“Yahweh made everything with an answer to it.” The Hebrew word translated “answer” is ma’aneh (#04617 מַעֲנֶה), and in this context it means “an answer, a response.” Here in Proverbs 16:4, “answer” is continuing the line of thinking that occurred three verses earlier in Proverbs 16:1, which says that ultimately, “answers” come from God. In some contexts, the Hebrew word ma’aneh can mean “purpose,” which is why some translations read “purpose” (cp. HCSB; ESV; NASB), but based on the flow of context from Proverbs 16:1 we do not believe ma’aneh should be translated as “purpose” here in Proverbs 16:4. Also, God’s “answer” does not refer to a response to a question, but rather describes His planned course of action to deal justly with the words and deeds of His created beings.
God designed everything in such a manner that His ultimate plans and purposes for His creation will be fulfilled. Part of God’s plan and purpose was that His created beings were to be righteous and loving to both Him and to each other. However, the only way to do that was to give people, as well as angels and demons, free will so that they could make the choice to either love Him or reject Him. One way that God balanced His own plans and purposes with people’s freewill decisions to obey or disobey Him was that He built both the principle of justice and a Day of Judgment into His plans. Thus, God has indeed designed a proper “answer” for everything in creation, be it good or evil. Bruce Waltke summed up the situation when he wrote, “The LORD brings every word and deed to its appropriate “answer” at the time of Judgment” (Proverbs 15-31. p. 12).
Many theologians and translators are Calvinistic in their thinking, and so while they assert that God creates all things for His own plans and purposes, they do not include genuine free will as part of God’s plans and purposes. Instead, they believe that God makes both good and evil; good people so He can bless them and wicked people so He can destroy them. Furthermore, that belief is then imbedded into many English translations. That is why many English translations say that God made the wicked “for” a day of disaster. But God did not make the wicked for a day of disaster, instead God planned that the wicked would be “answered” for their wickedness by disaster, i.e., people who choose to be wicked will experience disaster as the consequence of their wicked thoughts and actions.
We assert that Proverbs 16:4 is not propounding divine causality. It is not saying that God makes everything on earth—both good and evil—for His purpose, including making evil things just so he can destroy them, as if He was a child who constructs a castle of building-blocks just so he can knock them down. Rather, Proverbs 16:4 fits into the general scope of Scripture in portraying God as a loving, righteous God, who allows people to make their own freewill decisions while stating that He has an answer for whatever choice people make.
So people can love God or hate God, but He has woven into His plans a Day of Judgment when all creation will receive His “answer” for their words and deeds, including an “answer” that will be given to the wicked. Then, after all has been answered on the Day of Judgment, God’s creation in the new heavens and earth (Rev. 21-22) will be righteous and obedient. It is also important to note that the answer each being gets on Judgment Day should not be an unexpected surprise to them because God has stated the blessings of obedience and the consequences of disobedience in His Word. [For more on why Calvinism and predestination are not biblical, see Appendix 8, “On Calvinism and Predestination”].
“a day of evil.” The word we translate “evil” is the common Hebrew word for “evil,” which is ra (#07451 רַע), which means “evil,” but has a range of meanings that also includes calamity, disaster, injury, misfortune, distress, and misery. The phrase “a day of evil” can refer to any day of disaster or calamity. In fact, Proverbs primarily addresses the present life of the reader in the sense that there is a retribution and justice to be expected for wickedness now—even though often no truly righteous retribution seems to occur in this life. But Proverbs 16:4 certainly also has an ultimate reference to the Day of Judgment as the day of disaster, injury, and misery for the wicked.
The Day of Judgment is not “evil,” in the sense that it is bad or wrong. Instead, it is an evil day for the wicked, because God’s judgment will be disastrous for them with much distress and misery. The Lord Jesus said there would be “sobbing and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 24:51). In summary, Proverbs 16:4 says that God has made sure that there is a godly answer for everything that people do, and even wicked people, who sometimes seem to get away with doing so much evil on earth, will receive an answer from God.