent supernatural power, co‑equal with God. To the Hebrew, God is omnipotent,
omnipresent and omniscient. Everything
emanates from God, both good and evil.
There is nothing that is not in His power or subject to His
control. He dispenses both mercy and
With these last thoughts in
mind we can understand that although it is probably not possible for the
Chronicler to consider Satan and God as one and the same, this does not mean
that the writer would not have considered Satan to be an instrument of God to
"provoke" David. This view is
supported by several commentators who insist that God allowed this as a test to
prove David's character.
The second possibility,
substituting Satan for God was considered a valid option. Ezra, the accepted writer of Chronicles, was
a priest. Although much of the
prophetic literature contains notions of God manifesting Himself in the form of
angelic beings, this concept was avoided in the priestly literature. There was an attempt on the part of the
priests to eliminate any concept of mediatory beings of a divine nature. There was no provision for God to come to
earth. God was holy and He would not
come to the profane, rather it was the profane that was in need of holiness in
order to achieve union with God in His abode.
Thus it is possible that
Ezra found the idea of God in the role of an evil adversary as repugnant. Many commentators agree that this
substitution of the word "satan" into the text of Chronicles is a
clear example of the way in which Ezra felt comfortable in modifying a part of
the source text which presented unacceptable ways of speaking of God and
The third possibility deals
with currents that were in operation during the time of the writing of
Chronicles that would have influenced the use of the word "satan" to mean an individual evil
entity. In support of this idea we must
realize that this period was the period of return from exile in Babylon. For seventy years the people had labored
under the control of the Persians.
Within the Persian religious system a fully developed system of worship
was in place that recognized two gods, one evil and one good. These gods were constantly interfering in
the life of man, seeking to influence him toward their own purposes.
is indeed possible that Ezra was influenced by these years of association with
this culture and decided to "correct" the source text to coincide
with his new system of belief. Although
this line of reasoning is possible, the record of the Hebrew Scriptures weighs
heavily against it. It takes several
hundred years from the time of the writing of Chronicles for the concept of
dualism to develop in Judaic thought.
This concept does not begin to appear until the Rabbinical writings of
the 1st and 2nd Century (A.D.) expand upon the Biblical text. 9904