If God is Jealous Doesn't That Make Him the Divine Hypocrite?
by Rich Deem

Introduction

The Jealous God?

The Old Testament clearly states that God is a jealous God. In fact, it even says that His name is Jealous. Isn't jealousy a bad thing? Does this make God the divine hypocrite?

Rich Deem

The Bible makes it clear that God is not like humans in that He never commits sins, but is absolutely holy.1 However, English translations of the Hebrew scriptures say that God is jealous. Both the Old Testament2 and New Testament3 say that jealousy is a bad thing. In fact, jealousy is listed as one of the sins that will land a person in hell.4 So, if God is jealous and jealousy is a sin, then God must be the divine hypocrite.

Jealousy of God

The doctrine that God is a jealous God comes from the Old Testament books of the law of Moses. The "jealousy" is always in the context of idol worship, beginning in the Ten Commandments of Exodus 20.

What these five verses have in common is that they all share the same Hebrew adjective, qannâ' qanna (Strong's H7067) (Strong's H7067),5 translated with the English word "jealous." The interesting thing about this word is that it is only used in reference to God. In no instance is the word qannâ' used to describe human jealousy. The reason that God is "jealous" is because He wants people to choose to love Him.6 Jesus said that the most important commandment was to love God.7 God does not want us to waste out time worshipping pretend gods that do not exist.8

Human jealousy

Whereas God's "jealousy" is primarily restricted to a jealousy over the worship of idols that competes with His love to prevent a dedicated relationship with Him, jealousy between people takes on quite a number of forms. Two different Hebrew words are used to describe human jealousy. The Hebrew verb qânâ' (Strong's H7065)9 refers to a passionate jealousy or envy.10 The Hebrew noun qin'âh (Strong's H7068)11 takes on a wide range of meanings from sexual passion (or jealousy) to a zeal for God to anger or envy.12 The exact meaning (and the English translation is usually determined from the context.

Human vs. godly jealousy

The differences between the words describing human vs. godly jealousy are profound. For example, the jealousy that keeps one out of heaven is defined as "an envious and contentious rivalry, jealousy" (Thayer's Greek Dictionary). God does not envy an human being or anything that any human being possesses. God has no rivals. The apostle Paul indicates that there is a godly form of jealousy.13 The main reason why atheists think that God should not be jealous is that, as an English word, "jealousy" has virtually universal negative connotations. In the original languages in which the Bible is written, Hebrew and Greek, the words translated as "jealousy" in  English do not always have negative connotations. In fact, the Greek word often translated "jealous" is zēlos, from which we get the English word "zealous," referring more to zeal and ardor rather than jealousy.

Conclusion Top of page

Is God a Moral Monster?Jealousy is often thought of as being a negative trait. So, many people think that the Bible's description of God as jealous means that He must be a divine hypocrite. However, this page has shown that in the original languages in which the Bible is written, the words do not have those negative definitions. Since the word used to describe the jealousy of God is not even the same word used to describe human jealousy, it is clear that the apparent contradiction is just a result of an inability of the translated language (English) to accurately reflect the original language (Hebrew). There is no slight on the character of God in the original language.



