Bible Study, Book of Isaiah, Christ in Me, Christ Life, Christian Life, Eternal Life, Evil, Holy Spirit, Indwelling Spirit, Isaiah 45:7, Kingdom Life, Unity
Hello and welcome to Renaissance Woman where, this week, I am returning to my Isaiah 45:7 study. I am still in the beginning stages of studying “evil” with the intent of understanding just what God meant when He said, “I create evil.”
I must say, it does appear to be a hopeless undertaking. I looked up “evil” in the Davis Dictionary of the Bible and found this as the first sentence: “The origin of evil is a problem which has perplexed speculative minds in all ages and countries”.1 The Hastings Dictionary doesn’t appear to hold out much hope either because, at the end of the entry for “evil”, I found: “The speculative question of the origin of evil is not resolved in Holy Scripture, being one of those things of which we are not competent judges”.2
These two statements did almost obliterate an enthusiasm already dampened by the sheer vastness of the subject of evil. If such august personages as Aquinas, Calvin, Plato, and Plotinus have turned their minds to the subject of evil and failed to find a definitive answer as to its nature and source, what hope did I have?
Well, firstly, I do not seek to provide a definitive answer. Even if I were to do so, the odds against anyone else agreeing I had done so are astronomical. And yet, my enthusiasm was restored during the retreat I attended earlier this month as I sat in the airport terminal reading a book while waiting for my flight. The book was “Authors and Their Public in Ancient Times” by George Haven Putnam. I both laughed and somewhat sadly acknowledged the truth of what he wrote in his introduction. Mr. Putnam spoke about his reasons for writing what he called an “essay” stating it was to “trace, as far as might be practicable, from the scattered references in the literature of the period, an outline record of the continuity of literary activity, the methods of the production and distribution of literature, and the nature of the relations between the authors and their readers”.3 He then when on to write:
“The majority of my reviewers were ready to understand the actual purpose of my book and to recognise that my part in the undertaking was limited to certain general inferences or conclusions as to literary methods or conditions. In one or two cases, however, the critics, ignoring the specified purpose and the necessary limitations of the essay, saw fit to treat it as a treatise on classical literature and devoted their reviews almost exclusively to textual criticisms and corrections.”4
This made me chuckle but it restored my enthusiasm because, no matter what I discover or what conclusions I draw at the end of this study, someone will argue. Knowing and accepting that is liberating. Some arguments are useful but there are those who argue for the sake of arguing. I cannot tell you how many times someone has argued against something I have said but has done so by picking up a phrase or even a single word, constructing their argument on that, and ultimately ignoring the material point I took some pains to make. This is irritating and yet these critics are also useful because I have learned-and am continuing to learn-how not to fall into the trap of arguing back and forth about something that really had no bearing on the main point in the first place. I include “am learning” because there are still times when my mind gets caught up in refuting this or that and it takes a moment to mentally step back and realize, “wait a moment: we’re not even talking about the same thing!”
And so, expecting arguments and not expecting a definitive answer on the origin and nature of evil, just why am I conducting this study? 1 Peter 3:15 instructs us to “sanctify the Lord God in your hearts and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you”. That is what I am seeking to get out of this study. I want to understand as much as I can so I at least have both a scripture and study based answer for any question I am asked. The question specific to this study is; “why did God say He creates evil?” Since I am trusting the Holy Spirit to guide me into all truth, I am looking at the scriptures that pop into my mind as I am conducting the study and the first scripture is Psalm 8:5. For the sake of context, I’ll begin quoting in verse 3: “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, What is man that You are mindful of him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and honor.”
The bit of scripture that popped into my mind was “you have made him a little lower than the angels”. You might be wondering what that could possibly have to do with evil so allow me to tell you how and why I got here. This translation: “a little lower than the angels”, is not accurate. The Modern Young’s Literal has it, “and cause him to lack a little of Godhead.” The Amplified renders it, “but little lower than God” but adds [or heavenly beings] as a disclaimer while the NIV says, “little lower than the heavenly beings” but adds the footnote “or than God”.
