There seems to be, in some circles a basic misunderstanding of what evil is. What is often referred to in conversations about evil and its cause is the moral evil. There are a number of contexts in which the word evil is used and the meaning of evil depends on its context like most any word. This also true of scripture and we need to be sure to obtain the proper context when using such words to prop up our favorite doctrines. The word evil can also be used in other contexts like misery, affliction, or calamity. There is a distinct difference between moral evil and affliction or misery people suffer. When discussing this subject we need to make clear which context we are discussing. Scripture is clear that God has not nor does He create moral evil nor is He responsible in any way for it. The Apostle James wrote that God cannot be tempted with evil nor does He tempt anyone with evil (James 1:13). The context here is moral evil.
The Isaiah 45:7 passage is often misused as a proof text to show that God does create evil. This is often made in defending an errant view of the Sovereignty of God. This we will address further in a moment. For now we need to also understand that the evil in this Isaiah passage is not speaking of moral evil but calamity of disaster. These types of things God has admitted to being the author and instigator of. God denies being the author of moral evil while showing He creates calamity on His disobedient children.
It is important to note that the use of the word evil is the Hebrew word r “ is used in scripture has many contexts and this Hebrew word translated in English as evil has a much broader range than our English version according to D.W.Baker in his article entitled “Evil” which can be found the book “Dictionary of the Old Testaments/Prophets” on page 194. This Hebrew word translated evil in English is found in contexts such as a description of food (Jeremiah 24:3; 29:17). It is also used in the context of wild dangerous animals (Ezekiel 5:17; 14:15). The reason it is used this way is because the word evil in Hebrew without any context simply speaks to that which is at the opposite end of good. J. Walls, in his article entitled “Evil” states that “evil refers to that which is opposed to good and the right” which can be found in the book titled Dictionary of the Old Testament/Historical Books pg. 272.
This Hebrew word r “ occurs as a verb; at times it occurs in the adjective form ra “. Other times it appears as a noun ra ‘a. Further it is important to note that sometimes the translation is used when describing a situation from man’s point of view. This is the case with Isaiah 45:7 where it is declared that God causes disaster. The use of the word here is indicating the terrible impact of a catastrophe. As Baker says we need to be very careful in determining which sematic nuance fits the context of the word.
Millard Erikson, in his book “Christian Theology pg. 544, declares it is not possible that God is the author of moral evil. James 1:13 that God does not do such a thing. So what we have discovered here is that evil in scripture does not have to mean a moral evil every time it is used or simply because it is used many times elsewhere in scripture. When we compare the scripture of James 1:13 to the scripture of Isaiah 45:7 we can determine that should the Isaiah passage mean a moral evil then we would have a conflict with the James 1 passage. The James passage is clear and the context of the Isaiah passage is as well. James says God cannot tempt man to sin, this is unambiguous. The Isaiah passage is also clear in that we can see God is declaring there is no such thing as any other God in reality and only He can bring judgement and disaster on people. The commentary of Barnes speaks to this issue this way:
“The parallelism here (Isaiah 45:7) shows that this is not to be understood in the sense of all evil, but of that which is the opposite of peace and prosperity. That is, God directs judgments, disappointments, trials, and calamities; he has power to suffer the mad passions of people to rage, and to afflict nations with war; he presides over adverse as well as prosperous events. The passage does not prove that God is the author of moral evil, or sin, and such a sentiment is abhorrent to the general strain of the Bible, and to all just views of the character of a holy God.”
Even while God is not the author of moral evil He most certainly remains sovereign over it. His primary source of control and sovereignty over evil is the cross of Jesus Christ. While God has given man the opportunity to choose the holiness of God or the moral evil of Satan (John 1:12) this alone shows God is not the author of moral evil and still remains sovereign over it. The ultimate control over evil is when Jesus died on the cross. Sin, Satan, and evil were defeated that day. Sin and moral evil cannot overcome the creator of the universe and all that is. God does not author moral evil and He is still in control.