Evil – What a word! We basically know what it is, but how much do we know about it? What is its origin, and why is it here? Let’s take a look as we explore God and evil.
What is Evil?
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary,” morally reprehensible: sinful, wicked – an evil impulse:” arising from actual or imputed bad character or conduct a person of evil reputation.
According to Nelson’s Bible Dictionary, “A force that opposes God and His work of righteousness in the world (Rom 7:8-19). The word is also used for any disturbance to the harmonious order of the universe, such as disease (Ps 41:8). But the Bible makes it plain that even these so-called “physical evils” are the result of a far more serious moral and spiritual evil that began with the FALL of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (Gen 3).”
“The ultimate source of evil in the world is Satan, also called “the devil” (Luke 8:12) and “the wicked one” (Matt 13:19).
Nelson’s definition states that the ultimate source of evil “in the world” is Satan. However, evil existed long before the fall. Satan bought evil with him and tempted eve to eat from the tree of the knowledge of Good and evil; thus, evil entered the world. So, where did evil come from, and what is its origin?
God and Evil
The one true God is a God of righteousness and love, loving-kindness, grace, and mercy. He is the Creator of all things. But – did He create evil?
Let’s look at what’s contained in Scripture.
5 I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me:
6 That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else.
7 I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.
This passage shines a light on the sovereignty of God. He is the Creator of all things, including evil. From the rising to the setting of the sun, from one end of the earth to the other, all people were to know that there is no God but the Lord Himself (Jehovah, Yahweh). He alone is the Creator, for He alone has created both light and darkness. Moreover, He alone is sovereign, controlling both good and evil, peace and calamity.
Why did God Create Evil?
God desires His creatures to love Him, to have a real love for Him. He could have created creatures that loved Him automatically. However, they would have merely been robots incapable of real love simply because love is not real without the ability not to love. This reality is why God gave man free will to choose to do right (love Him) or to do wrong-evil (disobey Him). His desire is for us to do right but out of love and choice, not out of obligation.
Evil is a by-product of good and existed before Adam and Eve were created. Therefore, when God placed the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden and made a law not to take of its fruit, Adam and Eve had a choice to love God and obey or disobey Him and commit evil, which is sin. Before making their choice, they knew nothing about evil; they were innocent. Had they not eaten its fruit, there would have been no evil in the world.
Evil serves the purpose of establishing real, genuine love relationships between creation and the Creator.
Does God do Evil?
This question raises some controversy. The most common response is, no, God is not evil; therefore, He cannot commit evil. There is some truth in that response. However, it contradicts Scripture that says He does. For example, the Scripture above quotes God as saying, “I create evil.”
Let’s look at one more, Jer. 18:5-8
5 Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying,
6 O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel.
7 At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it;
8 If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil
that I thought to do unto them.
Here is a message to Israel through the prophet Isaiah. He used the illustration of a potter to depict His relationship between His people and Himself.
The message is that He has the sovereign right and power to save or condemn as He chooses. As the potter holds the clay in his hands, the Lord holds His people in the palm of His hand. The metaphor is a descriptive way of saying the Lord can do with His people as He wills.
There is also a clear illustration of God’s mercy and grace: if a nation repents or turns away from their evil, He will repent from the “evil”
He “thought to do unto them.”
There are other Scriptures with God conveying similar thoughts, but the message is clear enough. However, further explanation is required which follows.
There are two kinds of evil, destructive or calamity and moral evil. The Old Testament uses two Hebrew words translated as evil: ra’ah and rash’a’. The Hebrew word used in Isaiah 45:7 is ra’ah, which means calamity, destruction, distress, and hardship.
This evil is the kind of evil the Lord unleashes in His judgment against the unrighteous, those who disobey and break His moral law (sin). The calamities of the world are the result of the original evil sin committed by Adam and Eve. God allows this but it is not moral evil. For more information on this, please read the article, Why Does God Allow evil to exist, on this website.
God does not commit moral evil or sin. Look at what the Scripture reads in Zeph. 1:12,
12 And it shall come to pass at that time, that I will search Jerusalem with candles, and punish the men that are settled on their lees: that say in their heart, The LORD will not do good, neither will he do evil.
The Hebrew word used in this Scripture is rash’a, which is moral evil.
In summary, the Lord does commit evil, but not for evil or immoral purposes (sin). He uses evil only for righteous purposes to bring calamity to the unrighteous, so they may recognize and honor Him. He does not commit moral evil as that kind of evil comes from Satan. As the Scripture reads in James 1:13, “And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else.” NLT
God never has nor will He ever tempt anyone to sin; only Satan.
Please feel free to leave any questions, comments, or concerns below.
30 thoughts on “God and Evil”
That is a very interesting take on God and Evil. Back when I was much younger, I used to believe that God was incapable of doing evil, stirring down to your point made earlier about how the common response to that question is No, God does not commit evil.
