The Origin of Evil

Book Excerpt

Deliver Us From Evil

Evil is something we understand by nature. We see Sauron or Darth Vader, and we recognize that they are evil. We understand without being told that the bad guys are those who slaughter innocent people. They are the utterly selfish — those whose greed overwhelms them. They prize power and revenge over forgiveness and mercy. We understand this instinctively, even as small children. Nobody thinks that orcs are the good guys — not even the orcs.

Of course, evil is not relegated to stories. Real life evil is trickier and hides in better clothes. It might be perpetrated by anybody. People who look pretty, who have good jobs, might be just as likely to do some horrible thing as those with ugly faces and broken cars. We understand that sociopaths are naturally dangerous. But even people who desire to do good, to be kind and loving and generous — even the best of people can do evil things on occasion. We are all capable of cruelty and selfishness, impatience and destruction.

We can scar our consciences so that evil no longer shakes us. We can call evil “good” because it’s what we want to do. Still, deep inside us, we recognize the difference between right and wrong, good and bad. If we stop to be honest about it, we know.

Why? Why is there evil in this beautiful world? We watch the sunset over the mountains and we wonder about this. How can there be evil in a world where daisies grow wild in meadows? It doesn’t fit.


We generally avoid the topic of evil. We like telling scary stories around the campfire, but few people enjoy discussions about the reality of wickedness in our world. The subject is fraught with controversy. We can rejoice when Charles Manson is caught, but we don’t want to deal with trouble closer to home. We don’t want to admit our own rottenness, the foulness in our own hearts. Many people are afraid to talk about the source of evil. They might believe in God, but they don’t believe in Satan or Hell.

It’s vital that we do talk about evil and its origin. We must never forget that we are in a spiritual battlefield, and knowing how to protect ourselves and our families is so vital that Jesus included it in the prayer He taught His disciples. What did he teach them? “Deliver us from evil.”[1] To be more precise, He said, “Deliver us from the evil one.”

Who is the evil one?

In The Far Side, cartoonist Gary Larson often portrayed Satan as a respectable sort of goblin with horns and a pitchfork, ruling over Hell. That’s the media’s favorite representation of the Devil, but it’s not accurate biblically.

The Bible tells us that Satan is an angel, and Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 11:14 that Satan can appear as an angel of light. Satan doesn’t come to us looking ugly. He’s the great deceiver, the father of lies. Jesus describes him succinctly in John 8:44, speaking to the Pharisees:

Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.

Satan has many titles. Jesus calls him the “prince of this world” several times in John.[2] Names have great meaning in the Bible, so consider this list of designations given to Satan:

Satan came to Eve in the garden and convinced her that she couldn’t trust God the Creator. Satan doesn’t appear to us ugly and scary.[3] Instead, he offers to us everything we think we want. It’s only when he’s got his claws in us that we realize what a horrible mistake we made in letting him open our window.

Who is Satan? What can he actually do, and what are his limitations? Where did he come from, and most important, how do we protect ourselves from his desire to destroy us? These are the questions we seek to answer.

Evil in our World

As Genesis 3 opens, we find Adam and Eve living in the Garden of Eden, a pristine paradise where God had deemed everything “good.” In Genesis 2:20, Adam named all the creatures. God brought each one to him, and we understand from Genesis 9:2–3 that the animals did not fear humans before the Flood. Adam and Eve lived in harmony with the natural world. It was only after the Flood that God gave Noah and his sons the freedom to eat meat — and the fear of man subsequently, where he is called into the instincts of the animals.

Adam and Eve lived in a beautiful garden, and they walked and talked freely with the LORD their Creator. Then came the day the serpent entered their lives:

Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?

Genesis 3:1

Here we find Satan at the very beginning of humanity, where he is called merely, “the serpent.” We know from Revelation 12:9 and 20:2 that this “old serpent” is indeed Satan, the dragon.

The word for serpent is — נחש — nachash — “the shining one.” The same root is the basis for the word נחש — nechash — “brass.” Thus, we find a play on words in Numbers 21:9 when Moses creates a brazen serpent on a pole. He makes נחש nachash נחשת nĕchosheth — a serpent of brass. It was called Nehushtan by Hezekiah, who had it destroyed in 2 Kings 18:4 because the Israelites had started to worship it.

The same root letters can mean “enchantment” or “enchanter” and so we find the serpent here to beguile Eve. He appears in the Garden and begins speaking with Eve, who is neither frightened by him nor surprised to find an animal talking to her. Eve has no experience with deception or fear or evil. She only knows good company and good food, warm days and cool nights.

The serpent approaches Eve, and the very first thing he does is to draw Eve’s attention to the forbidden thing.

He’s already setting her up. Of all the trees in the garden, only one had been prohibited to her and Adam. Satan immediately gets Eve to put her attention on this one tree, ignoring the wide array of beautiful trees and delicious fruits freely available to satisfy her:

And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.

Genesis 3:2–3

In Genesis 2:16–17, God had warned Adam against this single tree. He hadn’t mentioned touching the tree’s fruit, but He made clear that Adam would die if he ate that particular fruit. Eve was created a few verses later, so we assume she had heard the commandment from the mouth of her husband.

Satan then makes his bold move: he teaches Eve to doubt God’s word:

And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

Genesis 3:4–5

Here Satan calls into question God’s character and works to persuade Eve that God cannot be trusted. First, he calls God a liar by saying, “Ye shall not surely die.” Next, he offers an alternate explanation for the commandment: God has been holding out on her and Adam. Satan mixes truth with a lie here, because it is true that the tree will give them knowledge of good and evil, but it’s not what Eve thinks. Satan insinuates that God doesn’t want what is best for them and is keeping her and Adam from greater knowledge. That’s the lie Satan tells Eve, and she falls for it.

