An Evil Spirit From God?

[UPDATE:  When I originally wrote this article, it was my intent to question the idea that   evil spirits can be in the direct service of God.  I still hold to the opinion that while evil spirits are subject to God’s authority, and at times are permitted by him to do harm, that they are never agents of God, acting under his direction.  Evil spirits are enemies of God.  Evil spirits do not have fellowship with God.  They are not on his “team”.  They do not work for him.  I felt some of the comments that were generated reflect a misunderstanding of that point.  But I have kept those comments because I think questioning things and challenging our understanding helps us to grow in the knowledge of God.

Some things to keep in mind when we study Scripture is to note who the speakers are, who their audience is, what their purpose is and what circumstances are influencing them.  1 Chronicles 18:22 reads, “Now therefore behold, the LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouth of these your prophets.  The LORD has declared disaster concerning you.”  Without any context, one might conclude that God does in fact direct evil spirits to do his will.

However, consider the setting.  The prophet Micaiah was speaking to Ahab, king of Israel,  who hated Micaiah because “he never prophesies good concerning me, but always evil” (verse 7).  Ahab had already been told by his own 400 prophets that God would give him victory in battle against Ramoth-gilead.  But at the request of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, Ahab sent a messenger to bring him Micaiah.

The messenger coached Micaiah, telling him to “speak favorably” to Ahab (verse 12).  Micaiah told the messenger, “As the LORD lives, what my God says, that I will speak.”  But verse 14 gives us the sense that he was not altogether willing to speak for the LORD.  In resignation and perhaps tongue-in-cheek, he said “Go up and triumph, they will be given into your hand.”  Apparently, it was obvious to Ahab that he wasn’t being genuine because in verse 15 he said, “How many times shall I make you swear that you speak to me nothing but the truth in the name of the LORD?”

So then in verse 16, Micaiah told the king the real vision God had given him: “I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains as sheep that have no shepherd.  And the LORD said, ‘These have no master; let each return to his home in peace.'”   Predictably, Ahab was not pleased with Micaiah’s prophecy, for he remarked to Jehoshaphat, “Did I not tell you that he would not prophesy good concerning me, but evil?” (verse 17)  So, then Micaiah let fly with “Therefore hear the word of the LORD” and proceeded to unload more “prophecy”.

This exchange between prophet and king was anything but simple and direct.  Micaiah’s pronouncement recorded in verses 18 to 22 has been described as “biting sarcasm” by J. Vernon McGee.  In his commentary, he says it is totally ridiculous to think that God would have to consult with his minions as to who would take what actions and how.

Ahab was an evil king.  1 Kings 16:30 tells us, “And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD, more than all who were before him.”  Ahab was in rebellion against God.  He did not seek the LORD’S leading when he made decisions.  He did not want to hear from the LORD.  His 400 “prophets” were all for show.  They were all “yes men”.  Inquiring of the LORD as to whether or not they should go to battle wasn’t his idea, it was Jehoshaphat’s (verse 4).  So there wasn’t any need for a “lying spirit” to deceive Ahab’s prophets.  They were already liars, hired by Ahab to tell him what he wanted to hear.

In order to appreciate Micaiah’s embellished, sarcastic “prophecy” from verses 18 to 22, it helps to consider that Ahab was not open to hearing the truth.  Nothing Micaiah could say would change a thing Ahab would do, including going to his own death in battle.  This Scripture passage does not provide a theological basis for concluding that lying spirits are  minions of God.]

In 1 Samuel 19:9 we read, “an evil spirit from the LORD came upon Saul”.  The idea that evil spirits are at God’s command, to do his bidding is problematical.  Because this verse isn’t the only example of evil spirits coming “from” or being “sent” by God, the idea merits examination.  Its implications seem to contradict some very basic assumptions about God’s nature.

During the period of time when Samuel, Saul and David lived, there was widespread abuse of God’s covenant with Israel.  Many of God’s commandments were ignored.  Household idols were commonplace, even though they were forbidden.  Sacrifices were made in various “high places” deemed “holy” despite the admonition in Deuteronomy 12:13 to only offer burnt offerings in the place the LORD chooses, which was the tabernacle.  Priests were often privately paid itinerants with no connection to duties of the tabernacle.  Many of the religious practices of the surrounding nations were incorporated into local traditions, contrary to God’s commands.  Because of this, I am of the opinion that the people in general held many misconceptions about God, including the idea that he would send evil spirits to do his bidding.  Therefore, records from that time likely reflected those misconceptions.

