Hello and welcome-or welcome back-to Renaissance Woman where, this week, I continue my study of Isaiah 45:7 by looking at “evil”.
There is no denying that usage ends up defining a word. There are words that mean the opposite today of what they meant decades ago. One example is “let”. Let was once used to mean lacking or obstruction or hindrance. Nowadays it is used to mean to allow, to give an opportunity, to free from confinement. Understanding literature from bygone eras can be difficult unless the reader understands the words used to carry much different connotations than they do today.
If I go to the world for a definition of evil, which is something quite easy to do in this day and age thanks to social media, I find two definitions. “Evil” is used to describe acts that most would consider are obviously evil-war crimes, humanitarian atrocities, etc. The second way the word is used is extremely superficial. Person A is labeled “evil” by Person B because Person A disagrees with Person B. Or Person A is labeled “evil” because Person A looks and/or sounds different from Person B. This is not anything new, though it may seem to be more pervasive due to the immediacy of social media, but I have found this to be so in the histories of every era I have read. This labelling another “evil” because he or she disagrees with what another says is good goes back to our first parents in the Garden of Eden.
It is important to remember that the tree Adam and Eve ate from was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. I have come across several arguments that speak of it as the “Tree of Knowledge” full stop. The argument is then made FOR the Serpent because God didn’t want us to use our intellects and the good serpent brought us knowledge. This argument has no legs to stand on because the Tree was not the Tree of Knowledge (full stop) but the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
I am going to take a small foray into the Book of Genesis and consider Adam. The argument that God is a selfish God who wanted to keep us stupid does-in my opinion-utterly collapse when I consider Adam as described in the second chapter of Genesis. God plants the garden and then puts Adam in it to tend and keep it. The Hebrew word translated “tend” in the NKJV is one that means “take hold of, bear up, sustain”1 and the word translated “keep” is one that means “to guard, protect, take heed, preserve.”2 Then, God brings every beast of the field and bird of the air to Adam to see what he would call them. In this single chapter, I see Agriculture, Government, The Art of Defense, Biology, and Zoology. I can see nothing that would lead me to believe God had no expectation of Adam using his intellect.
I am also not one who subscribes to the belief that the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was a magic tree with the power to bestow said knowledge. I have read many studies which refer to the story of the Garden of Eden as an allegory and these studies have made solid and valid points. And then, I read in one of my science books that: “In 2016…scientists identified a mutation in a stretch of snake DNA called ZRS. This one small change was enough to rid the animals of their limbs and confine them to a future of slithering on their bellies” (Pilcher, 117). Whether you are one who believes Moses wrote Genesis or one who believes the Old Testament was finally written down during the Babylonian Captivity, I think it interesting that the one who wrote “On your belly you shall go” knew something thousands of years ago scientists only recently proved in DNA. So, perhaps Genesis is a bit more than allegorical…
Allegory or fact, I find something interesting and worthwhile in both points of view and neither agree nor disagree with either. The point of view I do agree with is that all the Trees in the garden are best looked at as sacraments. God places decrees on the Trees thus bestowing upon them a sacred character and significance. He has caused all manner of them to grow and be both pleasant to look at and good for food. Of these, the Man and (later) Woman can freely eat. It appears both could have freely eaten of the Tree of Life as well. It is the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil alone which God decrees “you shall not eat for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17). I have a two volume Exposition of Genesis where I read:
“As in the sacraments by virtue of the divine Word the visible means become vehicles of divine grace, so here by virtue of the divine word, which designates the one tree as “the tree of life,” “life” can in reality be imparted by its use when and under whatever circumstances God decrees. In like manner, the second tree, as its name implies, becomes an agency through which under certain circumstances, divinely appointed, man may come to an experimental knowledge of good and evil. He may through the presence of the tree be confronted with a choice, he may exercise his freedom to do God’s will in the choice, or he may refuse to make use of his freedom. Had man persisted in his freedom, the experience as such would have wrought in him a knowledge of good and evil analogous to that of God, in this sense that, without having consented to evil, an awareness of its existence and its implications would have been aroused in him. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil would have effectively done its work…So the trees are rightly regarded as sacramental in a sense” (Leupold, 121)
What could have been? What would our world look like now if a different choice had been made then? I can’t help asking the question but it is a waste of time to dwell on it. A different choice was not made and the entire human race now has a day to day experience of good and evil. What is good and what is evil really doesn’t have a clear definition because something is described as good or evil depending on how it is perceived by the five senses. What is determined good by one person is evil to another and so it goes moment by moment, day by day, as the world turns round and round.
What can we do? Even we believers have a problem because we intend to do good and by good we mean do what God declares good but our good is either called evil by someone else or we find we don’t have the wherewithal to do good. Like the Apostle Paul, we “find then a law, that evil is present with me the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from the body of death?” (Romans 7:21-24)
This is not a question without an answer. Paul goes on to say “I thank God–through Jesus Christ our Lord!” We can all give thanks for the day that we live in because Jesus Christ came to earth, lived as one of us, died our death, rose from the dead, ascended to the Father, and carried us with Him! We are raised up with Him and, because we are in Him, we are seated in heavenly places! (Ephesians 2:5-6). We who know who we are in Jesus Christ are no longer trapped in the cycle of misery, deciding for ourselves what is good or evil, and seeing our intended good fail. The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil no longer has any power over us for we are the Bride of Christ. We have come to that Holy City, the New Jerusalem and there we find once more the Tree of Life (Revelation 21 & 22).
In Jesus Christ, we are restored to what human beings were always meant to be. This truth is being formed in us bit by bit, day by day, but the fact that we are still in process doesn’t change what IS. We have the down payment of our inheritance in the Holy Spirit living within us. Because His Spirit lives in us, we have the very mind of Jesus Christ. It is this mind within us that renews and thus transforms our minds. (See Ephesians 1:14-16, 1 Corinthians 2:16, Romans 12:2, 2 Corinthians 3:18). We no longer live deciding what is good and evil but we live by His LIFE.
His promise is certain. The day will come when all things are restored and our very bodies will be made like His. We do not know exactly what we will be but we know we will be like Him! How I pray for the hastening of that day!
Unless noted otherwise, all Scriptures are quoted from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1982
- Strong’s, H5564
- Strong’s, H8104
Think it’s impossible for Moses to have written the Pentateuch? Check out this DVD:
Leupold, H.C., D.D., Exposition of Genesis, Volume I, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1942
Pilcher, Dr. Helen, Mind Maps: Biology How to Navigate the Living World, Unipress, Ltd, 2020
Strong, James, LL.D., S.T.D., The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1990