Good and Evil – The Source?

I would expect that most people would agree with this statement: Nothing happens in the world or to individuals that is not filtered through the hands of God. Whether that filter is described as God allowing something to happen or God creating the calamity itself. Of course, there are certain ramifications to that last concept.

Often when chaos of any sort strikes an individual, a community, or a nation, in general terms there are two basic questions coming from two basic groups. Some will ask, “Why did God do this?”  Others will ask, “Why did God allow this to happen?” Even though those questions may emanate from both believers and unbelievers, are they not really asking the same question?

Without trying to employing circular reasoning, why does it seem unfathomable to most evangelical Christians that God created evil? After all, if he did not, who did? In the garden of Eden, there was a tree. A tree of the “knowledge of good and evil (Gen 2:9).”  Who planted that tree? What was the source of the fruit of that tree – it was good and evil? What was the basis of that knowledge when referring to good and evil?

When it comes to the original languages of the Bible, most of us are on the outside looking in. We depend a great deal on interpreters and language specialists to translate words and their cognates in a way that makes sense. To some degree, we are all at their mercy when it comes to moving the original languages to our English language. Hence, tools like dictionaries, commentaries, lexicons, and software tools, help us sort out issues. Nevertheless, when reading translations of the Bible, their is little doubt that theology has impacted the translation. Which is completely natural, at least, I think it would be. But that should not prevent us from examining things to see if the translators got it right. In spite of all of that, there are still “problem” passages that cause us to pause and wonder – “What does this passage really mean?”

I came across such a passage when reading Isaiah again. It resides at Isaiah 45:7 and it reads

I (God) form light and create darkness, I make well -being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things.

As you might guess, “calamity” is the key word and the nub of the issue. It can be translated in a variety of ways including distress or evil. The Hebrew word ra, ro-ah is the root word, can have various meanings dictated primarily by context – the way we interpret most words.For example, “blue” can be a color or it can mean melancholy.  In Is 45:7, when we look at the word ro-ah, it is in apposition to “well-being” or shalom, which makes calamity a rather perfect interpretation. God creates both well-being and calamity. The well-being is the comfortable part of the verse, calamity is not so comfortable. For a comparable reference see Amos 3:6.

There are a couple of other words that come into play when trying to understand the power of the verse in Isaiah. One is tobe(tove) which means “good” as in the tree of the knowledge of goodand evil, the other is “bara” which means to create as in “In the beginning, God created….”  Tobe is not the word used in Isaiah 45:7 to describe well-being  However, bara is the same in both Genesis 1:1 and the Isaiah passage.  A point that should not be ignored.

When I read this passage, my mind was overflowing with things I’ve heard over the years about bad things happening to good people. Somehow, we go to great lengths to use “allow”, “permits”, or “grants permission”, etc. when deciding how we might explain calamity when it invades a person’s life or slaps a community along side the head.  We stretch our vocabulary to find words that somehow will let God off the hook for any responsibility. “Providence” is probably the best one. Never, at least in my experience, would you hear someone say “God created this calamity” unless it is to ascribe the event as a punishment of evil.

Is it that hard, or that wrong to say what happened is God’s doing? Or are there things that happen outside his knowledge or his sovereignty? Now don’t misunderstand, I am not attempting to validate the concept that God created moral evil. But we must examine the origin, based on the Genesis account and this one in Isaiah, along with others. As I expressed in the beginning, nothing happens that is not filtered through the hands of God. NOTHING if we believe in God’s sovereignty.   Job is a good example.

Whether we examine the context of God’s impending use of Cyrus to bring Israel’s enemies to their knees or today’s current climate of impending socialism and the liberal agenda regarding abortion and stem cell research –  two concepts that may be rightly considered evil – none of this is happening outside God’s sovereignty or his will. That gives me cause to wonder.

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7 Comments

Filed under Genesis, God's Will, Uncategorized

7 responses to “Good and Evil – The Source?

  1. Norm, Good thought, good blog. It is mind provoking alright and makes us stop and think. I hope I haven’t misunderstood your blog.

    In any event, my thoughts: one thing I see this passage doing is debunking the stupidity of evolution. Further, I believe that this passage is not talking about moral sin. The word “evil” in this passage is the Hebrew word “Ra,” which ‘never’ referes to sin. It is like your version of the Bible, (whichever one that is), when it refers to the word “calamity,” which is (not sin), but diversity, distress, sadness, trouble, and etc.

    The word “evil” spoken of here (KJV – the most accurate Bible we have), is directed toward the enemies of God’s people. Albert Barnes notes on the Bible, Adam Clarkes commentary on the Bible, and John Calvin’s verse commentary all agree that the word evil is meant metaphorically and basically meant as a contrast. He contrasts peace and war, that is, with afflictions, wars, and other adverse occurrences.

    Another way of looking at it also is by God creating one thing, He automatically creates the opposite. Case in point, when God created light, it automatically created darkness. By creating peace, this automatically created evil (or distressful things). For man to have victory, there needs to be a battle. To have a battle, you need to have an enemy. To have choice, man needs things from which to choose. God says, I give you life and death, choose life (Deut 30:19).

    The passage in Amos 3:6, doesn’t talk about evil in sin, it talks about evil in punishment. Augustine said, “Evil, which is sin, the Lord hath not done; evil, which is punishment for sin, the Lord bringeth.” I believe God chastises those that He loves, but never causes evil to be put upon them (us).

    Hope this helps in your study. It is thought provoking, however. But I am a firm believer that God does not implement evil on man or does he condemn man or does He tempt any man. God does allow things to happen, His plan to accomplish, but never causes anything evil to happen.

    I agree with you on bad things happening to good folks. I don’t understand that one myself. I feebly try and excuse it away by quoting (Mt 5:45). . .for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. Feeble, I know, but. . .

    Have a great day bud. Hope I didn’t misunderstand anything. Whatever, we both got some study time, huh.

    Jim

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  2. God created evil, He’s just not dishing it out, that’s Satan’s job. Poor Job. Don’t think anyone can explain that one. We’ll all know when we get to heaven. Thought provoking. I am just a firm believer in God allowing things as opposed to. . . . .

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  3. Norm

    Jim, thanks for your thoughts. Your one comment “The word “evil” in this passage is the Hebrew word “Ra,” which ‘never’ referes to sin” might be a bit strong. As a writer “never” should never be a part of your vocabulary! As soon as you walk out on the never-limb somone will cut it off. Refer to Neh 9:28 and Job 28:28 for example and Gen 2:17 – if the reference in Genesis is not to moral evil, I’m not sure what is.

    Regarding your comment on the KJV – I’m not even going there. 🙂

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  4. That’s funny. Did you do that on purpose. LOL. I loved it. “As a writer “never” should “never” be a part of your vocabulary!” LOL.

    I’ll research the Genesis passage. I am sure that it is something that is misunderstood probably, by both of us. Have a good one. I still choose to believe that God allows stuff to happen as opposed to. . .

    Check out Albert Barnes, Adam Clarke, and scofield commentaries. They are good resource materials for research. (There are others but I use these frequently.)

    Thought provoking blog.

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  5. Don’t know if I said anything about your profile before, but just in case, I like the profile of your blog. Nice format and colors. It’s pleasant to look at and read.

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  6. Interesting title of your blog. There might be a story there Norm.

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  7. Norm

    On your last comment, are you referring to “The Way of the Wolf”? Or this entry. The blog title comes from my favorite book, The Way of the Wolf by Martin Bell. It’s been my long time favorite for many years now. So much so, I had a custom tattoo done on that same theme.

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