Did God Create Evil?

Our Sunday school director asked a good question to open up class last week. We were preparing to study Genesis chapter three where the temptation and the fall of man is recorded. He simply asked, “Did God create evil? ”
Hmmm, good question. My knee-jerk reaction is to shout, “of course not! God is good, God is love! He absolutely could not create evil and even if he could, he would not. God is not the author of evil!”

Then again, as I pondered the question I began to consider a few things. Where did the serpent come from? If God is the Sovereign creator of all that exists then logically he must be the creator of evil, right? And what do I do with Isaiah 45:7;

I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things. (Isa 45:7)

After some initial mental scrutiny, I felt scripture supported God as the creator of evil. The class discussed it briefly without coming to a consensus. The question stuck with me throughout this past week. While I didn’t study it to any great depth, I have a handful of scriptures I would like to showcase that I believe clarify the matter somewhat.

Let’s begin in the beginning;

And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. (Gen 1:31)

God created the vast expanse of the universe and all it contains. He crafted the earth meticulously by His mighty hand. All life – the vegetation of the land, the birds of the air, the whales of the sea, the beasts of the field, and man, the pinnacle of His creative masterpiece – were proclaimed by Him to be very good. Evil is nowhere to be found in this text, else he could not have said the earth and everything in it was good.

Let’s fast forward to the crime scene at the foot of that fateful tree;

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. (Gen 3:1-7)

Here we have the the first occurrences of evil in scripture. In fact there are three acts of evil recorded in this text. Let’s start first with Eve, who yielded to temptation. Her first and greatest sin is that of unbelief. She chose to not believe God’s warning that she would surely die when she tasted of the fruit. This unbelief opened a Pandora’s Box of evil lust within her spirit. She yielded to those lusts and committed sin. Adam, the federal head of humanity, shared in Eve’s unbelief. He did not challenge the serpent’s words with God’s own. This despite God giving his law to Adam personally. He chose not to believe it. He forsook his responsibility as master of his household and failed to protect his wife. He ate of the fruit as well, adding to his transgression. It is apparent that man’s first sin is that of unbelief. Eating the fruit was simply the outward manifestation of that sin.

The bottom line is sin came not from God but from man, who chose not to obey what God had so plainly commanded. God, having created all things good, cared for man so much that he gave clear warnings against things that would bring them harm. Despite mankind’s blatant rebellion and the resulting curses God pronounced upon them, he still blessed them with every provision for the rest of their very long lives. God is good. Man brought evil upon himself.

What about the serpent? He committed the first recorded sin in all of scripture. He flat out lied to Eve. He said ‘you shall not surely die.’ This is contrary to God’s warning ‘You shall surely die.’ What is the serpent? The bible says he is a beast of the field. When God pronounces the curse upon the serpent, causing him to crawl on his belly all of his days, we realize the serpent is a snake. However, Revelation 12:9 calls Satan the ancient serpent. So, is the serpent a common snake or the Father of Lies Himself? The bible doesn’t explain this dichotomy but I believe that Satan used the serpent as a tool to deceive Eve in the garden. This explains the duel curse on the serpent. First, God condemns the serpent by forcing him to crawl on his belly and eat dust all of his days. Then he curses Satan with the promise of a coming redeemer who would crush his head, destroying his power once and for all.

Satan committed sin in the garden. God created all things, so it appears he must have formed Satan as an evil adversary to oppose Himself and man. This would make God the creator of evil. Let’s examine the scriptures regarding the creation and fall of Satan;

“Son of man, raise a lamentation over the king of Tyre, and say to him, Thus says the Lord GOD: “You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering, sardius, topaz, and diamond, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, emerald, and carbuncle; and crafted in gold were your settings and your engravings. On the day that you were created they were prepared. You were an anointed guardian cherub. I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; in the midst of the stones of fire you walked. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, till unrighteousness was found in you. In the abundance of your trade you were filled with violence in your midst, and you sinned; so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God, and I destroyed you, O guardian cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor. I cast you to the ground; I exposed you before kings, to feast their eyes on you. (Eze 28:12-17)

Most commentators agree this lamentation directed toward the King of Tyre is a veiled reference to Satan. If this be the case, the answer of the how and where sin and evil originated is found here. Let’s look at a few facts about the devil from this passage.

  • God created Satan as a guardian cherub (an angel).
  • God created him perfect, full of wisdom and unsurpassing beauty. He was blameless in all his ways.
  • Unrighteousness was found in him after an unspecified passage of time
  • He became filled with violence and sinned. His heart became proud on account of his beauty. He corrupted his wisdom for the sake of his splendor.

In light of these facts can we say that God created evil? Did not Satan corrupt himself within his own heart because of his own vanity? Unrighteousness festered within him, because his heart manufactured it. God did not author it, produce it or coerce it into existence in any manner. God can take no credit here. In fact, this passage talks of God’s righteous judgment against Satan for his rebellion. He is cast out from God’s holy mountain down to the earth and is utterly destroyed. There is no unrighteousness with God, therefore Satan has suffered the due penalty for his transgression.

Of course, questions still linger. Like ‘how can a perfect being become unrighteous?’ ‘Does this mean redeemed saints can fall once in a state of glory?’ ‘Did Satan, by his act of sin, create evil as a new thing that before did not exist?’

Deep questions. I’m not sure God has seen fit to answer them this side of eternity. The secret things belong to the Lord. What we can clearly discern from the earliest recorded events in history is that God did not create evil.

