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God created the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and placed it in the Garden of Eden. So could there have been the knowledge of evil if evil itself had actually not been in existence created by God? We know from the Scriptures that everything in existence doesn't exist without God having created it. It seems likely Satan was created to be the servant of God for evil in the service of God's specific purposes in the outworking of history.

The Scriptures declare in Job 12:16:

With him is strength and wisdom: the deceived and the deceiver are his.

Does God not have to be the source of evil for the Bible to say that an evil spirit from God came on Saul in 1 Samuel 18:20?

Also, what is the meaning, what does one think, of 1 Kings 22:20-23 if the source of evil is to be found in an entity independent of God?

And the LORD said, Who shall persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramothgilead? And one said on this manner, and another said on that manner. And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the LORD, and said, I will persuade him. And the LORD said unto him, Wherewith? And he said, I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also: go forth, and do so. Now therefore, behold, the LORD hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets, and the LORD hath spoken evil concerning thee.

And can there be any entity existing independently of the creative will of God?

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  • It's a bit meaningless to ask if God created evil without first defining what you understand the term to mean. After Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, Adam said, "I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself." Are you suggesting God created Adam's fear?
    – enegue
    Dec 17 '18 at 11:33
  • Sin or evil are not objects (including persons), to be created; they are simply (theoretically possible, though not necessarily enacted) spiritual states.
    – Lucian
    Dec 21 '18 at 23:42
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No. Evil has no existence of its own; it is really the absence of good. After God finished creating, the Bible says this:

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good (Genesis 1:31).

In the middle of the Garden was the "tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil" (Genesis 2:9). The New International Version Study Bible makes this comment:

Knowledge of good and evil refers to moral knowledge or ethical discernment. Adam and Eve possessed both life and moral discernment as they came from the hand of God. Their access to the fruit of the tree of life showed that God's will and intention for them was life. Ancient pagans believed that the gods intended man always to be mortal. In eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Adam and Eve sought a creaturely source of discernment in order to be morally independent of God.

People who suggest that God created evil are possibly guilty of not understanding the biblical meaning of "good". Jesus himself said that no man is good, that God alone is good (Matthew 19:17). Before accusing God of creating evil, perhaps it would be prudent to first understand why God is good.

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Evil is not a principle in creation itself, but the wilful distortion of God’s good gifts into an arsenal deployed against God’s reign. (Augustine, “Confessions” 7.15.22) This perversity corrupts that which is noble, suppresses that which is righteous, smears that which is beautiful, and smothers the light of God’s truth.

Consider the example of what Adam did after God challenged him about his disobedience; he blamed the woman whom God had given him; she blamed the serpent; the serpent blamed God. At the end of the day, everybody blamed God and, ever since, we follow this course of vanity. In ancient as in modern dualism, the problem of evil is identified with created nature in an effort to externalize sin by attributing it to the ‘other’ – if not a woman, our physical or social environment, our family, or other circumstances beyond our control, but ultimately God. We look for scapegoats.

Shifting the focus from our own sin to God (ontology and metaphysics) is one of the sources of dualism, ancient and modern. We must shift the ground back to our covenantal transgression rather than ontological fault. Romans chapters 1 to 3 show that in Adam we have all become false witnesses – which is a form of evil, even if we are unaware that we are false witnesses.

If God had been intimidated by the realisation that some of His creatures would abuse His good gifts and thus give rise to evil, then would that have prevented Him from providing those good gifts? If so, then God would not be God, for the very possibility of evil would have stopped Him! But because God IS God, not even the vilest evil of any of His creatures will thwart God's purpose to provide good gifts. God will overcome all evil and the victory of the cross and the resurrection show that evil has already been defeated. That doesn't stop evil doing even more evil, but God has a timetable and He will be proven right by the end of it all. Evil is an attempted negation of God's good.
Source: “Pilgrim Theology” M Horton, pp 144-5 (Zondervan, 2011)

The 1 Samuel and 1 Kings verses show that God is sovereign even over evil. Nothing evil can ultimately thwart God's purposes, for he can take evil (as it were) and control it to accomplish his own will.

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Certainly there is a question as to the definition of evil, yet the answer to this question is according to Isaiah, the LORD created evil:

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

If the LORD is God, then God created evil.

However, it is impossible to say only "God created evil." Because in context, the LORD also forms light, creates darkness and makes peace. In other words, peace is to evil as light is to darkness. One cannot attribute just evil to God; peace must also be acknowledged. For example, in the Garden, it was the tree of both the knowledge of good and the knowledge of evil. From the beginning, man's choice was either avoidance (do not eat) or taste the knowledge of good and evil (not one or the other).

The Hebrew for peace is shalowm which is the concept of being complete. Then one could say after creating both good and evil (Genesis 1 & 2), God brought the matter to completion.

Now the Greek concept of peace, eirēnē, is the absence of war. Thus, God continued to make peace:

Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ..For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. (Romans 5:1,10)

Again, man cannot simply say "God created evil." Man must also say God made peace and the means to have peace with God.

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  • If I scold my young children or give them a smack to discourage certain behaviours, I create evil: distress, misery, injury. If I use stars and smiley stamps to encourage their good behaviour, and then withhold them because their behaviour is less than good, I create evil. God created man with the freedom to do whatever he pleased, and the end result of not intervening in his affairs was that "every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually".
    – enegue
    Dec 18 '18 at 10:17
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    @enegue Thank you for the insight. Perhaps I did not make my point which is not encouraging good behavior or punishment for bad; it is peace after evil. To your point, there are consequences to evil which can be punished. Yet the consequences cannot be "undone" by humans. If a murder is committed, the murderer can be put to death. Yet justice does not bring the dead person back to life. Therefore, it is the LORD who makes peace. If one wants to hold God accountable (or deny His existence) because evil is in the world (and many do) one must also acknowledge God made peace (and many do not). Dec 18 '18 at 16:09
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    @ Revelation Lad; Good answer +1. God absolutely created evil for evil is finite; good (God) is infinite. God uses evil as a tool in His hand, 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."
    – alb
    Dec 20 '18 at 0:08
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    @FaithMendel רַע means evil and is most frequently translated as such. The vocalized form רָ֑ע in Isaiah 45:7 occurs 125 times. The ESV translates as calamity only in Isaiah 45:7. Consider how the ESV renders Isaiah 56:2 - Blessed is the man who does this, and the son of man who holds it fast, who keeps the Sabbath, not profaning it, and keeps his hand from doing any evil.” A few chapters later, the same exact word is "evil." Oct 29 '19 at 22:41
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    @FaithMendel The better word for calamity is אֵיד. Again using the ESV as an example, consider Job 21:30 - that the evil (רָ֑ע) man is spared in the day of calamity (אֵ֭יד), that he is rescued in the day of wrath? Calling it "calamity" in Isaiah 45:7 appears to be a translator’s interpretation to avoid the issue raised by rendering the word literally as, “evil.” Oct 29 '19 at 22:42

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