[b-hebrew] Is.45:7 God created evil?

Heard, Christopher Christopher.Heard at pepperdine.edu
Thu Aug 4 16:52:37 EDT 2005

I agree with Jim that the Tanakh is not univocal as to God's  
responsibility for "evil," and I would remind participants in this  
discussion that Hebrew רעה [R(H] has a pretty broad semantic range,  
with the possibility of reference to everything from moral evils to  
natural disasters, and more. But I want to focus on a different,  
exegetical point:

On Aug 4, 2005, at 10:23 AM, Jim West wrote:
> HaSatan is responsible.  If you will remember, in the matter of the
> Census (which David got in such big trouble for) in the Deuteronomic
> history it is Yahweh who makes David do it- whilst in the  
> Chronicler it
> is HaSatan.

Although 2 Samuel 24:1 vs. 1 Chronicles 21:1 is a _locus classicus_  
in understanding the difference between the Chronicler's treatment of  
David and the Deuteronomistic Historian's treatment of David, and  
although I have often thought about the texts in question in the  
terms Jim expressed earlier, quoted above, in the last few times I  
have looked at these verses, I have begun to doubt its accuracy.

Specifically, in 1 Chronicles 21:1 it is _not_  השטן [H&+N] that  
incites David to count the people; it is merely שטן [&+N] (no  
definite article). Now the lack of a definite article is very  
important here, it seems to me. For the verse ought not be translated  
"Satan opposed [stood against] Israel, and incited David to count  
Israel," nor "The Adversary opposed ..." since there is no definite  
article, but rather, "_An_ adversary opposed ...," with an indefinite  
article. Now I wonder--I have not done the real legwork on this yet,  
so I'm thinking out loud--whether the Chronicler thinks he is  
referring to YHWH, or an entity other than YHWH, by this word,  
indefinite שטן [&+N]. The Hebrew word שטן [&+N], of course, does  
not _inherently_ refer to some malignant supernatural entity; see 1  
Kings 11:23-25, where the noun שטן [&+N] refers to a purely human  
opponent, though one who, importantly, was incited _by God_ to be  
such. Moreover, there is nothing semantically out of bounds about God  
being a שטן [&+N], or at least we can say that at least one writer  
had no trouble characterizing the מאלך יהוה [M)LK YHWH] "angel  
of YHWH" as a שטן [&+N] to someone (Numbers 22:22). Clearly, the  
Chronicler is altering his Deuteronomistic source text. But is he  
completely changing the referent, or just using a subtle circumlocution?

R. Christopher Heard
Assistant Professor of Religion
Pepperdine University
Malibu, California 90263-4352

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