You say that god uses Evil to combat against the self righteous, but can you really say that is evil? All superhero shows/movies always explain that Heroes who use their powers to fight evil are not in fact evil, but instead are using their powers to fight for peace, and to stop evil.
So wouldn’t that serve as an explanation for God himself? He is using his powers to fight for peace, to fight for what is right.
Hi David – The Scriptures mentioned in the article quote God as stating that He uses evil. However, He doesn’t use evil (destruction, calamity) for evil purposes but to enforce His righteousness against the unrighteousness, the evildoers, and the transgressors to stop the evil committed for evil purposes.
Because God gave us free will to choose for ourselves how we live our lives proves that he is good. An evil creator would have made us like robots just so we would obey and love him. It is just a pity that being human we don’t always make the right choices. But they are also lessons learned for us. Learning from our mistakes helps us grow. Do you think that giving us the Ten Commandments is still making an impact today as there seems to be more evil deeds happening in our world than ever before?
Unfortunately, Michel, The Ten Commandments, God’s law isn’t making much of an impact today. God and His Word are being greatly ignored, and we are witnessing the result. Romans 1:18-32 explains the consequences on society for ignoring God. He turns man over to his evil nature and mind. The world needs to repent and seek the Lord.
Thanks for commenting!
God is the creator and destroyer.
He is the light of the sun.
HE is above all.
HE creates, shapes us.
HE is the only director of the Universe.
HE creates Evil to let us know the real truth.
This is what I have learned from being born in a Hindu Family.
When reading Bible and this particular post I don’t see any difference in saying. I strongly believe the words.
Amen, Anusaya! Thanks for commenting!
I enjoyed this article very much, as I am very interested in spiritual matters. Many of us have always asked ourselves again and again where evil came from. When I went to the church, I was told it was a mystery. But what we should know is that God shows us both paths and we have the free will and we choose what we will follow.
This is one question i have consistently asked – Why did God create evil. I love the way you answered it. He actually uses evilvto purnish the unrighteous. But when the rieghteous suffer, then it can be attributed to reprove or correction. The case of Job was another unique case. But God used it to prove its supremacy
Yes, sir, God is supreme, and His ways and thoughts are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9). We just have to trust Him and praise Him.
Thanks for commenting!
Thank you for writing this. I enjoyed this article, it has a new way of looking at good and evil. I would never consider evil was coming from above. It is something that no one really talks about. But it makes sense that we should know that God shows us both paths that we have free will and can choose which path we want to follow.
Yes, God has always given mankind a choice to choose between good and evil but encourages us to choose life (Deut. 30:19).
Thanks for commenting!
I found this very informative, especially as to how God allows evil in the form of calamity for judgement but cannot commit moral evil. I truly did not have the depth of knowledge before I read this article on the origin of evil, having always believed that it started with Eve. I find such insights valuable on my Christian walk and appreciate the research you put into this article as well as the evidence you provided to substantiate your claims.
Greetings Happyashleigh – I am happy that the article was informative for you and I thank you for commenting.
Have a blessed day!
Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating the fruit of the tree but was it not Temptation that overtook them, resulting in their disobedience, recognized as evil?
There is a purpose for everything, including evil. Had Adam and Eve obeyed God by not eating the fruit of the tree, would evil have existed?
It is clear from this scripture that evil could not be avoided. Had that been the case, relationships between God and His people would be other than what the scriptures reveal.
Hello Valerie – Yes, it was temptation that Adam and Eve yielded to, but evil existed before this event. However, they were shielded from it. It did not exist in the Garden until they partook of the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:16-17). Evil could have been avoided. Had they not given in to this temptation, evil would not have existed, and relationships between God and His people would indeed be different.
Thanks for commenting!
I like a famous saying: “God lifts the temptation and no one will be saved!”
There are movies and books, with heroes who overcome evil and excite us.
Many are left by God, among trials, to show the good in the fight against evil.
Yes, from the Devil come hard attempts for man to ask for God’s help in the fight.
Man uses his powers to fight for peace, to fight for what is right.
Thanks for commenting, Vasile.
Have a blessed day!
I usually do not comment on religious posts, but yours is very interesting about Evil and did God create evil. Gold created the world and made animals to fill the land for us to enjoy. When comes to evil, with the serpent that Adam & Eve was not to eat from the tree but they chose to listen to the serpent now we all must avoid evils. Evil today is not just breaking gods laws, Evil lays deeper in humans minds like taking the life of Gods children, animals and destroying his beautiful creations our World by building bigger and bigger cities tourist attractions for everyone.
You are correct, Jannette; evil does lie deep in humanity. As the Scripture in Jeremiah 17:9 reads, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?“ This leads to the items of evil you mentioned in your comment and more. Evil is our default nature, which is why we must be “born again” to enter the kingdom of heaven (John 3:3). After evil entered the world, we now have to witness these things and still make a choice to choose between good and evil.
Thanks for commenting!
