What does Isaiah 45.7 mean when it says God creates evil? If God only does good, then why does Isaiah 45.7 say he creates evil?
Isaiah 45.7 says, "I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things" (Isaiah 45.7 KJV bible). This verse appears to contradict what a lot of us believe. Isaiah 45.7 seems to be telling us that the Lord doesn't only make good, but also evil. If God creates darkness and evil, then the implication is that he is behind the evil deeds that are in the world.
We often give God credit for the existence of righteousness and good in the world, but is he also responsible for evil? We know that at least sometimes God doesn't intervene to stop evil acts from being carried out. Does the bible teach that God has created the evil and sin we see in the worldl?
Some have used Isaiah 45.7 to claim that God doesn't just tolerate evil, but that he plays a causative role in its existence. They suggest that God is like a puppet master, creating evil to serve his purpose over time. In their view, God initiates evil or sin as part of his divine plan for the world.
Isaiah 45.7 has also been used by critics in their efforts to discredit the bible. They claim that some parts of the bible teach that God creates sin. They also believe that characters such as the Devil were created later to explain evil in the world.
Despite what it seems to be saying, Isaiah 45.7 offers no support for the view that God creates moral evil. The problem is that the Hebrew word that's translated here as evil (Hebrew: ra), can have a variety of meanings in different contexts. People read it and assume it means moral evil and sin. Ra can mean this, but it can also mean tragedy, calamity, distress, trouble, and misfortune.
Notice how the word ra is used in Amos 3.6, which is a similar verse, "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 KJV bible).
In Amos 3.6, ra is used to refer to troubles and distress within the city. So the Hebrew word ra (used in both Isaiah 45.7 and Amos 3.6), doesn't always refer to the moral evils of sin. In many places in the Old Testament it means calamity.
In this sense ra is different from our english word "evil". Our word "evil" usually describes moral wickedness. It's meaning can vary, but we usually reserve the word to describe sinfullness and perversity. Something or someone that's evil is sociopathic, harmful, deceptive, and sadistic. Unlike our word evil, the Hebrew word ra has more variety in its meaning, and this creates difficulty in translating it.
The quick assumption of some readers is that the evil spoken of in Isaiah 45.7 is moral evil. They assume it means sin and perversity. However, the full context of the passage doesn't support this conclusion. Rather its being used to describe natural evils and troubles.
Notice that the verse lays out a pattern of opposites, "I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil..." (Isaiah 45.7 KJV bible). The opposite of light is darkness, which is the absence of light. Likewise the opposite of peace is not moral evil, but war, trouble, and calamity.
Therefore, Isaiah 45.7 is indicating that God does create evil in the sense of distress, but not that he creates sin. He creates the opposite of peace and blessing, which is calamity. God has full authority to either build up or tear down.
The bible is consistent that God rewards righteousness, but also pours out destruction. He has full authority to bless, but also to curse, "I will be unto Ephraim as a lion, and as a young lion to the house of Judah: I, even I, will tear and go away; I will carry off, and there shall be none to deliver. I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me earnestly" (Hosea 5:14-15 ASV bible).
Isaiah 45.7 and similar passages teach that God blesses righteousness and destroys corruption. God also chastens those he loves, "The instant I speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, or to break down, or to destroy; if that nation against whom I have spoken will turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do to it" (Jeremiah 18:7-8 LITV bible).
Passages such as Jeremiah 18, Hosea 5, and Isaiah 45 are just as true today as in the past. Some might think that God no longer punishes sin. Some believe that God exists to serve and indulge us. Some want a feel good gospel that ignores sin.
However God has not changed, and the past will repeat itself, "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" (Zephaniah 1.12 KJV bible).
The book of Isaiah doesn't teach that God creates sin, or any kind of moral evil. Such claims about Isaiah 45.7 come from a poor understanding of the passage. When we correctly understand the language and context of the verse, its message is clear and consistent with the rest of the scripture. The bible doesn't teach that God creates moral evil.
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