Jealousy of God

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The usual contemporary connotation of jealousy does not apply to God, that is, he is not neurotically suspicious or envious. Normally, one does not speak of righteous jealousy as one does of righteous anger. Nonetheless, the Bible does speak of the jealousy of God. "I the Lord your God am a jealous God" (Ex 20:5, also 34:14, Dt 4:24, 5:9, 6:15; Jos 24:19, Na 1:2). God is jealous for his holy name (Ez 39:25). The Lord becomes jealous for his land (Jl 2:18). He is jealous for Jerusalem and Zion (Zech 1:14, 8:2). God is stirred to jealousy by the worship of false gods (Dt 32:21, Ps 7778:58). The Psalmist is concerned about how long God's jealous wrath will burn against them (Ps 7879:5). God threatens that because of the Israelite's sin his jealousy will depart from them (Ez 16:42). God will set his hot jealousy against the nations who have plundered Israel (Ez 36:56). In God's jealous wrath all nations shall be consumed (Zeph 1:18, 3:8). Paul warns the Corinthians not to provoke the Lord to jealousy (1 Cor 10:22).

God, as the one true God, will not tolerate the worship of any false gods. He is rightly jealous, in the sense of protective, of his holy and righteous name and will not allow it to be profaned. God is also jealous in his love of his people. He has made a special covenant with his people and so he has bound himself to them with a special love. This love is like that between a husband and wife. "I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness" (Hos 2:1920). Because of this spousal love, God is jealous both in his protection and care of his people and their land, and he is also jealous in his demand that they remain faithful to him. Thus God jealously guards his people from the sin and evil of the pagan nations, and his jealous wrath can strike against them. Yet, God's jealous wrath can equally turn against his own people when they break the covenant and become unfaithful. Sin provokes the jealousy of God because, in sin, one has turned in false love to something other than God. Thus the greatest threat against his people is for God to revoke his jealousy, for to do so would mean that he would revoke his singular love for them. God wishes to call his people back precisely because he jealous. In his jealous love he does not want to lose his people.

Bibliography: j. j. scullion, "God," The Anchor Bible Dictionary, v. 2, ed. d. n. freedman (New York 1992) 104148.

[t. g. weinandy]