Question:

Is God referred to as Satan in II Samuel 24:1 and I Chronicles 21:1? Also, is Satan referred to as angel in Numbers 22:22, 32? Please help me explain these verses.


Answer:

"Again the anger of the LORD was aroused against Israel, and He moved David against them to say, "Go, number Israel and Judah."" (II Samuel 24:1).

"Now Satan stood up against Israel, and moved David to number Israel" (I Chronicles 21:1).

Most cultures of the world use figures of speech in their communications. One such figure of speech is called a metonymy. A metonymy is when one object is used in place of another, closely related object. For example: A young mother might exclaim, "Johnny was really hungry this morning. He drank a whole bottle in less than ten minutes!" Now you know little Johnny wasn't chewing glass or plastic that day. His mother was referring to the contents of the bottle and not the bottle itself. Still, her statement is accurate as the bottle represents its contents. Another example: I might say that I put a kettle on to boil. It doesn't mean that I had a melted glob of metal on my stove, but that the contents of the kettle boiled and not the kettle itself.

We learn from the book of Job that Satan doesn't get to tempt whomever he wills. He must get God's permission first.

"Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. And the LORD said to Satan, "From where do you come?" So Satan answered the LORD and said, "From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it." Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?" So Satan answered the LORD and said, "Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!" And the LORD said to Satan, "Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person." So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD" (Job 1:6-12).

Notice several things. God gave Satan permission to tempt Job, but He placed limits on what Satan could do. "No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it" (I Corinthians 10:13). Even though Satan planned to make Job's life miserable, Satan stated that Job would blame God for what happened. Even though God does not tempt people (James 1:13-16), this doesn't mean that God doesn't use the wicked to accomplish His will.

God was angry because of Israel's sins. Therefore, God removed His protection from David, Israel's king, and gave Satan permission to tempt David. God used David's weakness as an opportunity to teach David and Israel a lesson at the school of hard knocks. "And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: "My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the LORD loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives."If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?" (Hebrews 12:5-7). Thus in the direct sense, Satan tempted David to sin. But in the indirect sense, God authorized that temptation to test David, so it was done by God.

Therefore, God is not Satan nor is Satan God, but God made use of Satan's wickedness to punish people falling into wickedness.


"Then God's anger was aroused because he went, and the Angel of the LORD took His stand in the way as an adversary against him. And he was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him" (Numbers 22:22).

"And the Angel of the LORD said to him, "Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out to stand against you, because your way is perverse before Me" (Numbers 22:32).

The Angel of the Lord is a being referred to many times in the Old Testament. See the lesson on Angels for more details. While Satan is believed to be a fallen angelic being, the Angel of the Lord is not Satan and Satan is not the Angel of the Lord.

What is causing your confusion in this case is that the Angel of the Lord is taking on an adversarial role -- that is, he is standing against what Balaam planned to do. Satan is called an adversary, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour" (I Peter 5:8), because he acts against mankind and Christians in particular. However, it is wrong to conclude that all adversaries are Satan. Such would be the same as saying all murderers are Satan because Jesus said "You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning..." (John 8:44). A murderer is acting like the devil, but a murderer is not Satan.

While Satan acts as an adversary against good, the followers of God act as adversaries against evil. For example, a primary purpose of government is to stand against evil. "For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil" (Romans 13:3-4). Being an adversary doesn't tell us whether the adversary is good or bad. You first need to see who the adversary is standing against.