Even today some believers are content to accept the proposition that God possesses both good and evil qualities — something along the line of yin and yang.  However, that opinion is not supported by the weight of Scripture.  Once, a fellow Christian tried to convince me that God is malevolent.  Perhaps his assertion was due to not really understanding the definition of the word.  Nevertheless, upon reading “an evil spirit from the LORD”, some readily jump to the conclusion that the evil spirit is directly obeying God’s command.  I do not agree.

Scripture teaches that sin separates us from God; that only by means of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross are we able to be in the presence of holy God.  Similarly, that evil spirits are fallen angels cast out of heaven, out of God’s presence to the earth, where they are minions of Satan, God’s adversary.  The separation between holiness and sinfulness (or evil) is likened to that of light and darkness.  Colossians 1:12 & 13 speaks of the “kingdom of light” and the “dominion of darkness”.  John 1:5 says, “The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.”

Considering this separation, it strains the imagination to think of God issuing instructions to an evil spirit to do his bidding.  It would be analogous to General Eisenhower during WWII giving orders to a Nazi soldier.  Though God can do anything he wants, is it in his character to do such a thing?  Further, if an evil spirit is obeying commands from God (something believers are supposed to do), then are we not fellows with him?  1 John 3:24 says, “Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them.”  But 2 Corinthians 6:14 reminds us, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?”  We can only conclude that if an evil spirit does accomplish God’s will it isn’t the result of obedience to God or following his orders.

So why would Scripture suggest such a contradiction?  An interesting clue is found in comparing two different versions of the same incident.  2 Samuel 24:1 reads, “Again, the anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying “Go and take a census of Israel and Judah”.  1 Chronicles 21:1 puts it another way: “Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel.”  One says David was incited by God.  The other says David was incited by Satan.  Some might conclude that this is an example of the Bible contradicting itself, and showing its unreliability.  However, the fact that both perspectives have been preserved in Scripture tells me each has something of value which can help us understand.

A major theme of the Bible is God’s judgement.  Not only did the LORD use Israel as an instrument of judgement against the nations that occupied the promised land, but he also used gentile nations as instruments of judgement against Israel.  In 2 Samuel 24:1, David is being used as God’s instrument of judgement against his own nation.  In order for Satan to have had any influence on David’s heart or mind, David had to have been rebelling against God already.  By allowing sin to enter into his own life, David opened himself both to God’s judgement and Satan’s influence, thereby allowing himself to be “incited” by Satan.

Satan’s ability to either injure us or incite us to act is not only limited by our own human ability to turn from sin but by what God decides to permit.  Satan, and his minions (evil spirits) are always subject to God’s sovereignty and can only act within the limits of his permission.  Illustrations of this are found in Job 1:12 and 2:6.  Rather than God actually directing Satan to take actions against Job, his removal of the protective “hedge” around Job gave Satan the access he needed to cause Job harm.  Thus, the LORD can be said to have indirectly incited David in 2 Samuel 24:1, while in 1 Chronicles 21:1 the inciting on Satan’s part was direct.  When the LORD removes his protection (or his Spirit), the “vacuum” that is created draws Satan or his evil spirits into a position of being able to influence or harm us.

Before I was a Christian, I was seeking the truth about God.  When I prayed for him to reveal himself to me, his clear answer was, “Read the Bible.”  Before I read it, I decided I would have to believe it all if it was to be the foundation for my faith.  For me, it was a point of intellectual integrity.  I could not believe in the God of the Bible unless I accepted the whole Bible as true.  Because of that, ever since, I have studied Scripture with an eye to examine its apparent contradictions.  Some 35 years later, I still believe in the inerrancy of God’s word, and continue to dig into those parts of it that challenge my understanding.  One thing I have come to know is that while God is perfect, I am not.  It just isn’t possible for an imperfect mind to perfectly understand a perfect God.  So when I reach the limits of my understanding, rather than doubting God or the Bible, my faith leads me to worship him all the more.

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!  —   Romans 11:33

About retiredday

I am Michael D. Day, a regular, everyday guy -- retired. I stand for God-given freedom, which means I think for myself. I believe in being civil, because the Bible teaches that we should love our enemies. But I also believe in saying it how I see it, and explaining just why I see it that way, sort of like 2 Timothy 4:2.
This entry was posted in Bible, Christian Faith, Truth, Wisdom and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to An Evil Spirit From God?

