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Isaiah 45:7 (KJ21) 7 I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil; I, the Lord, do all these things. Other versions tend to use words such as 'Calamity'.?

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The word translated "evil" or "calamity" in Is 45:7, can (not surprisingly) mean either "evil" or "calamity" - context must determine which:

Is 45:3-8 ‘I will go before you And make the crooked places straight; I will break in pieces the gates of bronze And cut the bars of iron. I will give you the treasures of darkness And hidden riches of secret places, That you may know that I, the Lord, Who call you by your name, Am the God of Israel. For Jacob My servant’s sake, And Israel My elect, I have even called you by your name; I have named you, though you have not known Me. I am the Lord, and there is no other; There is no God besides Me. I will gird you, though you have not known Me, That they may know from the rising of the sun to its setting That there is none besides Me. I am the Lord, and there is no other; I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the Lord, do all these things.’ “Rain down, you heavens, from above, And let the skies pour down righteousness; Let the earth open, let them bring forth salvation, And let righteousness spring up together. I, the Lord, have created it.

The verses before v7 show that God can create calamity. The verse after v8 emphasizes his righteousness. Thus, since the context emphasizes that God can cause calamity, and denies that God creates cevil (in the moral sense), the correct translation is certainly, "calamity".

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Good answer, but do you have any sources for your assertion concerning the ambiguity of the meaning of the word? Preferably a scholarly source such as HALOT rather than Strongs/BDB or other older outdated lexicons. –  Daи Nov 6 '13 at 0:10
HALOT's main definitions: Of little worth, poor, not beneficial, contemptible, reprobate, malicious, injurious, evil, sinister, bringing misfortune, badly depised, ill-deposed, heavy, sullen. For "destruction", see Ez 14:21; for "evil" see Deut 17:5. –  Niobius Nov 7 '13 at 7:30

So, רע is parallel to darkness and in opposition to peace. Both of the meanings you cite are within the range of the word. 'Evil' is closer to a plain sense, but, based on context, many kinds of badness are read. The 'calamity' notion might come from two ideas:

  1. The opposite of peace is not evil, but rather civil disorder or disaster.
  2. Some people are not very comfortable, theologically, with the idea that G-d intentionally created Evil.

That word occupies about 6 columns of HALOT; it's not quite like reading the OED entry for 'dog', but it's up there. In other words, it is used a great deal across the whole range of the text, in many different contents. The result is that any translator can choose from a wide variety of nuances based on her or his intentions and options. I didn't spot a citation to this particular verse in any of the definitions on HALOT, but I don't have the luxury of a computerized copy with a search option.

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What is halot and OED..? –  John Unsworth Nov 3 '13 at 17:26
HALOT = Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, and OED is the Oxford English Dictionary. –  bimargulies Nov 3 '13 at 17:40
Yes I agree! Evil as calamity or as a judgement. What man @ sees as Evil...the destruction of his home for example, God sees as righteous judgement for sin. Why would God position Himself on the side of the punished persons, speaking as if seeing from the punished persons point of View? It gets deeper..? –  John Unsworth Nov 4 '13 at 14:43

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