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Holman Bible Dictionary

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Additional Resources
• Nave's Topical Bible
Evil for evil
Evil for good
Evil speaking
Good and evil
Good for evil
• Treasury of Scripture Knowledge
Evil eye; uncompassionate
God; Almighty
Manasseh's evil heart
Think no evil
• Torrey's Topical Textbook
Miracles through Evil Agents
• Baker's Evangelical Dictionary
Evil Spirit
Spirit, Evil
• Easton's Bible Dictionary
Evil eye
Hill of Evil Counsel
Tree of the knowledge of good and evil
• Fausset's Bible Dictionary
Evil Merodach
• Hitchcock's Bible Names
• International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
Evil Eye
Evil One
Evil Spirit
Evil Thing
Speaking, Evil
Spirit, Evil
Spirit, Unclean (or Evil)
Greek - evil doing
Greek - speak evil of, be spoken of as evil, revile, reviling
Greek - evil speaking
Greek - evil report
Greek - evil
Greek - evil
Greek - evil, evil things, that which is evil, evil men, evildoer
Greek - entreat evil, make evil affected
Greek - speak evil of, speak evil, speaking evil, speaks evil
Greek - do evil, evil doing, does evil
Greek - evil doer
Greek - evil
Greek - speak evil of
Greek - evil speaking
Greek - evil, evil things, evil one, more evil
Hebrew - evil
Hebrew - evil
Hebrew - evil, evil man, evil men
Hebrew - evil, evildoer, do evil, doing evil, evildoers, evildoing, practiced evil
Hebrew - evil, evil man, evil men, evil things, evildoer, evildoers, evils, what is evil, what was evil, which is evil
Hebrew - evil
Hebrew - evil
Hebrew - evil
Hebrew - evil, evil deeds, evildoer, evildoing, evils
Hebrew - evil report
Hebrew - evil intent
Hebrew - devises evil, evil devices
Hebrew - Evilmerodach, Evil-merodach
Hebrew - evil

That which is opposed to God and His purposes or that which, defined from human perspectives, is harmful and non-productive.

The Problem of Evil Evil is a major theoretical and practical problem for a Christian. Evil is of two types. First, there is natural evil. There are destructive forces in nature, ranging from earthquakes and tidal waves to cancer. Second, there is moral evil which has its source in the choice and action of humans. This type of evil includes war, crime, cruelty, and slavery.

If God is all-powerful and good, as the Bible affirms, why does He allow evil? There are statements and emphases in the Bible which help to explain and reduce the problem of natural and moral evil.

Natural Evil Concerning natural evil, several emphases should be noted. First, moral evil accounts for much of natural evil. In Genesis, evil and suffering appeared only after the Fall (Genesis 3:16-19). By contrast, the original creation is very good (Genesis 1:31). The new heavens and the new earth will have no more suffering (Revelation 21:4). This means that evil and suffering are not eternally inevitable. Rather they are bound up with the actions of sinful humans. Physical suffering and pain and finally death have been introduced as a consequence of the Fall (Genesis 3:16-19).

Second, God disciplines His people collectively and individually, even through natural evil and pain, to bring them closer to His purposes (Proverbs 3:11-12; Jeremiah 18:1-10). This emphasis is also found in the New Testament (Hebrews 2:10; Hebrews 5:8-9; Hebrews 12:5-11).

Third, personal life cannot develop except in a stable environment. God limited Himself by the establishment of regularity and law. This regularity of nature is an important factor in developing human personality. The earthquake, volcano, and storm, which cause human suffering, all belong to nature's regularity. Some so-called natural evil, therefore, can be attributed to the necessary operation of natural uniformities.

Fourth, natural evils may be used for judgment upon sin. It is deeply ingrained in the Bible that physical evils have been used by God for the punishment of individual and national wickedness. Noah's flood, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the fall of Jerusalem are examples. This does not mean that all physical evils are the punishment of physical sins.

Moral Evil There are also some biblical teachings which help us to understand moral evil from the Christian perspective.

First, God limited Himself in giving people and angels freedom. To be truly human, a person must have the power of choice. Apparently God felt that, for reasons which were evident to Him but which we can only partly understand, it was better to make human beings than robots.

Robots might respond in an automatically correct way in every situation, but they would be machines, not persons. Not even God can love machines in the sense that persons can be loved.

Second, humans used freedom in such a way as to bring in evil. The Bible tells us that with the Fall, humanity's first sin, a radical change took place in the universe. Death came upon mankind (Genesis 2:17; Genesis 3:2-3, Genesis 3:19). God pronounced a curse upon mankind which is represented by certain specifics: anguish in childbearing (Genesis 3:16), male domination over the wife (Genesis 3:16), toilsome labor (Genesis 3:17), and thorns and thistles (Genesis 3:18). These are probably only a sample of the actual effects upon the creation. Paul in Romans 8:22 said that the whole creation has been affected by human sin and is now in bondage to decay.

Third, back of human revolt stood Satan. In Genesis 3:1 we read that the serpent tempted Eve. Thus, an evil force was present within the creation. It was Satan's appeal which stirred within Adam and Eve the desire which led them to sin. Compare Revelation 12:9.

It is clear, then, that God did not create evil and sin. He merely provided the options necessary for human freedom. People sinned, and before that, the fallen angels, not God.

Fourth, even though evil is because of human revolt and failure, God continues to be active in redeeming people from their self-imposed evil.

Fifth, God deals with evil through judgment and wrath. This judgment can be seen in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 28:20-21; Isaiah 3:11). The wrath of God is not divine vindictiveness, but is dynamic, persistent opposition to sin (Romans 1:18). Thus, a principle of judgment upon, and annulment of, evil can be discerned at work in history and even in individual lives.

Sixth, God deals with evil through the incarnation, the cross, and the resurrection. The Bible teaches that God Himself in Jesus Christ became the victim of evil so that there might be victory over evil. It is also indicated in such passages as Colossians 1:24; Philippians 3:10; and 2 Corinthians 12:7 that the Christian can bear suffering for others and assist in God's redemptive purpose.

After all the solutions are considered, we still realize that the problem of evil is not completely solved on an intellectual level from our limited human perspective. However, on the practical and experiential level we can say with the apostle Paul that “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us” (Romans 8:37).

John P. Newport

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor.. "Entry for 'EVIL'". "Holman Bible Dictionary".
<>. 1991.


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