Why Has God Allowed Suffering on Earth?
1, 2. How did the human race get its start, and what kind start was it?
SCIENTIFIC evidence and the Bible testify that all humans sprang from one original pair. Then, after the Flood, three main branches of the human family were formed from the offspring of the three sons of Noah.—Genesis 3:20; 9:18, 19.
2 The apostle Paul said: “[God] made out of one man every nation of men, to dwell upon the entire surface of the earth.” (Acts 17:26) This man Adam and his wife, Eve, were created perfect, as are all God’s works.—Deuteronomy 32:4; Genesis 2:18, 21-23.
3. How did Adam, at the time of his being created, compare with angels?
3 Adam was a son of God, a full-fledged member of God’s family, made only a little lower than angels. (Luke 3:38) Angels are spirit creatures greater in power and ability than humans. (2 Peter 2:11) But nowhere does the Bible state that the angels have greater moral capacity. When Jesus Christ was on earth as a man, born of a woman, his moral integrity was equal to that of anyone in God’s universal family in heaven and on earth.—Psalm 8:4, 5; Hebrews 2:6-9; 7:26.
4, 5. How did sickness, trouble and suffering come upon the entire human race?
4 How, then, did imperfection and its accompanying troubles, sickness and strife, come to be the lot of the human race? The Bible explains that, through no fault of their own, all humans since Adam and Eve have been born with imperfections. It declares: “Through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned.”—Romans 5:12.
5 According to the laws of genetics, children inherit tendencies and characteristics, as well as defects, from their parents. But how did perfect Adam become defective, imperfect, a sinner? Why have trouble and suffering been allowed since then?
ADAM’S FINE POSITION
6. In what way was Adam created ‘in God’s image and likeness’?
6 Adam was created in God’s image and likeness. (Genesis 1:26) This means that he had moral qualities and a capacity for spirituality. He could know and learn about God and could have a sonlike relationship with God. He had reasoning powers and the faculty of conscience—a sense of right and wrong. Adam was able to represent God on earth, reflecting God’s glory—his fine attributes—to those who would be born.
7. (a) How did God provide for Adam’s need as a newcomer on earth? (b) How should Adam have responded?
7 God was in communication with Adam, possibly every day. According to Genesis 3:8, it was “about the breezy part of the day” that Adam and Eve “heard the voice of Jehovah God.” The reference to a specific period during the day suggests that this may have been the customary time for God to communicate with man. Yes, the Most High did take time to teach Adam as a newcomer on earth. (Genesis 1:28-30) This first man needed God’s help and instruction, so that he could come to exercise proper dominion over the lower creation. Adam had full capacity for spiritual development and for cultivating love. He could become stronger in appreciation and love for his Creator as he progressed in learning. (1 John 4:7, 8) He could establish an ever closer relationship with Him.
8. Why was it essential that Adam learn much about plant and animal life?
8 The Bible does not state how long a period of time God occupied in giving his son instruction. But it was essential that Adam learn, among the first things, about plant life and animal life, since he was to be the expert cultivator, and instructor of his children in the art of gardening and caring for domestic animals. (Genesis 2:15, 19) This obviously could take some time.
9. What assignment did God give Adam, according to Genesis 2:19, 20, and how was Adam able to carry it out properly?
9 Adam dwelt in the Edenic garden home that God had made for him. It was likely a large area around which Adam could travel. Thus, Adam could observe the animals in their habitat, in whatever way God would facilitate this. Adam could then name them according to their traits and characteristics. There was no need for haste.—Genesis 2:8, 19, 20.
10. With the training that Adam received, what would Adam be able to do, but what care was he to exercise?
10 While Adam could solve problems that would arise within the scope of his knowledge, he would have to look to God as the Designer and Director as to just how he was to ‘subdue the earth.’ The uncultivated earth outside the garden of Eden would have to be made “home” for billions of persons to come. And just as a builder follows the blueprints of the architect, so man would need to follow God’s wise direction faithfully in order to fashion earth for beauty and for the greatest comfort and enjoyment to the human race.—Luke 16:10.
11. How did Adam carry out his responsibility at first, and what duties were ahead of him?
11 How did Adam do as to the things with which God had blessed him? For a time he did well, instructing his wife just as he had learned from God. (Compare Genesis 2:16, 17 with Genesis 3:2, 3.) By reason of his Creatorship, Jehovah was their God. To continue in proper relationship to God, Adam and Eve needed to lean upon and obey him as Sovereign Ruler. As they would expand their family to cover the earth, subjection to God’s rulership would be essential for order and harmony. Adam and Eve could teach and train their children, so that they, in turn, might bring glory to God.
