By Hoyt H. Houchen
Question: Please explain Isaiah 45:7 where God says, “I create evil. ” Does not only good come from God?
Reply: We read in Isaiah 45:7: “1 form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil; I am Jehovah, that doeth all these things.” This verse raises the question: did God actually create only good?
God’s original creation was very good (Gen. 1:31). Also, we are told that God “cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempteth no man” (Jas. 1:13). Since God is moral (sinless), moral evil is contrary to His very nature. God, then, does not create moral evil.
In what sense does God create evil? The NASB translates Isaiah 45:7: “The one forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the Lord who does all this.” The word rendered by the NASB, “calamity” is the Hebrew word rah, which basically means “evil” (either moral or misfortune evil). God is addressing Cyrus (v. 1), the Medo-Pqrsian king who was later to “subdue kingdoms.” Specifically, he would capture Babylon because of the wickedness that prevailed in that city. God was using Cyrus as His instrument to inflict this punishment. The prophecy was uttered more than a hundred years before Cyrus was born, but it was all literally fulfilled. So, in view of the meaning of the Hebrew word in the verse, and the context of the verse, the word “evil” which God creates refers to the calamities as punishment upon wicked nations. God, therefore, does not create moral evil, but calamities or misfortunes come upon man as a result of his sin (see Ezek. 18:20; Rom. 5:12; 6:23; Jas. 1: 14,15).
There are instances in the Old Testament when God brought calamity upon people as a result of their moral evil or wickedness. Because of wickedness, God destroyed the earth with water, sparing only Noah and his family (Gen. 6:5-8). God afflicted the Egyptians with ten plagues because of the hardness of Pharaoh’s heart (Ex. 7-12). God smote the Philistines with a great discomfiture and tumors while !he ark of the covenant was among them (1 Sam. 5:9). Hell is created by God for those who are disobedient to His will (Matt. 25:41; 2 Thess. 1:7-9; Rev. 21:8; etc.) These are examples of evil which God created – calamity, adversity, misfortune – all punishment as a result of moral evil. He did not create the moral evil. God created man a free moral agent. When man violates God’s moral law, it is man, not God who is responsible for moral evil.
In 1 Samuel 16:14, we are told, “Now the Spirit of Jehovah departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from Jehovah troubled him.” This verse has posed a problem for some in that they assume that this is a cause of moral evil coming directly from God. But actually, Saul’s sin broke fellowship with God, and God allowed the evil spirit to trouble him. Again, this serves as an example of the evil consequences that come upon those guilty of sin or moral evil. The same truth is illustrated again in Saul’s case (1 Sam. 18: 10). God is the author of moral law and He is also the author of consequences which follow because of the violation of that law (1 Jn. 3:4).
Not all physical disasters today such as floods, tornados and earthquakes are due to sin (Lk. 13:1-5). Christians suffer in such calamities along with the wicked. Neither is it to be supposed that all suffering or affliction is the result of sin (see Jn. 9:2). In fact, Christians may suffer affliction as a means of chastisement (Heb. 12:7-9). Persecution is an example (2 Tim. 3:12). Chastisement of Christians should motivate them to greater faith. We all suffer misfortunes in life – illness, disappointments, loss of loved ones and many more, but the Christian looks forward to heaven where none of these exist. Men do often blame God for consequences which result from their moral evil.
A simple solution is not always found for the problem of evil in the world, but we do know that God does not create moral evil and we can always be assured that whatever God does is right and in harmony with His moral character (Gen.18:25).
Guardian of Truth XXXI: 4, p. 101
February 19, 1987