Proverbs 16:4 Does God Actually Make the Wicked Specifically For Destruction?

Derek Ouellette —  August 11, 2010

A troubling passage at first glance for non-five-point Calvinists is Proverbs 16:4. This passage seems to say that the Lord has created some individuals for the explicit purpose of the day of disaster. When I engaged in what developed into a rather ungodly discussion with someone on this subject, and Proverbs 16:4 came up I admit that I stammered somewhat. I think that there is too much at stake to accept the belief that all things are meticulously determined and/or caused by God. I do not believe that God is the “Unmoved Mover” of classical Christian theology. I believe in human free will and responsibility in a non-five-point Calvinist way, no matter how that free will is defined. I believe that the type of free will/responsibility I am affirming is assumed everywhere throughout the scriptures.

But if what I am suggesting is true, how can Proverbs 16:4 teach that God has made/created wicked people for the sole purpose of the day of evil? The quick and un-thoughtful answer is that I am wrong about everything else I just affirmed. But closer examination may reveal that Proverbs 16:4 actually affirms everything I have been saying. First let’s look at this passage in context:

All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit. Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble. Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished. – Proverbs 16:2-5

Verses 2, 3 and 5 each support my claim of responsibility/free will, but then verse 4 seems to go against the rest by suggesting that those who’s “heart is an abomination to the Lord” were created by the Lord for that explicit purpose. Next I want to look at some other scripture passages in contrast to Proverbs 16:4:

Does God Make the Wicked for Destruction?

God Made Some For Destruction

God is Good to All

Proverbs 16:4:

KJV: “The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.”

NIV: “The LORD works out everything for his own ends–even the wicked for a day of disaster.”

NLT: “The LORD has made everything for his own purposes, even the wicked for a day of disaster.”

ESV: “The LORD has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.”

Psalms 145:9

“The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works.”

John 3:16

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

2 Peter 3:9

“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”

For a list of passages which show how Christ died so that every person may have a chance for redemption click here. If Christ died so that – in theory – everyone may be saved and – in fact – anyone who calls on the name of the Lord WILL be saved, how can the wicked be made for the day of evil? Especially in light of the fact that Jesus said that the “eternal fire” where the wicked end up was never created for them, it was created specifically for the Devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41).

The answer to our dilemma is found in the Hebrew word translated about various as “everything for its purpose”, “all things for himself”, and “everything for his own”. None of these translations capture the meaning of the Hebrew (ma’aneh). The literal translation of the word ma’aneh is “give an answer to” or “response”. So the phrase “all things for himself” should read “all things to give an answer to himself” or “all things to give a response to himself”. In other words, everyone is responsible for what they do and will be called into account, even the wicked for the day of distress.

Now I believe this passage makes sense in its context and with the wider context of scripture: verse 2, mans ways seem innocent to him but the Lord weighs the motives; verse 3, choose to commit to the Lord whatever you do (this exhortation would make no sense if he was created wicked for the day of distress because he could not choose to be obedient); verse 4, everyone will give an account to the Lord, even the wicked; verse 5, the proud will not go unpunished. If they are proud, it is not because they were created to remain that way until the day of distress, but because they chose to remain that way and they will be called to give an answer or reason in that day.

I would like to point out in passing that this is a reason why I do not accept random proof-texting as a valid way to intellectually engage in a debate.

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Derek Ouellette

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a husband, new dad, speaker, writer, christian. see my profile here.
  • Josh

    “I would like to point out in passing that this is a reason why I do not accept random proof-texting as a valid way to intellectually engage in a debate.”




    • Derek Ouellette

      If you are of the opinion that we should not use our brains, then there is no further reason for you to comment on this site. I hold to a fundamental belief that God gave us brains and actually expects us to use them. :) Using your God given intellect is not the same as “human reasoning”.

      Also, next time – if there is a next time – try not to scream so loud. It’s not proper blog etiquette.

  • Fe Obbs

    Very interesting article. So did Mary have a choice (freewill) to say ‘No’? Could Adam and Eve have said ‘No’ to the snake?

  • Aura

    I haven’t checked in here for a while because I thought it was getting boring, but the last few posts are great quality so I guess I will add you back to my daily bloglist. You deserve it friend :)

  • Martin

    If your translation from Hebrew is better than those in most Bibles, doesn’t that leave the Bible’s usefulness in question? We can’t all be Hebrew scholars.

