Academic journal article Journal of Biblical Literature

The Devil Made David Do It . . . or Did He? the Nature, Identity, and Literary Origins of the Satan in 1 Chronicles 21:1

Academic journal article Journal of Biblical Literature

The Devil Made David Do It . . . or Did He? the Nature, Identity, and Literary Origins of the Satan in 1 Chronicles 21:1

Article excerpt

In 2 Samuel 24, King David commits one of his very few blunders as God's handpicked ruler of Israel and orders that a census be taken of the people. As a result of this royal faux pas, God sends a plague that wipes out much of Israel's population.1 Of all of the perplexing facets of this story, the most intriguing and the most troubling is that the historian credits David's error and, by implication, the ensuing plague to none other than the deity, who is said to have incited David to order the census in the first place. On the whole, the Chronistic version of this story parallels its Deuteronomistic source. But in several instances the Chronicler deviates from the story as we have it in the MT of 2 Samuel. The most remarkable of these deviations is in the very first line of the account, in which a redactor attempts to shed light on the source of David's plan and Israel's troubles. 2 Samuel 24:1 reads,

(ProQuest-CSA LLC: ... denotes non-USASCII text omitted.)

Again the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, "Go, count the people of Israel and Judah."2

But the parallel account in 1 Chronicles (21:1) begins somewhat differently:

(ProQuest-CSA LLC: ... denotes non-USASCII text omitted.)

Satan/a Satan stood up against Israel, and incited David to count the people of Israel.3

In 2 Samuel, it is Yhwh who is angry with Israel and incites David against them, but in 1 Chronicles the direct cause of David's error is identified as a certain (ProQuest-CSA LLC: ... denotes non-USASCII text omitted.), "satan" That a satan is named as the instigator of David's census and the plague that ensues rather than Yhwh, as in the earlier version of the story, raises two perplexing and related questions. Who is this satan? And why would a redactor substitute this figure for the deity?

Traditionally, these questions have been answered as follows: The satan of 1 Chronicles 21 is none other than Satan, the archenemy of God, who appears so prominendy in later literature. According to this interpretation, the Chonicler has replaced the deity with Satan as the instigator of David's sin in this passage in order to clear the deity of any charge of wrongdoing. More recent exegetes, well aware of the anachronistic interpretive tendencies of their predecessors, have exercised more caution in their explanation of the passage. These scholars are careful not to assume that the Chronicler conceived of Satan in exactiy the same way as did the early Jews and Christians. But for many of these scholars, perhaps still the majority of them, 1 Chr 21:1 represents the final stage in the development of the doctrine concerning a superhuman satan in the OT. They regard (ProQuest-CSA LLC: ... denotes non-USASCII text omitted.) in 1 Chronicles 21 as a proper noun. The satan had finally become Satan.4 Moreover, a growing number of recent interpreters take things a step further. They claim that even reading (ProQuest-CSA LLC: ... denotes non-USASCII text omitted.) in 1 Chronicles 21 as "Satan" is anachronistic. Instead, they prefer to understand the word as a common noun referring to an anonymous opponent of some sort. Some of these scholars have suggested that this figure be taken as an anonymous heavenly accuser.5 But several recent interpreters have made a case for regarding this individual as an unnamed human adversary, whether a military opponent of Israel or an adviser in David's royal court who gives the king adverse counsel.6 In this article, I respond to some of the more significant and more recent arguments regarding the identity and nature of the Chronicler's satan figure and set forth my own explanation of this figure's identity and his presence in this story, an explanation that has been overlooked by scholars.

I. A BRIEF SURVEY OF THE USE OF (ProQuest-CSA LLC: ... denotes non-USASCII text omitted.) ("SATAN") ELSEWHERE IN THE HEBREW SCRIPTURES

In all but four passages in the OT/Hebrew Bible, the noun (ProQuest-CSA LLC: . …

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