Here is the verse: “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things” (Isaiah 45:7). The word evil in this passage has been mistranslated in the King James Version of the Bible. As it is with our English sentences, we must derive the meaning from the context.
The writer adopted a form unique to poetic Hebrew literature which incorporates parallelism and word contrast. For instance, light and darkness are opposites. But what about peace and evil? Evil is not the opposite of peace. For the passage to be a successful parallelism, evil should be replaced by a word representing lack of peace. Newer translations of the Bible have corrected this verse. Instead of peace and evil, The New King James Version says, “peace and calamity.” The New International Version says, “prosperity and disaster.”
But what is the passage really saying? The chapter containing this verse is fascinating. In the first eight verses of the chapter, and the last portion of the previous chapter, God tells us that he will use Cyrus, king of Persia, as his tool to free the Israelites from captivity far from their land and rebuild Jerusalem and the temple: “Who says of Cyrus, ‘He is My shepherd, and he shall perform all My pleasure, even saying to Jerusalem, ‘You shall be built,’ and to the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid'” (Isaiah 44:28).
What’s amazing about this passage is that Cyrus will not exist for another 140 years! Here is an example of prophecy where God names a person before he existed and tells him what he’ll do. Indeed, through Cyrus, God delivered the Jews from their Babylonian captivity. This passage tells us that God brought the Jews into darkness and calamity through their captivity, and God will again bring them light and peace when Cyrus releases them.
What Do You Think?
a. Have you ever had someone take your words out of context, forcing you, or someone who knew you, into explaining what you meant? What does it mean to take something out of context?
b. When you read a story, do you read only a small portion of the page in order to make sense of it? Or do you read the entire story from the beginning to understand the flow of the story?
c. Do you believe the Bible could be better understood if one read it from the beginning?