[b-hebrew] FW: origin of evil

Lisbeth S. Fried lizfried at umich.edu
Mon Sep 11 17:43:35 EDT 2006

Dear Karl,
Sorry, I had in mind sentences where actions were described as ra(, not
The question is not really the semantic range of ra(, but rather how to
translate Isaiah 45:7.

Would you admit to God behaving immorally, or is that is out of the question
by definition?  The writers were concerned to display God's supreme power
and didn't worry about whether we would consider the acts moral or not.
Consequently, I think that God is shown behaving immorally. 
For example, it seems to me that causing death only out of anger is not
There are the cases, for example, of Nadav and Abihu (Lev. 10:1-2) and of
Uzza (2 Sam. 6:6-7).  There is God hardening Pharaoh's heart, only to prove
God's power. I think the flood is another example.
These stories were written to illustrate God's awesome power and supreme
freedom of action.
The story of Abraham questioning God about the morality of his destroying
Sodom illustrates the fact that God's actions can be judged as being moral
or not moral. They do not need to be assumed to be moral by definition,
simply because God is the actor. That was not Abraham's assumption. 
> Lisbeth:
> On 9/11/06, Lisbeth S. Fried <lizfried at umich.edu> wrote:
> > >
> > > Sameer, Lisbeth, Harold, et al.:
> > >
> > > I agree with Sameer that we ought confine ourselves first to the
> > > question, is "evil" the correct translation of the term R(? After
> > > that, and only after that, should we ask what is and what is not R(.
> > >
> > > My understanding of the term "evil" is that it always includes a moral
> > > aspect, is that not true?
> > OK
> > >
> > > Examples of R( in Tanakh include uses that, though they are
> > > displeasurable to the suffering of harm, they do not include the moral
> > > aspect.
> > Examples, please.
> Genesis 37:33 where it is used as an adjective
> Genesis 41:21 the emaciated cattle pharaoh saw in his dream
> Leviticus 27:10 the animals designated for sacrifice
> Leviticus 27:12 the value, the pleasing value of course costing more.
> Deuteronomy 15:21
> Deuteronomy 17:1
> Deuteronomy 28:35
> Shall I go on?
> My understanding is that when an adjective stands alone, as in Isaiah
> 45:7, that it refers to an event(s) or object(s) that can be
> understood as described by that adjective.
> > >
> > > Therefore, my conclusion is that "evil" is an incorrect translation
> > > for R(. I have suggested that "harm" or something similar is a better
> > > translation.
> > I don't agree, unless you can show me examples of the use of Ra( which
> > not include a moral aspect. Please do not include sentences with God as
> > subject, as that is the issue.
> > >
> See  above.
> > > Shall we discuss this linguistic aspect, or shall I join with Sameer
> > > in requesting that the moderators shut down this thread?
> > I'm very happy to discuss the meaning of this word. Understanding its
> > meaning is crucial.
> > You might start with Gen.2 and 3. What type of knowledge is available to
> > Adam and Eve after they eat of the tree of da'at tov v ra'? I assumed it
> > knowledge of moral discernment, not a knowledge of what sort of
> > are beneficial and what sort are disastrous. I would think that even the
> > animals know when a pleasant thing happens to them and when a calamity
> > strikes.
> > Liz Fried
> Genesis two and three are where not to start, as God is the (indirect)
> My understanding of the term is that it refers to that which is
> displeasing, but in a semantic domain that is much broader than the
> English term, to include also physical harm. In itself, it is morally
> neutral, but it is often used in a context where the displeasure is
> caused by moral actions, hence the context is adding something not
> contained in the word alone. Where the context does not include the
> moral aspect, I do not think a term that has morality as a necessary
> part should be used as a translation, such as "evil".
> I understand that the word for "evil" is the same as for "wicked", namely
> Because of the strong theological traditions that have accrued to R(,
> I have found it hard to analyse it for itself. Did I miss anything?
> Karl W. Randolph.
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