In 1 Samuel 19:9, it reads, “But an evil spirit from the Lord….”. How can there be an evil spirit from God, since there is no evil in Him? I’ve looked at several translations, and they are all the same. Can you explain this one? What is meant by this? Thank you.


A great question.  I certainly cannot blame you one bit for thinking that this creates a possible contradiction in the scriptures.  However, I believe that the contradiction is only an apparent one—that it is not indeed a contradiction, and here is why I say this.

First of all, I completely agree with your premise that God did not create anything evil.  In fact, to quote from God himself in Genesis 1:31, everything he created is good.  In fact, it is “very good.”

Yet, clearly evil exists.  And add to that, we learn in John 1:3 that nothing has been made that was not made by God (actually by his Son Jesus).  So this adds to the conundrum.  If evil is real and if evil exists, and if everything created is good, how do we solve this apparent contradiction?

Here is the answer.  Nearly everything that God created obeys him.  The birds obey him.  The atoms obey him.  The stars obey God.  Fido may not obey us, but he obeys God.  However, there are two exceptions that we know of.  These two exceptions are the creatures whom God created who have free will–humans and angels.  We know, both from human experience, and from the Bible (Deuteronomy 30:19-20 for example) that human beings have choice.  We have a will and we have free use of that will.  The biblical evidence is not quite as strong, but given the premise above, I have to conclude that angels also have freedom.  I conclude that Satan himself chose to rebel against God and thereby brought evil into the world.  The reason evil exists, is not because God created evil.  It is because God, in his infinite love and power, created beings/persons who have the ability to choose.  We chose to rebel and we brought evil into the world.

Now, these beings with free will really have free will!  God allows us to continue to do evil.  Why? Because we have free will!  Why do we have free will?  Because God loves us and because he wants us to love him.  Love, by definition, requires choice.  It cannot be contrived or forced.  God gives freedom to demons and to Satan himself.  We see Jesus giving “freedom” to demons in the gospels.  He allowed the demons to enter the pigs if they so chose in Matthew 8:28-34.  This may seem odd to us—that God would allow demons to do evil.  But we should remember that God allows us to do evil as well.  Which of us would claim that we have not done evil things? And which of us will blame God for this?  Personally, I am glad, not only that God gave me life, but that he gave me freedom of will.  But, if we are free, then we cannot blame God for our evil actions.  With freedom comes responsibility.  In fact, we should thank God that he created us and that he gave us the ability to choose to love him or not to love him.  God pleads with us to choose life!

Well, this brings me back (finally!) to your question.  I believe that in 1 Sam 19:9 God is not making the evil spirit enter Saul.  I believe that he is allowing the evil spirit to enter Saul.  To illustrate this and to support my interpretation, we can use Job 1:6-12.  Here, God does not make Satan and his angels do their evil work of tempting Job.  However, he allows them to do so.  He gives them permission.  From the biblical perspective, God is sovereign.  God is in control.  Therefore, when the writer of 1 Samuel tells us that the evil spirit came “from the Lord” he is not saying that God ordered the evil spirit to seize Saul.  He is, in essence, telling us that the sovereign God allowed the evil spirit to do this.   I also believe that demons can only do to us things that we, either directly or indirectly allow them to do.  Saul had already gone in a direction of giving in to his pride which, in essence, gave permission for these evil spirits to come on in and do their work.

I hope this helps to clear up your concern.

John Oakes

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