‘THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE’
12. What prospect did Adam and Eve have, according to Genesis 2:17?
12 God had told Adam that he could eat freely of every tree of the garden except for the tree of the knowledge of good and bad. (Genesis 2:17) Everlasting life was set before this couple and their offspring, conditioned only on their obedience. It would be a disgrace upon God’s entire family in heaven and on earth for Adam to be so disrespectful as to disobey God.
13, 14. (a) Why was it entirely right and proper that Adam obey God? (b) What did Adam fail to do with respect to the good things he had, and what attitude did he develop?
13 God had given Adam everything for his enjoyment. Adam himself did not make the earth to produce the fine things to eat. He did not create his beautiful companion Eve. He did not make his own body, with the faculties that enabled him to enjoy the things he had. But, while Adam loved and enjoyed the fine life he had been kindly given, he did not follow through in an obedient way.
14 Eventually Adam came to put his supposed interests above those of his heavenly Father. He thought more of his immediate desires than of the family of God and the offspring that he was to have. Even imperfect humans despise a man who is a traitor to his family and who sells his own children into slavery and death. And that is what Adam did.—Romans 7:14.
15, 16. (a) Was the “tree of the knowledge of good and bad” a real tree? (b) What other questions arise concerning this tree?
15 Of what did Adam’s sin consist? It was in connection with the “tree of the knowledge of good and bad.” Much conjecture has been put forward about this tree. Was it a real tree? What was the “knowledge” and the “good and bad”? Why would God put such a tree in the garden?
16 The Bible indicates that the tree was real, speaking of it as one among the fruit trees of the garden. (Genesis 2:9) What was the “knowledge” that the tree represented? The Catholic Jerusalem Bible makes a pertinent comment, in a footnote on Genesis 2:17:
17. According to a footnote in the Catholic Jerusalem Bible, what was the “knowledge” that the tree stood for?
17 “This knowledge is a privilege which God reserves to himself and which man, by sinning, is to lay hands on, [Genesis] 3:5, 22. Hence it does not mean omniscience, which fallen man does not possess; nor is it moral discrimination, for unfallen man already had it and God could not refuse it to a rational being. It is the power of deciding for himself what is good and what is evil and of acting accordingly, a claim to complete moral independence by which man refuses to recognise his status as a created being. The first sin was an attack on God’s sovereignty, a sin of pride.”
18. (a) Of what was the tree symbolic? (b) For a perfect man to sin by eating of the ‘tree of knowledge’ what decision would he first make?
18 The tree was, in effect, symbolic of the boundary—the line of demarcation—or the limit of man’s proper domain. It was right and proper, yes, essential, that God inform Adam of that boundary. For a perfect man to eat of that tree would require the deliberate assent of his will. It would indicate the determination made beforehand that he would withdraw himself from subjection to God’s rulership, to go out on his own, doing what was “good” or “bad” according to his own decisions.
GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY CHALLENGED
19. What did Adam’s willful sin bring upon himself and his children, in harmony with the principle at Romans 1:28?
19 So man went in a way independent of God. God did not interfere with Adam’s free will. But Adam’s wrong choice brought him and his children into all kinds of troublesome, humanly unsolvable problems.—Romans 1:28.
20. How did Adam’s wrong act raise a question that included all mankind?
20 Moreover, there was more to the issue than the mere rebellion of Adam and his wife. The rebellion of the earthly son of God raised the question: Would anyone within God’s earthly family, using his free will, choose to be loyal to God’s rulership, and would any stay loyal to God under pressure, or under the temptation of gaining something for himself by disobedience? So the integrity, the faithfulness, of every man and woman to be brought into existence would be a matter of doubt in the minds of all God’s creatures in heaven and on earth.
21. The sin of Adam raised what issue far greater than the question of human integrity?
21 This question was, however, subsidiary or secondary to a far greater one—a challenge regarding the rightfulness of God’s sovereignty or rulership—as was illustrated by developments some 2,500 years later. An illustration of the issue involved is found in what happened in real life to the man Job, a record of which was preserved for our benefit.
22. How does the book of Job show that the integrity and loyalty of every human were actually made a subject of controversy?
22 The book of Job reveals that a heavenly angel of God was the promoter of the challenge. He appeared before the Most High, insolently accusing God’s devoted servant Job, saying that his loyalty to God was based solely on selfishness. God allowed this spirit son to bring a test of great adversity upon Job. Even though Job proved faithful under the test, the rebel still accused Job of having a bad heart. Jehovah said to him: “Have you set your heart upon my servant Job, that there is no one like him in the earth, a man blameless and upright, fearing God and turning aside from bad? Even yet he is holding fast his integrity [blamelessness, faithfulness to God], although you incite me against him to swallow him up without cause.” The angel answered: “Skin in behalf of skin, and everything that a man has he will give in behalf of his soul. For a change, thrust out your hand, please, and touch as far as his bone and his flesh and see whether he will not curse you to your very face.”—Job 2:2-5.
