Evil will slay the wicked. This is such an interesting thought from Psalm 34, it honestly sounds like an oxymoron. Why would evil slay itself? Shouldn’t it be focused on stopping the good in the world? Ultimately, this psalm is about God’s good and loving nature, but a true definition of evil is required in order to fully praise Him. How can we understand evil? Only by truly understanding what is good. Let’s read through the psalm and explore this concept some more.

I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise will always be on my lips.

My soul boasts in the LORD; let the oppressed hear and rejoice.

Magnify the LORD with me; let us exalt His name together.

I sought the LORD, and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears.

Those who look to Him are radiant with joy; their faces shall never be ashamed.

This poor man called out, and the LORD heard him; He saved him from all his troubles.

The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him, and he delivers them.

Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!

Fear the LORD, you His saints, for those who fear Him lack nothing.

Young lions go lacking and hungry, but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.

Come, children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD.

Who is the man who delights in life, who desires to see good days?

Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from deceitful speech.

Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.

The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and His ears are inclined to their cry.

But the face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to wipe out all memory of them from the earth.

The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears; He delivers them from all their troubles.

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted; He saves the contrite in spirit.

Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him from them all.

He protects all his bones; not one of them will be broken.

Evil will slay the wicked, and the haters of the righteous will be condemned.

The LORD redeems His servants, and none who take refuge in Him will be condemned.

Psalm 34

What Is Good?

The acceptance of evil into our lives will no doubt result in our own destruction. There can be no doubt about this fact. If indeed we hold life as something that is good, then only death can be the equivalent form of evil. Even the most basic form of reasoning can accept this. However, I would like to point out that our human definition of good and evil is rather faulted. I have taken the definition of good from the Oxford dictionary, let us examine it and further understand the meaning of the word.

  1. Good – To be desired or approved of.

This is the first entry from the Oxford dictionary. Obviously, this definition leaves room for confusion. If everything that I desire is good, then how could it be bad if I were selfish? If I were to desire all of the gold in the world, would it not be good for me to pursue that desire? The real problem arises when there are two people who might desire the same thing, which one of them is good? Another way to look at it, would be to ask what we may think if someone desired something that is commonly considered bad, like murder. If murder is desirable to me, is it not good for me? The definition above does little to clarify the matter, and I would insist that humanity rarely considers such things when using the term.

Ultimately, we must ask whose desire is good. Each of us have our own desires, and these desires conflict with one another. Thus, in order for something to be truly good, it must be seen as desirable by some kind of authority, one which cannot be questioned. Otherwise, we will continue to have conflict over the things that we deem as desirable and good. Things like land, water, oil, and so on. The perpetual pursuit of such things has driven societies to countless deaths and quarrels, and so, how can such things be good if the pursuit of them results in death, which we have agreed is bad?

2. Good – Having the qualities required for a particular role.

This is the second entry in the Oxford dictionary for the term. I must admit, it feels much more objective and balanced, but again, perspective must be taken into consideration. This time, instead of asking whose perspective we should consider, we need to ask what perspective we should consider. If good is described as having the qualities required for a particular role, then I must ask what role? Perhaps, the role could be the destruction of mankind? Surely we could think of a solution that would be good for that role, however, I doubt many people would be in agreement that the cause would be good, and thus the solution used for such a cause cannot be good either.

Regardless of the above paragraph, when I read the second definition of good I immediately think of Genesis 1:31.

And God looked upon all that He had made, and indeed, it was very good.

Genesis 1:31

Many people read this verse and conclude that all of the things we deem as evil do not yet exist in the first chapter of Genesis. Things like illness and death. This assumption requires a particular piece of knowledge that is rather hard to obtain, a piece of knowledge that humanity has debated for as long as we have recorded history; what is the purpose of this world? We can attribute our own purpose to this magnificent creation, we can make our own purpose or try to determine God’s purpose for us, but none of these conclusions will answer the core question. None of them will tell us the purpose of the world, and assuming that God did not allow death into the world in Genesis 1 also assumes that we do know something about the purpose of His creation. We either assume that we were not intended to die, or that God desired for us to make the mistake that would lead to death entering the world. The first assumption requires a belief that God made a mistake, and the second assumption requires a belief that God desired Adam to sin. Since we cannot consider the first assumption to be true without calling into question God’s omnipotence, let us explore the second.

