Does God do Evil?

 

COPYRIGHT ©2019 - James M. Frye

 

All scripture quotations are taken from the Authorized King James Bible. Any deviations are not intentional. All underlines, bold and words within brackets are the author's.

 

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Isaiah 45:7 I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create EVIL: I the LORD do all these things.

In what sense does God create evil? Two of the most important principles in interpreting scripture are the following: 1. We must always interpret scripture in light of scripture (1 Cor. 2:13), and 2. Since all of God's word is true (Psalm 119:160), we may not interpret any scripture in such a way that would cause it to conflict with any other scripture (Matt. 4:5-7; John 10:35).

Noah Webster's 1828 Dictionary (which has more scripturally accurate definitions), has three primary definitions of the word evil.

1. Having bad qualities of a natural kind; mischievous; having qualities which tend to injury, or to produce mischief.

2. Having bad qualities of a moral kind; wicked; corrupt; perverse; wrong; as evil thoughts; evil deeds; evil speaking; an evil generation.

3. Unfortunate; unhappy; producing sorrow, distress, injury or CALAMITY; as evil tidings; evil arrows; evil days.

In other words, the word evil can mean different things in different contexts. We know from applying the two interpretive principles listed at the top of this post, that definitions #1 and #2 above cannot be true of God, for He cannot do evil but works only good.

James 1:13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:

James 1:16-17 Do not err, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

Since we cannot find our definition of the word "evil" for this passage (Isa. 45:7) in definitions #1 and #2, the correct definition must lie in definition #3. Notice that in definition #3 above we see the word calamity”. This is the correct definition for the word "evil" in Isa. 45:7.

Isaiah 45:7 I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil [calamity]: I the LORD do all these things.

Since God is in absolute sovereign control over all things (Eph. 1:11, Dan. 4:35, Ps. 135:6), nothing can take place upon this earth unless He allows it.

Amos 3:6 Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be EVIL in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?

Whether it be God actively bringing evil (calamity) in judgment upon people (Josh. 23:15; Gen. 6:17; 19:24), or God allowing evil (calamity) to take place in order to fulfill his plans (Proverbs 16:4; Exodus 4:11), God is in sovereign control over all things. God's ways are much higher than our ways and in many cases are simply beyond our limited understanding (Isa. 55:8-9; Rom. 11:33; Job 11:7).

These different definitions of the word evil can be seen clearly in the book of Job.

Job 1:1 There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.

Job was a man who eschewed (shunned) evil. Please notice that this is evil in the sense of definitions #1 and #2. God then allows Satan to test job through various “calamities” which come upon him (definition #3). After Job's wife suggests that Job should simply curse God and die, Job responds:

Job 2:10 But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive EVIL? In all this did not Job sin with his lips.

Job speaks of the “calamities” which God allowed to come upon him as receiving evil from the hand of the Lord. The word “evil” here once again aligns with definition #3 (as it does in Isa. 45:7). The word “evil” in both passages refers to evil in the sense of calamity. This is how God creates evil, but God never does evil in the sense of sinning for He is holy and just in all His ways.

Deuteronomy 32:4 He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.

Psalms 145:17 The LORD is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works.