2 Samuel 24:1 Please explain this passage. If God incited David to census the people, then why did He punish them?
I believe the problem stemmed from a commandment regarding taking a census which was given in Exodus 30:11-16.
Exodus 30:11 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 12 When you take the census of the children of Israel for their number, then every man shall give a ransom for himself to the LORD, when you number them, that there may be no plague among them when you number them. 13 This is what everyone among those who are numbered shall give: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (a shekel is twenty gerahs). The half-shekel shall be an offering to the LORD. 14 Everyone included among those who are numbered, from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering to the LORD. 15 The rich shall not give more and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel, when you give an offering to the LORD, to make atonement for yourselves. 16 And you shall take the atonement money of the children of Israel, and shall appoint it for the service of the tabernacle of meeting, that it may be a memorial for the children of Israel before the LORD, to make atonement for yourselves.
There is no mention of those numbered by David’s instruction giving the half-shekel required to make ‘atonement for their souls’ as an offering to God. The instruction is clear in the Law. This I think is why God punished Israel on this occasion.
We might reasonably suppose that God was already angry with Israel because of the way they had forsaken David, the Lord’s anointed king, and gone after Absalom (2Samuel 15:12) and then Bichri (2 Samuel 20:2).
I hope this helps.