And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

Genesis 3:6

Eve is deceived. Adam gives in. Both die spiritually that day, and they began to die physically.

If Adam and Eve had been able to look through time and see the rolling avalanche of destruction and suffering caused by that little rock kicked over the mountain, they’d have certainly never touched the fruit of the tree. They would have run and hid their faces in the folds of God’s robe. They had no concept of evil — no understanding. They only had knowledge of God’s goodness, and they allowed themselves to believe Satan’s lie over the righteousness of their Creator.

We are in the same position today. We also choose — every day — whether we will trust God’s character. We decide whether we will trust Him to love us, to be faithful to us, to have our best interests in His heart. When things don’t go our way and we don’t get the things we desire, we can either reject God or we can trust in His goodness. We can forcefully take the things we want, or we can choose to thank Him for His faithful love and wait for His wisdom and guidance.

Genesis 5:5 tells us that Adam lived to be 930 years old. He lived into the lifetime of Lamech, the father of Noah, which means he was able to see some of the long-term consequences of his disobedience. Adam and Eve grieved over the death of their son Abel at the hand of their son Cain, and watched their descendants grow increasingly wicked and violent. It’s easy to imagine the anguish in the hearts of Adam and Eve as they saw the once-perfect creation deteriorate. Certainly, a multitude of days passed by in which they wished they had never gained the knowledge of evil.

Of course, there were immediate consequences of their sin. Here in Genesis 3, they suddenly realize that they are naked:

And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden. And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself

Genesis 3:7–10

Adam and Eve have lost their innocence and feel the embarrassment of exposure. They immediately seek to make themselves clothing. Then they hide, because they feel something new. They feel shame.

I suspect that an enormous change took place at the moment Adam and Eve disobeyed God. There are indications that Eden was not simply a location on the planet Earth, but that our first mother and father had access to the additional dimensions that we consider the spiritual realm. After all, they walked with God in the Garden. We learn in Revelation that the Tree of Life still exists in Heaven.[4] We no longer find it here on earth, and mighty cherubim were sent to guard it.[5] It may be Adam and Eve lost access to those additional dimensions, they lost the clothing of the glory that surrounded them, and they realized they were naked. This is just a conjecture on my part, but we do recognize something important; the world we experience today is wholly unlike the one Adam and Eve knew on the Sixth Day of Creation.

And He said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.

Genesis 3:11–13

Adam and Eve both know they have done wrong, but their first response is to start pointing fingers. Adam tries to pass the blame to both God and Eve. “The woman whom thou gavest to be with me —” Eve, in turn, places blame on the serpent who deceived her.

And so, Satan has succeeded in corrupting the human race from the very beginning.

A variety of verses throughout the Bible confirm our understanding that the serpent is indeed Satan himself. Jesus calls the Devil “a murderer from the beginning” and “the father of liars” in John 8:44. John clears away any possible confusion in Revelation, clarifying that the dragon is “that old serpent” known as both Satan and the Devil.

And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

Revelation 12:9

And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,

Revelation 20:2

Here in Genesis 3, God gives us the first hint of Satan’s future destruction:

And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

Genesis 3:14–15

This famous prophecy about the seed of the woman gives us hope for the Messiah even here at the very beginning of the Bible, immediately after sin enters the world — and death through sin. Satan will strike at His heel, but He will crush Satan’s head.[6]

In the meanwhile, life will become much more difficult for both the woman and her husband:

Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;

Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;

In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

And Adam called his wife’s name Eve; because she was the mother of all living.

Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.

Genesis 3:16–21

They have succeeded in obtaining the knowledge of good and evil. Congratulations, they will now have to deal with evil in their new world. The woman will now face great pain in her bearing of children. Her relationship with her husband will change as well; she will want him, but he will rule over her. That wasn’t God’s original plan. His plan was one of equality: God had made the woman from the rib of Adam as his partner and helpmate. As a result of sin, she will have to face his domination, but she won’t want to leave him.

The man is held to the greatest responsibility. God had given Adam the one commandment directly, and he chose to follow his wife’s offer over the word of their Creator. He was created to be in harmony with nature; he will now have to battle it to produce his crops. He will have to work hard to make food grow from the ground, fighting thorns and thistles until he dies and returns to the ground from which he was made.

Their new situation has been pronounced; pain, hard work, and death. Yet even here, God demonstrates His own purposes and plans. They attempted to clothe their naked bodies with leaves — which might only last a day or two. God takes the situation in hand and makes clothing for them from skins. Right here at the beginning, God gives us a picture; He will cover our nakedness and our shame, and He will do it through the sacrifice of an innocent.

And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.

Genesis 3:22–24

Eve was curious about the fruit from the forbidden tree. She wanted greater knowledge. She and Adam now both know good and evil, and they can no longer be allowed to access the Tree of Life. They are expelled from the beautiful garden and sent into the world to work for their livelihood.

These things answer the question, “How did evil enter our world?” However, they don’t explain the source of the evil itself. Clearly, evil already existed by the time Adam and Eve walked into the picture. It existed in the heart of the serpent who sought to corrupt God’s new creation.

This excerpt is from Dr. Chuck Missler’s book The Origin of Evil. Available in Paperback and eBook formats from the K-House Store.


  1. Matthew 6:9–13, esp. v.13 
  2. John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11 
  3. Ezekiel 28: 12–17 
  4. Revelation 2:7; 22:2 
  5. Genesis 3:24 
  6. Revelation 12:12 tells us that the Devil’s wrath will be great toward the end because he knows his time is limited.