This is the re-formatted eBook version of this chapter in the book So You Think You're Chosen?
EVIL AND GOD’S KNOWLEDGE
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When we read about God in the following terms,
. . . of Him and through Him and to Him are all things . . .
. . . All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.
You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created.
It is easy to think these are all encompassing statements. Nothing appears excluded. Certainly, ‘all things’ would appear to give that idea.
However, scripture explains scripture and one
thing is not included in ‘all things’: evil.
Evil is excluded from this. We know this by reading that,
. . . God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.
1 John 1:5
In writing this John is not alluding to photons or the lack of them. Physical light is not at issue here. What is being spoken of is evil – darkness in that sense – has no place in God. Indeed it is also written that,
. . . You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness, nor shall evil dwell with You.
What does all this say about God?
It says that God is not acquainted with evil and is unable to produce it or, think of it or, plan it. With no evil in God a question or more then arises.
Where did evil come from? How did it begin?
And, perhaps more relevant to our true understanding of God when did this begin?
Well, the determination of when evil began in the midst of the existence of all things is a pointer to the extent of God’s knowledge. If evil has no part in God, then evil’s first appearance indicates a moment where God is seen to learn something outside of His experience. Since evil is something outside of God’s pure character, evil’s existence is the beginning of new information for God. The extent of God’s knowledge therefore has limits.
And since the bible is the only source of information for Christian believers to effectively trust and use to learn about God due to its inherent inspiration by the Spirit of God in its production, is there a moment shown us where God is 1st seen to discover evil? A moment when evil is 1st ‘found’ in a being created by God?
Yes, I think so.
We read in Ezekiel of an angelic being which was (who was?) created perfect.
But then, we read, how he was found with iniquity. We are shown that there existed the anointed cherub who was perfect, as shown by the words:
You were the anointed cherub who covers; I established you; you were on the holy mountain of God; you walked back and forth in the midst of ﬁery stones. You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created . . .
We then read,
. . . Till iniquity was found in you.
This is probably a record of the ﬁrst thing God ever learned. The discovery of evil in a being God had created perfect.
Since God is not acquainted with evil, due to in Him being ‘no darkness at all’, it is inconceivable that He knew of this evil before it occurred.
Of course He knew of the possibility of it, but He had no way of knowing how it would occur or when, since this entails knowing and understanding the mechanics of evil: being acquainted with it. To think or believe He did know is to say He was familiar with evil and even had planned it into being. Which is why the scripture has ‘till iniquity was found in you’. It was found: it was something discovered and learned about: By God Himself.
After all, it happened to someone who had been created perfect. God did not implant evil in that person or planned it.
This is why in mentioning grievous evils which fallen Israel was committing – in this instance, the sacriﬁce of children by fire – God says:
. . . they have also built the high places of Baal, to burn their sons with ﬁre for burnt offerings to Baal, which I did not command or speak, nor did it come into My mind . . .
This speciﬁcally tells us of something which had not come into God’s mind. This evil had never occurred to God, since in Him there is ‘no darkness at all’: He is not acquainted with evil. The act of sacriﬁcing children by fire had not occurred to God. This is the testimony of scripture.
The way created beings have turned from God and followed evil is something which God has been learning about since it began. Once it has occurred and a pattern has established, God is seen to put into place obstacles or limitations to limit its existence or its effects for the future. This is true of God’s dealings with men from Genesis onwards.
An immediate example is the curse on the ground (Genesis 3:17-19) which was removed after the Flood, since this event brought in better and more suited limitations: New rivers and mountain ranges having been formed, etc. The removal of that curse also came with an expansion of the reason for it ‘I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth’ (Genesis 8:21).
The wickedness of man, allowed for by his passivity, was restricted by the curse on the ground. He had to keep busy to obtain food, thus the cause for man’s part in allowing the eating of the forbidden fruit, and any further evil was restricted: due to man’s inherent passivity. Passivity in Adam allowed Eve’s deception to be put in practise. Passivity if given time to allow evil, permits the practise of the evil imagination based in pride. The curse on the ground meant severely restricted time to permit passivity to inﬂuence negatively.