Did God desire Adam to sin, so that Adam could be cursed with death? It would not make much sense for an all powerful creator to bring life into existence as immortal, desiring His creation to be condemned by Him. I believe it is far more logical to assume that death existed, that Adam knew what it was, and that he understood the magnificence of the Garden of Eden which had been created as a paradise for him. Adam, having been created as the patriarch of the bloodline of Christ, had been placed into the garden to illustrate the true power of selfish desire. He had been moved into the garden, and given a wife which had not experienced life outside of the garden. Having only known God and Adam, Eve found herself tempted to become like God, and saw the fruit of the tree as a means to become such. This view of the story of Adam and Eve does not assume to know the purpose of the world, only the purpose of Adam and Eve whose story has been recorded. It also allows us to look at the nature of the world around us and understand that it may have been created to serve a purpose, one which we cannot know, but we may infer from the conditions that we observe.

Death is one of those conditions, and so we must ask ourselves if death is part of the intended design. To say that it is not, requires us to believe that it was a mistake, a reaction to the unforeseen possibility that Adam may have sinned. If we agree that God must be omnipotent, then we must agree that it is not possible for something to be unexpected by God. Therefore death must be a part of the intended design. According to the definition of the word good in Oxford’s dictionary, and according to the use of the word in Genesis 1:31, we must yield that death is good, and has the qualities required for its intended role.

3. Good – Possessing or displaying moral virtue.

This is the third entry in Oxford’s dictionary for the term good, and sadly, I believe it is the most circular. If morality is the distinction between good and bad, right and wrong, then how can one know what is morally virtuous without knowing what is good? From here, the entries offered in the Oxford dictionary only become more useless and obfuscating. Attempting to define good and evil is quite a challenging venture, and there are far more methods that have been attempted over the years, but I submit to you that there is no answer upon which humanity can arrive on our own. Any such answer, however pleasing it may seem, would be subjective and therefore subject to dispute. How could it be good for a single person or group to define what is good for all people. On what authority would they execute such “good” will? No, humanity must yield the definition of good and evil to a higher authority, as difficult as that may be.

If we can agree that God created all things, then we must understand that good consists of those things which have the qualities desired by God. Therefore, I propose a full definition of the word good:

Good – Having the qualities required in order to best fulfill a particular purpose, as desired by God. These qualities, in totality, represent positive moral virtue.

The Purpose Of Death

If we agree that death is a part of the intended design of the world which we currently observe, then we must assume that death has a quality which is desired by the creator of the observable world, and is therefor good for its own purpose. To further understand this, we need to ask ourselves what the purpose of death may be.

In the observable world, death is simply part of a cycle. Existing life forms die, decompose, and the product of that process is used for new life to emerge. In this way, we can certainly consider death to be good. It reduces the possibility of overpopulation, as well as the overconsumption of resources. In the Christian worldview, death is part of a transition. We die, we are judged, we are then rewarded according to our actions. Accepting Jesus Christ based on faith is an action, denying Jesus is also an action, and we are judged largely based on this key decision. This is not a decision that we make once in our lives, but from the moment we are presented the gospel, the acceptance or rejection of that gospel is a decision that we make every moment of every day. It is a decision that is reflected in our lives, in our subsequent actions, and it is a decision that will impact us after our death. In this way too, death is good. It is a part of the process that God has designed for us. Even our flesh, or our basar, is designed with death in mind, and is intended to protect us until we are ready to transition into the next life.

The root verb basar describes the act of separating something from its maternal environment, with the purpose of letting that something mature in peace until the final result can be extracted. This act is usually achieved by building a strong wall around the something (some scholars suggest that our English word bazaar derives from this root).