  • Nicole

    What about Psalm 5:5?
    If God were good and loving toward all then Christ did not need to die and all would be going to Heaven regardless.

    • Melissa Montoya

      We all know only 144,000 Jews get to ‘go to heaven’ NO ONE ELSE! The bible is quite clear about its racist god and its intentions. :-(


    You say that you believe in free will “no matter how that free will is defined.”

    Really? I find this an illogical, untenable and foolish position. How can we discuss anything intelligently, when terms are left nebulous and undefined??

  • Paul

    @ Chris Allen I agree. This descent into a morass of moral oblivion we are experiencing in society has a lot to do with this inability to “discuss anything intelligently” at almost any level because everyone is working from “nebulously and undefined” terms. So when Derek says “free” and “will” and I use the same terms we may men completely different things! So no meaningful, let alone transformative, communication takes place! Even in America the very concept/notion of “freedom” is not equally/universally/uniformly understood! It means different things to different people. But once the idea of “true-ness” has been jetisoned for the notion that all is relative, there can be no common ground to find. How do you get there with personalized “maps” to suit everyone’s sense of “ground truth”.

  • Brian

    Sometimes proof texting is not random. One can meticulously put together a broad list of proof texts as well.

    As for God being good to all, He is. I know that you know all about common grace and Calvinism, etc. so I’m not even going to get into it. I’ve found that both sides have, do, and will continue to come up with hundreds of scripture passages to back up their position.

  • Elizabeth Chislett

    Verses 2, 3 and 5 each support my claim of responsibility/free will, but then verse 4 seems to go against the rest by suggesting that those who’s “heart is an abomination to the Lord”

    This should read “those whose heart”

  • XK-91

    Your use (or lack thereof) of context is horrible. Good job trying to avoid God’s sovereignty! Not.

  • Robby

    This is a topic i have been studying for sometime now. I too believe in free will. In fact, free will appears to be the basis for a relationship or lack thereof with our creator. Either we are obedient or we aren’t. The dilema is that if there is freewill, there has to be a choice between two things. In this case a choice between good and evil. Who created the “evil choice” if not God Himself? This idea is what makes us very uncomfortable and sends us searching for alternative meanings/translations to the very Word that God promised to preserve for us as you have done here. Either the word as written in the KJV is the word of God and inspired per 2ti 3:16 or it isn’t. Either God preserved His word per Psalms 12:7 or He didn’t. The idea that Prov 16:4 means exactly what it says is unpopular and hard to wrap our heads around. However, if God created everything, how could it be any other way, than the way it is written in Prov 16:4. Personally, i don’t see the conflict with freewill. God is all knowing and therefore was well aware that some people would choose evil. That doesn’t negate the fact that they had a choice. They truly had a choice, but God knew what they would choose before the foundation of the world. Therefore they were created for the day of evil.

  • Robby

    Melissa Montoya that is a terrible misinterpretation of scripture.

  • Kirk

    Let me give you a simple example how the 2 truths of soveriegnity and free will exist together. I have a little dog named Sammy (just pretend that I represent God here). I know my dog very well. I know what “motivates” him. I can tell you what he’ll do in just about “every” situation. If I thought it through really well, I bet I could plan his whole day out for him without me saying a word to him. Just by giving him a seies of choices, if I were smart enough, I would know where he would be and what he’d be doing each minute of the day. I wouldn’t be making him do a thing. He would be making all his own choices. I only would be giving him opportunities to do what I’ve taught him to do. Giving him opportunities to give his master glory, in as many different circumstances as I feel are best. The greater the difficulty the greater glory I get, which is his purpose for him being created. And the greater the reward he’ll receive in the end.

    • Michael

      Which the wicked feeds off of negative energy and temptations let the wickedness pass. If you let the wickedness get to you it would creat more problems that keeps you from being happy which God wants you to be happy. God didn’t put us on Earth to be force to learn but to have an open mind to learn new things which a wiseman is always open minded to learn new things.

  • Justavessel

    There’s actually no such thing as “free will” as the majority now say. People do not freely birth themselves, it’s actually God who births whomever He wills. Here’s a few verses that state that there’s no “free will”; James 1: 18; says “Of his own will begat he us”, John 1: 13; says “which were born, not of blood, nor the will of the flesh, nor the will of man, but of God”. Also John 5: 21; mentions that “the Son quickeneth whom he will”, Romans 9: 16; says “So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy”.

