In Isaiah 5:20 we read- Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter.
This verse raises a significant question for me. Did Israel consciously, knowingly, deliberately redefine evil as good or were they just deluded, honestly thinking they were good when in fact they were evil?
I suspect we generally assume that when we or others act evilly that we all know it’s wrong in the first place. In other words we tend to see evil as willful and as perpetrated knowingly.
However, there is much biblical evidence that people in general and the Jews in particular operated out of a false sense of what was good or righteous. They called evil good because they didn’t really understand what was good. This may seem contradictory when we note the elaborate laws which governed every aspect of Jewish life and were assumed to define goodness. How could a nation supposedly operating under the direct guidance of God be confused about what was good? It seems preposterous to suggest such a thing.
That might be true if we did not latter encounter Jesus as the ultimate Jew. Much about Jesus threw Old Testament Judaism into question. Rigid law adherence was rejected in favor of compassion. Religious ritualism and hierarchies were dismissed as a measure of goodness. The right of Jews to differentiate themselves from others because of superiority in righteousness was rejected. Jesus, the author of all things new, was unnecessary if Old Testament Judaism already stood for what was factually good.
Not knowing what is good is a serious problem. Thinking that what is evil is good is even more so. Before any of us conclude that our actions are righteous, we might take a note of caution from the Bible. A whole lot of the people depicted there were genuinely mistaken about their own virtue and godliness, just like you and I often are.