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Evil Will Slay The Wicked

Now that we have a proper understanding of what is good, let us look at evil. The logical conclusion is that anything which is not good, is evil. While this may not immediately seem true, as I am sure we are all hopeful for some wiggle room, I sure you that it is. If we accept that God created our environment and our bodies, and has given us a framework to live by, then it stands to reason that His framework, His laws, are the proper ways by which we can prepare for our death. Our death, as we established above, is the cumulation of our purpose in this world. We live here in order to prepare for life with God Himself, and while we are not required to prepare for that life, we should expect that we will not attain such a life unless we have prepared. The act of preparation is good, it is part of the system. Refusing to prepare is not good, it is evil, as it directly violates God’s will for us, and corrupts the effectiveness of the system.

Evil acts do this in phases. It is not an all or nothing event, it is not a single act which corrupts absolutely, but it is the cumulation of performing the same act repeatedly which will lead to our destruction. This single act is the rejection of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As I stated earlier, this is not a single act that you perform once, but it is a conscious decision that we continuously make. The effects of this decision are slow, but deadly. I have consolidated this process into three basic phases:

  • Corruption of the mind
  • Corruption of the flesh
  • Condemnation of the soul

The first phase is the corruption of the mind. It starts with a simple temptation to lie, cheat, or to hurt someone intentionally. These acts come from various sinful states of mind, jealousy, pride, vengeance, and so on. The corruption of the mind comes when we give in to this temptation, as we feel the need to justify our actions afterward. We will tell ourselves that our enemy deserved what we did to them, that we had no choice. Or perhaps it was a lie told in order to prevent someone from being hurt, obviously that was a good thing to do, right? Instead of asking for forgiveness, we tell ourselves that we did the right thing, and when we do this we have corrupted what is good in our minds.

The next phase is the corruption of our flesh. Once we have begun to corrupt our definition of good, our behavior begins to drift further and further from God’s intention. A lie told to prevent someone else from being hurt is ultimately no different from telling a lie to prevent yourself from being hurt. Both acts spare a person from some consequence. Now it is a matter of asking ourself, how far are we willing to go in order to avoid consequences for ourselves? So far that we might murder someone who discovered our lies? Certainly they deserved it, after all, they were snooping around in our personal business. They were trespassing. And from here it is easy to conceive all kinds of evils, and many of them will create very real enemies. The kind of enemies willing to murder as well. The evil will slay the wicked.

The final phase is the condemnation of the soul. At some point, the only way that we can justify our actions is if there is no Creator. If the world is only a chance reaction of molecules with no design, and no purpose. In this world, where we deny our Creator, all that matters is our subjective purpose. All that matters is our survival, our comfort, and our desires. In this world, death is evil and the struggle to survive surpasses all things. In this world, we reject our soul. We convince ourselves any concept of morality that we may feel is merely the result of our chemical construct, it is nothing more. If I desire gold, and someone else desires that same gold, who should be granted it? What is the good and decent answer? According to the Oxford dictionary, it Isi the one who desires it more, the one who works harder for it. Specifically, the one that is prepared to kill for it. The evil will slay the wicked.

In that final phase, we have rejected God, we have rejected the gospel, and we have rejected our very soul. In that phase, death will be swift and justified. It will result in judgement, and God cannot maintain a righteous place in the next life if He grants entry to those that are not properly prepared. This is because God is good. He does not force us to follow our own paths, He does not force us to justify our actions, instead He offers us a path of redemption and forgiveness. He offers us a path to become righteous when we are incapable of righteousness ourselves. Therefore I beg you, do not slay yourselves, but instead follow the path that God has offered us. Ask for forgiveness, and walk the path to redemption. On this path, death is not evil, death is not the end. On this path, death is a reward, a reward that is granted only when we are ready.

Have you prepared?

Written by James Dusenbery

I am the Founder/Lead Editor at CanonOfReason.com. I do not claim to be an "expert" at anything, although the title is afforded to me quite often. I simply want to spread understanding of different Biblical positions and shine some light on the versatility and brilliance of the Bible. You can follow me on Twitter (@JamesDusenbery) and Instagram (@CanonOfReason).

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