  1. According the Afrikania Evangelism School of Theology, we believe that God is Almighty, Supreme and omini present. It is therefore a contradiction to also believe that evil is godly or of God.

    The African world view is that God created every objects and subjects in the entire world. This belief is not subject to debate at all!


    • retiredday says:

      I don’t believe we disagree at all. I thought I was clear in my discussion. Everything that is evil is opposed to God. When God created everything he said it is good. Therefore evil is the absence of God. I don’t understand what I wrote that offended you.


    • Mariano says:

      Jesus commanded evil spirit to depart. Do not add nor take away from the scripture. It might have been for the good of the person, none the less, the demon was commanded to depart.


  2. joel says:

    i didnt reafd the full document because quite frankly it was too lon gbut from your first paragraph i disagree with that. read 1 kings 22 and understand job better and samuel better with that chapter as it relates to evil spirits.


    • retiredday says:

      How seriously do you expect me to take your comment when, as you say, you didn’t read the entire article because you think it’s too long? Especially when your comment is so short, it fails to establish your point. Of course you are free to disagree however you wish, but simply the mention of 1 Kings 22 and Job doesn’t explain why you think as you do.

      The “lying spirit” of 1 Kings 22:19-23 is not an evil spirit. He comes from among the “host of heaven”, which specifically refers to the armies of God. Evil spirits are fallen angels, working for Satan, opposed to God and have been cast out of heaven.

      Similarly, in the book of Job, Satan is not working at God’s behest, but in opposition to God. His plan is to show that if he takes away Job’s blessings, Job will curse God. God permits this. He does not command it. And in the end, because Job acknowledges the sovereignty of God, Satan’s plan fails, God is glorified and Job’s blessings are restored.

      The gist of my article is that God does not consort with, have fellowship with or work with evil spirits. Evil spirits are enemies of God who are already condemned to destruction. A thoughtful rereading of those passages you mention may help you understand my point. But then again, if you’ve already made up your mind, thus too impatient to even read my article, perhaps you don’t have the desire to dig into the Word to see what it’s really saying.


      • joel says:

        Again your understanding is shallow because lying is evil. the spirit of lying is an evil spirit. the devil and his angels have to get permission from God to trouble his saints. and first kings and job speak to the spirits needing to get permission. the devil in job didnt disobey God . read again and understand.


      • retiredday says:

        My understanding is of little consequence. In the name of Jesus I am not lying. May the blood of Jesus wash over you, heal you, and protect you from the evil one. May your understanding be bathed in the light that is Christ. May the kingdom of heaven come upon you. And may you live in God’s love.

        Anyone can make opinionated, declarative statements, and use them as missiles or clubs against perceived enemies. That is not what my writing is about. My purpose is to show reasons for why I believe as I do. If a belief is important enough to hold onto, one should be able to articulate exactly what his reasons are for that belief.


      • joel says:

        the time you took to respond shows you didnt read the verse hence i will post it for you
        1Ki 22:20 And the LORD said, Who shall persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramothgilead? And one said on this manner, and another said on that manner.
        1Ki 22:21 And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the LORD, and said, I will persuade him.
        1Ki 22:22 And the LORD said unto him, Wherewith? And he said, I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also: go forth, and do so.
        1Ki 22:23 Now therefore, behold, the LORD hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets, and the LORD hath spoken evil concerning thee.
        1Ki 22:24 But Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah went near, and smote Micaiah on the cheek, and said, Which way went the Spirit of the LORD from me to speak unto thee?

        Job 1:6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them.
        Job 1:7 And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.
        Job 1:8 And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?
        Job 1:9 Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought?
        Job 1:10 Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land.
        Job 1:11 But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.
        Job 1:12 And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD.
        Job 1:13 And there was a day when his sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house:
        Job 1:14 And there came a messenger unto Job, and said, The oxen were plowing, and the asses feeding beside them:
        Job 1:15 And the Sabeans fell upon them, and took them away; yea, they have slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
        Job 1:16 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The fire of God is fallen from heaven, and hath burned up the sheep, and the servants, and consumed them; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
        Job 1:17 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The Chaldeans made out three bands, and fell upon the camels, and have carried them away, yea, and slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
        Job 1:18 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, Thy sons and thy daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house:
        Job 1:19 And, behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young men, and they are dead; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
        Job 1:20 Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped,
        Job 1:21 And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.
        Job 1:22 In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.


