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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Evil

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EVIL is an older form of the word ‘ill’; used, both as substantive and adjective, to tr. [Note: translate or translation.] various synonyms and ranging in meaning from physical unfitness to moral wickedness. The former is archaic, but occurs in Genesis 28:8 (AVm [Note: Authorized Version margin.] ), Exodus 21:8 (AVm [Note: Authorized Version margin.] ), Jeremiah 24:3 (AV [Note: Authorized Version.] ), and Matthew 7:18 , though the two last passages are not without an ethical tinge. But the word almost invariably connotes what is either morally corrupt (see Sin) or injurious to life and happiness.

1 . In the OT the two meanings are at first scarcely differentiated. Whatever comes to man from without is, to begin with, attributed simply to God ( Amos 3:6 , Lamentations 3:38 , Ezekiel 14:9 , Isaiah 45:7 ). Destruction is wrought by His angels ( Exodus 12:23 , 2 Samuel 24:16 , Psalms 78:49 ). Moral temptations come from Him ( 2 Samuel 24:1 , 1 Kings 22:23 ), though there is a tendency to embody them in beings which, though belonging to the host of heaven, are spoken of as evil or lying spirits ( 1 Samuel 16:14 , Judges 9:23 , 1 Kings 22:22 ). The serpent of the Fall narrative cannot be pressed to mean more than a symbol of temptation, though the form which the temptation takes suggests hostility to the will of God external to the spirit of the woman ( 2 Corinthians 11:3 , cf. Genesis 3:1-3 ). Then later we have the figure of the Adversary or Satan, who, though still dependent on the will of God, is nevertheless so identified with evil that he is represented as taking the initiative in seduction ( Zechariah 3:1 , 1 Chronicles 21:1 , but cf. 2 Samuel 24:1 ). This marks the growth of the sense of God’s holiness ( Deuteronomy 32:4 etc.), the purity which cannot behold evil ( Habakkuk 1:13 ); and correspondingly sharpens the problem. Heathen gods are now identified with demons opposed to the God of Israel ( Deuteronomy 32:17 , Psalms 106:37; cf. 1 Corinthians 10:20 ). This tendency, increased perhaps by Persian influence, becomes dominant in apocryphal literature ( 2 Peter 2:4 and Judges 1:6 are based on the Book of Enoch), where the fallen angels are a kingdom at war with the Kingdom of God.

2 . In the NT moral evil is never ascribed to God ( James 1:13 ), being essentially hostile to His mind and will ( Romans 1:18-21; Rom 5:10 , 1 John 1:5-7; 1 John 2:16; 1Jn 2:29; 1 John 3:4; 1 John 3:9 ); but to the Evil One ( Matthew 6:13; Matthew 13:19 , 1 John 5:19 ), an active and personal being identical with the Devil ( Matthew 13:39 , John 8:44 ) or Satan ( Matthew 4:10 , Mark 4:15 , Luke 22:31 , John 13:27 ), who with his angels ( Matthew 25:41 ) is cast down from heaven ( Revelation 12:9 , cf. Luke 10:18 ), goes to and fro in the earth as the universal adversary ( 1 Peter 5:8 , Ephesians 4:27; Ephesians 6:11 , James 4:7 ), and will be finally imprisoned with his ministering spirits ( Revelation 20:2; Revelation 20:10 , cf. Matthew 25:41 ). Pain and suffering are ascribed sometimes to God ( Revelation 3:19 , 1 Thessalonians 3:3 , Hebrews 12:5-11 ), inasmuch as all things work together for good to those that love Him ( Romans 8:28 ); sometimes to Satan ( Luke 13:16 , 2 Corinthians 12:7 ) and the demons ( Matthew 8:28 etc.), who are suffered to hurt the earth for a season ( Revelation 9:1-11; Revelation 12:12 ).

The speculative question of the origin of evil is not resolved in Holy Scripture, being one of those things of which we are not competent judges (see Butler’s Analogy , i. 7, cf. 1 Corinthians 13:12 ). Pain is justified by the redemption of the body ( Romans 8:18-25 , 1 Peter 4:13 ), punishment by the peaceable fruits of righteousness ( Hebrews 12:7-11 ), and the permission of moral evil by the victory of the Cross ( John 12:31 , Romans 8:37-39 , Colossians 2:15 , 1 Corinthians 15:24-28 ). Accept the facts and look to the end is the teaching of the Bible as a guide to practical religion ( James 5:11 ). Beyond this we enter the region of that high theology which comprehensive thinkers like Aquinas or Calvin have not shrunk from formulating, but which, so far as it is dealt with in the NT, appears rather as a by-product of evangelical thought, than as the direct purpose of revelation (as, e.g ., in Romans 9:1-33 , where God’s elective choice is stated only as the logical presupposition of grace). St. Paul is content to throw the responsibility for the moral facts of the universe upon God ( Romans 9:19-24; cf. Job 33:12 , Ecclesiastes 5:2 , Isaiah 29:16 ), who, however, is not defined as capricious and arbitrary power, but revealed as the Father, who loves the creatures of His hand, and has foreordained all things to a perfect consummation in Christ the Beloved ( Ephesians 1:3-14 etc.).

J. G. Simpson.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Evil'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdb/e/evil.html. 1909.

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