After the Flood new restrictions were in place. These were added to at the tower of Babel by new languages causing division amongst the wicked (Genesis 11). As government amongst men became a feature even more restrictions on growth of wickedness became effective (Romans 13:1-7). The rules of life truly changed by the means of the Flood: Vegetation alone was no longer a fully viable support for mankind. This meant God now gives permission to eat meat (Genesis 9:3). That is quite a change alone after 16 centuries of existence. And the use of multiple languages to confuse wickedness in a group was not needed for those many centuries whilst everyone was busy working to overcome the effects of the curse on the ground before the Flood. I have added at the end of this chapter answers to objections to the thought that the curse on the ground was removed.
Had God known at the beginning, the growth of wickedness as He did by the time of the Flood, would He not have placed those new restrictions at the start and not provide a new set of rules for life? The Flood itself would have been unnecessary. Could this be some of what was explained when Jesus ‘preached to the spirits in prison’ – to those who had lived in Noah’s day (1 Peter 3:19-20)?
Since God never decreed or planned for evil’s existence due to no facet of His Being having darkness, then it is only as a pragmatic response to evil’s existence that He makes plans to redeem those under its inﬂuence, to limit its existence and effects and, to allow it on occasion to bring things about for long term good. This is all good stuff and has no indicator or implication of evil in God Himself. The use of what is there – an evil practise by someone for example - without being a part of that practise, is not an indicator of evil in God. Here is an example.
God is seen to use a lying spirit to make some people fall who had already chosen against the truth (1 Kings 22:20-23).
. . . The LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these prophets of yours, and the LORD has declared disaster against you.
1 Kings 22:23
Again in The New Testament we read of those who,
. . . because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved . . . for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie . . .
2 Thessalonians 2:10-11
There is a clear cause and effect here. Those who have chosen to believe a lie will have this enforced for them. As Jesus said ‘For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.’ (Matthew 13:12). Those who have no desire to believe and follow righteousness will see their ability to do so removed or extinguished. As shown by the above 2 passages this removal is done by reinforcing the delusions chosen. This is permitted evil and is used for God’s ultimate purposes in the nations as shown by the example of causing the people to fall in battle in the Kings passage and to create a powerbase for the antichrist in the Thessalonians passage.
Another good example can be seen with Pharaoh in the time of Moses whose heart God hardened. This ‘strengthening’ of Pharaoh’s heart occurred following his own desire to be against God’s people (see chapter 10 where I outline in detail with regards to Romans 9 how Pharaoh ﬁrst hardened his heart 6 times and then the Lord ‘strengthened’ it in that state a further 6 times). This hardening of Pharaoh’s heart was done in order for God to show His power in the nations.
This is not God planning evil in the ﬁrst place, but making use of its existence to His own ends. For God to plan evil and be the cause of its existence is to contradict scripture. This can be seen further when Jesus said,
Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.
Every kingdom Jesus said and since,
The face of the LORD is against those who do evil . . .
God’s kingdom is not for the evil doer. If God planned for evil, He too would be evil and divided against Himself.
The Devil wants us to believe God is to blame for the existence of evil. This is why his ﬁrst recorded words involve ‘Has God indeed said . . . ?’ (Genesis 3:1), that is to say, ‘God cannot be trusted – He is not pure – He is not full of truth’. This was his ﬁrst words to Eve as he began his work of deceiving her. Jesus did well to call Satan the father of lies:
. . . he is a liar and the father of it.
Whereas the testimony of God is:
God is not a man, that He should lie . . .
It is a deceit pure and simple to conceive of God as the originator of evil – something He never decreed, planned for or executed. He cannot for ‘God is light and in Him is no darkness at all’. He is not acquainted with it. For Him to plan it, He must understand and be acquainted with it. He must conceive of it and that out of Himself: a complete blasphemy!This is therefore a positive pointer to the limitation of God’s knowledge.
For example, it helps us to understand the act of choosing Saul as king, as no mistake on His part. For the evil that Saul turned to, was not in God’s mind. It explains why His reaction to the rebellion of Saul is to honestly say via Samuel the prophet:
. . . the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not continue . . .
1 Samuel 13:13-14
Up to that point there is no mention in the Bible of David, the next king to be. The next sentence is the ﬁrst:
The LORD has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and the LORD has commanded him to be commander over His people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you.
