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Does God tempt us?

Luke Breuer
2012-10-03 07:22 UTC

Consider the following passages.
2 Samuel 24:1
Again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, “Go, number Israel and Judah.”
Chronicles 21:1
Then Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel.
James 1:13
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.
2 Timothy 3:16-17
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

The Reformed answer to the apparent conundrum of "who incited David to take the census" is that God was the first cause and that Satan was the secondary cause. God ensured that Satan's free will choice would be to incite David so that God's glorious and just will would be carried out, and yet God's reputation would not be sullied by the act. (Yes, the attitude of mine you see there is intentional.) There seems to be a problem with this view (which I rejected before this): James 1:13 is then rendered meaningless, falsifying 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

I can't help but come up with the sacrilegious idea that God is fully allowed to "hire hitmen" to do his dirty work. Should one doubt this with the verses above, we can add:
1 Samuel 18:10-11
The next day a harmful spirit from God rushed upon Saul, and he raved within his house while David was playing the lyre, as he did day by day. Saul had his spear in his hand. And Saul hurled the spear, for he thought, “I will pin David to the wall.” But David evaded him twice.

There is an explanation that works for this, but it damages biblical inerrancy. The idea is that the Israelites didn't have a well-developed idea of Satan existing, in David's time. Job may be the oldest book in terms of age of the text, but I'm not sure if the time period is the oldest, and there is suspicion that the beginning (and maybe end) chapters were added afterward. Regardless of whether the added chapters were inspired, it would fit the theme of the idea of Satan evolving, instead of existing from the Garden of Eden. (The connection of serpent to Satan happens much later in the Bible.) This seems to damage only a wooden, more-than-required-for-trust-in-the-Bible version of biblical inerrancy.