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The Jealousy of God

Also see   Hated By God

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The word, "jealousy" in used in connection with the Most High, many times in Scripture. For example

    For Jehovah thy God is a devouring fire, a jealous (Hebrew qannâ) God. [Deuteronomy 4:24 ]

    And God spake all these words, saying, I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.  Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous (Hebrew qannâ) God.. [Exodus 20:1-5].

    for thou shalt worship no other god: for Jehovah, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous (Hebrew qannâ)  God: [Exodus 34:14]

This word as applied to God has probably struck thousands of Christians as being more than a little odd. In fact hearing the phrase in church was a key moment in Oprah Winfrey’s quest to “to take God out of the box”. This quest ultimately led her and by default, the nation — on a spiritual trek through the questionable theology of the New Age. Scroll down to the end of this page... The Beginning of The Quest

Unfortunately the phrase "jealous God" is often misunderstood because there is more than one meaning of the word jealous.  It is therefore important to understand the differences in how we use this phrase as compared to how it used in the Bible.

Although not always strictly accurate, the only way we have to express or understand certain characteristics is in terms we know and understand. Therefore, we often attribute human characteristics or behaviour to animals, objects or even God (This is called an anthropomorphism). We describe God’s power and majesty in very human metaphors, and, in fact, God often paints Himself the same way, since it is the only medium of description we can understand.

When we use the word jealous, we use it in the sense of being envious or resentful of someone who has something we don't have. We can be jealous or envious of another person who may have a better home or car than we do. We can envy someone who has more intelligence, or some skill that we do not possess. Jealousy is often caused by one person being better looking, or more wealthy than another.

However, this is not the intended meaning of the word jealous when used in reference to God, especially considering that we have absolutely nothing that He needs or wants. According to the New Oxford Dictionary and Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary respectively, the word jealous has more than one definition. It also means to be...

    fiercely protective or vigilant of one's rights or possessions:

    vigilant in guarding a possession.

Which is exactly how we should understand this word as applied to God. (Perhaps a lot of misunderstanding could have been avoided had we translated qannâ into the English zealous). God is not jealous or envious because someone has something He wants that He does not possess.

The entire Bible is the story of God reconciling lost people to Himself; of bringing the lost from sin and darkness into the glorious light of His kingdom. The history of Israel commences with God's covenant with Abraham. All men were to be given the opportunity to be blessed through this one man of faith, and the nation he founded, both especially chosen by God.

    Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. [Genesis 12:1-3] 

    For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. [Deuteronomy 7:6]

    But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend. [Isaiah 41:8]

They Jews were rescued from serfdom in Egypt and given a country apart from every other nation where God, by means of the laws He gave them, endeavored to teach them holiness and right living. They were to be holy because God was holy and dwelt amongst them. However, they were also to remain separate from the nations that surrounded them, because only separateness would keep them faithful to the one true God and away from the pagan practices of the nations around them... thus ensuring they were suited to receive and retain the truth committed to them.

This tiny nation was meant to be a bright light in the middle of a dark world filled with pagan beliefs and idolatrous practices... God's servants chosen to carry His truths to other nations of the earth.. to minister, not be ministered unto..

However the covenant God made with the nation was conditioned upon faith and obedience. The terms clearly stipulated that disobedience and/or faithlessness would break the covenant, and the promised blessings withdrawn. As Moses warned them

    But if thine heart turn away, so that thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them; I denounce unto you this day, that ye shall surely perish, and that ye shall not prolong your days upon the land, whither thou passest over Jordan to go to possess it. I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: [Deuteronomy 30:17-19]

Faithfulness to the one true God was epitomized in the first commandment “You shall have no gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3), and the most severe condemnation all the prophets hurled against the nation was against spiritual adultery.

The simple reason for this was, if the people chosen for this purpose should turn themselves from the Lord, deny Him and accept the strange gods of the nations around them, they would have seriously jeopardized God's plan for the Messiah of the world to come from this tiny nation. (The laws against intermarriage with other nations arose from the necessity of avoiding the adoption of idolatry. The sad story of Solomon showed that the law was fully justified). So closely was the relationship of the nation of Israel to God patterned after the marriage covenant that God looked on their turning to idols as adultery

    Surely as a wife treacherously departeth from her husband, so have ye dealt treacherously with me, O house of Israel, saith the LORD. [Jeremiah 3:20] 


The Relation of the Church to Christ
is often represented by marriage

In Matthew 25:1-13 the kingdom of heaven be likened to ten virgins who wait for the coming of the bridegroom. And, just as there was a betrothal period in biblical times during which the bride and groom were separated until the wedding, so is the bride of Christ separate from her Bridegroom in the period between the two advents.

Paul speaks of being jealous over the Corinthians with a "godly jealousy". He has been instrumental in betrothing them to one husband and now desires to present them blameless to Him when He returns. 

    For I am jealous over you with Godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one Husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. [2 Corinthians 11:2]

In Matthew 22:1-14, Jesus likens the kingdom of Heaven to a marriage feast. This feast will take place at the Second Coming of Christ, when the church will be united with the Bridegroom for all eternity. In the book of Revelation, John speaks of marriage of the Lamb, where the bride is the church and the Lamb is Christ

    may we rejoice and exult, and give the glory to Him, because come did the marriage of the Lamb, and his wife did make herself ready; and there was given to her that she may be arrayed with fine linen, pure and shining, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.' [Revelation 19:7-8]

    And I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth did pass away, and the sea is not any more; and I, John, saw the holy city-- new Jerusalem-- coming down from God out of the heaven, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband; [Revelation  21:1-2]

Jealousy in the Scriptures was an expression of zeal to protect a relationship. If a person who catches their wife in adultery is not angry, then one has to assume that he does not really care about the marriage or his wife.

Just as it was in the days of Moses, God sets before us life and death, blessing and cursing. He urges us not to turn away and commit adultery by worshiping other gods, but to choose life that we may live.

God is depicted as a faithful husband will fulfill His part of the covenant, it is up to us to fulfill ours.

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