|From the TeachingtheWord Bible Knowledgebase|
I make peace, and create evil:
I the Lord do all these things. (Isaiah 45:7)
A careful study of the Hebrew words used in this passage and elsewhere in Scripture tells us that the answer is clearly No - and why.
Hebrew Words for "Evil" and "Sin"
The word translated "evil" in the King James rendering of this verse (and also in the American Standard Version) is the Hebrew word rah. In the KJV and New King James Version, rah is most often translated as "evil". The word in its most ancient forms signified "breakup" or "ruin". Rah is used nearly 700 times in the Old Testament, and has the same basic meaning as the New Testament Greek word kakos. Other versions of Isaiah 45:7 translate rah as "calamity" (NKJV, New American Standard, English Standard Version, Amplified Bible, and others) or "disaster" (New International Version).
Rah in the KJV is also in some instances translated "calamity" (Psalm 141:5); "distress" (Nehemiah 2:17); "adversity" (Psalm 94:13 and elsewhere); "grief" (Nehemiah 2:10 and elsewhere); "affliction" (Numbers 11:11 and elsewhere); "misery" (Ecclesiastes 8:6); "trouble" (Psalm 41:1 and elsewhere); "hurt" (Genesis 26:29 and elsewhere); and by other words including "wretchedness" - "harm" - "ill" - "mischief" - and "sorrow".
However, rah is not the Hebrew word that is almost invariably translated "sin" in the Old Testament. That word is kattawaw, whose basic meaning is "to miss the mark". Kattawaw is used nearly 500 times on the Old Testament, is mainly translated "sin" in the KJV and NKJV, and has a meaning very similar to the predominant New Testament Greek word for sin, hamartia.
Sin Versus Its Consequences
While kattawaw signifies sin itself - the act or thought of disobedience against God - rah signifies the ruin, calamity, harm, misery, etc. that is the result of sin. It is important to note that the sin-offerings of the Mosaic law were, in the Hebrew, always "kattawaw-offerings" never "rah-offerings".
It is likewise important to note that in Genesis 2:17 God's command is not (to use the equivalent English words) to forbid the fruit of "the tree of the knowledge of obedience and sin," but "the tree of the knowledge of good (Hebrew tobe, that which is beneficial or benign) and evil (rah)." It was Adam's sin (kattawaw) that resulted in the knowledge (Hebrew datath, perception or understanding) of good and evil.
God Himself emphasizes this relationship in the first use of the word for sin in the pages of Scripture. When Cain offered a sacrifice contrary to the one God had prescribed, Jehovah said to Cain, "Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin (kattawaw) lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it" (Genesis 4:6-7).
We must also remember the nature of God. Being completely "other" from His created order, God can be the Author of evil - the results of sin in the form of calamity, distress, grief, trouble, affliction, misery, and so on - as well as the Creator and sovereign Director of those who do evil, without being the author of sin itself. If God is indeed God, the absolutely Holy One, the One who must be obeyed perfectly, then there must be consequences for man's sin. The holy and just God cannot ignore His creature's rebellion or allow it to stand.
The True Purpose of God's Law
Even God's law was given for such a purpose. God's law magnifies the consequences of sin. But the end result, in the perfect plan of God, is exceedingly glorious. Notice what Scripture says regarding the true purpose of the law, in Galatians 3 and Romans 7:
What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator.
Now a mediator does not mediate for one only, but God is one. Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law. But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed.
Therefore the law was our tutor [KJV "schoolmaster"; in the Greek culture of the New Testament, a trustworthy slave who supervised the life and morals of a boy until manhood] to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. (Galatians 3:19-24)
What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, "You shall not covet." But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire.
For apart from the law sin was dead. I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me.
Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good. Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful.
For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good.
But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good.
For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God - through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:7-24)