Question: What does 1 Samuel 16:14 mean when it is saying “But the spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him”?
Answer: There are two possibilities: (1) This is a fallen spirit in league with Satan but being used by God in His sovereign purposes to accomplish his will, though Satan would believe that he is getting his way with Saul. God would be judging Saul by using the evil spirit, whose intent is evil and to destroy Saul, though God’s intent is to move Saul to repentance, if he will receive it. (2) The spirit is a servant of God but what he will accomplish is “evil” in the sense of “not good.” That is, God is sending him for a purpose that is one of divine judgment, not blessing, and that can be termed “evil,” though God’s intent is not to destroy Saul but to lead him to repentance through this chastisement. Saul, and others, however, see it from the perspective only of the pain it brings and so it is termed “evil.” The first option finds a parallel in Job’s experience. The second in a statement like the one found in Ecclesiastes 9:1, “no man knows whether love or hate awaits him,” where it likely means no one knows whether God will bring prosperity into his life or tragedy, termed as love or hate from God.