      • retiredday says:

        “the time you took to respond shows you didnt read the verse hence i will post it for you”

        This statement is not true. It is also deceitful. If I did not “read the verse” then which verse do you mean? For you have copied many verses here. I have indeed read and studied these verses many times. And I understand them because the Holy Spirit has revealed that understanding to me, as He does for anyone who is willing to seek his wisdom.

        But simply quoting Scripture isn’t enough. Even Satan does that, as he did when he tempted the LORD in the wilderness. Your understanding of these passages is based on primary assumptions that reflect either an absence of critical thought or the presence of a deceiving spirit.

        In 1 Kings 22:21 “there came forth a spirit”. Where did this happen, and where did the spirit come from? The answer is from verse 19, which you intentionally omitted from your copied verses. This verse says:

        “And he said, Hear thou therefore the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left.”

        This tells us the incident occurred in heaven, in the presence of God. The spirit who “came forth” came from among the host of heaven standing by the LORD. We know this because he came in response to the LORD’s question, “Who shall persuade [the incredibly evil] Ahab …?”

        I will say this one last thing to you. I will not bandy words with the enemy. That is not my job, nor my calling. My desire is to spur people to think about the things of God, for the purpose of fulfilling His will — in all our lives. Jesus is LORD and we need to be obeying him. I will have nothing to do with those who only seek to obfuscate the gospel. I will not post any further comments from you unless they are edifying to the body of Christ. My prayer for you is that you be healed.


      • joel says:

        if this assumption you have made correct then were did the devil in job present himself to God? presentation doesnt mean in heaven but it can mean where Gods saints are gathered because that is where heaven it. You are assuming the holy spirit gave you this understanding too. God cannot deceive nor his angels because deceit is wrong, but he allows deceit to take place just as he says he in isaiah 45 : 7. and acts 5:3-4.


      • retiredday says:

        “…were did the devil in job present himself to God?”

        I don’t know. The story of Job comes to us from a time prior to that of Abraham and Israel. The presumption is made that this “presentation” on the part of the “sons of God” is in heaven because God is in heaven. But who are the “sons of God”? The translation of Job has always been difficult because of its use of unfamiliar words and other language problems. We read in Genesis 6:2-4 that “sons of God” married the daughters of men. Were they fallen angels? We don’t know. Was this before Satan and his minions were cast out of heaven? We don’t know.

        But these are not issues of prevailing significance. What is of primary concern here is that all forces of evil, including Satan, are subject to the authority of God. And Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18). So where this happened is irrelevant.

        God’s allowance for “deceit to take place” is the direct result of our free will. The imputed meaning of Isaiah 45:7 is not that he created evil, equivalent to his creation of good. The creation account in Genesis records God saying that what he created was good. But Satan’s influence and the sin of humans brought evil into the world. By creating light, the absence of that light became darkness. Creating peace (or well-being) means the removal of those good things (evil, calamity, disaster) as a judgement against sin or for whatever purposes God wills. Notice that in your example of Acts 5:3-4 that God did not “allow deceit to take place” for very long. His judgement against Ananias and Sapphira was immediate (verses 5 and 10).

        Although you interpret their sin as “deceit”, they were judged by God for testing the Holy Spirit (verse 9). The deception involved here was aimed at the disciples in order to appear godly on the outside while essentially disregarding God’s holy purposes. They did not revere God.

        On the other hand, even though lying is considered a sin (actually “bearing false witness”, which has legal implications) there are a few striking examples of individuals in the Bible who lied, yet became highly honored. For instance, Rahab the prostitute who lied about the two spies she had hidden (Joshua 2:1-24; James 2:25). Even though lying is a sin, Rahab is not characterized as evil, for her purpose was to protect the two men of Israel who represented God’s will for her family’s future.

        The concerns you bring up in your comments are really side issues — issues that I did not go into in my original article (remember — the one you didn’t read all the way through because it was “too long”?). Again, the point of my argument is that according to the Bible, God doesn’t send evil spirits to do his bidding. God is all good (though he has some pretty harsh judgements for unrighteousness) and evil spirits are all bad. Though human beings are often attacked by the forces of evil, believers must remember that evil spirits exist in the realm of darkness.

        But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin. 1 John 1:7

        I hope this helps.


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