References Top of page

  1. "God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? (Numbers 23:19)
    "For the LORD your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe. (Deuteronomy 10:17)
    "Since the Lord your God walks in the midst of your camp to deliver you and to defeat your enemies before you, therefore your camp must be holy; and He must not see anything indecent among you lest He turn away from you." (Deuteronomy 23:14)
    And the men of Beth-shemesh said, "Who is able to stand before the Lord, this holy God? And to whom shall He go up from us?" (1 Samuel 6:20)
    "Also the Glory of Israel will not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man that He should change His mind." (1 Samuel 15:29)
    Your way, O God, is holy; What god is great like our God? (Psalm 77:13)
    "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways," declares the Lord. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:8-9)
    For thus says the high and exalted One Who lives forever, whose name is Holy, "I dwell on a high and holy place, And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit In order to revive the spirit of the lowly And to revive the heart of the contrite. (Isaiah 57:15)
    Opening his mouth, Peter said: "I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, (Acts 10:34)
    for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. (1 Corinthians 14:33)
    in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago, (Titus 1:2)
    For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints. (Hebrews 6:10)
  2. For jealousy enrages a man, And he will not spare in the day of vengeance. (Proverbs 6:34)
    Wrath is fierce and anger is a flood, But who can stand before jealousy? (Proverbs 27:4)
  3. But the Jews, becoming jealous and taking along some wicked men from the market place, formed a mob and set the city in an uproar; and attacking the house of Jason, they were seeking to bring them out to the people. (Acts 17:5)
    Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. (Romans 13:13)
    Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, (1 Corinthians 13:4)
  4. The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)
  5. Brown-Driver-Briggs' Hebrew Definitions:
    qannâ' qanna (Strong's H7067) (Strong's H7067)
    1. jealous (only of God)
    Part of Speech: adjective
    A Related Word by BDB/Strong’s Number: from H7065
    Same Word by TWOT Number: 2038b
  6. "If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." (Joshua 24:15)
    "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deuteronomy 6:5)
  7. "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" And He said to him, " 'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.' "This is the great and foremost commandment." (Matthew 22:36-38)
  8. Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one. (1 Corinthians 8:4)
  9. Brown-Driver-Briggs' Hebrew Definitions:
    qânâ' qanna (Strong's H7065) (Strong's H7065)
    1. to envy, be jealous, be envious, be zealous
      1. (Piel)
        1. to be jealous of
        2. to be envious of
        3. to be zealous for
        4. to excite to jealous anger
      2. (Hiphil) to provoke to jealous anger, cause jealousy
    Part of Speech: verb
    A Related Word by BDB/Strong’s Number: a primitive root
    Same Word by TWOT Number: 2038
  10. for he had possessions of flocks and herds and a great household, so that the Philistines envied him. (Genesis 26:14)
    Now when Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she became jealous of her sister; and she said to Jacob, "Give me children, or else, I die." (Genesis 30:1)
    His brothers were jealous of him, but his father1 kept the saying in mind. (Genesis 37:11)
    if a spirit of jealousy comes over him and he is jealous of his wife when she has defiled herself, or if a spirit of jealousy comes over him and he is jealous of his wife when she has not defiled herself, (Numbers 5:14)
    or when a spirit of jealousy comes over a man and he is jealous of his wife, he shall then make the woman stand before the LORD, and the priest shall apply all this law to her. (Numbers 5:30)
    But Moses said to him, "Are you jealous for my sake? Would, that all the LORD'S people were prophets, that the LORD would put His Spirit upon them!" (Numbers 11:29)
    and it shall be for him and his descendants after him, a covenant of a perpetual priesthood, because, he was jealous for his God and made atonement for the sons of Israel.'" (Numbers 25:13)
    "They made Him jealous with strange gods; With abominations they provoked Him to anger. (Deuteronomy 32:16)
    So the king called the Gibeonites and spoke to them (now the Gibeonites were not of the sons of Israel but of the remnant of the Amorites, and the sons of Israel made a covenant with them, but Saul had sought to kill them in his zeal for the sons of Israel and Judah). (2 Samuel 21:2)
    Judah did evil in the sight of the LORD, and they provoked Him to jealousy more than all that their fathers1 had done, with the sins which they committed. (1 Kings 14:22)
    He said, "I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away." (1 Kings 19:10)
    Then he said, "I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away." (1 Kings 19:14)
    A Psalm of David. Do not fret because of evildoers, Be not envious toward wrongdoers. (Psalm 37:1)
    For I was envious of the arrogant As I saw the prosperity of the wicked. (Psalm 73:3)
    When they became envious of Moses in the camp, And of Aaron, the holy one of the LORD, (Psalm 106:16)
    Do not envy a man of violence And do not choose any of his ways. (Proverbs 3:31)
    Do not let your heart envy sinners, But live in the fear of the LORD always. (Proverbs 23:17)
    Do not be envious of evil men, Nor desire to be with them; (Proverbs 24:1)
    Do not fret because of evildoers Or be envious of the wicked; (Proverbs 24:19)
