‘Jealousy of God’! A strange thing to say, or even to think of. Isn’t it? But this is something that is understandable, indeed. One can understand the concept of God being a jealous God by understanding how the word `Jealous’ is used in the Holy Bible. This word is used of God altogether different from when it is used of man. Man’s jealousy is sinful, while God’s is righteous jealousy.
After God had redeemed the people of Israel from the bondage and slavery in Egypt, He gave them the Ten Commandments as it is recorded in the book of Exodus chapter 20. In verse 5 of that chapter God said to the people through Moses, “I am the LORD, your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments” (Exodus 20:2-6). In the Epistle of Paul to the Galatians church Paul said, “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy. . .” (Galatians 5: 19-20). God being jealous and human beings being jealous is dialogically opposite. When we use the word ‘jealous’ about man we use it in the sense of being envious of someone else who has something that we do not have. A person might be envious or jealous of another person because he or she has a nice car or something very nice or good. One can feel jealousy of another who is very beautiful or handsome.Speaking about the sovereignty, the goodness and justice of God prophet Nahum proclaimed, “The LORD is a jealous and avenging God . . . The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him” (1:2-9). “To the LORD your God belongs to the heavens, even the highest heavens of the earth and everything in it”, it is declared in Deuteronomy10:14. In fact there are many Bible verses that tell us of God’s righteous jealousy in different circumstances and appropriate contexts. To cite some of them, Numbers 25:11, Deuteronomy 4:24, 6:15, 29:20, 32: 16, 21; Joshua 24: 19; 1 Kings 14:22; Ezekiel 8: 3-5, 16: 38, 42, 23:25, 36: 5ff. 38: 19, 39:25, Joel 2:18 Zephaniah 1:18 3:8; Zechariah 1:14, 8:2; Psalm 78: 58, 79:5, and so on.
God is jealous not because he needs or wants anything. God is jealous because He does not want that what is rightfully due His, i.e. His praise and worship and allegiance is given to any other god or idol. Because He is supreme and sovereign above everything in His creation He rightfully can command the allegiance and worship from His people or worshippers. He cannot and does not tolerate that we worship any other god, who are not God at all. God’s jealousy is for the good of man. Human jealousy is destructive of both the jealous person and the person being the object of jealousy. Jealousy or envy has serious consequences. We have Joshua 24:19 warning the people under his leadership: “You are not able to serve the LORD. He is a holy God; He is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins. If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you.” In the book of Deuteronomy 4: 23-24: “Be careful not to forget the covenant of the LORD your God that he made with you; do not make for yourselves an idol in the form of anything the LORD your God has forbidden. For the LORD your God is a consuming fir, a jealous God.” God’s jealousy is a defining attribute of God’s nature. As believers we belong to Him. God wants our love and obedience to Him. We are exhorted to not to behave not in jealousy (Romans 13:13)”. James says, “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice” (James 3:16).
Socrates is quoted to have said: “Envy is the ulcer of the soul.” William Shakespeare, in Othello, personified jealousy as “the green-eyed monster, which mocks.” Human jealousy and envy lead to harmfulness, sin and destruction. God is jealous because His will is for our good. With him being jealous everything will be chaotic and in disorder. We will have no term of reference or a sovereign God to look to for our good in any sense of the word.
But God is jealous for a different reason. Why? Because, He cannot and will not share His praise with any other being or thing. He is different from everything and every other being. To quote Isaiah 42:8 where Almighty and all-sovereign God says, “I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to the idols.”
The writer is a Christian Theology teacher