The Bible fascinates me and one thing that keeps me wondering is why the translators have chosen to translate certain passages the way they have. The only answer I have is that their theology couldn’t hold up to what the original language is actually saying and they thus translated passages to say what they thought they ought to say. This particular passage is one such case in point. If you have a Strong’s concordance, I encourage you to open it to the “Angels” entry and look at the list of numbers. You’ll see 4397, 4397, 4397, 4397…and then you’ll see 430. 4397 relates to malak in the Hebrew and it means “to dispatch, as a deputy or messenger”. This is the word usually translated as “angel” or “angels”. 430 is the word Elohim which is not translated as “angel” or “angels” anywhere except Psalm 8:5. It is, however, very often translated as “God”. For example, in Genesis 1:1 “God” = Elohim.
The word translated “lower” is the Hebrew chacer (H2637) and it does mean “to lack.” I looked it up in the Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon and over and over again the word is used to mean “lack”. It is only by stretching both the intent of the words and the imagination that one can came up with “lower than the angels” as a correct interpretation of Psalm 8:5. The Hebrew says, “made to lack from God” though I quote it to myself as “lack from Elohim”: I prefer the Hebrew word.
It is because “lack from Elohim” is how I have long thought of Psalm 8:5 that it popped into my mind as I was looking up “evil” in the Dictionary of New Testament Theology. I read through a brief comparison of the different theories on evil and then read, “Whichever cause is regarded as the basis of evil, even when it is seen as hamartia (Sin), it must not be regarded as personal guilt, for it is not the result of a free and responsible personal decision but of a lack. It may be the lack of knowing the divine providence (Socrates), or of the working of a cosmic power.”5
I read that, Psalm 8:5 popped into my mind, and I took a moment to consider the evil in the world as the result of a lack. A lack of what? With Psalm 8:5 in mind, I must first consider it as a lack from all that God is. This lack is the will of God for he made man to lack and, more than that, called man good.
I turned my mind to consider man placed in the garden with the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Man at this moment had the very breath of God in them and were not yet subject to death but had to look elsewhere for the source of their life. They could eat freely from the Tree of Life but Life was something both exterior to them as well as interior. That Life was provided by God in the form of the tree (exterior) but it was as they ate of its fruit that they would know Life (interior). Man did lack from Elohim because Man did not have their own source of life to draw on. In choosing the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, man really did believe a terrible lie. Already without a source of life in themselves, they decided to make themselves their source anyway and decided it was right to know good and evil for themselves. Of course the result was death.
I take a look at my own life and breathe a massive sigh of relief. I do not have any life in myself! I have no resources to meet my own needs much less the needs of others around me. I can pretend with all my might and I might even fool a few people along the way but I am NOT enough. The relief comes in knowing I was not designed to be. I was made to lack from Elohim. I was made to know Him alone as the source of my life. And, what a blessed gift to be alive now. I am not holding onto a promise of one to come who would one day crush the head of the serpent and restore to me what was lost. The One has come! Everything that was to be done, He did!
Jesus Christ IS now, this very moment, my life. He is my missing piece, the One who perfectly fits me because I was designed to live in union with Him (See Ephesians 1). I no longer attempt to fit myself to anything else because I am complete in Him (Colossians 2:10). What a blessed rest!
I have been meditating on Deuteronomy 30:19-20. Moses declares he has set before the people of Israel life and death. He begs them to choose life so that they may “love the Lord your God that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days”. I pray to utterly know this truth for myself and I pray it also for each of you. May we know Jesus for in Him is life and that life is the light of men.
Unless noted otherwise, all Scriptures are quoted from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1982
- Davis, John D., Davis Dictionary of the Bible, Royal Publishers, Inc., Nashville, Tennessee, 1973, Page 234
- Hastings, James, Hastings’ Dictionary of the Bible, Fifth Printing, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, Massachusetts, 2001, Page 247
- Putnam, George Haven, Authors and their Public in Ancient Times, Third Edition, Cooper Square Publishers Inc., New York, New York, 1967, Page iv
- Ibid., Page v
- Brown, Colin, The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Volume I, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1967,1971, Page 562
The Comparative Study Bible, The Zondervan Corporation, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1984
Brown, F., S. Driver, and C. Briggs, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, Eighteenth Printing, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, Massachusetts, 2018
Strong, James, LL.D., S.T.D., The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1990
Young, Robert, Modern Young’s Literal Translation: New Testament with Psalms & Proverbs, Greater Truth Publishers, Lafayette, Indiana, 2005
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