Judges 9: Why Does a Good God Allow Evil?

Today is going to be an interesting day on this blog because there was a verse in Judges 9 that I think needs addressing. I might be getting in over my head theologically, but I’m going to try.

Jdg 9:23  Then God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem; and the men of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech:

Surely, you can see why some people might have a problem with this passage. How could God send an evil spirit? If He is all good, how could He possibly send something that is evil? It might be even more important to wonder why God would send (if that is even what it means) an evil spirit.

First things first, I want you to know that I am using the King James Version above. You might wonder why that matters.

All of us need to remember that the Bible we read today is a translation from Hebrew. Because I am using computer software from e-Sword, it allows me to see the original Hebrew word.

The word here was ra’. This word was used a variety of different contexts. For example, it can be used to mean morally wrong like you might have initially thought when reading through this verse giving the English connotation of evil. However, it can also mean simply bad. In that case, it has been used to mean things like adversity.

It is entirely within the character of God to bring about adversity. For example, He put Jonah in a giant fish thanks to his disobedience. You could definitely call that adversity. In fact, the Bible itself describes the storm that Jonah was in as evil in Jonah 1:8, and the identical Hebrew word is used in that verse as well.

Now, let’s think about why Jonah was in trouble. I already mentioned it was because of his disobedience. He was supposed to go to Nineveh to bring about repentance, and he was afraid because he thought the people there would harm him. Since he didn’t want to go to Nineveh, he hopped on a boat going the opposite way thinking he could get away from God. You know how the story ends.

What if we compare that to what happened in Judges 9?

Abimelech was the son of Gideon, and he certainly had ambition. He wanted to be in charge of Israel, so he decided that the easiest way to get to the top would be to murder all of his siblings. He killed 70 of them, and only Jotham escaped.

Wait a minute. Did you catch what happened there? He sinned deliberately to do what he wanted to do. He didn’t care which one of the siblings God wanted to be King or if God wanted to do something else altogether; he thought he could make up his own plans.

As a result, God intervened to correct what was happening. With Jonah, He turned him around and made him go preach in Nineveh with spectacular results. With Abimelech, He brought down the dynasty that had been developed through evil means. God brought about these storms to correct what was going wrong.

If you take away nothing else from what I have read today, please realize that people cannot just pull a few verses out of the Bible and say it is wrong. For example, if you looked only at that passage from Judges in the King James Version, it would not be hard to imagine someone taking out of context and saying that God is evil in the sense of being morally evil. Obviously, that would be an incorrect assumption.

God does allow storms to come into our lives to bring us back on track like He did with Jonah, and He even allows trials into our lives to make us stronger. Think about Paul on the road to Damascus. That was certainly a difficult time, but it helped turn Paul into one of the strongest writers and missionaries in the early church. There is no evil intent from God but rather adversity that helps us become greater forces for God.

About Zak Schmoll

Zak Schmoll is the founder of Entering the Public Square, and Managing Editor of An Unexpected Journal. He earned his MA in Apologetics at Houston Baptist University and is currently a PhD student in Humanities at Faulkner University. His work has been featured on several websites including The Federalist, Public Discourse and the Fourth World Journal.

Posted on February 27, 2013, in Judges and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Hey Zak, thanks for posting, this was very informative and helpful! God sending an “evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem” was punishment for Abimelech brutally killing 70 of his siblings. And — as you said — the word in Hebrew indicates that it was a “spirit of adversity” — not “evil” in terms of being morally wrong. I remember reading this when I went through Judges. Thanks for clarifying this!

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