Origin of Evil
It is a fact that evil
exists. But why does evil exist and result in so much suffering and
pain to mankind? The Holy Scriptures tell us that all is of God. Is
evil of God?
Rom 11:36 (KJV) For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.
You and I, sincere Christians, instinctively revolt at the initial thought that evil can be from God. It is repulsive to our spiritual natures. We initially seek to disregard it by making Satan the source of all evil. And we are no where told in scripture how the evil one could originate it, unless the power or capacity were given him by God.
There are many passages in God’s Word which bear out the great truth that all things—the evil as well as the good—find their source in the one and only God. It is readily admitted that many find it very hard to associate evil with God. They refuse to believe God’s plain statements concerning it and end up ignoring it or modifying God’s Word to suit their misconception. Theologians desire to shield God from all association with evil.
Surely, then, there must be a purpose in evils creation, since nothing can be purposeless that comes from Him.
And look at this remarkable scripture in Isaiah:
Isa 45:7 (KJV) I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.
Some bible versions translate the word evil as "calamity" or "disaster", attempting to water down the impact of this scripture, but these are translation errors. For example:
Isaiah 45:7 (New International Version - NIV) I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and createdisaster; I, the Lord, do all these things.
Isaiah 45:7 (New American Standard Bible) The One forming light and creating darkness, Causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD who does all these things.
God created evil (Isa. 45:7.), even though it is hard to believe at first. God does not create things that do not serve a good purpose. The word translated into "evil" in Isa. 45:7 is the Hebrew word ra (Strong's H7451 from H7489), and it is the very same word translated hundreds of times as "evil" throughout the Old Testament.
Now the word ra is of neutral character and does not have a moral bias. Evil is not sin. God created evil; God Himself is not evil. God did not create sin, nor has God Himself ever sinned.
There are many passages in God’s Word which bear out the great truth that all things—the evil as well as the good—find their source in the one and only God, He alone can originate. Whence are the sufferings of creation, the evil that has perplexed philosophers and confounded the wise? Paul writes that the creation was not subjected to vanity voluntarily. It had no will or choice in the matter. God is subjecting it against its will (Rom.8:21). And the reason is not far to seek. It is only temporary.
We may be sure, then, that evil, as spoken of in the Scriptures, is an act which shatters and demolishes and brings with it a train of trouble and distress. But it is neither right nor wrong in itself. This leads us to consider the subject of sin, which we will look at in a coming article on 'what is sin'.
Evil in the tree in the garden
Most bible students know that God planted both a tree of life and a tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden of Eden.
Gen 2:9 (KJV) And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
It is interesting that it was God who planted the tree which contained both good and evil, not just good. God intentionally put evil into that one tree. The knowledge of good is dependent upon the knowledge of evil. Hence the tree in the garden was not, as we usually think of it, merely the means of knowing evil, it was the means, primarily, of the knowledge of good. Before they sinned Adam and Eve had good but did not realize it because they had had no experience of evil. This question concerning the sin of Adam and Eve is further dealt with in the article on Plan in Progress under Plan of God.
The fact is that it was God who put evil in a tree in the garden of Eden.
The story of Joseph in the Old Testament
The story of Joseph dramatically illustrates the inter-weaving of good and evil. His brothers planned his death, but instead end up selling him into slavery, concealing their crime by devious deceit. Years roll by, and Joseph, the prisoner initially, becomes ruler of Egypt, and a thoughtful benefactor of the people. Revealing his identity to his brothers, who fear revenge for their wrong doing, Joseph makes a fine acknowledgment of God s supreme power. He consoles them by saying:
Gen 45:5 (KJV) Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life.
Gen 45:8 So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God: and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.
Joseph told his brothers don't be "grieved," or "angry with yourselves," for committing such horrible sins and evils? This was certainly a severe trial on Joseph and his brothers. God brought it about, knowing the end result.
Gen 50:19 (KJV) And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God?
Gen 50:20 But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.
It was ALL of God, and the end more than justified the means. This account about Joseph demonstrates God's ability to bring about good from evil, and to save. From this we can see and really appreciate God's wisdom, love and goodness. Even that greatest of evils, death, will be "Swallowed up by Victory" (I Cor. 15:54).
More scriptures which connect evil with God's direction:
Lam 3:38 (KJV) Out of the mouth of the most High proceedeth not evil (Hebrew ra) and good?
2 Sam 12:11 (KJV) Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will raise up evil (Hebrew ra) against thee out of thine own house ....
Jer 4:6 (KJV) Set up the standard toward Zion: retire, stay not: for I will bring evil (Hebrew ra) from the north, and a great destruction.
Jer 6:19 (KJV) Hear, O earth: behold, I will bring evil (Hebrew ra) upon this people ....
Jer. 18:11 (KJV) .... Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I frame evil (Hebrew ra) against you....
