Defending God: God Does Evil, Yay or Nay?
The first part introduced this series and established that the Bible is a product of God’s breathing out. Thus, its reports and record are free from error and are authoritative. It was a response to the claim by some that some reports given by Biblical authors were wrongly presented. The second part further established what it means when the Old Testament spoke in God’s name. It proved that the Old Testament prophets were men who spoke God’s own very words and that they did not ascribe words to God falsely at any time in their ministry. It was also a response to the assertion by some individuals that some of the prophets erroneously credited some words to God which were in actual fact from God.
The previous post, which is the third part, discussed God’s sovereignty and continued on proving that the Old Testaments did not wrongly credit some statements to God. If the Old Testament prophets like Jeremiah, Isaiah and Daniel got it wrong that God rules in the affairs of men as claimed by some preachers, then Paul and Peter were wrong in their assertions of the prophets as being divinely inspired. Not only that, Paul too was wrong in his assertion in Romans 13:1 since God does not have anything to do with the kingdom of this world unless the leader is saved! In short, there is no writer of books of the Bible which can be trusted! And, how does such an accuser of the Bible writers expect that we trust him too?
This part looks at some claims, one of which is that God could not have said that “I created evil” as seen in Isaiah 45:7! I have repeatedly argued with some friends who believe it was Satan speaking here through Isaiah. As stated earlier, the moment we assert that the prophets wrongly spoke of God in their prophecies (note the emphasis on prophecies), then we insinuate that the prophets and the New Testament apostles who referred to them as divinely inspired were false representatives of God! We have then chosen to destroy God’s word as erroneous and unreliable in a bid to defend God and His ever-loving nature! This is disastrous!
Now, let’s consider Isaiah 45:7 in the context of the chapter:
1 Thus says the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped, to subdue nations before him and to loose the belts of kings, to open doors before him that gates may not be closed:
2 “I will go before you and level the exalted places, I will break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut through the bars of iron,
3 I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hoards in secret places, that you may know that it is I, the LORD, the God of Israel, who call you by your name.
4 For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen, I call you by your name, I name you, though you do not know me.
5 I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me,
6 that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the LORD, and there is no other.
7 I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things.
8 “Shower, O heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain down righteousness; let the earth open, that salvation and righteousness may bear fruit; let the earth cause them both to sprout; I the LORD have created it. (Isa 45:1-8 ESV)
This passage, prefaced with the statement “Thus says the Lord” which CANNOT be credited to any other than Yahweh since Isaiah is His TRUE spokesperson, reveals the following salient facts about God:
- God overrules in the affairs of men. He not only intervenes but He also decides in men’s affairs and His decisions are final!
- The darkness is said to belong to Satan BUT God says he will give the treasures in dark places (chosek) to Cyrus. If, as claimed by some that God does not intervene in the kingdom of this earth because it belongs to Satan, then I wonder how to explain what happens here. The personality speaking through Isaiah even said he is doing this to confirm who he truly is: YHWH, the God of Israel, who described Jacob as His servant and Israel as His elect. Any preacher, I repeat any preacher or teacher who says the person speaking through Isaiah here is not Yahweh has insinuated that Isaiah was a false prophet, worse than Muhammad Ibn Abdullah, the prophet of Islam who did admit that he spoke words from Satan. This is an attack on the Bible’s inspiration and authority.
- God further asserted that there is no one like Him in all the earth. There is NO ONE to be compared with Him. There is no one who can usurp His authority and position anywhere and anytime, not even the Devil can achieve such! Now, remember we are not talking about what prophets said about God! NO! We are here discussing the vry words of God as claimed by these prophets who cannot be said to have PUT WORDS in God’s mouth; otherwise, they are false! In fact, it is the other way round: God puts His words in the prophet’s mouth.
