Genesis 2:9 “And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.”

Isaiah 45:7 “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.”

The Hebrew word for “evil” appears over 600 times in the Old Testament with a variety of meanings. Genesis 2:9 and Isaiah 45:7 illustrate two of the many possible translations. Can the Bible be true when stating that God, the Pure and Holy Creator, made or creates evil? It all depends upon the context where “evil” occurs. Without proper word or contextual definition, what “evil” means to the reader or interpreter may cause serious misunderstanding of a Biblical passage.

In Genesis 2:9 there is the basic definition of evil by contrast: evil is the antithesis of that which is “good”. As the Oxford English Dictionary explains: “…this word (evil) is the most comprehensive adjectival expression of disapproval, dislike, or disparagement. In modern colloquial English it is little used, such currency as it has being due to literary influence. In quite familiar speech the adjective is commonly superseded by bad; the noun is somewhat more frequent, but chiefly in the widest senses, the more specific senses being expressed by other words, as harm, injury, misfortune, disease, etc.” In other words, there is a tendency for the modern reader to assume “evil” can only be associated with moral failure, or that “evil” exists as a standalone condition with no comparison or association with the absence of good.

Another way of explanation is to look at the contrasts in Isaiah 45:7. “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil…” Darkness is not actually “created” but it is the absence of light, for without light there could be no darkness. Therefore, God “creates” darkness by “forming” the light. God “makes” peace and thereby, any absence of “peace” is the ‘creation’ of evil. Without “good” there can be no concept of “evil”: without love, there can be no hate, etc.

– January 2018