‘But Mr. Pilgrim sir,’ an astute observer will ask, ‘what about Isaiah 45:7?’

Oh yes, almost forgot. Let’s take a closer look. Again, the scripture reads,

I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things. (Isa 45:7)

It is significant to note the Hebrew word for evil carries the meaning of adversity, affliction and calamity. These definitions do not denote evil as an entity, but simply as the consequences of committing and practicing sin. This is the law of sowing and reaping as defined in Galatians 6:7-8;

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.

The ‘evil’ God sovereignly brings to pass is actually his righteous judgment against the evil of sin in the depraved depths of the human heart. I do not see anywhere in scripture where God has created evil. The fall of Satan and of man are the result of unbelief of the heart. God is not personally accountable for this deficiency of faith, nor did it take him by surprise. The Lord Almighty is sovereign over all creation. He works all things together for good to those that love him and are called according to his purpose.

PS: I have come nowhere close to comprehensively exhausting the subject with this post, so feel free to add your thoughts and scriptures that you believe either support or contradict my thesis that God is not the creator of evil.

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11 thoughts on “Did God Create Evil?

  1. Mr. Pilgrim, sir…

    Revelation 12:9 does link the serpent to Satan, but you also missed the part just before that… “And the great dragon was cast out” (KJV)

    The author of Revelation was said to be an exile on the island of Patmos, which is a Greek island. The Greeks often used “serpent” and “dragon” interchangeably. (The Old English translation used “wyrm” in place of a dragon.)

    Matthew Henry mentioned that the serpent in Genesis 3 could have been either a likeness or a physical serpent.

    “Whether it was only the visible shape and appearance of a serpent (as some think those were of which we read, Exodus 7:12), or whether it was a real living serpent, actuated and possessed by the devil, is not certain: by God’s permission it might be either.”

    He also speculated on the “form” of this serpent.

    “Perhaps it was a flying serpent, which seemed to come from on high as a messenger from the upper world, one of the seraphim; for the fiery serpents were flying, Isaiah 14:29.”

    Isaiah 14:29 – Rejoice not thou, whole Palestina, because the rod of him that smote thee is broken: for out of the serpent’s root shall come forth a cockatrice, and his fruit shall be a fiery flying serpent.

    Matthew Henry’s reference to that Scripture introduces a new creature: the cockatrice. In a nutshell, the cockatrice is said to be the equivalent to the Greek basilisk. The basilisk is the “king of serpents.”

    Now, back to Revelation 12:9…

    “And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” (KJV)

    Notice the punctuation of the sentence is equating the dragon to the serpent as the Devil is equated to Satan.

    So, the point being that some translations (particularly those with Greek influence) will speak of this “serpent” in the form of a dragon and not necessarily a snake like what you would find at a local zoo or slithering in your back yard.

    I would like to see the Hebrew link to the serpent and how it is portrayed in their texts.

  2. So let me see if I understand this correctly. Are you saying that the serpent of the garden may not be your typical garden variety snake, but a majestic dragon? And that perhaps this serpent is a one of a kind creature – actually the devil himself, a seraphim descended from the heavenly realm or something like that? Straighten me out here.

  3. Patrick,
    Yes that very question is a haunting one. I suppose the simplest answer lies in the fact that God has decreed that evil should exist and reign for a time though he did not create or author it. The end purpose of all creation is to bring glory to God and honor to His name so the rise and fall of sin and evil must exist for this purpose.

  4. beaconlight…

    I will stick with the quote from Matthew Henry… “…by God’s permission it might be either.”

    If I could get the time to do a little research on the Hebrew side of the story, I might be able to make more clarity on the matter. Using the Greek translations is most certainly unclear. The Greeks spoke of dragons and serpents in the same manner. Revelation 12:9 is a prime example. Of course, we poor English-speaking folk, get the bum of the deal being about the 3rd or 4th translation down the line. Meanings get lost throughout that process.

    Our beloved King James translation is a descendant of Greek texts. Naturally, it will portray the Greek serpent.

    The Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries defines a dragon as a fabulous kind of serpent (perhaps as supposed to fascinate). On that note, throughout the Bible, a serpent was used to be a metaphor for a deadly, subtle, malicious enemy. So, it isn’t necessary to say Satan was any more of a garden snake than a majestic dragon. Satan is a master of tricks. Deception is his game. It says in 2 Corinthians 11:14: “And no wonder, even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.”

    I know this is still unclear, but perhaps it may be helpful to your understanding.

  5. addendum…

    Based on Strong’s definition of dragon, you might conclude that Satan is “a fabulous[1] kind of deadly, subtle, malicious enemy (perhaps as supposed to fascinate[2]).”

    [1] Fabulous: lacking factual basis or historical validity; barely credible; extremely pleasing;
    [2] Fascinate: intrigue: cause to be interested or curious; capture: attract; cause to be enamored;

    Does that seem more like Satan?

  6. If God created all things and knows what is in the heart and minds of everything in creation then it means that he knew one of his creations would turn bad, he’d know what would happen with Adam & Eve…..After the ‘serpent’ is cursed he now slithers on his belly, to me this means that prior to this it must have used legs ?? I understand peoples opinions saying God had to create evil so we would be able to experience the joy of good, BUT wouldnt the best plan be to NOT create a ‘serpent’ that would turn ‘bad,’ and if it did turn bad, why would you send it to live with the only 2 humans. Why wouldnt it be cast OUTSIDE the garden of Eden? Maybe the tree of life should have been fenced off?

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