Is God Jealous?

15 Sep
from Google Images

from Google Images

The Bible has constantly depicted God to be angry, jealous, selfish, wrathful and possessive. Think for a moment – Who in the entire Bible was more miserable? But believers claim that this God is omnipotent and knows-it-all. This obviously is false. The Biblical God did not know how to win over human beings nor did God know how to successfully manipulate them for His pleasure. If God did know how to win Earth’s people over for His pleasure, He would have no excuse for not handling His murderous anger and jealousy.”[1] (emphasis in the text)

One of the problems with the above excerpt’s seemingly dogmatic understanding of God is its emphasis upon the negative when other options are available. For example, if we look up the definition of the word jealous in a dictionary, we would find that it has both negative and positive definitions! It can mean ‘to be vigilant in guarding something’ as the fourth definition shows in the link I posted. Which one of us would fault a father’s jealousy for his young child’s innocence? If he arises to protect his child against a kidnapper or a child abuser, which one of us would claim that father’s emotions stem from his “monumental rage …resembl(ing) nothing so much as sexual jealousy of the worst kind?”[2] Am I ‘reaching’ or ‘jumping through hoops’ in order to vindicate God or do the Scriptures themselves imply God’s jealousy is a positive characteristic? According to Paul, he claimed to be jealous over the welfare of the Corinthians with a godly jealousy (2Corinthians 11:2).[3] Thus, we are able to conclude that the Scriptures describe God’s jealousy as such that should be viewed in a positive sense. Just as Paul was jealous for a good reason (the spiritual wellbeing of the Corinthians), so God’s jealousy needs to be understood for a positive purpose.

The Scriptures describe the covenant relationship of God and Israel as that of a husband and a wife, in which it was Israel who played the part of a harlot wife (Jeremiah 31:32). It was she who broke the covenant. God shows himself as a husband who is in great sorrow over her betrayal (Hosea 11:8). Although he was well able to satisfy her, she chose those who were unable to meet her needs (Jeremiah 2:13).

Certainly the impersonal gods of other nations would not be distressed over such a thing. What commitment have they made with the people of the world? The fact that the Old Testament God expresses outrage and his “heart recoils within” him (Hosea 11:8) shows that the Judeo-Christian God is committed to mankind. He is not an impersonal God who cannot be moved by the wrong choices we make. Rather, he was crushed by Israel’s (his wife’s) unfaithfulness and by the abominable things they did to one another (Ezekiel 6:9). Although he continually made himself available to them, they continued in their rebellion, provoking him to his face (Isaiah 65:1-3).

Knowing these things, why should we understand God’s emotions to be “monumental rage …resembl(ing) nothing so much as sexual jealousy of the worst kind?”[4] Such a description doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t fit the context, but in stead seems to sooth the consciences of those who do not wish to know God or cease their rebellion against him. Rather, such is the claim of those unwilling to see the truth about God or the truth about their own motives that feed their rebellion against him.


[1] Gary DeVaney as prosecutor in his mock trial of God, The God Murders, The Bible According to DeVaney.

[2] Richard Dawkins’ criticism of God in The God Delusion, (Ealing, Bantam Press, 2006), page 243

[3] As I said HERE, this current theme about “making sense of the Old Testament God” is based upon the book: Is God a Moral Monster by Paul Copan. These are my thoughts about his book. He may or may not agree with the impression his book has made upon me, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading what Paul wrote and recommend his book to anyone who is looking for a good read concerning defending our faith.

[4] Richard Dawkins’ criticism of God in The God Delusion, (Ealing, Bantam Press, 2006), page 243

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