Isa 45:7 – God creates evil

Athetotheist wrote: Sun Dec 10, 2023 2:37 pmI form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.
(Isaiah 45:7)

The passage is in the context that God is most powerful and there is no other god like Him.

[Isa 45:5-22 KJV] 5 I [am] the LORD, and [there is] none else, [there is] no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me: 6 That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that [there is] none beside me. I [am] the LORD, and [there is] none else. 7 I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these [things]. 8 Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness: let the earth open, and let them bring forth salvation, and let righteousness spring up together; I the LORD have created it. 9 Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! [Let] the potsherd [strive] with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands? 10 Woe unto him that saith unto [his] father, What begettest thou? or to the woman, What hast thou brought forth? 11 Thus saith the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker, Ask me of things to come concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hands command ye me. 12 I have made the earth, and created man upon it: I, [even] my hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded. 13 I have raised him up in righteousness, and I will direct all his ways: he shall build my city, and he shall let go my captives, not for price nor reward, saith the LORD of hosts. 14 Thus saith the LORD, The labour of Egypt, and merchandise of Ethiopia and of the Sabeans, men of stature, shall come over unto thee, and they shall be thine: they shall come after thee; in chains they shall come over, and they shall fall down unto thee, they shall make supplication unto thee, [saying], Surely God [is] in thee; and [there is] none else, [there is] no God. 15 Verily thou [art] a God that hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour. 16 They shall be ashamed, and also confounded, all of them: they shall go to confusion together [that are] makers of idols. 17 [But] Israel shall be saved in the LORD with an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end. 18 For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I [am] the LORD; and [there is] none else. 19 I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth: I said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain: I the LORD speak righteousness, I declare things that are right. 20 Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, ye [that are] escaped of the nations: they have no knowledge that set up the wood of their graven image, and pray unto a god [that] cannot save. 21 Tell ye, and bring [them] near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? [who] hath told it from that time? [have] not I the LORD? and [there is] no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; [there is] none beside me. 22 Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I [am] God, and [there is] none else.

The sovereignty of God is also displayed in using Cyrus, a Persian king, to do God’s will as explained in verses 1-4.

[Isa 45:1-4 KJV] 1 Thus saith the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut; 2 I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron: 3 And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the LORD, which call [thee] by thy name, [am] the God of Israel. 4 For Jacob my servant’s sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me.

So, in verse 7, what does it mean God creates evil?

If we take evil to be moral evil, God does not necessarily directly create moral evil. Evil is a by-product free will. Without volition, there is no concept of moral evil. With volition, there is the capability of doing what one ought to do, which can be contrary to what one actually does.

How can we reconcile it at once with His perfect goodness and unbounded power? On our hypothesis we reconcile it with His power by the plain and obvious argument that even Omnipotence cannot at once create freewill and not create it; that, when once He has created it, even the Almighty cannot interfere with it without destroying it.

Biblical Illustrator

So, God would be the secondary causation of evil since God created free will.

However, free will only applies to people, what about natural disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, etc.? Yes, it could be possible God is directly causing such things, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be. As skeptics like to state, we have modern science to explain weather and geological phenomena. So, God would be secondary causation of natural disasters as well, at least for the vast majority of cases. Even in legal documents they allow for “acts of God”.

But the passage does not have to mean moral evil. In Isa 45:7, the word “evil” is the Hebrew word “ra” which has multiple meanings:

evil (442x), wickedness (59x), wicked (25x), mischief (21x), hurt (20x), bad (13x), trouble (10x), sore (9x), affliction (6x), ill (5x), adversity (4x), ill favoured (3x), harm (3x), naught (3x), noisome (2x), grievous (2x), sad (2x), miscellaneous (34x). … v/wlc/0-1/

“Ra” also means bad things that happen, such as disasters, calamities, and disappointments.

It is emblematically true also that calamity, ignorance, disappointment, and want of success are ordered by him; and not less true that all the moral darkness, or evil, that prevails on earth, is under the direction and ordering of his Providence. There is no reason to think, however, that the words ‘darkness’ and ‘evil’ are to be understood as referring to moral darkness; that is, sin.

