The Origin of Sin and Evil

Many believe that there is a being or monster called the Devil or Satan who is the originator of the problems which are in the world and in our own lives, and who is responsible for the sin which we commit. The Bible clearly teaches that God is all-powerful. We have seen in Study 2-1 that the angels cannot sin. If we truly believe these things, then it is impossible that there is any supernatural being at work in this universe that is opposed to Almighty God. If we believe that such a being does exist, then surely we are questioning the supremacy of God Almighty. Hence the importance of the matter. We are told in Hebrews 2:14 that Jesus destroyed the Devil by His death; therefore unless we have a correct understanding of the Devil, we are likely to misunderstand the work and nature of Jesus.

In the world generally, especially in the Christian world, there is the idea that the good things in life come from God and the bad things from the Devil or Satan. This is not a new idea; we saw in chapter 1 how the Persians believed there were two gods, a god of good and light (Ahura Mazda), and a god of evil and darkness (Ahriman), and that those two were locked in mortal combat¹. Cyrus, the great King of Persia, believed just this. Therefore God told him, “I am the Lord, and there is no other; there is no God besides me… I form the light, and create darkness, I make peace, and create calamity (‘evil’ KJV, ‘disaster’ NIV); I the Lord do all these things” (Isaiah 45:5-7,22). God creates peace and He creates evil, or disaster. In this sense there is a difference between evil and sin, which is man’s fault; sin entered the world as a result of man, not God (Romans 5:12). The Isaiah 45:5-7 passage is highly significant, in that it is one of the many allusions in Isaiah to creation. God created the light and darkness in Genesis 1; it was the same God who separated light from darkness. The fact God created literally all things means that any ‘darkness’ is ultimately from God and under His control. The record of creation in Genesis is framed to deconstruct popular views of evil, personal Satans, etc. For example, the sea was understood by the ancients as a source of radical, uncontrollable evil. Yet the Genesis record stresses that the sea was created by God, and He gathered it together and set bounds for it (Genesis 1:9; Job 26:10; 38:11). It was been observed that “The creation account of Genesis 1 is best understood as a piece of anti-mythological polemic”². And perhaps this is why it is alluded to so strongly by Isaiah, in his demonstration that there is no god of evil and god of darkness—there is only the one all-powerful God of Israel. Let’s note that the Isaiah 45 passage occurs in a section of Isaiah full of reference back to the record of creation. God labelled all of His creation “very good”, and that included both the darkness and the light (in contradistinction to the surrounding myths of creation). We don’t read that the light was good and the darkness was evil. All that there was in the whole cosmos was initially “very good”—it was human sin, not any Satan figure, which spoilt that. Indeed, in relation to all of existence being “very good”, it has been observed on linguistic grounds: “To pronounce them “good” is a value judgment that goes beyond physical description and attributes some intangible quality to created entities”³.

God told Cyrus and the people of Babylon that “there is no (other) God besides me”. The Hebrew word ‘el’ translated ‘God’ fundamentally means strength, or source of power. God was saying that there is no source of power in existence apart from Him. This is the reason why a true believer in God should not accept the idea of a supernatural Devil or demons. Indeed, it could be inferred from Isaiah 41:23 that what is unique about the one true God, Yahweh of Israel, is that He is responsible for both good and evil. As today, false and mistaken religious systems suggest a good God or gods, and an evil one or demons. The idea of “good and evil” being created by God of course goes back to the simple statement in Genesis 2:9 that it was God who created the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Likewise it is only the one true God of Israel who is Biblically revealed, e.g. in the experiences of Joseph, as having the ability to ‘weave together’ good and evil so that good is brought out of evil (Genesis 50:20 Heb.; AV “You thought evil against me, but God meant/weaved it together for/with good”). Only a God who ultimately creates both good and evil would have the ability to do this; and only He could offer to Israel and the nations a choice of good or evil from Him, according to their behaviour (Joshua 23:15). This was especially relevant in the context of Isaiah 45, which spoke of Judah’s sufferings in Babylon. So often, God reminds them that He has the power to orchestrate both good and evil for them at that time: Jeremiah 21:10; 32:42; 39:16; 44:27; Lamentations 3:38; Amos 9:4. The fact there was only one God who brought both good and evil is cited as encouragement and comfort for Israel, a reason to “fear not”—i.e. the supposed gods of evil. Job perceived all this, far more than most people do today, in his statement that we shall receive both good and evil from God’s hand (Job 2:10). His understanding of this principle was sorely tested; for like so many, he looked to God expecting only good, and received evil (Job 30:26).

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Author: Duncan Heaster

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Bible reference(s): Deuteronomy 28:60, Exodus 4:11, Jeremiah 6:19, Job 1:21, Job 2:10, Job 42:11, Micah 1:12

Source: “The Real Devil A Biblical Exploration.”

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