All Scriptures are quoted from the 1901 American Standard Version unless otherwise noted.
4 Jehovah hath made everything for its own end; Yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.
Many Christians look at this verse in Proverbs and have the idea that God made wickedness, that He’s the creator of sin and evil in the world. However, that is not what Solomon is saying here. He doesn’t say that God made wickedness, he says that God “made the wicked for the day of evil.” Or as the NKJV says, “Yes, even the wicked for the day of doom.”
There’s a big difference between saying, “God made man to be wicked,” and “God made the wicked for the day of doom.”
When God created Adam and Eve, He created them without sin. They were absolutely sinless and in perfect fellowship with God. However, He gave them a free will to choose to obey or not obey. When they chose to disobey God, sin was the result. Thus God didn’t make sin, sin was the consequence of man’s disobedience.
To be more precise, man’s disobedience was the sin. Thus sin was introduced to the human race via man himself, via Adam and Eve (Ro 5:12). From that point on, man has chosen to sin. Many people are more sinful than others, those whom would be referred to as wicked or evil. Hence sin and wickedness cannot be attributed to God.
Therefore, if we’re going to interpret Proverbs 16:4 correctly, we have to start with Adam and Eve and how God created them. He created them without sin.
So what is Solomon saying? He’s saying, that, like everything else (“hath made everything for its own end”), the wicked has its own “end.” From the very beginning, since before the creation of the world, God ordained that the wicked (the sinful), have an end that is fit for them, which is eternal punishment. The “day of doom” is what we see in Revelation 20:11-15.
Thus all Solomon is saying, is that there is a God-ordained accounting in store for the wicked – that from the very beginning God determined that the wicked will have “its own end” in the lake of fire.
Likewise, God determined that the forgiven – through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ – will also have their “end,” which is eternal life in the Eternal Kingdom (Rev 21 and 22; Matt 25:46).
That this is the correct interpretation, the following verse makes clear:
5 Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to Jehovah: Though hand join in hand, he shall not be unpunished.
The “proud in heart” refers to the wicked he just mentioned. Note what Solomon says, “he shall not be unpunished.” Thus he is merely saying that the wicked have a day of accounting coming for them, something that God ordained before creation and time.
Also note that Solomon says that these individuals are an “abomination to Jehovah.” You can’t have it both ways here. To understand Solomon to mean that God made certain people to be wicked, is an immediate and clear contradiction to what Solomon says next, which is that the wicked are an abomination to God. Those who insist on that interpretation requires God to work against Himself. God never does anything that requires His attributes to work against each other. God’s attributes always work in perfect harmony with one another.
To understand Solomon to mean that God made certain people to be wicked for the purpose of punishing them, is an idea that must be forced into the text. Furthermore, it’s a contradiction of the overall teaching of God’s Word.
Do you really believe that God deliberately chose to make people sinful and wicked just so he can punish them? That idea is an emphatic contradiction to verses like John 3:16 and Romans 5:8. God’s love for mankind shouts against that idea. The fact that Jesus chose to leave His throne in Glory to come into this world in human form, and to suffer unspeakable pain on our behalf, shouts against that idea. It’s senseless. Jesus suffered and died because of sin and evil. He died to deliver us from the consequences of it.
Proverbs 16:4 has a New Testament parallel, which is found in Romans 9. This chapter is Calvinism’s flagship chapter for their theology. Below I will provide an excerpt from my commentary on that chapter dealing with Romans 9:22-23. It will provide further understanding of what Solomon is saying in Proverbs 16:4:
People make assumptions that God just does whatever He wants, without any consideration of what the Bible teaches about His holy and just character. Paul could use this type of terminology (potter/clay) because He had a correct view of God, as we already discussed. This is why I suggested reading my article on God’s character first, before reading this commentary. It makes all the difference in how we interpret passages like this one.