23. What was the result to Job for holding fast to faithfulness under severe suffering?
23 God let Job be tested, knowing that he would remain faithful. And Job did not actually lose by suffering for a while. For, at the end of the test, God rewarded Job beyond anything he had formerly enjoyed, including 140 more years of life.—Job 42:12-16; compare Hebrews 11:6.
24. (a) Who, actually, was the instigator and promoter of the rebellion against God? (b) Were Adam and Eve therefore excusable?
24 This glimpse of an invisible heavenly occurrence helps us to see the real issue as to God’s allowance of evil. The challenging angel, known as Satan the Devil, was actually the instigator of the rebellion. Nonetheless, the first human pair, who took the side of Satan when he first set the challenge in motion, were willfully at fault, without excuse.
25, 26. (a) Since it was Satan the Devil who attacked Adam as to his loyalty to God, did God unfairly leave Adam open to attack? (b) What may have been Satan’s reasoning, as he set about to attack Eve?
25 God had given Adam all the necessary instruction and opportunities to become fully equipped to stand loyally by God, for God would never leave a servant of His open to an attack for which he had no defense. (1 Corinthians 10:13) Consequently, Adam, being perfectly free to exercise his will, could have stood firm and demonstrated loyalty and faithfulness. There were no factors beyond his control to make him sin, as is the case with imperfect mankind today. His sin was entirely willful and deliberate.
26 Nevertheless, God’s adversary, the rebellious spirit son, sought an opportunity to initiate rebellion in the universe. He wanted to use Adam and Eve as instruments to promote his challenge of God’s rulership. The Bible account tells us how he attacked the woman first. Satan had confidence that, having overcome Eve, he would be able to put great pressure upon Adam.
REBELLION AGAINST GOD
27. Though a serpent spoke to Eve, how do we know that the serpent was really only the instrument of the Devil?
27 How was the challenge to God’s rulership, that Satan had in mind, actually set in motion? The Bible account reports that a lowly beast of the field, a serpent, spoke to Eve. Of course, an animal cannot speak of itself. Satan the Devil was actually the speaker, using the serpent. Because of this deception and the use of the serpent, God called him “the original serpent [deceiver].” (Revelation 12:9) Jesus pointed out that Satan was the instigator of the challenge to God’s sovereignty when he said that the Devil was “the father of the lie” and a manslayer from the beginning of his rebellious course in Eden. (John 8:44) The Bible record of this first lie and the rebellion reads:
28. From the account in Genesis 3:1-5: (a) How did Satan’s question to Eve imply that God had held back something from her that she should have? (b) Was Eve ignorant of God’s law about not eating from the ‘tree of knowledge’?
28 “Now the serpent proved to be the most cautious of all the wild beasts of the field that Jehovah God had made. So it began to say to the woman: ‘Is it really so that God said you must not eat from every tree of the garden?’ At this the woman said to the serpent: ‘Of the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat. But as for eating of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, God has said, “You must not eat from it, no, you must not touch it that you do not die.”’ At this the serpent said to the woman: ‘You positively will not die. For God knows that in the very day of your eating from it your eyes are bound to be opened and you are bound to be like God, knowing good and bad.’”—Genesis 3:1-5.
29, 30. In what way did Eve regard the fruit of the ‘tree of knowledge’ before Satan lied, and how did she view it after the lie?
29 Previous to this time the woman had obeyed the injunction not to eat of the ‘tree of knowledge’ to which the serpent referred. She had all manner of food to eat and was in no need. She understood that to eat from the tree would bring bad results. Not that the fruit was poison, but God had said that eating it would bring his judgment of death. Now, if a person in the woods sees certain plants, such as poison ivy, or certain trees the fruit of which is dangerous to eat, is he attracted or impelled to touch, take and eat of them? No, there is no such attractiveness. This was the way with Eve. But Satan’s lie now gave that tree attractiveness. She believed his words, spoken through a lowly snake, above those of her Creator. We read:
30 “Consequently the woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was something to be longed for to the eyes, yes, the tree was desirable to look upon. So she began taking of its fruit and eating it.”—Genesis 3:6.
