God or Satan incited David?
2 Samuel 24:1— “Does God incite David to conduct the census of his people (2 Samuel 24:1), or does Satan (1 Chronicles 21:1)?”
One might as well ask in the incident of a shooting whether a shooter kills a victim or the gun killed the victim. Both are true. Likewise with this passage—God intentionally allowed Satan to plant the idea in David’s mind. If we look at the context of these passages, King David had become a powerful king and was becoming a little too proud of his vast armies rather than thinking about his dependency on God. Satan thought he could make David fall into sin by the census, but God in his omniscience realized that this sin would lead David to repentance and so to David’s ultimate good. This situation is like that of Job (Ayub), where God intentionally allowed Satan’s malicious attacks on Job. Satan thought it would ruin Job’s faith, but it ultimately proved to do the opposite in God’s foreknowledge. Similarly, God allowed Satan to set in motion Jesus’ death (Jn 13:27), but God allowed this for his ultimate glory in Jesus’ resurrection. In each case Satan’s plans were limited and transient, but God’s in his foreknowledge used it for his ultimate victory. Satan schemed, but God also schemed – God is most profound in his machinations (see Al-Anfal 8:30).
In the Qur’ān we find a very similar issue—in one verse the angels (worshiped by idolaters – Al-Imran 3:80) are said to “control not death nor life, nor raising (the dead) to life,” yet elsewhere in the Qur’ān angels are said to “cause you to die” (32:11; 16:28,32). It could be accused that there is a contradiction here with two ‘causes’, but we must accept that angels are the primary cause and Allah the sovereign cause. Similarly, we must accept that God, in his omniscient knowledge, intentionally used Satan to tempt David.