What or who is the source of evil on the earth? Is it God (YHVH Elohim), the devil or something else? This is a legitimate and honest question since so much evil exists all around us. If YHVH Elohim is the Creator of everything, then does this mean that he also created evil? If so, then how can this be, since the Bible reveals that YHVH is all good, loving, holy, righteous and sinless and perfect? If not, then who or what is the source of evil? It is important to understand the source and origin of evil, for the answer reflects either positively or negatively on the innate character of Elohim and the validity of the Bible, which promotes itself as the inspired Word of Elohim.
The answers to the question of who created evil seem like an unanswerable conundrums to many people. In attempt to resolve this issue, too many people have thrown up their hands in frustration only to become agnostics or even atheists. In reality, the answer is quite simple, and no one’s faith needs to be shaken much less obliterated as we will discover below. Frankly, to answer this seeming perplexing question, it is necessary to stop thinking like finite humans, start thinking outside the paradigmatic box of our physical earthly existence and understand the concept of evil from a biblical, heavenly and logical perspective. It is then that the answer as to the source and origin of evil neatly reveals itself as we are about to discover below.
The belief that YHVH Elohim created evil is often based on a single passage in the Bible. In Isaiah 45:7 we read,
“I [YHVH speaking] form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I, YHVH, do all these things.” (KJV, emphasis added)
Based on this verse, some people believe that all the evil that occurs in the world is YHVH’s fault. The stickler, however, is this: If he is the creator of evil, how can everything about him and all that he does also be good? Because of the belief that YHVH created everything including evil, some people have refused to serve and obey YHVH and questioned or even rejected his Truth as found in the Bible. After all, they reason, how can we believe much less serve a God who claims to be good, yet who is also the creator and purveyor of evil? These are valid considerations that need addressing.
In addressing this issue, let’s first ask a simple question. What does the Bible mean when YHVH says, “I create evil,”? For a better understanding of this seeming enigmatic phrase in Isaiah, let us look at how some other English Bibles translate this same verse. As we are about to discover, there is not a unanimous consensus among Bible translators as to the exact meaning of the biblical Hebrew word for evil. We will soon see that the biblical definition of evil is perhaps broader than at first thought. This alone can change one’s perspective dramatically regarding one’s understanding of the concept of evil. Perhaps our perspective is limited resulting in our coming to wrong conclusions.
I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity [Heb. ra]; I, the LORD, do all these things.’ (NKJV, emphasis added)
I form the light and create the darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster [Heb. ra]; I the LORD, do all these things. (NIV, emphasis added)
I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity [Heb. ra], I am the LORD, who does all these things. (ESV, emphasis added)
I form light, I create darkness; I make well-being, I create woe [Heb. ra]; I, ADONAI, do all these things. (CJB, emphasis added)
Based on how other Bibles translate the Hebrew word for evil, this begs an important question. What is the biblical Hebrew word for evil and what is its definition in light of the fact that different Bibles translate the Hebrew word for evil so differently? The Hebrew word in question is ra or ra’ah It is the generic Hebrew word meaning “evil”, but, as we see below, it can mean much more than “evil” (as quoted from the Online Bible Deluxe Software Program):
- 1a) bad, disagreeable, malignant
- 1b) bad, unpleasant, evil (giving pain, unhappiness, misery)
- 1c) evil, displeasing
- 1d) bad (of its kind – land, water, etc)
- 1e) bad (of value)
- 1f) worse than, worst (comparison)
- 1g) sad, unhappy
- 1h) evil (hurtful)
- 1i) bad, unkind (vicious in disposition)
- 1j) bad, evil, wicked (ethically)
- 1j1) in general, of persons, of thoughts
- 1j2) deeds, actions n m
- 2) evil, distress, misery, injury, calamity
- 2a) evil, distress, adversity
- 2b) evil, injury, wrong
- 2c) evil (ethical) n f
- 3) evil, misery, distress, injury
- 3a) evil, misery, distress
- 3b) evil, injury, wrong
- 3c) evil (ethical)
As we can see, “evil” is only one of the many and varied definitions of the Hebrew word ra, which can also mean “distress, adversity, unhappiness and sadness” among other things.
Now in light of the broader meaning of the word ra, let us ask a couple of questions and briefly explore the concept of evil. For example, can “bad” things happen to people that end up being good for the person in the end? Similarly, are there things that on the surface appear to be bad, injurious and hurtful, but in reality are for our own safety and protection? Absolutely yes to both questions. Perhaps you have never thought of bad or “evil” in this way, but it, nevertheless, is within the definition of biblical word for evil. Keep these points in mind as we proceed in our discussion and expand our understanding of the concept of bad and evil .
Let’s continue to broaden our understanding of the Hebrew word ra. According to The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, the primary definition of Hebrew word ra is “the lack of quality or inferior quality of something or someone and is thus unable to meet standards of value or function beneficially.” The word can connote “moral deficiencies” and is contrasted to the Hebrew word tov which is the generic word meaning “good”. The TWOT goes on to note that Elohim [as the Just Judge of the universe] acts with painful punishment against evil or ra against people who refuse to repent of their wicked, evil or sinful actions. If he failed to take such action against evil, then evil would take over the earth and universe. Do you think this is impossible or that this has never happened before? If so, go read what Scripture says about Satan and the angelic rebellion that occurred before the creation of humans (see Isa 14:12–17; Ezek 28). It happened once and it can happen again.
Let’s now explore another ramification concerning the concept of evil and its source and origin. Is YHVH the creator of evil in a direct sense, or is he merely the creator of the spiritual machinery that set up the laws of cause-and-effect such that evil consequences are the result of wrong choices that people make? That is, when people break YHVH’s laws, evil (in the sense of punishment) befalls them as a result of their actions and the resulting consequences that they bring on themselves. I believe that the answer to this question is yes. Even as blessings and goodness are reaped by those who follow his laws, so curses come upon those who disobey YHVH. You reap what you sow. One is the cause of either the evil or the blessings that comes upon them per the choices they make. As we go along in this study, we shall see that the Bible reveals that people bring evil upon themselves by their wrong choices. So yes, YHVH created the laws and along with consequences, good or bad, that will fall on people based on their obedience or disobedience to his laws. In this sense, his Torah-laws that, in reality, or neutral. What humans do vis-à-vis these laws based on the choices they make and their subsequent actions will determine the consequences they will experience whether good or evil, blessings or curses, life or death, rewards or punishment, victory or calamity. This is akin, on the physical level to the law of gravity, which is in itself neutral. It is a blessing in that it keeps people from floating into outer space and to their ultimate death. However, at the same gravity becomes a curse if one jumps off a cliff or a tall building. Whether the law of gravity is a blessing or a curse is based on the choices that one makes.Continue reading
For the written article on this subject, go to https://hoshanarabbah.org/blog/2023/01/22/did-elohim-create-evil-3/.
Psalm 81:3, Blow the trumpet [Heb. shofar] at the time of the New Moon [Heb. chodesh], at the full moon [Heb. keseh meaning full moon or concealed, covered — scholars disagree as to its meaning and the origin of the word], on our solemn feast day [Heb. chag] — NKJV. The ArtScroll Stone Edition Tanach translates this verse alternatively as follows,
Blow the shofar at the moon’s renewal, at the time appointed for our festive day.
The origins of the Hebrew word keseh behind the phrase “full moon” is uncertain and there is debate among the experts on this subject. Some Hebrew lexicons relate it to a Hebrew root word meaning “to conceal, to cover” (e.g., Gesenius; Strong’s number H3677 cp. H3678), while others tell us that it means “fullness; full moon” (e.g., Brown Driver Briggs Hebrew Lexicon; cp. The TWOT; Strong’s). BDB tells us that the origin of keseh is unknown and that it may be an Aramaic loan word meaning “full moon.” Gesenius in his lexicon states that the etymology of keseh isn’t clear, but he favors the idea of the moon being covered or concealed in darkness as opposed to being covered in light (i.e., in its full moon state).
The only other usage of keseh in the Scriptures is found in Prov 7:20, which gives us no clue as to the exact meaning of the word.
Orthodox Jewish scholars tell us that keseh means “to conceal or to cover.” They say that the only biblical festival that occurs at the time of the new moon (biblically, when the first sliver of the new moon becomes visible) is Yom Teruah (or Rosh HaShanah), which occurs on the first day of the seventh month (in late summer). At this time, the moon is nearly completely covered or concealed except for a small, visible sliver.
The next phrase in this verse speaks of a solemn feast day, which is the Hebrew word chag. This word refers to the three pilgrimage festivals, which are Passover and the Feast (or chag) of Unleavened, the Feast (or chag) of Weeks or Pentecost and the Feast (or chag) of Tabernacles (Exod 23:14–16; Deut 16:16).
Jewish scholars relate the word chag to Yom Teruah (which they say refers to Rosh HaShanah, see The ArtScroll Tanach Series Tehillim/Psalms Commentary on this verse). The problem with this interpretation is that the Scriptures never call the day of the new moon (rosh chodesh) a chag, nor is Yom Teruah technically a chag either in the strictest sense of the meaning of the word and its usage in Scripture. Therefore, the word keseh, if it means “concealment” must be referring to both the new moon day (the first day of each month, and to Yom Teruah, which occurs on the first day of the seventh month), while the chag must be referring to the three pilgrimage festivals.
Those scholars who take the word keseh to mean “full moon” say that the phrase in this verse containing this word refers to the pilgrimage festivals (Passover/Feast of Unleavened Bread, Feast of Weeks, and Feast of Tabernacles), which all occurred on or very near the time of the full moon.
Whichever interpretation you side with, the bottom line is this: The Scriptures command us to sound the shofar at the time of the New Moon, on Yom Teruah and during the three pilgrimage feasts. (See also Num 10:10.)
Psalm 82:1, Elohim stands…the gods/Congregation of the mighty.Dr. Michael Heiser in his two books, Reversing Hermon and The Unseen Realm puts forth a convincing argument that the elohim mentioned in this verse are what Scripture refers to in many places as “the hosts of heaven” and refer to Elohim’s divine heavenly council. This same council is also referred to in Deut 33:2; 1 Kgs 22:19; 2 Chron 18:18; Job 15:8; Jer 23:18; Dan 7:9–10 and Heb 2:1; Acts 7:53.
“The congregation of the mighty” seems to be a reference to Elohim acting as the Supreme Judge among his divine, heavenly council that carries out his orders. This is more than the traditional “Godhead” (i.e., the Father, Son and Holy Spirit) and also includes angelic and spirit beings, and even Satan himself.
From time to time, Elohim gathers his council together as we see in Job (Job 1:6; 2:1). Even lying spirits are subject to and do the bidding of Elohim who presides over this council also referred to as the host of heaven (1 Kgs 22:19–23). Moreover, some of the “Us” passages in the Scriptures, which have typically been attributed to the “Godhead,” according to Heiser, likely refer to this divine counsel (e.g., Gen 11:7; Ezek 44:6). This has been the view of ancient Jewish sages as well.
Modern biblical theologians have traditionally taken a non-supernaturalistic view of Psalm 82:1 by saying that the gods here refer to human rulers. While elohim may by definition and biblical usage refer to human rulers, this passage cannot be limited to this definition alone, since verse seven refers to these gods or elohim as “dying like men” as a result of Elohim’s divine judgment on them because of their wickedness. This threat makes little or no sense if it is referring only to human rulers.
For the record, Yeshua quotes verse six in reference to human rulers (John 10:34; 14:30; 16:11), so this passage should not be taken to refer only to Elohim’s divine counsel or just to human rulers, but probably to both. This is because behind human rulers are evil spirits or principalities that govern the nations (Dan 10:20; Eph 6:12; Rev 13:2) and all of these are under the aegis of Satan, who has his own kingdom (Matt 12:26) and is presently the ruler of this world (John 12:31); however, even Satan’s kingdom is under the ultimate authority of YHVH Elohim.
The idea that there were and are unseen evil spirits and demi-gods that rule the nations of the world behind the scenes is revealed in the book of First Enoch and is also found in traditional ancient Mesopotamian historical accounts and forms the basis for the ancient Greek mythos, as Heiser proves.
Additionally, we learn from Genesis chapter ten (in the Table of the Nations) that, at that time, there were seventy nations of the world that rebelled against YHVH at the Tower of Babel (Gen 11). Interestingly, and a little later, Jacob had 70 descendants who went down to Egypt (Exod 1:5) and who become the children of Israel. From them, Moses chose 70 elders to rule over Israel (Exod 24:1), which would eventually became the Great Sanhedrin that ruled the Jewish people. YHVH then commissioned Israel to evangelize the apostate nations by being a spiritual light to them (Deut 4:5–8)—a task they utterly failed to perform. Picking up where ancient Israel failed in its mission, Yeshua chose 70 disciples not only to replace the Jewish Sanhedrin in spiritual authority over the people of Elohim, but to go forth and to preach the gospel to the 70 nations (Luke 10:1–12, 17; Acts 1:8 cp. Matt 28:18–20) that had been lost to the kingdom of Satan at the Tower of Babel, thereby to reclaim the world for the kingdom of Elohim at the devil’s expense.
Eventually, and hopefully in the not too distant future, the resurrected and glorified saints, who will become the sons of Elohim and will be adopted into his divine family as small E elohim (John 1:12; 1 John 3:1; Gal 3:26; Rom 8:14; Eph 1:5), will rule and reign with Elohim (capital E Elohim, Rev 1:6; 5:10; 20:6) over the new heavens and new earth. This will all be to Satan and his kingdom’s detriment and to that of the small E elohim human rulers of his present-day earthly kingdom, all of whom will be cast into the lake of fire at the end of the age (Rev 20:10).
Psalm 82:6, You are gods…children of the Most High.This statement likely has a dual meaning or double entendré. It can refer to the righteous saints as Yeshua alludes to in John 10:34, or possibly to the demon-nephilim of Genesis 6:4–6 who were the spawn of the heavenly angelic hosts who became the fallen angels and who cohabited with women in the pre-flood world as the context of this psalm seems to suggest.