31. What may have been Eve’s reasoning as the serpent spoke to her?
31 Why was Eve not dumbfounded, and why did she not flee when the serpent, surprisingly, spoke to her? The Bible does not say. It is possible that she saw the serpent at the tree, and its actions may have attracted her attention. She knew that it was a most cautious animal. So the serpent may have appeared very wise, and when it spoke it seemed to have special wisdom.
32, 33. (a) What freedom did Eve think eating the fruit would give her? (b) How was Eve, in running ahead of her husband, actually losing freedom?
32 In any case, the lie spoken through this animal convinced her that she would not die upon her eating of the fruit. Instead she believed she would gain special powers—to be like God, free and independent to judge for herself what course to take. She would not be dependent upon or subject to anyone. Certainly she abandoned subjection to her husband, who had stated God’s command to her. She went ahead and took the fruit without consulting him.
33 That is why the apostle Paul stressed submissiveness on the part of the Christian woman. He pointed out that Eve, in thinking she was achieving absolute independence, was actually doing the very opposite and bringing the greatest trouble upon herself. She tried to do that for which she was not fitted. Paul said: “Adam was not deceived, but the woman was thoroughly deceived and came to be in transgression.”—1 Timothy 2:11-14.
ADAM’S LACK OF FAITH
34, 35. (a) Adam not being deceived, why did he enter into the rebellion? (b) Why was the problem raised by Eve’s sin a greater one for Adam than his everyday problems of taking care of the garden of Eden, and how did he demonstrate weakness of faith?
34 Since Adam was not deceived, what impelled him to join his wife in the rebellion? He let his desire for his wife, Eve, take priority over his relationship with God. So when he saw his wife, he took the fruit from her.—Genesis 3:6.
35 The Bible does not record the words that passed between Adam and Eve. But here a most serious problem was thrown suddenly ‘into his lap.’ Adam may have had problems to work out in connection with his dominion over animals and cultivating the garden, but this situation with Eve was something that reached right into his heart and tested his loyalty. He may have wondered: ‘Why does such a thing have to happen so suddenly and shockingly to me, in the midst of a happy life? Why did God let this occur?’ His faith in God was tested. He should have shown superior love for God. He should have known that God would stand by him.—Psalm 34:15.
36, 37. (a) How, in addition to lack of faith, did Adam reveal that he was self-excusing? (b) But was he fully responsible for his rebellion?
36 Certainly God would have taken care of his son Adam had Adam proved loyal. He would have worked out matters to Adam’s complete happiness. (Compare Psalm 22:4, 5.) But Adam did not exercise this faith. Furthermore, he tried to excuse himself, saying: “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree and so I ate.”—Genesis 3:12.
37 Adam’s self-excusing reply blamed the woman as the guilty one. But Adam was fully responsible, and, as head of his household, he was the one with whom God dealt directly. He was reprehensible. Actually, Adam took the course described at James 1:13-15:
38. How does James 1:13-15 describe the process by which the perfect humans Adam and Eve came to sin?
38 “When under trial, let no one say: ‘I am being tried by God.’ For with evil things God cannot be tried nor does he himself try anyone. But each one is tried by being drawn out and enticed by his own desire. Then the desire, when it has become fertile, gives birth to sin; in turn, sin, when it has been accomplished, brings forth death.”
ENTIRE HUMAN RACE HURT
39. (a) In what way did Adam die “in the day” he sinned? (Genesis 2:17) (b) How did his loss of spirituality affect him physically, and also affect his children?
39 Adam thereby became a sinner. According to the meaning of the Hebrew word for “sin” he ‘missed the mark.’ He could no longer measure up to perfect standards. He died spiritually and also began to die physically in that day. Adam now had a lack, a moral weakness that also affected him physically, for “the sting producing death is sin.” (1 Corinthians 15:56) Adam’s spirituality being ruined, his mental workings were unbalanced, and this contributed toward unbalance and deterioration of his physical body. Adam had to die. (Genesis 3:19) He could not pass on full strength morally or physically to his children, for he no longer had it to give. Consequently, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” which Adam had once reflected in his perfection.—Romans 3:23.
40. (a) Why did Jehovah God put Adam out of the garden of Eden after Adam sinned? (b) What similar action is taken by Christian congregations today, as shown at 1 Corinthians 5:11-13?
40 Being a sinner, Adam had no right to enjoy communion with Jehovah God. He had no right to live any longer in the paradise garden. God then evidently spoke to his firstborn heavenly Son. This Son had been used by Jehovah in the creative work. (Colossians 1:13, 15, 17) Jehovah said: “‘Here the man has become like one of us in knowing good and bad, and now in order that he may not put his hand out and actually take fruit also from the tree of life and eat and live to time indefinite,—’ With that Jehovah God put him out of the garden of Eden to cultivate the ground from which he had been taken.” (Genesis 3:22, 23) Similarly today, the Scriptures command that a bad or immoral person who is unrepentant must be disfellowshiped from communion and association with the Christian congregation.—1 Corinthians 5:11-13.
