Hello! Welcome-or welcome back-to Renaissance Woman where this week I continue my study of Isaiah 45:7 and specifically look at evil.
If you have read last week’s post, you might be wondering why write anything more on evil if I believe what I wrote is true: that we who belong to Jesus live from His life rather than live our lives determining for ourselves what is good or evil. I do believe it but I also believe in Jesus’ warning: “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16).
It is important to me to understand exactly what the Holy Spirit meant to convey as He inspired the prophets to speak and the scribes to record. The world system uses words as it sees fit and rarely do these meanings line up with what was intended in the scriptures. I hear the word “evil” used to describe a person who simply disagrees with the mindset of another. I don’t think that’s what is meant by “evil” in the Bible but I don’t know for certain. Any dissent I may attempt will quickly fail as I have no foundational understanding to strengthen me. And so, I continue my study.
One thing I noticed while studying “create” and bara was, bara is the only Hebrew word translated “create”. While bara is translated with other words in other passages (to fatten, to cut down), any time you read the word “create” in the King James Version of the Bible, the corresponding Hebrew word is bara. There will be prefixes and suffixes attached but the root is always bara. I don’t know that I’ve gleaned any significant meaning from that but I do mention it as a matter of interest because this is rarely the case. When I look up a word in the Strong’s concordance, I find that one English word has been used to translate several Hebrew (and Greek) words and thus variations in meaning are missing from our translations. One such word I’ve already looked at is “darkness” and you can take a look at those previous studies if you like.
Going back to previous studies is not necessary though because “evil” in English has been used to translate several Hebrew and Greek words. In Hebrew they are: ra, ra’a, ra’ah, roa, dibbah, beliya’al, and aven. In Greek they are: poneros, kakos (spelled with an omicron), kakopoieo, kakia, kakologeo, kakoo, kakos (spelled with an omega), kakourgos, katalalia, katalaleo, phaulos, adikema, blasphemeo, blasphemia, and dusphemia.
It is obvious that some of these occurrences are variations of a word rather than a different meaning: both the verb and the noun, for example. Some of these words have only been translated “evil” in one passage so, as I continue in this study, I won’t focus on them. These words in the Hebrew are dibbah, ra’ah, beliya’al, and aven. Dibbah appears in Numbers 13:32 and is translated “evil report”. The word dibbah means “slander, defaming.” Beliya’al appears in Psalms 41:8 where it is translated “evil disease.” The word itself means “without profit, worthlessness, destruction, wickedness.” Aven appears in Proverbs 12:21 where it is translated “evil” as in misfortune. The word aven means “trouble, vanity, wickedness, to come to naught”. Ra’ah appears in Job 24:21 but, since it belongs to the same family as the word in my study passage, which is ra, I may be looking at ra’ah as well.
The Greek word adikema is translated “evil” as in “evil doing” in Acts 24:20 and that is the only time the King James Version used it so. It might be interesting to see how its meaning contrasts with kakopoieo which means “to be a bad-doer” but I probably won’t be considering it in too much depth. The same with dusphemia which occurs in 2 Corinthians 6:8 where it is translated “evil” as in “evil report”.
My point of this study is not for you or me to memorize a bunch of Hebrew and Greek words so we can insert ourselves into situations and point out how much we know. Neither is it for us to arm ourselves with an extensive vocabulary we then use to bludgeon others into silence. My point is the importance of words. Those who wrote both the Old and New Testaments certainly were specific in the words they chose to convey what they wanted to say. Our English translations were less so. Two different words are translated as “speak evil” in the New Testament: kakalogeo and katalaleo. They don’t mean exactly the same things. Kakalogeo means “to revile, curse, speak ill of” and katalaleo means “to be a traducer, slander”. Traduce means to “speak badly of or tell lies about someone so as to damage their reputation.”
James speaks of the tongue as being “an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” in Chapter 3 verse 8 of his epistle. The word for “evil” here is kakos spelled with an omicron. Proverbs 18:21 says, “death and life are in the power of the tongue” but if I were to try and make the point that we speak out of the fullness of our hearts and attempted to use Luke 6:45 to do so, the Greek words translated evil in this passage are not kakos nor are they in any way part of the same family as kakos. The words here in the Greek are poneros. So, my point might be valid and I might be able to substantiate it using the English translation, but the Greek words mean different things and my point would not end up being accurate.
I think accuracy is important but it is not more important than our relationship to the Holy Spirit. Through His indwelling us, we have the very person of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit guides us into the truth that Jesus Himself is our all: our life, our wisdom, our peace, our words, our salvation. And yet, Paul gave this admonition to Timothy: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). Peter writes in his epistle, we have been given exceedingly great and precious promises and that through these we may be partakers of the divine nature. He then writes, “But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love” (2 Peter 1:5-7).
Peter’s list isn’t possible without the Holy Spirit and that includes knowledge. We can study all we like but, without the Holy Spirit revealing the truth of what we study to us, our study gives us head knowledge only and there is no life to it. And yet, study is important. At the beginning of this post I quoted, “be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” Some translations have “innocent” and others have “gentle” in place of harmless. The Greek word is akeraios (G185) and the first meaning given in the Strong’s is “unmixed”. I like that: I want an unmixed mind. I want to know what these words meant by the ones who wrote them. I do not want the world system giving me definitions because then, it will begin to interpret scripture for me and that path ends in death. And so, in the upcoming weeks, I will look at the different words translated “evil” and their meanings. I will look at the passages in which these words occur and see if my understanding of them changes. My ultimate desire is that, through this study, the Holy Spirit will open my eyes and I will know the Truth. Jesus Christ is the ultimate Truth and my prayer to the Holy Spirit is “increase my understanding that I might know Jesus in a deeper and more intimate way.”
May the Holy Spirit open our eyes that we may know Him!
Unless noted otherwise, all Scriptures are quoted from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1982
The Comparative Study Bible, Zondervan Bible Publishers, The Zondervan Corporation, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1984
Strong, James, LL.D., S.T.D., The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1990