Barnes’ Notes on the Bible

Many translations of this verse do not use the word evil and modern translations render it calamity or disaster.

I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things.

I form light and create darkness, I make success and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things.

The One forming light and creating darkness, Causing well-being and creating disaster; I am the LORD who does all these things.

I am the one who forms light and creates darkness; the one who brings about peace and creates calamity. I am the Lord, who accomplishes all these things.

I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things.

I form the light and create darkness; I bring peace and create disaster; I am Yahweh, who does all these things.

Guzik says the point of the passage is there is not a dual reality of good and evil, but only one reality of God’s sovereignty.

i. Isaiah’s point is that there are not two gods or forces in heaven, one good and one bad, as in a dualistic “yin and yang” sense. “Cyrus was a Persian, and Persian had a dualistic concept of God and th world. Their good god they called Ahura-mazda and the evil god Angra-mainya. The former had created the light, the second the darkness.” (Bultema)

ii. But God has no opposite. Satan is not and has never been God’s opposite. There is one God. He is not the author of evil; evil is never “original,” but always a perversion of an existing good. Yet God is the allower of evil, and He uses it to accomplish His eternal purpose of bringing together all things in Jesus (Eph 3:8-11 and Eph 1:9-10). If God could further His eternal purpose by allowing His Son to die a wicked, unjust death on a cross, then He knows how to use what He allows for His eternal purpose.

iii. “Undoubtedly the Lord is no representative of evil as such, but He does make use of evil so that it may bring forth good.” (Calvin, cited in Butlema)

iv. When God does great, miraculous things, it is easy to believe that He is in control. When times are hard and the trials heavy, we need to believe it all the more.

Guzik’s Commentary on the Bible

Other commentaries affirm this:

Zoroastrianism — the Magian religion — held God to be one and omnipotent, but he was derived from the light principle. The God Jehovah here assumes priority to and creatorship of light. He claims also to be no rival with Ahriman, the evil deity of the East. God himself rejects dualism absolutely. He is the one sole sovereign. “Evil,” as it exists in the world, is the result, not of God’s direct creation, but of actualized possibility likely to occur in beings free to choose the right or the wrong way; such freedom as is essential to moral responsibility. Jehovah lays down his eternal protest against the old Zend or Persian religion.

Whedon’s Commentary on the Bible

Light is the emblem of good; darkness the emblem of evil According to the opinion of the Persians, these were eternal and independent principles; a system which afforded no hope of deliverance. But here our God declares that both are His, either by formation or permission; both are under His control, and at His disposal.

Preacher’s Complete Homiletical Commentary

There are not two gods, but only one living and true God.

Spurgeon’s Verse Expositions of the Bible

Calvin says the passage is referring to the “evil” of punishment, not the evil of guilt.

Fanatics torture this word evil, as if God were the author of evil, that is, of sin; but it is very obvious how ridiculously they abuse this passage of the Prophet. This is sufficiently explained by the contrast, the parts of which must agree with each other; for he contrasts “peace” with “evil,” that is, with afflictions, wars, and other adverse occurrences. If he contrasted “righteousness” with “evil,” there would be some plausibility in their reasonings, but this is a manifest contrast of things that are opposite to each other. Consequently, we ought not to reject the ordinary distinction, that God is the author of the “evil” of punishment, but not of the “evil” of guilt.

But the Sophists are wrong in their exposition; for, while they acknowledge that famine, barrenness, war, pestilence, and other scourges, come from God, they deny that God is the author of calamities, when they befall us through the agency of men. This is false and altogether contrary to the present doctrine; for the Lord raises up wicked men to chastise us by their hand, as is evident from various passages of Scripture. (1Kin 11:14.) The Lord does not indeed inspire them with malice, but he uses it for the purpose of chastising us, and exercises the office of a judge, in the same manner as he made use of the malice of Pharaoh and others, in order to punish his people. (Exod 1:11 and 2:23.) We ought therefore to hold this doctrine, that God alone is the author of all events; that is, that adverse and prosperous events are sent by him, even though he makes use of the agency of men, that none may attribute it to fortune, or to any other cause.

Calvin’s Commentary on the Bible