Saul’s Evil Spirit “From God”

There are several examples of God using Satan’s evil spirits as agents of His wrath in the Old Testament. We read in 1 Samuel 16:14: “Now the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord terrorized him.” This situation obviously occurred because of God’s discipline upon disobedient King Saul.

The question is, what is meant by the phrase “an evil spirit from God”? Does it mean that God sent an evil spirit who lived with Him in heaven, or does it mean that God sovereignly permitted one of Satan’s evil spirits to afflict Saul? I think that most Christians would tend to accept the second possibility in light of the rest of what the Bible teaches. The reason the scripture says that the evil spirit was “from God” was because that evil spirit’s harassment was a direct result of God’s divine discipline of Saul. Thus we see that evil spirits are under God’s sovereign control.

In Judges 9:23 we read, “God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem,” in order that divine judgment might come upon them for their wicked deeds. Again, this evil spirit was not from God’s heaven, but from Satan’s realm, and was divinely permitted to work evil plans against certain deserving persons. Evil spirits cannot successfully work their evil plans against anyone without God’s permission. If that is not true, then God is not all-powerful. Thus we can once more safely conclude that when Adam fell, Satan did not gain authority that was beyond God’s control.