The Jealousy of God

The question this study sought to answer was whether or not God’s jealousy (Ex 20:5) contradicts His being love (1 John 4:8) if love is not jealous (1 Cor 13:4). I discover that it is really a question of semantics. I use Zondervan’s NASB Study Bible.

Exodus 20:5 “You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God…”

NASB note: jealous God. God will not put up with rivalry or unfaithfulness. Usually His “jealousy” concerns Israel and assumes the covenant relationship (analogous to marriage) and the Lord’s exclusive right to possess Israel and to claim her love and allegiance. Actually, jealousy is part of the vocabulary of love. The “jealousy” of God (1) demands exclusive devotion to Himself (see 34:14; Deut 4:24; 32:16,21; Josh 24:19; Ps 78:58; 1 Cor 10:22; James 4:5), (2) delivers to judgment all who oppose Him (see Deut 29:20; 1 Kin 14:22; Ps 79:5; Is 42:13; 59:17; Ezek 5:13; 16:38; 23:25; 36:5; Nah 1:2; Zeph 1:18; 3:8) and (3) vindicates His people ( see 2 Kin 19:31; Is 9:7; 26:11; Ezek 39:25; Joel 2:18; Zech 1:14; 8:2). In some of these passages the meaning is closer to “zeal” (the same Hebrew word may be translated either way, depending on the context.)

Ichthus: the Hebrew word (for jealous/zeal) is listed in Strong’s Hebrew concordance as #7067 – there are free on-line lexicons (both Greek and Hebrew… one is at crosswalk.com) if you care to look it up using Strong’s number.

Does the above passage contradict the passages below?

1 Corinthians 13:4: “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant,” and 1 John 4:8: “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”

The Greek word being used for “jealous” in 1 Cor 13:4 is listed in Strong’s as #2206. The New King James Version translates “jealous” (#2206 – I know… “jealous” is not Greek… but I do not have the transliterated word available… sorry) as “envy” in that verse (as well as a few others). In 2 Cor 11:2, where Paul says, “For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy,” jealous is listed in Strong’s as #2206 and jealousy as #2205. The New King James version also uses the words ‘jealous’ and ‘jealousy’ in that verse. It should also be noted that the New King James Version translates “love” as “charity” in 1 Cor 13. The Strong’s number is 26. This Greek word is translated as “love” elsewhere in the Bible in the King James Version – many verses, including Romans 5:5,8.

If you look up #2205 (jealousy) in the concordance or lexicon, it says it can be used in a favorable or unfavorable sense. To me this says there is good jealousy and bad jealousy. For an example of good jealousy, see my “Get to know Mom by osmosis” thread. I think this is the godly jealousy referred to in Ex 20:5 and 2 Cor 11:2. An example of the ungodly jealousy would be the suspicious spouse who is jealous without cause… I believe this is the jealousy referred to in 1 Cor 13:4. Take care.

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About Maryann

Maryann Spikes is the past President of the Christian Apologetics Alliance. She blogs at Ichthus77, and loves apologetics and philosophy. In particular she loves to study all things Euthyphro Dilemma and Golden Rule. A para-educator (autism) for five years, she holds a Certificate in Christian Apologetics from Biola University, an AA in Humanities via Modesto Junior College, and moonlights as a freelancer. You can follow her on Twitter @Ichthus77, connect with the Ichthus77 community on Facebook, or look her up on Google+.
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