"What does Isaiah 45.7 mean when it says God creates evil? My ex-husband showed me this scripture and I was stunned. I always thought that God only does good, but Isaiah 45.7 says that he creates evil.", (Question from Jackie Chavez).
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 seems to contradict what a lot of Christians 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 perpetrated 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 the Lord doesn't intervene to stop evil acts from being carried out. Some have used Isaiah 45.7 to argue that God doesn't just tolerate evil, but that he plays a causative role in its existence. They claim that God is like a puppet master, creating evil in the world to serve a greater purpose over time.
Despite what it seems to be saying, Isaiah 45.7 offers no scriptural support for the view that God creates moral evil. The problem is that the Hebrew word that is 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, misfortune and so on.
This is how 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 this instance, Ra' is used to refer to trouble 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 this sense the ra' is not that different from our english word evil. Our word evil doesn't always refer to sin and wickedness. Evil can also mean trouble, distress, and calamity. One might have an evil time trying to get something to work, or speak of social evils etc.. Similarly, we can't assume that the evil spoken of in Isaiah 45.7 is the kind of perverse wickedness we usually associate with the word.
The context further supports the idea that the evil or ra' mentioned in Isaiah 45.7 doesn't mean moral evil. One notices 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. Moral evil and sin might work against peace, but they are not its exact opposite. Therefore, the context supports that God does create evil in the sense of calamity and distress, but not that he creates sin.
Isaiah 45.7 is just as true today as it was in the past. A lot of ministries don't like to use the word "sin", (maybe if it was spelled $in they'd use it more). There remains a widespread attitude that God exists to serve and indulge us. Many churches have replaced God's Word with a feel good message designed to gin people up on a psychological high. Every Sunday, people get sold on a false gospel in which Christ is their ticket to wordly desires, all the while giving them a license to sin, "While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage" (2nd Peter 2.19 KJV bible).
Isaiah 45.7 and many other scriptures teach against this false gospel. God not only rewards faithfulness, but punishes sin, often chastening those he loves (Hebrews 12). God will especially be a force for calamity and destruction upon those who don't fear his name, even if they consider themselves children of light, "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 [ra'a]" (Zephaniah 1.12 KJV bible).
Clifford 18 Mar 2011, 02:38What is evil? Or how do you measure evil? It is the same as measuring cold. Cold gets measure by the absence of heat. Evil gets measured by the absence of the presence of the Almighty King YHWH. Evil came over Israel because they worshipped Astarte and other pagan “gods” and committed immoral acts with cult prostitutes, male and female, to appease their piece of stone or gold covered wood. These immoral acts made them blind to the Almighty Great Creator of Heaven and Earth.
Doug Buckley 18 Mar 2011, 12:56Hi Clifford, I tend to agree that evil is what takes over in the absence of God. There might be exceptions such as when God sends the evil spirit into Saul, but these are not the rule.
Janai 21 Dec 2011, 00:25Extremely helpful article, paesle write more.
Don Thomas 19 Sep 2012, 01:19Please read the verses in Isaiah 45 as God speaks to Cyrus prior to the word in 45:7 "I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil".
Doug Buckley 20 Sep 2012, 04:39Hi Don, I don't read from Isaiah 45.7 that God creates or does evil. Its more saying that he can tear down and build up. The word evil in this context means calamity or distress. When God creates calamity or tears something down, he's not creating evil.
patsy 20 Jul 2013, 02:19in PLAiN English, His word says HE DID CREATE !
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