Question: In 1 Chronicles 21:5, the army is numbered as 1,100,000 men of Israel and 470,000 from Judah. The same account is given in 2 Samuel 24:9 where Israel numbers 800,000 and Judah 500,000. My atheist friend told me this proves God contradicts Himself?
Answer: In 2 Samuel 24:9 we read
"...and there were in Israel eight hundred thousand VALIANT men that drew the sword and the men of Judah were five hundred thousand men."
The key word is "valiant". The Hebrew is "chayil". The summary of the meaning of this word is, "a strong army, trained and ready for war; in other words, they are on ACTIVE DUTY.
Now notice in 1 Chronicles 21:5,
"And Joab gave the sum of the number of the people unto David. And all they of Israel were a thousand thousand and a hundred thousand that drew sword: and Judah was four hundred threescore and ten thousand men that drew sword."
These could be enlisted into active duty, if needed; but were not on active duty at this time. Notice the Hebrew "chayil", translated "valiant" and meaning on active duty is not used of this group.
2 Samuel 24:9 gives the number of soldiers on active duty while 1 Chronicles 21:5 gives the number of "reserves" that could be called up if needed.
2 Samuel 24:9 gives 500,000 for Judah; but, 1 Chronicles 21:5 gives only 470,000. Some imagine there is a contradiction here; but, it is easily explained by "reading the next verse!" 1 Chronicles 21:6 tells us, Joab did not count the men of Levi and Benjamin.
The atheist is the contradiction, not the Word of God!
Paul said in 2 Timothy 4:7,
"I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:" - 2 Timothy 4:7
Sad to say, we have many Christians who, instead of standing on the promises, are sitting on the premises! Instead of finishing the course; they haven't even started the course, and have kept the faith all to themselves! Oh, how we need Christians to step out of the reserves to the front lines of battle in witnessing to the lost to bring them to Christ!