I mostly agree with you, eval is dangerous and often improperly used, but it's ALSO an incredible tool.
The complete opposite of your argument is languages that are homoiconic(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homoiconicity): They're built in a way that explicitly allows manipulation, even of the language itself as a FEATURE.
They include languages like Lisp/Clojure/Julia.
Worse, many of the ways to "work" around the lack of eval just reduce the attack surface, or make the attack considerably less likely (obfuscation not security!).
Simple case: You need to apply certain policies to certain sites, those policies vary based on the browser in use, the country of origin of the user, and the country the site is hosted in.
The way that those policies vary... ALSO varies. As new legislation is passed, or corporate policies change, or certain countries become more or less stable.
A (completely valid) way to solve this problem would be to send both a policy engine and a policy set to the extension. The policy engine is eval'd and runs the policy set.
That allows real-time updates to the deployed extension's ability to parse new policies. Not just different data in the policies, mind you, but actual new policy capabilities.
Do you have to use eval? Nope, sure don't. You can generate a custom ebnf (hell, why not just use the ebnf for ecmascript), write you own freaking engine, and run it. All without eval. But you're still just running eval. You just get to name it nicely to something else, introduce an incredible amount of overhead to recreate a feature someone has already provided, and generally get less performant results.
Or, you can just fucking sign the payload with a pinned cert and verify on the client, and get the same guarantees for security you have with HTTPS to begin with.
1. It's the de-facto language for the web, which both drastically increases the number of inexperienced developers, as well as the total attack surface.
2. Again, as a scripting language for browsers, parsing untrusted user input is a common need. Eval filled the need for parsing, but not the need for trust.
You can absolutely use eval in entirely safe ways. Most people don't, and doing so (especially in JS) is hard. That's because JS has made establishing trust hard. Juuuuust recently, with the introduction of some of the webcrypto work, and the rapid rise of ubiquitous https are we really getting to the point where doing so is really feasible at all.