I will definitely come back to discuss verse 7 which is the problem many have with Isaiah’s prophecy. Verse 8 clearly asserted that God created righteousness and salvation. Is there anyone who believes Satan is also the one speaking here as the source of righteousness and salvation? But this is what you mean when you say Satan is the one speaking in this passage. Do you know why? If Satan was right about himself in verse 7, what makes him wrong in verses 4-6 and 8? The person speaking through Isaiah further claimed that he made the earth and created man on it. If it was the devil, you have to admit the devil is your creator! That also means Satan’s hands stretched out the heavens and commanded all their host (Isa. 45:12). As opined by those who say Satan is speaking here, we can say that Satan stirred Cyrus up in righteousness according to verse 13.
Truth be told, I cannot imagine that Isaiah described Satan in terms befitting only God and that Isaiah claimed these were words which God spoke when actually it was Satan!
Probably, I am missing something. I will like any reader to show me how this passage is a reference to Satan!
That said, let me get back to verse 7 where we have this statement:
“I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things.”
Let me start by establishing the fact that the same verb was used in reference to creating darkness and calamity but they were not used in reference to light and well-being. Definitely, no one would deny that God formed light and made well-being. The same root verb for “making” shalom (well-being), ‘asa, is used when the Yahweh is said to be the one “who does all these things.” As for forming light, yatsar is the verb used. However, neither of these verbs was used in reference to the creating of darkness and calamity. Has anyone bothered to find out why? Probably, some have not even bothered to check and see that the Hebrew word is different. Well, this is not intended to demean anyone’s efforts in interpreting the Bible. Rather, it is to point out that if we do not take our time to “chew” on Bible texts, we will misrepresent its message.
Now, what Hebrew word was used in reference to Yahweh’s activities on darkness and evil? The popular bara’ of Genesis 1:1 was used. Let me state emphatically that I know of no where in the entire Bible is the verb bara’ used in reference to any being other than Yahweh, starting from Genesis 1:1 where God is said to have created the heavens and the earth! Let me restate: I DO NOT KNOW OF ANY VERSE IN THE ENTIRE BIBLE WHERE THE HEBREW VERB BARA’ IS USED TO REFER TO ACTIVITIES DONE BY ANY OTHER THAN GOD!!! If, however, you have one, do NOT hesitate to provide it and I will be glad to have it.
Time will not permit me to discuss what bara’ means in details but it does imply to fashion out something just as Malachi 2:1 said that the one God created all men and the verb bara’ was used! Surprisingly, the same verb bara’ is used in Isaiah 45:8 above to refer to God’s creation of righteousness. This reveals that the creation of darkness and evil in Isaiah 45:7 is as much a divine activity as the creation of the heavens, the earth, human beings, and righteousness. Until I find a text in the entire Old Testament where Satan or any other being, human or non-human, is said to create (bara’), I will stay on the safer side of not imputing words that are not in the scriptures to the scriptures.
I definitely know some would say it is a result of how much the prophets understood God and viewed God. I would simply appeal to anyone with such thinking that they go back to read the Parts One and Two of this series. It is to avoid such conception in the interpretation of the prophetic writings that I took time to explain how we should approach prophecies.
How did God create darkness? When we remember that Genesis 1:2 talks of darkness being over the face of the deep before God commanded light to be, then we would realize that darkness existed before light! Obviously, the verb “to be” which should have readily implied that darkness existed is absent with reference to darkness. Nonetheless, we have the inspired and inerrant record that there was darkness and this darkness was separated from light by God (Gen. 1:4). Thus, God who created light in Genesis 1:3 claim in Isaiah 45:7 to have created darkness. Who then are we to say otherwise?