Nathaniel- Very interesting, thought-provoking article. I commend you for having the courage to write about religion in today’s world of internet bullies and tramping trolls. As I was reading the comments one stood out to me specifically. Anusuyas draws a parallel between your article and his religion of Hinduism. It has always bothered me that so much blood has been shed over the centuries in wars strictly motivated by religious doctrine or simply those who held power at the top of religious appointments.(ie popes, priests, goddesses, etc). When you really study the religions people have fought over for centuries, including the catholics, protestants, Muslims, Jewish, etc, you see there are more similarities than there are differences between all of them!
Also, this may seem blasphemous to some, but I believe evil, like good, is a type of energy. Let’s say a baby is born, with the ability to be good or bad. If that baby is exposed to evil acts, like abuse, rape, manipulation, etc, their energy may shift, causing them to commit evil acts themselves when they have reached a breaking point. Every person has their own capacity for evil energy. We see this over and over with serial killers. Although we have free will, the more evil energy we are exposed to, the easier it becoems to commit evil acts. After all, it was modeled to us, right.
Now this all calls into question nature vs nurture. I would be interested in reading an article with your opinions on whether evil is inherent or nutured within people. In rarer instances, we can not find evil doings in the past of certain evil doers. Therefore it is as if the evil was just in their nature. Although this is a less common example, it happens.
Anyway, all of this is fascinating so thanks for the post! Also thank you for encoudaging discussion and open mindedness.
Hi Ashley – Thank you. I find your comments really interesting! First, I agree that evil is a type of energy. However, in my observation, a baby is born with the ability to be good or bad but has a much stronger propensity to be bad. Notice that in raising children, you never have to teach them to be bad, but to be good. This propensity is due to the (sinful) nature that all humans are born with as default. This fact is verified in Scripture. For example, Ps. 51:5 reads, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” NIV
This Scripture is the acknowledgment of the fact that we are born with a sinful nature. Therefore, it is not evil that is nurtured, for it is inherent, but good that is nurtured. But make no mistake, an evil environment empowers the evil within us.
The Scripture poses a question. In Job 25:4, it reads: “How then can a man be righteous before God? How can one born of woman be pure?” NIV With this sinful nature that we inherit, how can we be righteous? Scripture also supplies the answer. in John 3:3, Jesus said, “…I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” NIV We must be born again to shed the influence of our inherited sinful nature.
This struggle is a constant battle of the soul, as the Scripture also states in Gal 5:17: “For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.” NIV This is known as Spiritual Warfare.
I hope I’ve answered your question. If not, feel free to get in touch, and I’ll be happy to expound further.
Thanks so much for commenting!
Hey Nathaniel, this is an interesting post. Did God really create evil? Is evil a creature or a character? What is meant by free will? Would God enjoy to be worshipped as a robot? And if a creature chooses to do what God doesn’t want, does that make God responsible and worthy accusing?
Thanks for the post.
Greetings Kayamba – God is the creator of all things (Colossians 1:16), including evil. I wouldn’t consider evil to be a creature or a character. Neither is air, but He created it. God does not wish for robots to worship Him, which is why He gave us free will. If we disobey God, we are the ones responsible as He gives us a choice to choose to do good (blessings) or evil (curses) and also encourages us to choose “life” or good (Deuteronomy 30:19).
Thanks for commenting!
I must admit that this article may hit a nerve with some people. Many people have fallen away from faith because they do not understand how a loving God can allow evil.
It´s not hard to see evil in this world, just look around you. Some people walk out on God because they believe that he gave their loved ones cancer and took them away from them.
Some people choose to believe in nothing because religion has left a bad taste for them. It is difficult to understand God with the human mind but with the human heart… the door of communication can remain open.
Dana, you have written a mouthful here. Most people don’t realize that while God created evil, we didn’t have to suffer from it; it was a choice made in the Garden. While evil existed before Adam and Eve, it hadn’t entered the world until they chose to disobey God. Throughout the Bible, we are given a choice to choose life or death. One clear example is found in Deut. 30:19, which reads, “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:” God sent His Son, Jesus, so that we may choose life. Now is the time for us to cling to Him like never before.
Thanks for commenting!
All these things that have to do with evil originated or started with the devil known as satan who wanted to take over the kingdom of God and when he could not he was cast out of heaven down to earth where he and his host of demons influence people to do evil seeking to sadden the heart of God. But the good news is God is here to help us and will one day once and forever put an end to all the evil that exists in this world. To God be the Glory who is King of kings and Lord of lords. Amen.
Amen Norman! Thanks for commenting!
Hello Nathaniel, thank you for this very informative post. And it is brief, as it should be. This is because God does not negotiate over our speculations: it is in His word and is right or wrong, There is no grey area.
As a Christian, I have had this asked many times and I always say, as scripture does, that God cannot do evil – because He is our righteous God!
I enjoyed this post because it is simple and there can be no argument. As we don’t know God face-to-face, He has left His word for all our instruction.
Read the Bible! It will all be clear to you!
A very inspiring post, Nathaniel.
I am glad you enjoyed the post Corinne and thanks for commenting!