Mailbag XI

by Ed Urzi

Yes, it’s time once again to take a look inside The Doctor’s mailbag and see some of the questions e-mailed recently to us here at The Doctor’s World Headquarters And Center For The Preservation Of Frozen Pizza.

And now, here’s our lucky contestant with today’s challenging question…

1st Samuel 19:9 talks about an "evil spirit from the Lord" that came upon King Saul. If God is good, then how can there be an "evil spirit from the Lord?"

This is an excellent question. 1st Samuel 19:9 says, “But an evil spirit from the LORD came upon Saul as he was sitting in his house with his spear in his hand…”(NIV). If God is totally good then how is that possible?? Well, to this question let’s start with a few observations about God…

First, James 1:13 tells us, “God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone.” Leviticus 11:45 also tells us that God is holy (or morally perfect). We read in Mark 10:18 that “Only God is truly good.” Finally, 1 Thessalonians 1:6 states that “God is just.” So we can say from these things that the Bible teaches that God is good, just, perfect and does not tempt anyone to do evil.

Next, we should also establish that the things that we read of in 1st Samuel 19:9 are not the result of a translation mistake. In the original language 1 Samuel 19:9 literally says, “And was spirit from the LORD evil upon Saul.” So it’s equally clear that this verse means exactly what it says- an evil spirit from God afflicted Saul. So if God is totally good, holy and just, then how is it possible that an “evil spirit from the Lord” was harassing Saul?

Well, perhaps the best way to explain this is to use a comparison. Let’s say that you are the captain of a large ocean liner. Let’s also say that while you (the captain) are sleeping, your first mate neglects his or her duties and crashes the ship, causing a tremendous amount of damage. In this situation, who is responsible for the damage?

Well, while the first mate actually caused the accident (and will probably get into trouble), it’s the captain who is ultimately responsible and will face punishment. Why? It’s simple- the captain is always responsible for the actions of his or her crew even during those times when the captain isn’t directly involved. However the damage occurred, the captain is still responsible.

It’s much the same situation in 1st Samuel 19:9. Just as in our illustration above, God is the “Captain” over every spiritual being. It’s in this way that we can understand how an evil spirit from the Lord came upon Saul. It was “from the Lord” in the sense that God permitted it or allowed it to happen. Because no being is more powerful than God, no evil spirit can afflict someone (like Saul) without God allowing it to occur.

So it can be said that this evil spirit was “from the Lord” in the sense that God was ultimately responsible for allowing it to happen. A better known (and similar) situation occurred in the book of Job where God allowed Satan to torment Job. Satan was responsible for afflicting Job but only because God was responsible for allowing it.

It should also be noted that Saul brought this whole situation on himself. You see, Saul had already disobeyed and rejected God on at least two occasions (see 1 Samuel 13:6-14 and 15:3-28) and because of this, Saul left himself open for the bad things that later happened to him.

Saul’s rejection and disobedience really hurt his relationship with God and ultimately led to a tragic result (see 1 Samuel 31:3-6). The lives and deaths of guys like Samson and Judas Iscariot are similar examples of the bad things that can happen when people who should know better repeatedly disobey God.


Do you have a question for The Doctor? Just send it to the email address above- you’ll get a personal reply and you just might see it answered here.