At least two places in the Hebrew Bible can be understood as God bringing evil.

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

2 Kings 22:20 KJV: Behold therefore, I will gather thee unto thy fathers, and thou shalt be gathered into thy grave in peace; and thine eyes shall not see all the evil which I will bring upon this place. And they brought the king word again.

Another relevant verse is Exodus 12:12, where it seems that God (not an angel) brought death upon the firstborn of the Egyptians.

In the culture and theology of the original authors, would God indeed bring evil?

  • +1 for an interesting question. In my answer, I focused on the three scriptural references you gave. I did not answer the last question, "where does evil come from?" or that in the title, "Is G-D the author of Evil?" because they cannot be answered universally by reading the text. So I attempt to explain how the original speech community might have thought about these questions. I would advise you to look at the help center to see why we don't consider the other type of questions on this site. – Keelan Jan 31 at 8:36
  • This question has been flagged as "off-topic", apparently because it is centered on an idea or concept rather than on a specific verse or passage. I suggest that you either re-write the question or delete it and submit a new question about one of the specific verses that you cite. – Abu Munir Ibn Ibrahim Jan 31 at 9:04
  • @AbuMunirIbnIbrahim preferably not deletion, after I have written an answer which does show the question has potency to be(come) on topic... – Keelan Jan 31 at 10:27
  • @Keelan Correct. Rather than deleting, it would be better to just let the question be closed, thus preserving the rep point for those people who answered, and then submitting a new question that is "on-topic". – Abu Munir Ibn Ibrahim Jan 31 at 13:23
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    I suggested an edit which makes this question more on topic by focusing on the text and the original speech community. Please have a look. Similar questions can always be asked on Mi Yodeya or elsewhere, but there is also a valid hermeneutical question here (even though most answers speak from doctrine). – Keelan Jan 31 at 15:18

Current scholarship understands none of these verses as God bringing evil (רע).

In Isa 45:7, the roots are יצר "form" for light and עשׂה "make" for peace, but ברא for darkness and evil. The meaning of ברא is fiercely debated in recent scholarship. The most recent article which gives a good overview (although it also takes a definite stance) is that of Van Wolde (2017), who writes (621):

A well-known text in which ברא Qal presents an inexplicable usage of ברא if it denoted "to create" is Isa 45:6–7: "I am the former (יוצר) of light and the creator (בורא) of darkness. I am the maker (עושׂה) of good and the creator (בורא) of evil." Did God create darkness? If a reference to Gen 1 is presupposed in Isa 45, this would be impossible, since in Gen 1 darkness is pre-existent. And did God create evil, at least according to Isa 45? In biblical scholarship Isa 45:7–8 is thought to be unique in regard to the notion that chaos and evil were created by the deity. However, if the verb ברא designated "to separate" there would be no problem at all. Then the text states that "God formed the light and separated it from darkness" (as indeed, is stated in Gen 1:2–3), "that he made good and separated it from evil."

Van Wolde, 2017. "Separation and Creation in Genesis 1 and Psalm 104, A Continuation of the Discussion of the Verb ברא." Vetus Testamentum 67:611–647.

See the full article and its references for an overview of the debate, where Van Wolde claims that ברא means "to separate" rather than "to create".

In 2 Kgs 22:20 (and its parallel 2 Chr 34:28), the "gathering to one's ancestors" that is done by God is not a negative thing. This expression occurs rather frequently, but usually in the niphal without external referent ("Abraham was gathered to his ancestors" in Gen 25:8 for instance). It expresses a rather beatific death. Some scholars have suggested it means a non-violent death, although in light of the case of Josiah this is difficult to maintain. Although quite old, a good study of the expression is given by Alfrink (1948): "L'expression נֶאֶסַף אֶל־עַמָּיו", Oudtestamentische Studiën 5:118–131.

In the case of Exod 12:12, this is violence against a nation oppressing the Hebrews. It is not seen as evil (at least not by the original speech community).

  • Intersting. It seems that he took the same prefix בר and then said that ברא is ברר? Have nobody adviced that before 2017?? – A. Meshu May 13 at 18:40
  • @A.Meshu ברר and ברא are probably related, as many words with similar roots (III-א, III-ה, geminate, biconsonantal, I-י, etc.). But ברר is a little different, as it is separation of A from B (hence meanings like 'purify'), whereas Van Wolde suggests ברא is separation of A and B, emphasising the action rather than the result and without focusing on A over B. She backs this up with a broad study of the niphal stem in BH, which she presented at the SBL meeting last October. I believe a paper with this background is in preparation but not published yet. When it is, I can add a reference here. – Keelan May 13 at 19:02
  • your examples for relations/connections are from other type. The most famous example for the type i mean will be פר: פרא,פרב,פרד,פרה,פרז,פרח,פרט,פרכ,פרמ,פרס,פרע,פרפ,פרצ,פרק,פרש - all this roots basic mean is from the same semantic field. You can find more examples in Joshua Blau work: " A Grammer of Biblical Hebrew" , and "On Pseudo-Corrections in Some Semitic Languages" – A. Meshu May 13 at 20:02
  • @A.Meshu ah, that's what you mean. Joüon-Muraoka also note this in their 2006 grammar (§34a, n. 1, also including the well-known examples with קצ־), but also remark that "it is wrong to say that all present triconsonantal roots can be ultimately reduced to biconsonantal roots". It is a useful device, but is not hard evidence, so it cannot be used on its own if we were to argue that ברא indeed has a meaning of separation. The approach via the niphal stem seems more promising to me. – Keelan May 13 at 20:08
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    @A.Meshu I didn't want to insinuate that :-) Just wanted to get the importance of the similarity straight. I will ping you here when I hear it has been published! – Keelan May 13 at 20:19

