Gen 50.20 Commentary

Part of the ongoing Verse Quick Reference project.

Gen 50:20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

This verse is often used by those who want to claim that God makes all evil happen in order to fit into His perfect plans. Evil, it is said, is caused by God for a greater purpose, and exists concurrently with man’s will (a belief called compatibilism).

Here is Calvinist James White:

Joseph’s brothers meant their actions for evil. But in direct parallel, God meant the same action for good. Due to the intention of the hearts of Joseph’s brothers, the action in the human realm was evil. The very same action as part of God’s eternal decree was meant for good, for by it God brought about His purpose and plan. One action, two intentions, compatible in all things. Joseph’s brothers were accountable for their intentions; God is to be glorified for His.

This verse just does not read that way despite those who want to make the concepts mechanical. The verse has nothing to do with eternal decrees, or even God causing Joseph to be sold into slavery. It easily can be ready that Joseph’s brothers purposed to do evil, but God purposed to do good. There is nothing in the reading that suggests God is not repurposing Joseph’s brother’s evil acts. In fact, a future Biblical commenter reads the same passage as God rescuing Joseph from his brothers:

Acts 7:9 And the patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him
Acts 7:10 and rescued him out of all his afflictions and gave him favor and wisdom before Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who made him ruler over Egypt and over all his household.

This is a perfectly acceptable reading of Genesis 50:20, that stands in opposition to God decreeing the evil to happen.

In any case, it is a wild leap of logic to point to one instance of an evil event being used for good, then to posit that all evil events are used for good, God has decreed them all since time eternal, and that God endorses the evil events.

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