1 Chronicles 21:1 and Meeting the Devil

The end of the plague as a result of the census.

The end of the plague as a result of the census.

When last we saw the Devil in the Bible, it was all the way back in Genesis 3 with the serpent. This verse in 1 Chronicles is the first time since then that Satan makes an appearance:

A heavenly Adversary [or Satan] arose against Israel and incited David to count Israel.

Even if you compare this verse to 2 Samuel 24:1 (which is the same event) there is no mention of the Devil. I know some people who think that this is because the Israelites did not have a concept of Satan until they encountered the Babylonian and Persian culture during the Exile. According to this idea, there really is no devil and this was just an instance of melding ideas together into something new. To me, this smacks of The Usual Suspects idea that “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”

I think there is a very good reason for this. Prior to the Exile of Israel to Assyria and Judah to Babylon, the main concern to teach the Jewish people was that there is only one God. In order to help them understand this concept, that there is only one God and he is in control of everything, any time Satan did anything, the Israelites were not informed of his existence. This way they would not get the idea that there were competing personalities in the heavenly realms like other cultures’ understandings of multiple gods. After the Exile, though, the people learned the lesson of monotheism very well. Now they can accept the reality of Satan warring against God and not allow the devil to be raised to the level of divinity in their minds.

God, as a master teacher, gives just enough to people so they can understand the message and how he works. When they are ready for more, he gives them more. We would do wise to follow this example as we share with others our faith and understanding of Jesus Christ. Sometimes people outside of the Church are not ready for the entire reality of God. We give them what they can understand and accept. Then, when they can receive more, we give them more. If God does that with us, we ought to do the same with others.

May God give us the wisdom to know how much to offer to people and when to offer more!