The question: “Does Yahweh Tempt People?"
The answers: “No, He would never do that.” “He tempted Abraham.”
The Biblical references:
Genesis 22:1 – And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham...
James 1:13 – Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man.
“Hey, would you like to go to the ballgame tonight? I have a free ticket and it’s yours if you want it.” “Well, I probably should spend the time catching up on some things around the house. The offer is very tempting.”
A temptation or the act of tempting is not always one with an evil connotation. Even the English definition of the verb “tempt” makes this clear: “entice (someone) to do something against their better judgment.” For example, tempting me to attend a ballgame rather than catching up on things around the house is to entice me to something against my better judgment. But it is not a temptation to do evil.
The Hebrew word for “tempt” in Genesis 22:1 has the basic definition of “to try, to prove, to make a trial”. The Greek word for “tempt” in James 1:13 has the basic definition of “to test, to put to the test, to try.” The word used in James 1:13 is also used in Hebrews 11:17 in reference to Abraham in Genesis 22:1.
“By faith Abraham, when he was tried...”
The word, at times, does mean to entice one to evil but the context of the usage must determine whether the temptation is a temptation to do evil or a temptation to prove, i.e., to test.
The James text makes it clear that the author is describing God’s nature and that He does not entice people to evil. As he writes, “...God cannot be tempted WITH EVIL, neither tempteth he any man.” God does not tempt men to do evil acts.
But the context of Genesis 22 makes it very clear that God is testing Abraham, putting his faith on trial, not enticing him to do evil. Verse 12 indicates this entire affair was a test of faith, not a temptation to do evil.
Our difficulty with these texts is the result of our modern usage of “temptation” to denote something evil and the older English translations which sometimes uses “temptation” without referring to evil. The three verses listed above are quoted from the King James Version. Their translation of Hebrews 11:17 indicates even they understood the Genesis 22 text to be a test, not a temptation. Modern English translations correctly understand the usage of the original words and have clarified their meanings with their translation. Here are a few examples:
ESV: “After these things God tested Abraham...”
NAS: “Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham...”
HCSB: “After these things God tested Abraham...”
ESV: “By faith Abraham, when he was tested...”
NAS: “By faith Abraham, when he was tested...”
HCSB: “By faith Abraham, when he was tested...”
ESV: “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.”
NAS: “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.”
HCSB: “No one undergoing a trial should say, ‘I am being tempted by God.’ For God is not tempted by evil, and He Himself doesn’t tempt anyone.”
Does God tempt people? Yes and no. He tempts them in terms of testing their faith but He never tempts them in terms of doing evil. To successfully battle the temptation to do evil, you need to be born again, a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, indwelt by His Spirit. Are you? If not, I plead with you to turn from your sins and flee to Christ now.