    Then the jealousy of Ephraim will depart, And those who harass Judah will be cut off; Ephraim will not be jealous of Judah, And Judah will not harass Ephraim. (Isaiah 11:13)
    He stretched out the form of a hand and caught me by a lock of my head; and the Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven and brought me in the visions of God to Jerusalem, to the entrance of the north gate of the inner court, where, the seat of the idol of jealousy, which provokes to jealousy, was located. (Ezekiel 8:3)
    'I made it beautiful with the multitude of its branches, And all the trees of Eden, which were in the garden of God, were jealous of it. (Ezekiel 31:9)
  11. Brown-Driver-Briggs' Hebrew Definitions:
    qin'âh qinah (Strong's H7068) (Strong's H7068)
    1. ardour, zeal, jealousy
      1. ardour, jealousy, jealous disposition (of husband)
        1. sexual passion
      2. ardour of zeal (of religious zeal)
        1. of men for God
        2. of men for the house of God
        3. of God for his people
      3. ardour of anger
        1. of men against adversaries
        2. of God against men
      4. envy (of man)
      5. jealousy (resulting in the wrath of God)
    Part of Speech: noun feminine
    A Related Word by BDB/Strong’s Number: from H7065
    Same Word by TWOT Number: 2038a
  12. if a spirit of jealousy comes over him and he is jealous of his wife when she has defiled herself, or if a spirit of jealousy comes over him and he is jealous of his wife when she has not defiled herself, (Numbers 5:14)
    the man shall then bring his wife to the priest, and shall bring as an offering for her one-tenth of an ephah of barley meal; he shall not pour oil on it nor put frankincense on it, for it is a grain offering of jealousy, a grain offering of memorial, a reminder of iniquity. (Numbers 5:15)
    'The priest shall then have the woman stand before the LORD and let the hair of the woman's head go loose, and place the grain offering of memorial in her hands, which is the grain offering of jealousy, and in the hand of the priest is to be the water of bitterness that brings a curse. (Numbers 5:18)
    'The priest shall take the grain offering of jealousy from the woman's hand, and he shall wave the grain offering before the LORD and bring it to the altar; (Numbers 5:25)
    'This is the law of jealousy: when a wife, being under the authority of her husband, goes astray and defiles herself, (Numbers 5:29)
    or when a spirit of jealousy comes over a man and he is jealous of his wife, he shall then make the woman stand before the LORD, and the priest shall apply all this law to her. (Numbers 5:30)
    "The LORD shall never be willing14 to forgive him, but rather, the anger of the LORD and His jealousy will burn against that man, and every curse which is written in this book will rest on him, and the LORD will blot out his name from under heaven. (Deuteronomy 29:20)
    He said, "Come with me and see my zeal for the LORD." So he made him ride in his chariot. (2 Kings 10:16)
    "For anger slays the foolish man, And jealousy kills the simple. (Job 5:2)
    For zeal for Your house has consumed me, And the reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me. (Psalm 69:9)
    My zeal has consumed me, Because my adversaries have forgotten Your words. (Psalm 119:139)
    For jealousy enrages a man, And he will not spare in the day of vengeance. (Proverbs 6:34)
    A tranquil heart is life to the body, But passion is rottenness to the bones. (Proverbs 14:30)
    Wrath is fierce and anger is a flood, But who can stand before jealousy? (Proverbs 27:4)
    I have seen that every labor and every skill which is done is the result of rivalry between a man and his neighbor. This too is vanity and striving after wind. (Ecclesiastes 4:4)
    Indeed their love, their hate and their zeal have already perished, and they will no longer have a share in all that is done under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 9:6)
    "Put me like a seal over your heart, Like a seal on your arm. For love is as strong as death, Jealousy is as severe as Sheol; Its flashes are flashes of fire, The very flame of the LORD. (Song of Solomon 8:6)
    Then the jealousy of Ephraim will depart, And those who harass Judah will be cut off; Ephraim will not be jealous of Judah, And Judah will not harass Ephraim. (Isaiah 11:13)
    O LORD, Your hand is lifted up yet they do not see it. They see Your zeal for the people and are put to shame; Indeed, fire will devour Your enemies. (Isaiah 26:11)
    "For out of Jerusalem will go forth a remnant and out of Mount Zion survivors. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this."' (Isaiah 37:32)
    The LORD will go forth like a warrior, He will arouse His zeal like a man of war. He will utter a shout, yes, He will raise a war cry. He will prevail against His enemies. (Isaiah 42:13)
    He stretched out the form of a hand and caught me by a lock of my head; and the Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven and brought me in the visions of God to Jerusalem, to the entrance of the north gate of the inner court, where, the seat of the idol of jealousy, which provokes to jealousy, was located. (Ezekiel 8:3)
    Then He said to me, "Son of man, raise your eyes now toward the north." So I raised my eyes toward the north, and behold, to the north of the altar gate was this idol of jealousy at the entrance. (Ezekiel 8:5)
    "Thus I will judge you like women who commit adultery or shed blood are judged; and I will bring on you the blood of wrath and jealousy. (Ezekiel 16:38)
    therefore as I live," declares the Lord GOD, "I will deal with you according to your anger and according to your envy which you showed because of your hatred against them; so I will make Myself known among them when I judge you. (Ezekiel 35:11)
  13. For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin. (2 Corinthians 11:2)

http://godandscience.org/apologetics/jealous_god.html
Last updated November 27, 2007

 

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