“I will put contempt between you and the woman, between your offspring and hers. They will strike your head, but you will strike at their heels.”” (Genesis 3:15, CEB).
Evil in the Old Testament is not personified as it is in the New Testament. Depending on your interpretation of the Hebrew word for Satan, meaning adversary, the term is more often a designation than a proper name in the Old Testament.
The Apostle Paul associates the serpent in Genesis 3 with a personified devil: “But I’m afraid that your minds might be seduced in the same way as the snake deceived Eve with his devious tricks. You might be unable to focus completely on a genuine and innocent commitment to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3, CEB).
The Apostle John clearly delineates the Tempter in the Garden of Eden as Satan or the devil: “So the great dragon was thrown down. The old snake, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world, was thrown down to the earth; and his angels were thrown down with him” (Revelation 12:9, CEB). The word “old” here refers to the fact that Satan’s appearance on Earth was at an early stage of the world’s history and has long been occupied with the task of deceiving and opposing God’s elect.
“Some time later, Cain presented an offering to the Lord from the land’s crops while Abel presented his flock’s oldest offspring with their fat. The Lord looked favorably on Abel and his sacrifice but didn’t look favorably on Cain and his sacrifice. Cain became very angry and looked resentful. The Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry, and why do you look so resentful? If you do the right thing, won’t you be accepted? But if you don’t do the right thing, sin will be waiting at the door ready to strike! It will entice you, but you must rule over it’” (Genesis 4:3-7, CEB).
Evil is a corruption of good and seems to be a necessary condition of God’s love and plan for redemption (see Part 1). There can’t be a love relationship with God if there’s not a choice to love Him, or not!
God has given people the choice to do good or not do good.
Then, maybe evil isn’t all bad?
In the Old Testament evil is sometimes directly attributed to God. For example, “Then an evil spirit from the Lord came over Saul” (1 Samuel 19:9, CEB).
From the perspective of the Old Testament writers, all actions and events in heaven and on the earth emanate from God. In other words, God’s “will” rules over His creation.
“The Lord saw that humanity had become thoroughly evil on the earth and that every idea their minds thought up was always completely evil. The Lord regretted making human beings on the earth, and he was heartbroken. So the Lord said, ‘I will wipe off of the land the human race that I’ve created: from human beings to livestock to the crawling things to the birds in the skies, because I regret I ever made them’” (Genesis 6:5-7, CEB).
It didn’t take long after the Creation for people to become so evil that God was sorry He created them. Evil must have spread among human beings at an exponential rate.
Evil seems to have grown simultaneously with the human race because God wanted to destroy the whole human race. Apparently everyone, or almost everyone, was evil!
Did God make a big mistake when He created human beings? If the humanity that God created had become thoroughly evil, then did God create evil?
“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”(Genesis 3:15, NIV).
In the Creation Story in Genesis 1 God created a good and perfect world populated by vegetation, animals, and human beings. Genesis 2 is perhaps a continuation of the Creation Story–possibly the next chapter in God’s already created order–describing the first people God chose to work His redemptive plans and purposes for all of humanity.
Genesis 3 is a creation story of sorts as it describes the formation of a different kind of world from God’s good and perfect creation–a new world order contrived by human beings. Genesis 3 describes the beginning of evil among humanity and it prognosticates the cosmic conflict between good and evil played out on the stage of this world.
In fact, this cosmic conflict may be the main point of the Creation Story in Genesis 1-3.
“Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:7-8, NASB).
Recently in the men’s Sunday School class I attend, the lesson was from Hebrews 13. And, this lesson from Hebrews 13 helped me resolve a long-standing theological dilemma I had wrestled with from Romans 6-8.
“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness, who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20, NASB).
There are those in this world who are trying to tell us what we know is evil is good and what we know is good is evil. Sometimes, they do it openly, but more often than not they do it inconspicuously. And, they tell us it’s for our own good. They say it will make the world a better place.
And, before you know it, we develop a tolerance for evil. Sometimes, this tolerance for evil comes in the form of compromise. And, sometimes, this tolerance for evil comes in the name of “tolerance” itself! And then, those who won’t compromise or don’t demonstrate an acceptable level of tolerance are called “intolerant” or “bigot.”
“I have done this so that we may not be taken advantage of by Satan. For we are not ignorant of his schemes” (2 Corinthians 2:11, HCSB).
Prior to this verse the Apostle Paul had just admonished the Corinthians to forgive the person among them who had sinned and caused them pain (vs. 5).