Why did God punish King David
for taking a CENSUS?
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Question: The books of 1Samuel and 1Chronicles discuss King David and his taking of a census. Why was David punished by God for doing this? Is taking a census a SIN?
Answer: The taking of census is not a sin - but the REASON for doing it could be. The book of Chronicles tells us that Satan, who was against Israel, moved or provoked King David to count his troops (1Chronicles 21:1).
Satan moved in spiritual warfare against the whole nation of Israel - not just the king. With his cunning ways the devil set out to entice David to sin by numbering his army - which David did!
"And again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah." (2Samuel 24:1)
The above verse in the King James Version Bible tends to give a WRONG understanding to the reader. The 1Chronicles 21:1 KJV verse quoted earlier and the below scripture quote from the Young's Literal Translation Bible (YLT) offers a more accurate explanation of what transpired.
"And the anger of Jehovah addeth to burn against Israel, and an adversary [Satan] moveth David about them, saying, `Go, number Israel and Judah.' " (2Samuel 24:1, YLT)
It was SATAN that moved David to disobey God. David seems to have been prompted by a feeling of pride and ambitious curiosity. Because he did this to determine HIS power and to trust in it, it offended God. Of itself, taking a census is not unlawful.
Looking at the scriptures we can know that there is an evil intent by their content. Anytime Satan is involved you can be sure he intends to get someone to sin! He put the thought in David's mind that if he knew the number of young men under his rule (meaning those fit for war) he could brag or boast how great a king he was - by the size of his army!