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God bless you and greetings in the name of Jesus Christ whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus (Colossians 1:28).

God’s Word is clear as to the nature of the true God–He is always good. In direct contrast to God’s loving nature is the Devil, our adversary, the thief, who wants to do nothing but steal, and kill, and destroy (John 10:10). The Devil is always bad. In order to live in God’s power, we must maintain a clear mental picture of the goodness of our loving heavenly Father and the badness of the Devil. God never imparts evil to mankind. People who think that God makes them sick, injures them, or kills them are attributing darkness or evil to God, and that is wrong because God is light and in Him is no darkness at all (I John 1:5).

E. W. Bullinger has written The Book of Job, the Oldest Lesson in the World. That oldest lesson so vividly portrayed in Job is the goodness of God and the badness of the devil. Job being perhaps the first book of the Bible written, presents what God wanted His people to know first and foremost. God is loving and able to turn back and remove any evil the devil intends to inflict on God’s people. The nature of God and the devil has never changed. God wants the best for His people and the devil wants to steal, kill, and destroy.

Of course, there are many apparent contradictions in the Bible that stem from the erroneous idea of God’s hurting or killing someone. Most can be reconciled with the proper understanding of the figure of speech, idiom. An idiom is a colloquialism, a peculiar manner of speaking, or an expression with a meaning that cannot be understood from the words alone. An idiom can also be described as a usage of words in a culture that has a meaning different from a strict dictionary definition. In Figures of Speech Used in the Bible, E. W. Bullinger explained that the Hebrew language has an idiom of permission, which is a unique usage of words where active verbs are sometimes used “to express, not the doing of the thing, but the permission of the thing which the agent is said to do.”

For example, when Exodus 10:20 says that “the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart” it means “the Lord permitted Pharaoh’s heart to be hardened.” When II Samuel 6:7 says that “God smote him [Uzzah],” it more accurately means “God permitted him to be smitten.” When Genesis 19:24 records that “the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire,” it must be understood as “the Lord permitted brimstone and fire to rain upon Sodom and Gomorrah.”

Having this fundamental understanding that God is always good, let us take a closer look at the Word of God to get a fuller understanding of why and how this idiom of permission is used so that we never attribute folly, or evil, to God.

There are two major factors that contribute to the frequency of this idiom in God’s Word. First, the adversary and his activities were not fully exposed until Jesus Christ made a show of them openly. Second, man’s freedom of will to accept or reject the law of God allows him to either accept God’s Word and appropriate the blessings or to reject God’s Word and receive the consequences. Seeing these two factors in the context of the Word further broadens our understanding of the use of this Hebrew idiom. Tomorrow in The Biblical Idiom of Permission Part 2 we will see that the adversary was not fully exposed until Jesus Christ exposed him.