1 Samuel 13:14
King Saul rebelled in a manner not foreseen by God. To think otherwise is to bring into doubt the statement that God ‘would have established your [Saul’s] kingdom over Israel for ever’. God had picked out Saul to be the ﬁrst king and we see from Samuel’s words that God had planned for his kingdom to be over Israel for ever. It is easy to see, for example, how Saul’s son Jonathan would have made a good king. But, it was not to be. How true are Jesus words,
Many are called, but few are fit for it. [few are quality]
Matthew 20:16; 22:14 J.R. More
Please Note again: the usual translation of ‘. . . few are chosen’ does not tally with the most common use of the word eklektos in the Septuagint. The ‘fat’ cows coming out of the Nile in Pharaoh’s dream as interpreted by Joseph were eklektos cows – quality meat; ‘young men’: guys in their prime; ‘Choice’ silver; The ‘pleasant’ land; ‘tall’ trees, etc. . . The common emphasis is quality not ‘a selection’. The Septuagint is the 200 or so year old translation of the Old Testament into Greek which Jesus and the apostles used and quoted. This being the common use of the word eklektos and known by Jesus when he said the above statement, it makes this a perfectly valid and the most appropriate meaning/translation. This is also true wherever ‘elect’ and ‘chosen’ has been translated elsewhere in the New Testament from the word eklektos. So when you read of ‘elect angels’ think ‘the good ones’. The ‘elect’ or ‘chosen’ think ‘the saints’ or, the ‘quality guys’. For a full account of my research of this word in the Septuagint see the 2nd Appendix.
This limit upon God’s knowledge tallies with
His testing the hearts in order to judge accordingly.
Who does the judging?
So, it is for His purpose in judging that He tests. To know what is in the hearts. It is in order that He knows the true motives for the acts of men.
I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.
. . . the LORD your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.
A clear example for the purpose of God to know is told us in King Hezekiah’s life where,
. . . God withdrew from him, in order to test him, that He might know all that was in his heart.
2 Chronicles 32:31
The inspiration of the text makes clear the cause and effect. God withdrew, to test Hezekiah, so that God might know by observation all that was in the king’s heart. This also makes sense of the Lord’s words after testing Abraham with Isaac his only son from Sarah,
. . . for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.
How did evil ﬁrst come about?
It is evident from Genesis 3 that Satan, also known as the Serpent, the Dragon, and the Devil (Revelation 12:9) was already a doer of evil before man. When he tempted Eve as mentioned above, his ﬁrst words were to allude to God being evil Himself. Apart from this we do not know when it was that Satan fell. The anointed cherub mentioned in Ezekiel as being perfect until iniquity was found in him, may be and is likely to be a reference to Satan, but apart from the evil in both there is no other clear link. Jesus said:
I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.
This tells us that Satan was in heaven and had a role there and also that he fell. We are aware that he is not alone:
. . . the dragon and his angels fought . . .
So, how did these originally good
creations of God fall?
They are shown in scripture as sentient beings and have a freedom to choose what to do. This can be seen by the reaction of angels when communicating with man:
. . . I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these things. Then he said to me, “See that you do not do that . . . Worship God.’’
The good angels know to receive worship is to take the place of God: idolatry.
This is not just an emotive reaction, but a conscious recognition that to worship any other than God is wrong. Idolatry is encouraged by demons (also known as devils e.g. KJV) for when Paul writes about offerings to idols he says:
. . . the things which the Gentiles sacriﬁce they sacriﬁce to demons and not to God . . .
1 Corinthians 10:20
Demons are fallen angels who desire to receive worship. They chose, at some point, to stop giving God the praise and wanted it for themselves. They wanted to live independent of God. This is when evil first took place. For evil is doing anything apart from God: outside of His character. Outside of His created order. This was possible because any free being – one that is not a robot – is able to choose for themselves the direction of their lives.
The workings of this evil act by an angel of desiring worship for himself, of thinking himself better or greater than he is – pride – are all evil. The mechanics of doing this evil are not a part of God’s Being since ‘God is light and in Him is no darkness at all’. There is no pride in God. He resists them:
God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
This makes the ﬁrst act of doing this evil a thing
discovered and learned by God, since He is not familiar
with the mechanics of it. To say otherwise is to imply
God’s appreciation of evil and acquaintance of it.
Even to say He planned or decreed it.
Since worship is beﬁtting for God alone,
I am the LORD, that is My name; and My glory I will not give to another, nor My praise to graven images.