    People seem to think at first that it’s them that’s doing this work, yet it’s God that does all things. God created people and people sin, JESUS CHRIST came to save sinners who repent. 1 Timothy 1: 15; This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. He came to save the sinners, not the so called “righteous”.

    God is the ONE who controls absolutely everything, and predestination is the very backbone of the Bible. Romans 8: 29; For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.

    HE already knows what will happen before it ever does, many are still stuck in this mind of “time”, while He is beyond that. Isaiah 46: 10; Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:

    God created sin, HE doesn’t sin yet we do and are in need of salvation through JESUS CHRIST. Isaiah 45: 7; I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things. Deuteronomy 32: 39; See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand.HE does everything plan and simple, yet many are still double minded.

    So many try to justify GOD, while HE does not need their justification, HE’s GOD. 1 Thessalonians 5:18; In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Just be thankful for everything: Romans 8: 28; And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

    Satan does not move without Jehovah God’s direct permission, just read Job. God is the 1 and only in charge, and there is no other. The Lords will be done, HE knows what will happen before it ever does, it’s HIS program. This cross is daily, not once a week, nor once a year. Luke 14: 26-27; If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.

    Nothing else matters but God’s WORD, that’s what’s important. The outer man has to die, while the inner man grows by the WORD of CHRIST. The ”self” has always been the problem. The problem is “me” and the problem is “you”, the answer is JESUS CHRIST. HE is the 1 who holds the keys to the locks.

    Revelation 1: 18; I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.

    • fastlikeferrari

      I totally agree with you, especially where you said “So many try to justify GOD, while HE does not need their justification, HE’s GOD.” God is way out of our understanding he gave us the tools to understand what he wills us to, and he far from needs our justification nor will there be any avail to us attempting to justify God, anything He does is good, just, or right, he created the format of what is right or wrong he wrote/created all we know seek and understand.

    • Michael Pearcy

      There are so many holes and presupposed assumptions in this that it makes my head spin and don’t know where to start without being forced to write a book. Briefly, Of course the new birth is of God (not human agency, willpower – we all know that). It is not something that we can manufacture. 2nd – Of course, we only come to God because He first loved us and draws us to Himself… that’s why it is called grace! And, it is the power of grace, the draw of grace that saves anyone who repents and turns from their sin. This is the Holy Spirits job.. to convict the world of sin… If this were not true, that man can or would repent, then why conviction of the Spirit? The power of grace enables us to repent and be saved. It is a free gift / work / drawing of God. 3rd Of course God knows beginning from end. He foreknew who would turn to Him. He foreknows your life’s choices right now, even though you have not lived it. And because He foreknows, He can predestine. “Pre” meaning before it actually happens and “destines” because He has a purpose and a plan for those who turn to Him in repentance through enabling grace.

  • JohnS

    Might I suggest that ‘justavessel’ give some more careful thought to their questionable dogma rather than the thoughtless diatribe regurgitated here. Careful and thoughtful study will show that Calvin, although a man of honourable intentions, arguably based his soteriology on extrabiblical philosophies. Unfortunately unthinking dogmatists tend to cling to their tenuous world views even though they may well be holding only a house of cards.

  • timpaul

    Arminianism glorifies and diefies unfallen intellect and will. You are born in sin and naturally hate God, so please reconsider your entire epistemic biblical hermeneutic….I can smell the stench from here and it makes me clench

    • Derek Ouellette

      Well first of all, putting on a little deodorant should help to curb what you’re smelling. Secondly, learn what Arminianism teaches before you demonize it. From your comment it’s clear you haven’t a clue. Peace.

      • fastlikeferrari

        I’m sure you should not change the wording of Scripture to suit your beliefs, it’s a certainty that God is in control of everything, and knows the end from the beginning.

  • Romans9Question

    I would be interested to know how you handle the “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” of Romans 9.

  • phil

    Thank you for your study of proverbs 16:4. It was exactly what I needed! Blessings, Phil

  • Matthew Arruda

    How Man wants to hold so tight to “free-will”, as if that is his only real true love and need; such selfishness.

    You danced around that verse. Now dance around Proverbs 16:9, 16:33.

    Yes, everything is pre-destined.

    John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

    That bible you’re reading is telling you EVERYTHING that was at the Beginning and to come. It’s all pre-destined.

    Welcome to the Lord’s Truth, my friend. YOU have already been pre-destined to be Saved.

    Now, study with new eyes. Align yourself with God’s purpose for you. And just WATCH what happens. Oh boy…