41 What did all of this mean for the human race? The result was inherited weakness. And yet no person can rightly blame all the bad things he does on this fact, for, actually, all may sin willfully and so bear individual responsibility. In the human race sin has multiplied, so that its extreme badness—with all the pains and sorrow it brings—has been manifest. Sin has ruled like a king over humankind, permeating nearly all thoughts and actions; there is an ingrained selfishness.—Romans 5:14.
GOD’S REACTION TO THE CHALLENGE
42. (a) What was challenged with regard to God’s rulership or sovereignty? (b) What was the Devil’s contention or argument about this?
42 Happily, because of God’s undeserved kindness and his love for the human race, he did not abandon mankind so that they would go permanently into extinction. Think, however, of the position in which God was placed: His rulership, his sovereignty, was challenged as to its rightfulness, its righteousness and deservedness. According to the Devil, Jehovah was not ruling through love. He claimed that the reason why God’s intelligent creatures were obedient was not that they loved God’s rulership and preferred it above all others. No, he held that God’s sovereignty derived its support from others only as the result of His giving every good thing to those obeying Him—that He ruled, in effect, by a form of bribery. (Job 1:9-11) Moreover, the Devil charged that God was keeping something from His creatures that they had a right to have. One of these withheld things was complete, separate independence from Him, the right to act just as they please.—Genesis 3:5.
43. Why did the Almighty God not destroy the Devil then and there, but permit wickedness to continue for a time?
43 God knew that his rulership was right. He could have destroyed the Devil then and there. But this would not have settled the issue that had been raised. For Satan’s challenge, supported by Adam and Eve, not only slandered God’s name and government; it also put a shadow on the name of every intelligent person in the universe. So, for the sake of his own name as king, and for the sake of all his family of faithful persons living then and in the future, God permitted wickedness to continue for a limited time.
44. (a) Where would we who are living be today if God had put Adam and Eve to death immediately? (b) What confidence did God have in men who would come to be born, and has this confidence proved to be justified?
44 If God had put Adam and Eve to death immediately, none of us who have lived on earth would ever have been born. Even though Adam and Eve had turned bad, God knew that not all their descendants would do so. Many would serve God through all the tests that the Devil could bring. God therefore allowed Satan, as an outlaw, to continue, and he permitted Adam and Eve to bring forth children. Many of their descendants have proved faithful, as the Bible record testifies.—Hebrews, chapter 11.
45. (a) In God’s allowance of wickedness, who has suffered for the longest time? (b) Who really has benefited from God’s permission of wickedness for a time?
45 Even though conditions have been adverse, humanity has, for the most part, been happy to enjoy a measure of life. Actually, few persons have suffered for more than a comparatively few years of their lives. So in spite of hardships, most people are glad that they have been born. However, Jehovah God has tolerated these bad things, observing wickedness and suffering, for about 6,000 years. As a Father to his universal family, this has grieved him. (Compare Psalm 78:40.) He had the power to stop wickedness at any time, but held back for a purpose, not for his personal benefit, but for that of intelligent creatures of the universe now and for all time to come. (Luke 18:7, 8; Job 35:6-8) World history and the Bible indicate that the issue is near to its time of complete settlement.
46. What benefit will be gained by letting the issue of God’s rulership be fully tested out, even though it has taken about 6,000 years?
46 There was a legal reason for God’s action. For example, when a case has been carried to the Supreme Court of the land and there argued out and fully decided, the Supreme Court’s ruling stands as a precedent for deciding that same question in all individual cases thereafter. So, too, this universal issue, settled in the Supreme Court of heaven, will serve as a precedent. Never again will wickedness, with its attendant suffering, be allowed to disturb the universe. We are given a view of Jehovah’s Court at Daniel 7:9, 10.
47. Along with settling the universal issue of the rightness of his sovereignty, what else has God provided?
47 God has therefore permitted wickedness and suffering for the settlement of the issue of his universal sovereignty. And in settling the issue, God has also made provision for lifting the human race out of its sad condition. This provision will erase all the harm done by the rule of sin as king over the human race. How God has made this provision is the interesting subject for our consideration in Chapter 6.
[Picture on page 51]
With instruction from God, Adam learned how to exercise dominion over the animals
[Picture on page 63]
When a court case has been fairly tried, the ruling sets a precedent. In like manner, when the supreme court of heaven decides the universal issue, all creation will benefit