Then, He has had no part in any plan to have anyone
receive worship other than Himself. God has therefore
never made any plan to have angels to share His
worship. The turning to evil of the angel is not known
by Him until it occurred.
A question to the reader:
Do you believe God planned or decreed someone other than Himself to receive worship?
God cannot at the same time decree something to happen in eternity (past) and then, declare something in opposition to that. He cannot agree and disagree at the same time. That is confusion. He is not divided against Himself. Sin is not something He desires or plans into being:
Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.
What does God know?
An awful lot: He knows all that is knowable.
God knows the amount of hair on all our heads, the very number of molecules in the universe are not hidden from Him. He knows inﬁnitely more than all other beings put together, because He created them all. It does not mean everything though, as we have seen. Evil and the desire for it, has caused God to search out the motives of man. This is so that His judgments are based on truth.
We also see the knowledge of the future is limited to the plans He ensures comes about. That is how prophecy operates.
Remember the former things of old, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure’
What He purposes to do, He ensures comes about. This tells us that His knowledge of the future is based on what He plans to do and carries out taking into account the existence of evil and what He permits and limits of it. It is not therefore a knowledge based on some view ‘outside of time’ as if it were there already, but on His appreciation of the present and His involvement to cause the events to occur in the set future time.
. . . Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it.
So, how does one view a passage like Ephesians:
. . . He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world . . . having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will . . . being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will . . .
Ephesians 1:4, 5, 11
Predestination is a reality which cannot be denied. There is the predestination of nations and that of individuals. The nation of Israel is predestined to be the home of the Messiah who is Jesus Himself who will return and rule from there. He is predestined to this role. Nations are set to rise and fall according to prophecy. Things which the Lord will ensure occur. There is a grouping known as the Church which is also predestined and just as with the nations individuals are able to join the Church. When reading Ephesians it is of note, as outlined in the previous chapter, that the group is in view by the multitude of pronouns used throughout: we, us, you and your (in the plural). In Old Testament language the generic terms used for the 2 main groups of people on earth were ‘the righteous’ and ‘the wicked’.
Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.
‘Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?’ says the Lord GOD, ‘and not that he should turn from his ways and live?
Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked . . .
. . . the LORD knows the way of the righteous . . .
A little that a righteous man has is better than the riches of many wicked.
The examples are plentiful. Two groups were in view and all you need to do to be part of ‘the righteous’ as the ﬁrst quote shows is to repent and turn to God. Equally you could choose to be part of ‘the wicked’:
When a righteous man turns away from his righteousness, commits iniquity, and dies in it, it is because of the iniquity which he has done that he dies.
This is true also of the New Testament. He who repents and turns to Jesus becomes a part of the Church: The Body of Christ. It is the Church as a whole that is predestined to good works and adoption. If you are found in Him then you are known as righteous. If you rebel and sin you are not.
Objections to the curse removal addressed
To help concrete the interpretation that God removed the curse on the ground in Genesis 8:21 by removing some possible objections I offer the following:
. . . and Jehovah saith unto His heart, ‘I continue not to disesteem any more the ground because of man, though the imagination of the heart of man is evil from his youth . . .’
Genesis 8:21 Young’s Literal Translation of the Holy Bible
This verse as translated by Robert Young helps to show that by ‘I will never again curse the ground’ as translated in the NKJV, the meaning is more to do with ‘I do not allow the curse to continue’ than ‘I will not do it a second time’. The latter understanding of course has the problem also of suggesting that doing a curse a second time is something perhaps necessary for God to do: i.e. cursing once by God is insufﬁcient.
Some would say that a curse by God on someone is irreversible nor is a blessing from God irreversible. This would tally with the truth that a calling on someone’s life does not change or a gift from God is not taken away as per Paul’s words:
For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.
In the KJV this is translated as ‘the gifts and calling of God are without repentance’.
Which some have read to mean that a man need not repent to still have these, but the context refers to God not changing His mind. It is His repentance that is in view. So to remove such misunderstanding more modern versions have used the word ‘irrevocable’. So this verse would support the view that a curse or a blessing from God on someone is irreversible.
However it is not a person or even a living entity that has been cursed in Genesis 3:17 and removed in Genesis 8:21, it is the ground. It is not someone, but an object for a purpose. This purpose is mentioned in both passages and it is that purpose for which it served that the curse was put there, and then removed. Something different was put in place to ‘take care’ of the purpose.
