That which does not conform to God’s standard of moral excellence is wicked, bad, evil, or worthless. Like the Greek word po·ne·riʹa (Mt 22:18; Mr 7:22; Lu 11:39; Ac 3:26; Ro 1:29; 1Co 5:8; Eph 6:12), the Hebrew verb ra·shaʽʹ and related forms designate that which is wicked. (Ge 18:23; 2Sa 22:22; 2Ch 20:35; Job 34:8; Ps 37:10; Isa 26:10) Po·ne·rosʹ (related to po·ne·riʹa) often signifies that which is evil or wicked in a moral sense (Lu 6:45) and can apply to something that is bad or worthless in a physical sense, as when Jesus Christ spoke of “worthless fruit.” (Mt 7:17, 18) This word can also describe something that is hurtful and, at Revelation 16:2, has been rendered “painful” (AT, TEV) and “malignant.”
Why has God permitted wickedness?
Satan the Devil, who caused the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, to rebel against God, stands in opposition to God’s righteous standard and is appropriately termed “the wicked one.” (Mt 6:13; 13:19, 38; 1Jo 2:13, 14; 5:19) The rebellion initiated by Satan called into question the rightfulness and righteousness of God’s sovereignty, that is, whether God’s rulership over his creatures is exercised righteously and in their best interests. The fact that Adam and Eve rebelled also raised another issue: Would all other intelligent creatures prove unfaithful and disloyal to God when obedience appeared to bring no material benefits? Satan’s claim respecting faithful Job implied that they would do so. Satan said: “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.”
Time was required to settle the issues that had been raised. Hence, Jehovah God, by permitting wicked persons to continue living, made it possible for others to share in proving Satan’s claim false by serving God faithfully under unfavorable and trialsome circumstances. God’s permission of wickedness has also provided an opportunity for individuals to abandon a wrong course and to subject themselves willingly to God’s righteous laws. (Isa 55:7; Eze 33:11) So God’s holding back for a time from destroying the wicked serves to spare the righteously disposed ones by allowing time for them to prove their love and devotion to Jehovah.
Additionally, Jehovah God makes use of circumstances in such a way that the wicked themselves unwittingly serve his purpose. Though they oppose God, he can restrain them to the extent necessary for the preserving of his servants in their integrity, and can cause the actions even of such persons to bring his righteousness to the fore. (Ro 3:3-5, 23-26; 8:35-39; Ps 76:10) This thought is expressed at Proverbs 16:4: “Everything Jehovah has made for his purpose, yes, even the wicked one for the evil day.”
A case in point is the Pharaoh on whom Jehovah, through Moses and Aaron, served notice for the release of the enslaved Israelites. God did not make this Egyptian ruler wicked, but he did allow him to continue living and also brought about circumstances that caused Pharaoh to manifest himself as being wicked and deserving of death. Jehovah’s purpose in doing this is revealed at Exodus 9:16: “For this cause I have kept you in existence, for the sake of showing you my power and in order to have my name declared in all the earth.”
The Ten Plagues visited upon Egypt, climaxed by the destruction of Pharaoh and his military forces in the Red Sea, were an impressive demonstration of Jehovah’s power. (Ex 7:14–12:30; Ps 78:43-51; 136:15) For years afterward the nations round about were still talking about it, and God’s name was thus being declared throughout the earth. (Jos 2:10, 11; 1Sa 4:8) Had Jehovah killed Pharaoh immediately, this grand display of God’s power to His glory and for the deliverance of His people would not have been possible.
The Scriptures give assurance that the time will come when wickedness will no longer exist, as all those who stand in opposition to the Creator will be destroyed when his permission of wickedness will have served its purpose.