Day 129 – God’s Evil Spirit. What?

I can’t let this one go without a comment. Or some research. Or something.

Saul was overcome by an “evil spirit from God” before he attempted to nail David to the wall with his spear (this from 1 Samuel 18, vs. 10-11). The same scenario plays itself out again in 1 Samuel 19.


Doesn’t the Westminster Confession of Faith say (based on Scripture ) that: “sinfulness … proceeds only from the creature, and not from God, who, being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin?” (V:IV)

So, what is this about God’s evil spirit??

I do notice that there’s a footnote in the online Bible I use. It suggests that the Hebrew word translated evil can also be translated harmful.

So, God sent a harmful spirit to Saul which led him to try and kill David. Twice. That doesn’t sound much better.

At times like this, I run, not walk, to my nearest Commentary.  And since I am too lazy to descend two flights of stairs and locate my husband’s REAL book-length commentaries, I’ll settle for my ESV Study Bible.

And it did the trick!

In 1 Samuel 16:14-15 (NIV) the Scriptures say, “Now the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul [after Saul effectively rejected God], and an evil [or harmful] spirit from the Lord tormented him. Saul’s attendants said to him, “See, an evil spirit from God is tormenting you.'”

These attendants then suggest that Saul’s servants find someone to play the lyre and calm Saul down.

That someone was David.

It worked for a while, but in 1 Samuel 18:10, the harmful spirit came so “forcefully” upon Saul that the lyre-playing didn’t do the trick.

Instead, Saul hurled the spear.

I actually don’t have a problem with the situation now.

It makes sense that a harmful spirit got under Saul’s skin, leading him sin, but not actually causing him to sin.

But even if it did…

There’s a mysterious way in which God controls all evil (harmful) spirits, even Satan himself (check out Job 1:6-10 and notice how thereafter GOD gets the credit for all that happened to Job), and in fact every sin that ever happened… and yet He is not a sinner nor the creator of evil.

I don’t get it, but I believe it.

IMHO (In My Humble Opinion), the verse that best sums up God’s sovereignty over evil acts is this – from Peter’s first sermon:

[Jesus] was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. Acts 2:23

So, the greatest sin of all history –  the death of God’s Son – was carried out by men who’s heinous sin was part of God’s deliberate plan. God didn’t just let it happen.

He planned it.

And somehow, God is not responsible for our sin.

We are. And so were those who put Jesus on the Cross (oh, that’s all of us!). And so was Saul.

Good thing that there was more to God’s plan. It didn’t stop at the Cross (as I read in the Luke passage today…). Peter continued:

“But God raised [Jesus] from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him….”

When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2: 24, 37-38

Saul got the harmful spirit after rejecting God.

We get the Holy Spirit after rejecting God…

if by His sovereign grace we repent in the name of Jesus.


Today’s Readings: 1 Samuel 18:1-19:24, Psalm 58:1-11, Proverbs 15:27-30, Luke 24:1-35. See About for what I’m up to with these daily posts. Your daily blogger, Holiday Longing (Reproduce with permission only).


2 thoughts on “Day 129 – God’s Evil Spirit. What?

  1. I’ve read that passage before and had never thought about that phrase. I know I will the next time I read it.

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