I don’t’ think you can answer this question without offering an opinion. It’s my considered opinion, that there is no conflict between God creating evil while still keeping intact, His character as 100% pure goodness and love. If we read the simple context of Isaiah 45:7 and apply Occam's razor, we can allow the simplest answer to be the best answer.

The verse says “I form the light and create darkness.” The Hebrew meaning for the word form is to squeeze into shape, like a potter molds clay. This indicates to me that the light is already there, it’s not created, it already exists. This makes perfect sense, since light is a part of God’s inherent character, as confirmed by 1 John 1:5; “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all”. Hence, light is infinite as God is infinite. God just took the eternal light and squeezed/formed/poured it into a physical space.

Evil on the other hand, is finite. Verse 7 states that both darkness and evil are created. We know from scripture that God has the knowledge of both good and evil. So, consistent with the truth of 1 John 1:5, where “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all”, darkness/evil lie outside God’s character and had to be created.

Since we can not run away from the fact that all of existence is by the providence of God and nothing lies outside His purview, we understand that God then, uses the finite evil as a tool in His hand. This is supported by verses like Isaiah 54:16 (Behold, I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire, and that bringeth forth an instrument for his work; and I have created the waster to destroy.)

I will end my answer here and just deal with the original question's reference to Isaiah 45:7 for to comment further would require discourse on the virtually the whole of the bible; Old Testament covenant vs New Testament, law vs grace, unconditional love, free will etc. I will make just one final comment.

I believe verses like Romans 8:18 (For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.) would support the same logic that understands that the finite (evil/darkness) cannot be compared to the infinite (good/light).

Evil comes from man.

The word translated as "evil" in both Isa. 45:7 and 2 Kings 22:20 is Strong's Hebrew 7451: "רָע" or "ra", and means adversity. It is used sometimes as an adjective, and other times as a noun.

Brown-Driver-Briggs (BDB) lists adjectives meaning bad, disagreeable, malignant, unpleasantness, evil days, misery, and unhappiness when speaking of people, diseases, severe judgments, etc. Under nouns, BDB lists evil, injury, distress, misery, and calamity. (Source: here)

The ESV translates Isa. 45:7 as

"I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the Lord, who does all these things."

Whereas, the AMP has "creating disaster", the ERV has "I bring peace and I cause trouble", and YLT has "making peace and preparing evil".

In 2 Kings 22:14-20 the prophetess Huldah relayed God's word to King Josiah of the judgment that was going to come upon Judah for their wicked idolatry, and in vs. 16 says,

"Thus said Jehovah, Lo, I am bringing in evil unto this place and on its inhabitants, all the words of the book that the king of Judah hath read," (YLT)

and concludes in vs. 20,

"therefore, lo, I am gathering thee unto thy fathers, and thou hast been gathered unto thy grave in peace, and thine eyes do not look on any of the evil that I am bringing in on this place;' and they bring the king back word." (YLT)

God declared His judgment upon Judah for their idolatry - spiritual fornication against Him - and gave them over to the evil ones of the pagan nations. He wanted Josiah to know that He was staying His judgment until after Josiah's death.

Evil comes from the heart of man (Gen. 8:21; Eccl. 9:3; Matt. 15:18-19; Rom. 7:20).

Jer. 17:9-10,

"9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? 10 I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings." (KJV)

When God's cup of indignation and His wrath reaches His limits, then He brings judgment upon the wicked and the evil who have turned away from Him. We are the authors of evil, and when we refuse Him, then He removes His protection and allows wickedness and misery and evil days to overcome us.

Rom. 1: 21-25,

"Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. 24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: 25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen." (KJV)

So, He "creates evil" by bringing in the evil ones to rule over those who will not have Him reign in their hearts. He creates disaster and calamity in the course of pouring out His judgment.

And it was His judgment poured out upon the first born of the Egyptians in Ex. 12:12:

"For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD." (KJV)

He is the Creator, and as the created we are subject to His judgment. He created us for good works (Eph. 2:10) and to show His glory (Isa. 43:7).

Man caused sin to enter this world (Rom. 5:12). We are the ones who continue to create sin, to create evil. God continually has to deal with it, and His long-suffering does have limits. When man's wickedness carried on too long, and they would not turn back to Him, then He would bring in "evil," create calamity, or prepare disagreeable and unpleasant circumstances to punish the wicked.

(Bold emphasis is mine.)

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