God as Tormenter? The Story of Saul (1)

I received a question recently about whether or not God would let an evil spirit enter or torment a good person.  I’m not entirely sure about the question behind the question or what broader concerns this entails. I can guess: does this make God the author of evil as well as good?  That is, it falls into the area of theodicy – why do bad things happen to good people – but it is a very specific form of it.  It is not just any bad thing happening, but God actively making that bad thing happen.  That is, it takes an option that most people are not willing to entertain: evil has its origin in God; or, God is not entirely good.

Though the Bible often brings up the problem of evil and God’s relationship to it, the only clear parallel to this precise question in the Bible is the story of Saul.  To understand what is going on with Saul, we need a bit of background of where Saul fits within the broader narrative from Joshua through 2 Kings as well as background in what Bible scholars refer to as “source criticism” – that is, biblical authors had sources and reshaped those sources in light of differing theologies (e.g., compare and contrast the same episodes in 1 Samuel – 2 Kings and 1-2 Chronicles).

There is a lot of information to get to the final answer of this question.  It is going to be a little bit of a tortuous route, but we will get to the destination.  I will link the subsequent postings to this question as they come available.


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