[b-hebrew] origin of evil

Robert Newman rob at designceramics.co.uk
Wed Sep 6 20:10:26 EDT 2006

Hi Lisbeth,

Concerning Ra', one reference work (TWOT) says

" In the moral and religious realm of meaning, the verb denotes activity that is contrary to God's will. ...

God is the subject of the verb r¹±a± in Psa 44:2 [H 3]; Jer 25:29; Jer 31:28; Mic 4:6; Zech 8:14), but his infliction of pain on people is not due to viciousness; it is the just judgment of sinners who do not respond to his call for repentance. In the Old Testament, God is not depicted as committing an immoral act when he does r¹±a± to the wicked. " -end quote.

I find this interesting, God can bring calamity as an expression of justice when his righteousness demands it and he is not doing evil. Quite the opposite, an execution of judgement on the oppressor is an expression of love to those oppessed. Also does not God's holiness mean he is removed from corruption and badness?

The words directed to Cyrus in Isaiah 45 indicate that the incomparable God is behind Cyrus victory at Babylon. That victory comes as an expression of God's judgement. I think the words in verse 7 emphasize the extent of God's ability. Whilst your translation uses "evil" I notice that some prefer "calamity" in this context. I wonder if the choice of translators reflects the word Ra' may be contrasted with or in juxtaposition with. So that tob - ra' is 'good - evil' and shalom - ra' is 'peace - calamity'. Just a thought.

By the way, within Christendom there are differing views as to this question of - Did God create evil? Also, there are differing views about Satan, real person or evil inclination within? So these issues are not ones that clearly divide all Jews and all Christians. It's good to be cognizant of different interpretations and how they are grounded, yet this list isn't the place for theological debate, still it's been interesting to observe.

Robert Newman

Lisbeth wrote:
Dear Benjamin, Harold, et. al.
The Jewish view  is expressed in Isaiah. Christians call it "radical
monotheism," but Jews just call it monotheism. According to Isaiah, God does
create both darkness and evil. Christians worry about how a good god can
create evil. This issue I think arrives with Plato, Aristotle, and
Hellenism. I don't think it pertains to Oriental thought. The Hebrew Bible
does not whitewash this by claiming that evil must really be good if it
caused by God. 

Isaiah 45:5-7  (speaking to Cyrus).
 I am YHWH, and there is no other; besides me there is no god. I arm you,
though you do not know me,  so that they may know, from the rising of the
sun and from the west, that there is no one besides me; I am YHWH, and there
is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make
peace/health/well-being (shalom) and create evil (ra'); I YHWH do all these
Liz Fried

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