Evil - Revisited

Genesis 6.5

YAHWEH saw
that the wickedness
of human beings
was great in the earth,
and that every inclination
of the thoughts of their hearts
was only evil continually.
(NRSV w/YAHWEH added)

Evil is a very common word in Scripture. But what’s your personal concept of evil? Does it tend to think of evil as something really bad, awful; something most decent people would never consider doing? Most of us tend to see evil as being more than just treating someone badly.

The quote from Genesis 6.5 at the left is what generally comes to mind. This is the quote that precedes the destruction of the whole earth with the Flood of Noah. Things were certainly “evil”, because YAHWEH chose to destroy virtually all living things due to what He observed taking place on the earth, right? Well, they were certainly bad (as opposed to good). But they must have been really, really bad for Him to take such drastic action. That’s how we categorize “evil”.

It’s important for you to see that there’s something quite interesting about this verse that you typically are not being told in the English “ translations” of the text. There are two terms reflecting the problematic nature of “civilization”. The first is “wickedness”, the second is “evil”. What you do not see is that in the original Hebrew text the exact same word is used - BOTH TIMES! Wickedness = evil. One must ask why two different “translated” words are used when the Hebrew uses only one word in both places in the text. It is oäår , ra’, Strong’s Number 7451. Now, take a look at what the definition of that word is:

7451. oAr ra{, rah; from 7489; bad or (as noun) evil (natural or moral):
—adversity, affliction, bad, calamity, + displease(-ure), distress, evil((-favouredness), man, thing), + exceedingly, x great, grief(-vous), harm, heavy, hurt(-ful), ill (favoured), + mark, mischief(-vous), misery, naught(-ty), noisome, + not please, sad(-ly), sore, sorrow, trouble, vex, wicked(-ly, -ness, one), worse(-st), wretchedness, wrong. (Incl. feminine raaah; as adjective or noun.).
Note: Everything after the (:—) is how the word is “translated” in the KJV Bible. It is NOT part of the definition.

Also note that this word comes from a root word, Number 7489, given below:
7489.
 oAo∂r ra{a{, raw-ah´; a primitive root; properly, to spoil (literally, by breaking to pieces); figuratively, to make (or be) good for nothing, i.e. bad (physically, socially or morally):
—afflict, associate selves (by mistake for 7462), break (down, in pieces), + displease, (be, bring, do) evil (doer, entreat, man), show self friendly (by mistake for 7462), do harm, (do) hurt, (behave self, deal) ill, x indeed, do mischief, punish, still, vex, (do) wicked (doer, -ly), be (deal, do) worse.

And here’s a similar term from the same root word.
7455. AoOr roa{, ro´-ah; from 7489; badness (as marring), physically or morally:
—x be so bad, badness, (x be so) evil, naughtiness, sadness, sorrow, wickedness.

The “translation”, if you can really call it that, equates wickedness with evil. if you do evil, you’re wicked. But what if you just do something bad? Are you still wicked? The answer to that question, from a purely straightforward Scriptural viewpoint is an emphatic Yes! Doing something bad is also being wicked, using what we’ve been given.

Apparently this has given us the ability to distance ourselves from the “irreligious”, who certainly must be wicked, because they don’t “go to church like we do”. It also make it easier to pretend that our hurtful actions are not wicked. And from this we end up with self-righteousness, which in reality is yet another form of being bad. Evil has become a “religious” tool by which we categorize certain people as being “not as worthy” as we are. This is not Scriptural. It’s not YAHWEH’s way of doing things. 

Evil = Damage, Harm

Given the definitions of the Hebrew terms it becomes very apparent that evil is in reality something that damages or harms something or someone. It’s doing what is BAD to another, or to something. Given the root word it effectively means to break in pieces so as to make it worthless, i.e. not good. This is a far more pervasive concept that “evil”. It changes everything in regard to our perception of what YAHWEH declares as bad. It means that whenever you do something that hurts or harms another, in any manner whatsoever, you are being bad; evil or wicked if you want to use those terms.

Remember, now, the story of Adam and Eve in The Garden of Eden. There was a tree they were instructed not to eat from. it was The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and BAD - not evil! It’s the very same word used above, Number 7451. Once they ate from that tree they’d know the difference.- between good and bad (not wonderfulness and evil/wickedness, simply good and bad.)

To understand this better you need to try to think like a Hebrew person. For them virtually everything was viewed as balanced. Light and dark, wet and dry, cold and hot, good and bad - were all seen as continuums. There was not either/or. Everything was seen on a relative scale. Some things were more, some things were less, but they were still part of the same term. Good goes from only slightly good to that which is exceedingly good, wonderful, magnificent. Likewise, bad goes from a slight hurt or harm to total destruction. It’s helpful to at least recognize this is how they perceived things.

This means that whatever was oäår was bad, to whatever degree of “badness” it may have extended. To do harm to another was “bad”. To damage another was “bad”. To destroy something or someone totally was bad. What we’ve been taught as evil in Scripture is therefore far greater in scope than what we’ve thought or understood. We need to reconsider what this means. We need to transform our thinking about evil.

Here’s why. If you think you’re not doing evil you feel more or less OK about what you’re doing. You know evil is to be avoided. Most people don’t go there. However, when you recognize that any time and every time you do something that hurts, harms, or damages another - in any way - you’re actually, from a Scriptural perspective, doing evil. Look at what Scripture teaches in this regard:                  
                     
 Rom. 13:10  Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the Torah

This is the concept we need to have in our hearts and minds.
Evil becomes irrelevant when you are not doing harm to another.
To do wrong is to do what is bad.

This is what The Word of YAHWEH really is trying to teach us. Yet we keep trying, in our selfish humanness, to keep altering The Word of YAHWEH to make it fit our own pre-conceived notions as to what should be there, so we can be more comfortable with our own hurtful ways.

Included below are the Greek terms that are comparable to the Hebrew ones. These are the terms found in The New Covenant that most modern day believers tend to read. We seem to have difficulty spending much time with The Old Covenant - to our great loss, since that’s where the entire foundation for our faith really resides. Take a look at these terms:

2556. kako/ß kakos, kak-os´; apparently a primary word; worthless (intrinsically, such; whereas 4190 properly refers to effects), i.e. (subjectively) depraved, or (objectively) injurious:
— bad, evil, harm, ill, noisome, wicked.

4190. ponhro/ß poneros, pon-ay-ros´; from a derivative of 4192; hurtful, i.e. evil (properly, in effect or influence, and thus differing from 2556, which refers rather to essential character, as well as from 4550, which indicates degeneracy from original virtue); figuratively, calamitous; also (passively) ill, i.e. diseased; but especially (morally) culpable, i.e. derelict, vicious, facinorous; neuter (singular) mischief, malice, or (plural) guilt; masculine (singular) the devil, or (plural) sinners:
— bad, evil, grievous, harm, lewd, malicious, wicked(-ness). See also 4191.

4192. po/noß ponos, pon´-os; from the base of 3993; toil, i.e. (by implication) anguish: — pain.

5337. fauvloß phaulos, fow´-los; apparently a primary word; “foul” or “flawy”, i.e. (figuratively) wicked: — evil.

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