Jos 23:15 (KJV) ...so shall the LORD bring upon you all evil (Hebrew ra) things, until he have destroyed you from off this good land which the LORD your God hath given you.
Job 2:10 (KJV) What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil (Hebrew ra)? In all this did not Job sin with his lips.
Amo 3:6 (KJV) Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be evil (Hebrew - ra) in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?
Additional comments regarding evil
Scripture proves that God not only created evil and also is responsible for it.
Evil is God's prerogative, and its use carries out His purpose. He takes full control, and is at the helm of affairs in such a way that He is "operating all in accord with the counsel of His will" (Eph. 1:11). Truly, "all is of God," and though we may not be able to fully comprehend His ways, yet we may see an adequate amount of His ability to assure us of a purpose marvelous in wisdom and rich in love.
These scriptures about evil are intense verses. At times it is hard to emotionally deal with all the evils of this world. But thankfully it is God and not Satan or man who controls evil. It is important to understand that God puts limitations on evil. He doesn't use it indiscriminately.
Evil and good contrasted
It is readily acknowledged that we want what is good and not evil. We strive for the good but we oftentimes experience evil. It is interesting that God planted the tree in the garden of Eden which contained a knowledge of BOTH good and evil.
Before they sinned, Adam and Eve had no knowledge of good. Good lay all about them, unmixed with evil. They had health, strength, honor, and companionship with one another. Yet they knew nothing of the blessedness of these blessings. This we learn from the name given to the tree which bore the forbidden fruit. To many minds it suggests only the knowledge of evil, rather than good. Yet, first and foremost, it was the tree of the knowledge of good.
It is impossible to have a knowledge of good without having a knowledge of evil.
God did not plant two trees, one for the knowledge of good and another for the knowledge of evil. In the nature of things these are dependent on one another, and neither can be known without the other. Let us recognize the divine wisdom which planted the one tree, so that it was impossible to know good apart from the knowledge-of evil.
There is not the slightest hint of our first parents showing appreciation or thanks, or worship or adoration. They received all as a endowment from God and were quite incapable of appreciation. They knew no joy, for they knew no misery. They did not know good, and they did not know evil.
So a person can not really know good without knowing evil. No you can not, impossible. You can not know what light is without knowing what darkness is. You can not know love but for hate. You can not know strength without knowing weakness. Therefore you can not know good without knowing evil. It is that simple.
There was a tree of life in the garden. But that tree could not be accessed until one understood the contrast between good and evil. As God said in the garden -
Gen 3:22 (KJV) And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:
It is clear that to become like God we have to know both good and evil, just as God does. There is no other way.
A scripture that can help us see the reason that evil exists is in Ecclesiastes
Ecc 1:13 (KJV) And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven: this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith.
That is a poor translation. The translation in the Concordant Literal version is much better.
Eccles. 1:13 (CLV) I applied my heart to inquiring and exploring by wisdom concerning all that is done under the heavens: it is an experience of evil Elohim (God) has given to the sons of humanity to humble them by it.
This makes it easier to understand what is being said in this verse.
This experience of evil is not the purpose or goal of human existence, but this is the process by which God is bringing His Sons and Daughters into glory. Most translations have obscured the meaning of this verse. The translators just couldn’t believe that God would do such a thing. Yet it is seen in many scriptures. The translators just couldn’t bring themselves to come right out and say it, as God obviously has stated in the original Hebrew of this verse.
And to this agrees this scripture in Ecclesiastes.
Ecc 2:23 (KJV) For all his days are sorrows, and his travail grief; yea, his heart taketh not rest in the night. This is also vanity.
That is the reality but it is not just bad news. The destiny of the human race is indeed glorious, but the journey is filled with evil and sorrow. This is not to say that there are not many beautiful and good things in life. There is joy in living with contentment, but the occasional times of grief can discourage and hurt.
Thankfully God is in total control
The mere possession of good does not give a knowledge or realization of it. Even today, when there is so much evil to contrast with the good, many do not appreciate their blessings until they lose them. All must digest the knowledge of evil so they can appreciate the knowledge of good.
For this cause evil and sin have invaded the universe for a season. Their presence is appalling, but their stay is brief, and their ultimate effect, not only the knowledge of good, but the enjoyment and adoration of the God of all good
Evil is but temporary, though its reign seem long. God's plan is all about life. God creates life. Sure God chastises us in life and life can be depressing at times. We may be weak and diseased in life. Even so, we love our own lives. But ultimately, God takes away our lives. Our parents die, our friends and relatives die. We know for certain that we, ourselves, will die. Without faith, it is a frightening expectation. But, we will all rejoice when God finally gives us immortality and never suffer, sorrow, or hurt again. We simply need to trust God. We'll all be so glad we took the journey of life at journey's end.
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