An article in the February 1988 issue of the Megiddo Message entitled “Does God Create Evil?” brings up another question. The article is an explanation of Isa. 45:7: “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.” The explanation of the verse is reasonable and harmonious with other texts, and I accept it. But please explain other texts. For instance, “Out of the mouth of the most High, proceedeth not evil and good?” (Lam. 3:38); as well as, “Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?” (Amos. 3 :6).
God is not the author of evil. In Mosaic Law, God set before the Israelites two alternatives: life and good or death and evil. The choice was theirs. The credit was theirs if they obeyed, the blame theirs for doing evil. Just the same, we can choose to do good or wrong, but God reserves the right to punish by sending “evil” upon us for our disobedience.
The Bible uses the word “evil” with more than one meaning, as is common with words. The original word translated “evil” in our Common Version could have been translated “adversity, affliction, bad, calamity, distress, sorry, trouble, disobedience or sin.”
Israel was a nation favored of God and with that favor, came responsibility. Amos reminds Israel of how highly she has been favored, how she has gone wayward and the repeated warnings she had ignored. Verse 6 records one more warning of impending punishment if they continue in evil. In a footnote of the New English Bible we read: “If there is evil in a city, will not the Lord act?” Indeed He will act, but punishment can be averted, and this was the purpose of Amos’ warning. God will not always let evil go unpunished when it is of those who have both the responsibility and opportunity to do right.
A footnote in the New Catholic Version is also helpful. “He speaks of the evil of punishments of war, famine, pestilence, desolation, etc., but not of the evil of sin, of which God is not the author.”
The thought in Lamentations 3:38 is similar. “Is it not from the mouth of the Most High That woe and well-being proceed? Why should a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?” The Lord can recompense with either blessing or ill, according to one’s just deserts. He can prosper the faithful and mete out consequences for those who disobey. And when He does, says Jeremiah, what right has any man to complain when he is being punished for sin. It is clear that, through the prophets, “evil” is only punishment for sin and could be avoided. Any calamity suffered is the direct result of human misconduct, stemming from their own thoughts and actions.
Freedom of choice is fundamental to God’s dealings with humankind (Josh. 24:15). He is seeking those who will choose the best. God does not predetermine good or evil, for that would void the contract of free will given to us by Him. If humans did evil because God authored it, He would be grossly unfair in rewarding good or punishing evil, both of which He has promised to do.
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17). All sin and evil is of human devising.