Evil Spirits

I was reading 1 Sam 19 today and here are my questions: Why would God send an evil spirit to Saul causing Saul to want to kill David (v9) particularly when God had anointed David to be King? If Saul was “visited” by evil spirit how come he seems to easily prophesy under power of Holy Spirit? (v23 & 1Sam 18:10). I wonder what he was prophesying?

The traditional answer to this one is that God was not the originator of this evil spirit, but the permitter. (Incidentally, the theme is repeated in other forms in 1 Sam 16 14-23 and 1 Sam 18 9-12.)

God has a way of subverting even satan’s work to further God’s own purposes, and as satan is active in our world, we must assume that God is permitting that to happen, for His own good reasons.

It doesn’t mean that the evil originates from God – the theological way of expressing this is that God is not the “author” of evil.

Going back to the Hebrew gives another angle on this. The word translated “evil” is “ra’a” in Hebrew. “Ra’a” is the Hebrew for “bad” but it also means “distressing”.

So it is possible that God was allowing Saul to be distressed in order to shake him, and turn him back to God.

So why would God allow an attack on David? Actually, it was Saul that wanted to attack David, and that was because he was jealous of David, and also afraid of him. It was the Lord who rescued David from Saul’s attacks – you can see all those features in the 1 Sam 17 9-12 passage.

So what about the Holy Spirit falling on Saul? During Saul’s life we see the Holy Spirit come and go several times. The “falling upon” of the Spirit was temporary.

Falling upon
1 Sam 10 10, 11 6, 19 23

1 Sam 16 14

This temporary falling of the Spirit was the normal Old Testament pattern. The change happened with Jesus. John was told to watch for the one on whom the Spirit falls AND REMAINS.

The Spirit fell on Jesus at his Baptism, then did not lift off again. This was the normal pattern for Jesus, and it has been the normal pattern for his followers since.

We are Baptised in the Holy Spirit only once, though we can be filled with the Holy Spirit many times.

So what about the evil spirit? Well I suppose since the evil spirit seemed to have only a temporary effect, and the Holy Spirit sovereignly decided to make a point by falling upon Saul whenever He (the Holy Spirit) decided to, the two things weren’t incompatible.

I wonder what Saul prophesied too!

Related Q & A