Saturday Word Study: “The Evil”

In the book of Judges, seven times the people are said to do “the evil” in the sight of the Lord. While most English translations ignore the definite article, preferring to translate it as “evil” or “evil things,” the Hebrew text clearly presents the term as a definite noun. The authors of this book of the Bible do not explicitly refer to that which this phrase refers, but context most commonly implies that it is a reference to the idolatry of the people of Israel.

When we look for the same phrase, “the evil” or חָרַע (hara), in the rest of the Hebrew Canon, one discovers that there are numerous things that God views as “the evil” and perhaps, it might be suggested, this understanding helps to shed light on Jesus’ language of asking God to delver us from “the evil” or τοῦ πονηροῦ (tou ponerou) in Matthew 6:13. In other words, asking God not to deliver us into temptation but to especially protect us from those sins in this category. References where “the evil” is given more specific definition are found below:

Exodus 33:4 — “the evil word” in context is the news that God was refusing to go with the people due to his idolatry.

Numbers 32:13 — “the evil” is a reference to not trusting God in the wilderness

Deuteronomy 4:25 — making carved images is referred to as “the evil”

Deuteronomy 9:18 — the people worshiping the Golden Calf was “the evil”

Deuteronomy 13:12 — Leading others into idolatry

Deuteronomy 17:2,5,7 — serving idols (note that here the death penalty is mandated for idolatry)

Deuteronomy 19:19-20 — being a malicious witness — conspiring against another

Deuteronomy 21:21 — the rebellious son

Deuteronomy 22:21 — the immoral daughter

Deuteronomy 22:24 — adulterers

Deuteronomy 24:7 — taking a Jew as a slave or selling a Jew into slavery

Deuteronomy 30:15 — here we have “the good” contrasted with “the evil” — obeying God in contrast to serving an idol

Joshua 23:15 — idolatry

1 Samuel 15:19 — Failing to destroy Agog

2 Samuel 12:9 — David’s adultery and the murder of Uriah

2 Samuel 14:17 — once again we find “the good” contrasted with “the evil” — right from wrong, in this case it is a statement that the wisdom of David is akin to the wisdom of the Angel of the Lord

1 Kings 11:6 — Solomon’s pursuit of idols

1 Kings 14:22 — The idolatry of Judah under Rehoboam

1 Kings 15:26 — King Nadab of Israel’s idolatry

1 Kings 15:34 — King Baasha of Israel’s idolatry

1 Kings 16:19; 16:25; 16:30 — more idolatry of the kings

1 Kings 21:20,25 — King Ahab’s idolatry instigated by Jezebel

1 Kings 22:52 — King Ahaziah’s idolatry

2 Kings 3:2; 8:18,27; 13:2,11; 14:24; 15:9,18,24,28; 17:2 — more idolatry from the kings

2 Kings 17:17 — burning sons and daughters in sacrifice to Molech

2 Kings 21:2 — following the practices of pagan nations

2 Kings 21:6,15-16,20; 23:32,37; 24:9,19 — more idolatry

2 Chronicles 12:14; 21:6; 22:4; 29:6; 33:2,6,22; 36:5,9,12 — more idolatry

Esther 7:6 — Haman is the evil

Nehemiah 13:17 — profaning the Sabbath is the evil

Job 2:10 — being under judgment

Psalm 51:4 — adultery and murder

Psalm 54:5,7 — to be under God’s judgment

Ecclesiastes 4:3 — better off is one who has never seen “the evil” deeds (be careful little eyes what you see)

Isaiah 5:20 — “Woe to those who call the evil Good”

Isaiah 65:12; 66:4 — idolatry

Jeremiah 3:17; 7:24; 11:8; 18:12; 32:30; 52:2 — the evil in their hearts is idolatry

Jeremiah 18:10 — the evil is not listening to God’s voice…in light of this, woe to those who claim to be Christians yet choose to ignore the Word of God

Jeremiah 23:22 — speaks of “the evil way”

Ezekiel 13:22 — “the evil way”

Micah 7:3 — idolatry

There is no debating that idolatry is the recurring theme that runs through these passages and indeed, idolatry destroys the people of God and the communities in which we dwell. And even though it is uncommon here in the west to run into people with large idols in their yards or homes, westerners make idols out of so many other things as well: performers, athletes, their wealth, a car or other precious item, etc… Anything that draws you away from having God and focusing on seeing Christ’s kingdom grow, that is an idol in your life. And these things are not just evil in God’s eyes, they are “the evil.” Pray that God delivers you from “the evil” that is in your life — is that not indeed, the heart of Jesus’ prayer?

Yet, we must notice that there are other things that are equally destructive and are “the evil” in God’s eyes. Things like not trusting God, lying, conspiring against the people of God, sexual immorality, murder, calling evil good, and not listening to the Word of God. How often do people turn a blind eye to dishonoring the Sabbath — in the eyes of God, it is “the evil.”  Then we have the sacrifice of children to Molech. Indeed, that is another expression of idolatry, but it also contains the idea of the murder of one’s own offspring. How awful a notion that is, yet it is tolerated in society and in many churches.

Finally, there is the sin of following the ways of other nations. That had obvious implications in the lives of those people who lived in ancient Israel but the sin often goes overlooked in the church today. It is commonplace for the church to incorporate pagan traditions into their public worship. Churches often draw from the practices of nature worship, nation worship, and entertainment. How many church holidays have simply been appropriated from secular sources or other religious traditions. When art, drama, organized dance, and patriotism are incorporated into the worship of God’s people, are they not guilty of this? That does not mean that art, dance, drama, and patriotism are bad things in and of themselves; they just do not belong in the worship of God’s people. 

Author: preacherwin

A pastor, teacher, and a theologian concerned about the confused state of the church in America and elsewhere...Writing because the Christian should think Biblically.

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