Now some will note that Robert Young does not translate the word ‘curse’ in his translation. This is because the word Qalal has been used in the Hebrew as opposed to the word Arar in the earlier mention.
There are two main Hebrew words for ‘curse’, ARAR (62; also used for 7 other words a total of 7 times) and QALAL (41; also used for 27 other words a total of 40 times).
This shows that for both arar and qalal the prime use is for ‘curse’.
Other words for ‘curse’ in Hebrew are ALAH (19), BARAK (4), CHEREM (7), MEERAH (5), NAQAB (6), QABAB (7), QELALAH (31), SHEBUAH (1), TAALAH (1).
Words used for ‘curse’ in Greek in the New
Anathematidzò (3); Ara (1); Epikataratos (3); Kakologeò (2); Katanathema (1); Katanathematidzò (1); Katara (6); Kataraomai (6)
This is helpful in that the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament translates both Arar and Qalal with the same root word in Greek katara in Genesis 3:17 and 8:21. Showing that for those translators the 2 passages in question meant a curse in the same way.
Now Quoting from both Hebrew words translated as curse in the case of Naaman it can be seen that they can also mean the same thing.
Translated from Qalal
. . . they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of Mesopotamia , to curse you.
. . . king of Moab, arose to make war against Israel, and sent and called Balaam the son of Beor to curse you.
. . . they had not met the children of Israel with bread and water, but hired Balaam against them to curse them. However, our God turned the curse into a blessing.
Translated from Arar
And Balaam . . . took up his oracle and said . . . Blessed is he who blesses you, and cursed is he who curses you.
Numbers 24:2-3, 9
Therefore please come at once, curse this people for me, for they are too mighty for me. Perhaps I shall be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land, for I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed.
So, even though there is more of an emphasis in qalal to a curse as in swearing or demeaning someone’s name, it can be readily seen it is used effectively in the stronger sense that arar mostly gives, that of a spiritual pronouncement with power.
Also it must not be forgotten to suggest God just merely speaks evil or denigrating (despising) the ground in Genesis 8:21 whilst He had cursed it (proper) in Genesis 3:17 is to say what? God doesn’t like the ground? He despises it?
No, but instead it makes sense that in Genesis 8:21 just as in the examples just given of Balaam, cursing using the word qalal is equivalent and indistinguishable as arar within these contexts.
A ﬁnal note about The Curse and curses in the bible
The world of doctrine and theology has made much use of ‘The Curse’ as it relates to salvation. The bible alone mentions many curses. Some explicitly like the one in question upon the ground. Some implicitly or inferred by the feeling that something bad is in itself a curse: these can include sin, death, the groans of creation (as mentioned by Paul in Romans 8:22), etcetera. One speciﬁc curse removed – as discussed – does not infer the removal of any other real, inferred or imagined ‘curse’.
Objection of anthropomorphic language
There are those who argue that the passages referring to a lack of knowledge on God’s part are illustrative by using anthropomorphic language. To God are attributed arms, hands or that he sits. He is mentioned with human emotions: love, hate, jealousy and anger. God is said to whistle, have wings, etc. God is said to be a potter or a shepherd or a father or a husband. The purpose for this language is not to describe the entirety of God, but to address a particular matter in the immediate context in which the mention appears. So that when God is said not to be like men, it is only a reference to lying like men do (Numbers 23:19).
However, when he says now he knows or he tests
to know what illustration is this about?
It is a description and a revelation pure and simple to show the real facet of God that he wishes us to know about. No more. The purpose of testing is repeatedly given us to reveal God’s need and desire to know something new. I don’t wish to argue the revelation given by the inspiration of those passages; I wish to accept them since they do not contradict the rest of Scripture equally read in context. It is dangerous ground to doubt the inspiration of the text and rather to base a view of God on attributes not revealed in Scripture.
Copyright © Jacques More 2008
First published in Great Britain 2008
The right of Jacques More to be identiﬁed as
the Author of The Work has been asserted by him
in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988
ISBN 978 1 898158 16 5
Unless otherwise stated Bible passages are taken from
The Holy Bible,
New King James Version Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982, 1983
by Thomas Nelson, Inc.