It is written:
“I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.” (Isaiah 45:7 KJV)
Creation and Scripture reveal that God is perfect in goodness, and can do nothing morally evil (Acts 14:7; Matthew 5:44-45; James 1:13; Psalm 18:10). Why, then, does the Bible claim that God is the One Who will “create evil?”
First, look at how this verse is rendered in different translations of Scripture. Please pay special attention to how the different translators render the word “evil” found in the KJV.
Isaiah 45:7 (NKJV)-I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create CALAMITY; I, the LORD, do all these things.‘
Isaiah 45:7 (ERV)-I made the light and the darkness. I bring peace, and I cause TROUBLE. I, the LORD, do all these things.
Isaiah 45:7 (Amplified)-I form the light and create darkness, I make peace [national well-being] and I create [physical] evil (CALAMITY); I am the Lord, Who does all these things.
Notice how these translations are translating the KJV’s “evil” with words like “calamity,” “sorrow,” and “trouble.” They are highlighting an important fact about the Hebrew word being used here that is translated as “evil” in the KJV. The Hebrew word used here, ra’, had a very wide range of meaning, depending on the context.
“However, the Hebrew word for evil ( rā ) used here does not always mean moral evil. Indeed, the context indicates that it should be translated, as the NKJV and other modern translations do, as “calamity.” Thus, God is properly said to be the
author of “evil” in this sense, but not in the moral sense—at least not directly. Further, there is an indirect sense in which God is the author of moral evil. God
created moral beings with free choice, and free choice is the origin of moral evil in the universe. So, ultimately God is responsible for making moral creatures who are responsible for moral evil. God made evil possible by creating free creatures, but the free creatures made evil actual. Of course, the possibility of evil (i.e., free choice) is itself a good thing. So, God created only good things, one of which was the power of free choice, and moral creatures produced the evil. However, God is the author of a moral universe and in this indirect and ultimate sense is the author of the possibility of evil. Of course, God only permitted evil, but does not promote it, and He will ultimately produce a greater good through it (cf. Gen. 50:20 ; Rev. 21–22 ).” (Norman Geisler & Thomas Rowe, When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook On Bible Difficulties, 4059-4064 (Kindle Edition): Wheaton, Illinois; Victor Books)
“The often-quoted verse in Isaiah 45: 7 (which KJV misleadingly renders as “I make peace, and create evil”) teaches that God has constructed a moral universe in which punishment follows wrong. The key word here is rā’, which covers the whole range of badness, all the way from distressing trials to calamities and disasters that overtake the good and the evil alike, to moral evil as such. But in this context, where there is a preceding pair of antithetical ideas (“ light” and “darkness”), it is exegetically certain that rā’ here is intended as the opposite, not of goodness or virtue, but of šāl $ oCm (“ peace” or “welfare”). Therefore RSV does better in rendering this line “I make weal and create woe”; NASB has “causing well-being and creating calamity”; NIV has “I bring prosperity and create disaster.” Hence Isaiah 45: 7 furnishes no indication whatever that God is the ultimate author of evil.” (Gleason L. Archer Jr., New International Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, 814 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan)
“Scripture reveals a God who is perfectly holy (Isaiah 54: 5 and Revelation 4: 8), just (Revelation 16: 5), and right (Psalm 119: 137). “The LORD is just! He is my rock! There is no evil in him” (Psalm 92: 15). The very nature of God is holy and right and therefore nothing he creates could ever be morally evil. So how is it that Isaiah says that he created evil? The word for evil in the Hebrew is ra and does not necessarily denote a moral evil. It can also be translated “calamity, bad or disaster.” The New International Version translates the verse as “I bring prosperity and create disaster” (Isaiah 45: 7). God can create disasters, but because he is perfectly holy he cannot create evil.” (Josh McDowell & Sean McDowell, The Bible Handbook of Difficult Verses: A Complete Guide to Answering the Tough Questions (The McDowell Apologetics Library), 2498-2507 (Kindle Edition); Eugene, Oregon; Harvest House Publishers).
Second, notice that the context of Isaiah 45 clearly favors a translation where God is speaking of calamity and not moral evil. The whole context is how God will punish those who trouble His people, including those who follow the false gods of the world.
Furthermore, notice the parallelism of the passage. The “evil”is not set in contrast-not to “good”-but to “peace.” The “evil” of this passage is not moral evil. It is stressing the fact that God can bring blessing and calamity upon a people, depending on their response to Him and His Word. The exact same formula is stressed just two chapters later:
Isaiah 47:11-Therefore EVIL shall come upon you; You shall not know from where it arises. And TROUBLE shall fall upon you; You will not be able to put it off. And DESOLATION shall come upon you suddenly, Which you shall not know.
Observe that the parallelism of the passage, the same as is used in Isaiah 45:6-7: the “evil” is the “trouble” and the “desolation” that God will bring on the people as He punishes them.
God is not the Author of moral evil.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.