The evil/calamity Yahweh said He created is the Hebrew word ra‘ and it has various meanings such that it is sometimes not easy to arrive at a definite meaning for it. It is used in the Old Testament in the following ways to refer to something:
- bad, disagreeable, malignant (Exod. 21:8)
- unpleasing in the eyes (Gen. 28:8);
- poisonous (2 Kgs. 4:41)
- displeasing (1 Sam. 29:7)
It is also used to describe:
- diseases (Deut. 7:15; 28:35, 59; Job 2:7, 2 Chron. 21:19, Eccl. 6:2)
- deadly sword (Psalm 144:10)
- arrows (Ezek. 5:16)
- severe judgments (Ezek. 14:21)
- wonders (Deut. 6:22)
- fierce messengers (Psalm 78:49)
- wild beasts (Gen. 37:20, 33; Lev. 26:6; Ezek. 5:17; 14:15, 21; 34:25)
- unclean thing (Deut. 23:10)
- trial and hardship (Gen. 47:9; Prov. 15:15; Eccl. 1:13; 5:13)
- report (Exod. 33:4; Gen. 37:2; Num. 14:37; Deut. 22:14, 19; Neh. 6:13; Jer. 49:23; Psalm 112:7)
- painful discipline (Pr 15:10)
- occurrence (1 Kgs. 5:18)
- net (Eccl. 9:12) and instruments (Isaiah 32:7; Josh. 23:15)
- injurious and harmful things (Isa. 3:11; Jer. 2:19)
- speech (Gen. 24:50), bad or good as seen in Proverbs 31:24, 29 (E),
- the divine spirit producing an ecstatic state of frenzy and violence (1 Sam. 16:14, 15, 16, 23; 18:10; 19:9)
- land (Num. 13:19)
- place (Num. 20:5)
- water (2 Kgs. 2:19)
- figs (Jer. 24:2, 3, 8)
- kine (Gen. 41:3, 4, 19, 20, 21, 27),
Further, the adjective ra’ is used to speak of:
- having low value (Lev. 27:10, 12, 14, 33),
- a comparatively worse object/person (2 Sam. 19:8; Ezek. 7:24)
- being sad or unhappy (Prov. 25:20)
- facial looks (Gen. 40:7; Neh. 2:2)
In fact, I feel tired at this point to continue listing the various meanings of the word translated evil/calamity in this verse. One will see readily that it is very difficult to pick only one meaning and then say that it is what ra’ means here. Nonetheless, the context guides us! Ra’ was used as an apposition to shalom (peace) in this verse and it means everything as against shalom. This, therefore, excludes in every way, moral evil! That is, if it is morally and spiritually wrong and sinful, it is not from God. Thus, the evil/calamity described here is the same as the disaster which Amos said cannot come to a city unless God has done it (Amos 5:2). They are often expressed in physical happenings and they come as a result of human’s moral evil/sins. They are God’s just punishment.
The problem with many is if God can and does avenge. Romans 13:4 says anyone who does evil should fear the civil authorities because they do not bear the sword in vain. The rulers are described by Paul as God’s diakonoi (servants) who avenges the wrath on offenders. If, indeed, men in authorities are God’s servants and they mete out justice using “swords”, then God Himself is a God of justice who has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness (Acts 17:31) through Jesus (Acts 10:42) who is the righteous judge (2 Tim. 4:8).
The calamity which God created according to Isaiah 45:7 is His just punishment for the wicked and it is the absence of peace in every way. There is no peace for the wicked! Yes! God justifies the wicked but that is for the wicked who believes in Him. Note that such a “wicked” person is no more regarded in God’s sight on account of Jesus’ righteousness. This does not absolve other wicked individuals who do not have faith in Jesus Christ. They have to experience the evil, which is the total absence of God’s Shalom, which God has rightly and impartially created for the unsaved!
Jesus said that “…whoever does not believe the Son is confirmed already…” (John 3:18). It is the just condemnation that is described as evil/calamity in Isaiah 45:7.
Why? Looking at the variegated meanings of the adjectives ra’, the answer stares us in the face.
The condemnation is displeasing, unpleasant, painful, sorrowful, harmful, and a comparatively worse place. You will find all these meanings in the Bible with reference to the adjective ra’ which is seen as evil/calamity in Isaiah 45:7.
I hope this lengthy breakdown helps someone out there!
Let us spend enough time on a text before arriving at a disastrous conclusion such as stating that Isaiah, Yahweh’s genuine and unique prophet, discerned Satan and not Yahweh in his prophecy.
Let us be careful of brandishing claims that are an affront at the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible. If the Bible says “Thus says the Lord…”, every word that follows are indeed from the Lord and not from the prophet or any other personae.
I hope to discuss the topic “God kills, Yay or Nay?” in the next part of this series, God willing!
Thanks for reading and may the gospel prevail across the globe.
- Written by Anthony Opeyemi Fawole, who is a theologian and missionary