9:22 But what if God, wanting to show [His] wrath, and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, (EMTV)
9:23 and so that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, (EMTV)
Calvinists see the “vessel of honor” as referring to “the elect” and the “vessel of dishonor” as referring to the “non-elect.” They see “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” and “vessels of mercy which He had prepared beforehand for glory,” as God determining who will be these vessels. While God did indeed create us, He didn’t decide beforehand who would be a “vessel of honor” and who would be a “vessel of dishonor,” or “vessels of wrath” and “vessels of mercy.”
Again, Paul’s discussion in this chapter is not about individual election, nor is it about personal salvation. Election is the choosing of a people group, and the discussion all along has been about the situation with Israel and how God is dealing with them. All along it’s been about the relationship between Israel and the Gentiles.
When the all-knowing God created us, He of course knew the heart of man and the events that would unfold throughout history. Based on His foreknowledge He knew the direction each of us would go. Thus, by creating man He knew that two different groups would emerge out of that “same lump,” believers and unbelievers. However, God didn’t design one group to be “vessels of wrath” and the other group to be “vessels of mercy.” He didn’t determine who they would be. He simply identified who they were.
God identified each group and ordained that unbelieving Jews and Gentiles would have their end away from God where they will suffer eternal destruction, and that believing Jews and Gentiles would have their end in the glory of God’s presence. In other words, God didn’t decide who would believe and disbelieve, but decided “beforehand,” before He even created them, what the end of their faith or non-faith would be.
Yes, God is the Potter and we are the clay, and He did create us the way He wanted to. But in what way did He create us? First of all, He didn’t create certain individuals with an unbelieving heart, and other individuals with a believing heart. He didn’t design some hearts without the capacity to turn from sin and to faith in Christ, and other hearts to have the capacity to turn from sin and to faith in Christ.
God designed the human heart with the potential for both good and evil. He has designed us with a free will to choose between the two. Those who choose evil and reject the truth, are “vessels for dishonorable use.” Those who choose good and the truth that is in Christ, are “vessels for honorable use.”
I need to add at this point, that none of us are able to come to the truth on our own. We all need the Holy Spirit to convict us of our sins, and to reveal the truth to our hearts. Apart from the work of the Holy Spirit, none of us are able to come to faith in Christ. But the point I’m trying to make, is that we have all been born with a heart that has the capacity to respond to the truth. I’m just trying to make it clear that God does not design anyone in such a way that it would make it impossible for them to understand the truth and respond to the gospel message in faith.
God is a just God, and everyone who stands before Him for judgment, will do so because they chose to reject the Lord Jesus Christ. They will stand before Him because they loved their sin and this world.
While this applies to all mankind, in keeping with the flow of Paul’s discussion, his primary focus is on Israel and the Gentiles, and on the Church, which consists of believing Jews and Gentiles. Thus, within the context of Paul’s discussion, the “vessel of honor” and the “vessels of mercy” is the Church (vs. 24), and the “vessel of dishonor” and the “vessels of wrath” is unbelieving Israel (vs. 29).
This phrase, “show his wrath, and to make his power known,” is similar to the description in verse 17: “For Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be proclaimed in all the earth.’”
At that time, Pharaoh and his people were “vessels of wrath,” and the people of Israel were “vessels of mercy.” God displayed His wrath against Egypt so that He could show His mercy to the people of Israel, as well as to the rest of the world….for through them would come the Christ, the Savior of the world.
Soon after God delivered them, the situation flip-flopped with Israel. In the midst of much sin, they rebelled against God and made a golden calf to worship instead. They were then the ones that became the objects of God’s wrath. He wanted to destroy all of Israel, and make a great nation out of Moses. But Moses interceded on their behalf and reminded God of His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Israel (Ex 32:9-14), so God responded according to Moses’ appeal. Israel eventually became more wicked than the people they drove out of the land of Canaan.
Ultimately, they rejected their Messiah, the very One their Scriptures spoke of. Now the elect people of God, consisting of both believing Jews and believing Gentiles, are the “vessels of mercy.”
Thus where Paul says, “What if God, wanting to show [His] wrath, and to make His power known,” he’s talking about the fact that though God desired to show His wrath against rebellious Israel, He endured with them in order to “make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy,”: believing Jews and Gentiles:
To read commentary on Romans 9, click on links below: