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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: The Personal Attributes of God

Don Stewart :: In What Sense Is God Jealous?

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In What Sense Is God Jealous?

The Personal Attributes of God – Question 11

The Bible says that God is a jealous God. However, to many of us, jealously is usually an attribute that is not to be desired. Therefore, it is important to understand the sense in which the God of the Bible is a jealous God. From Scripture we learn the following.

1. His Jealousy Is Not like Human Jealousy

The jealousy of God is not the same as human jealousy. God’s jealousy is a “godly” jealousy. It has the idea of protection for His people. Paul wrote of such a thing. He said,

I feel a divine jealousy for you, for I promised you in marriage to one husband, to present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:2 NRSV)

While jealously is usually thought to be a negative thing, the same thing is not true with godly jealously. The word jealously is always used in a positive way in Scripture when it refers to God, never in a negative way.

2. He Is Jealous of the Worship of False Gods

Scripture often records God being jealous of the worship of false gods or idols. In the Ten Commandments we read,

“Never make your own carved idols or statues that represent any creature in the sky, on the earth, or in the water. Never worship them or serve them, because I, the LORD your God, am a God who does not tolerate rivals. I punish children for their parents’ sins to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.” (Exodus 20:4, 5 God’s Word)

God makes it clear that He will tolerate no rivals because He has no rivals.

Later in the Book of Exodus, we again read that the Lord told Moses that no other gods were to be worshipped.

“You must worship no other gods, but only the LORD, for he is a God who is passionate about his relationship with you.” (Exodus 34:14 NLT)

Interestingly, we are told that the Lord is passionate about His relationship with His people. This is why He commands them not to worship these false gods which are non-existent.

Moses later described the Lord as being a jealous God.

For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God. (Deuteronomy 4:24 NIV)

He is jealous for His people because He does not want them to worship these false gods.

Moses said that the Lord was furious when Israel worshipped foreign gods.

They made him jealous with their foreign gods and angered him with their detestable idols. (Deuteronomy 32:16 NIV)

Any type of false worship is condemned by the Lord in the strongest of terms.

3. He Is Jealous for the Promised Land

The Bible says that the Lord is jealous for the land that He gave to the descendants of Abraham; the Promised Land. We read in the Book of Joel,

Then the Lord became jealous for his land, and had pity on his people. (Joel 2:18 NRSV)

The Land that was promised to Abraham and his descendants is of great concern to the Lord. Indeed, He has a special interest in it.

4. The Lord Is Jealous of His Name

The Lord is also protective, or jealous, of His name and honor. His name is another way of speaking of His Person or character. He has said,

For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for why should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another. (Isaiah 48:11 NRSV)

The Lord gives stern warnings to those who profane His holy name. Indeed, profaning the name of the Lord profanes His character.

5. The Bible Speaks of God’s Jealous Anger

The Bible says that the Lord actually has a jealous anger. We read the following in the Book of Ezekiel

“‘I will sentence you to the punishment of women who commit adultery and who shed blood; I will bring upon you the blood vengeance of my wrath and jealous anger.’” (Ezekiel 16:38 NIV)

His jealous anger results in judgment of sin. The prophet Nahum wrote about this judgment. He explained it in this manner.

The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord takes vengeance and is filled with wrath. The Lord takes vengeance on his foes and maintains his wrath against his enemies. (Nahum 1:2 NIV)

The jealous God takes vengeance on those who sin against Him and His Word.

Therefore, from a study of Scripture, we find that God’s jealousy is certainly different from ours. Consequently, we cannot compare human jealousy with godly jealously.

Summary – Question 11
In What Sense Is God Jealous?

The Bible says that God is a jealous God. However, when we think of jealously we usually think of something which is selfish or evil. How then God there be such a thing as a godly jealously? We can make the following comments about God’s jealously.

To begin with, we must realize that jealousy of the Lord is not the same as human jealously. The jealousy of the Lord is a godly jealousy in that He looks after His own in a protective or jealous way. This is what the term means when applied to the Lord.

Since He is protective of His people, the Lord is jealous when they worship other gods. Again, this is not in the same sense as human jealously. Rather He is looking after the best interest of those who are wasting their time giving allegiance to things which are non-existent.

The special land, the Promised Land, is also something for which God is passionately concerned about. Indeed, He has made this land special for a special people. When it is profaned with sin and idolatry it is something which causes Him to have a godly concern or jealously.

The Lord is also protective, or jealous of His holy name. He will not allow Himself to be defamed, or for others to take the glory that is rightfully His.

Finally, we read of a jealous anger of the Lord. This results in the judgment of sin. Scripture gives us many examples of God’s righteous anger or jealously toward sin. In these cases His "jealously" is another way of saying His passionate concern. He hates sin and thus He must judge it.

This sums up the various ways which Scripture speaks of the jealously of God. As is clearly evident, it is not the same as human jealousy.

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