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Thread: Is God Jealous?

  1. #1
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    Is God Jealous?

    One of the more misunderstood passages of scripture concerning the nature of God, is found in the Old Testament, specifically, one of the Commandments.
    Exodus 20:4-5
    You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God
    It has been argued by critics of Christianity, that such a God is incomplete, or flawed, because jealousy, is a flawed characteristic. But is it really?

    Jealously does not in and of itself, bring negative consequences. One can be jealous w/o acting immorally. And in fact, sometimes, it's ok to be jealous.

    That being said...if we want to discover what one passage means, we need to look at a variety of things here. What did the author intend? Who was his audience? What are the limitations of his/her language? How else is that phrase/word/idea used throughout scripture? Sometimes, when it comes to unclear ideas...it is like a puzzle...a puzzle that one must think, in order to put the pieces together to reveal the whole picture. If we take just one piece and declare it as the whole, we've missed the actual picture entirely. Many "critics" forget that there really are simple rules (that really anyone can learn and follow) that need to be used if you sincerely wish to flesh out the most accurate meaning from the phrase/word.

    Often if we understand another issue taught/claimed by the Bible, then the first issue in question is more easily understood. We cannot accept one and dismiss the other out of convenience, that would be applying an inconsistent standard.

    There are 2 points to consider (in direct response to the argument that God cannot be both "jealous" and perfect).

    I. Everything Belongs to God

    It is true that it would be wrong to be envious (or jealous) of that which belongs to another. In fact, that's the 10th Commandment!
    Exodus 20:17 "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that [is] thy neighbour's."
    "Covet" of course, meaning a strong desire to possess that which directly belongs to another. God does not "covet" anything. This is an important and fundamental concept to understand before moving God. According to the Bible, everything and everyone belongs to God. It is His. He can do with them as He pleases. He created all, He owns all, He can destroy all. Since nothing belongs to another, and all belongs to Him...it is literally (and logically) impossible for God to covet anything.

    Therefore, He cannot be "guilty" of desiring anything that does not belong to Him...since it all does already.

    There are many passages that tell us this. I think one is sufficient. The following is "David's Prayer" (1 Chronicles 29:10-20).
    10 David praised the LORD in the presence of the whole assembly, saying,

    “Praise be to you, LORD,
    the God of our father Israel,
    from everlasting to everlasting.

    11 Yours, LORD, is the greatness and the power
    and the glory and the majesty and the splendor,
    for everything in heaven and earth is yours.
    Yours, LORD, is the kingdom;
    you are exalted as head over all.


    12 Wealth and honor come from you;
    you are the ruler of all things.
    In your hands are strength and power
    to exalt and give strength to all.


    13 Now, our God, we give you thanks,
    and praise your glorious name.

    14 “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand. 15 We are foreigners and strangers in your sight, as were all our ancestors. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope. 16 LORD our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a temple for your Holy Name comes from your hand, and all of it belongs to you. 17
    1. All praise and honor belong to God (v.10)
    2. Everything belongs to God and we own nothing (v.11, 14)
    3. God is over everything (v.11)
    4. Our wealth and resources come from God (v.12)
    5. Our accomplishments belong to God and only through God can we accomplish
    6. We don’t give to God, we bring to God, we return what was already His to being with. (v.14)

    So, everything already belongs to God. He cannot desire that which belongs to another. He can only desire what is rightfully His.

    Take the example of a husband being jealous of a wife's affair. The husband was jealous of the affection, dedication, loyalty and commitment that was no longer there but rightfully ought to be. The husband being jealous, is not only understandable, but acceptable. There is nothing inherently wrong with being jealous...it depends upon the subject of that which one is jealous about. If the subject belongs to the object already, it's a "good jealousy"...it's an acceptable jealousy. There is no evil here, no imperfection, no wrong doing for feeling this way. If however, one is jealous of that which does not belong to him/her...well, here we have a problem...and this brings us to the real meat of the issue here.

    II. Jealousy is Not Necessarily Bad

    In the husband/wife scenario, the husband is jealous because the wife "belongs" to the husband (and vice versa of course). The wife was giving something to another that rightfully belongs to the husband. Being jealous of this is not a bad thing.

    Jealousy can be both good or bad. To expand, the word "jealousy" can be broken down further into the terms "zeal" and "envy". I've addressed "envy" above. It's when one is jealous (or envious) about that which does not belong to them.

    "Zeal" on the other hand, is a bit different.

    zeal: fervor for a person, cause, or object; eager desire or endeavor; enthusiastic diligence; ardor.
    The root idea in the Old Testament word jealous is to become intensely red. It seems to refer to the changing color of the face or the rising heat of the emotions which are associated with intense zeal or fervor over something dear to us. In fact, both the Old and New Testament words for jealousy are also translated “zeal.” Being jealous and being zealous are essentially the same thing in the Bible. God is zealous—eager about protecting what is precious to Him.
    God sees the nation of Israel as being especially precious to Him. Israel belongs to God as a special possession.
    For the LORD has chosen Jacob for Himself, Israel for His own possession (Psalm 135:4).
    And God even thinks of the relationship between the two as husband and wife.
    Through the Prophet Hosea He said to the nation, “And I will betroth you to Me forever” (Hosea 2:19).
    No moral man wants to share his wife with another, and neither does God. The husband expects exclusive devotion from the wife. So when she goes after other lovers, or worships other Gods in this case, it is a commission of spiritual adultery. It's a violation of the devotion and love that belongs to the "husband", God.

    As mentioned above, there really are two types of jealousy (zeal and envy). One can be jealous over the relationship with a spouse in a wrong way or right way. To feel resentment or anger merely because one's spouse is talking to someone else, would be wrong. It's self-centered and unreasonable domination, it is sinful jealousy. It would stem from one's own selfishness or insecurity rather than the commitment to the spouse and to what is right.

    If however, one is jealous over the spouse cheating on them, this is righteous jealousy. The spouse should have the moral compass to want to fervently protect what is theirs to begin with. One has a commitment in a marriage and should protect that commitment. It is the right thing to do. It is a good jealousy to want that commitment to not be broken, not be endangered.

    There are examples of good (zeal) and bad (envy) jealousy throughout the Bible, not just the OT. The language in both Hebrew and Greek support the distinction. Even Jesus was zealous at times.
    Jealous - Verb: ζηλόω (zēloō), GK 2420 (S 2206), 11x. zēloō means to be “zealous” or “jealous.” It is related to the noun zēlos (“jealousy, zeal,” GK 2419). In classical Greek this word group sometimes carried a positive sense (eager striving, enthusiasm, or praise) and sometimes a negative sense (jealously, ill will, or envy).

    Mounce, W. D. (2006). Mounce's complete expository dictionary of Old & New Testament words (366). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
    and
    Jealousy - Noun: ζῆλος (zēlos), GK 2419 (S 2205), 16x. In the NT zēlos can be either a very good thing or a very bad thing: “zeal, earnestness” is highly commended whereas “jealousy, envy” is condemned.

    Mounce, W. D. (2006). Mounce's complete expository dictionary of Old & New Testament words (366). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
    on zeal and zealous
    Zeal - Noun: ζῆλος (zēlos), GK 2419 (S 2205), 16x. In the NT zēlos can be either a good thing or a bad thing: “zeal, earnestness” is highly commended whereas “jealousy, envy” is condemned. zēlos as “zeal” is a positive quality. Jesus’ actions in the temple are explained by his zeal for his Father’s house (John 2:17). Paul commends Israel for having a zeal for God (Romans 10:2; cf. Philippians 3:6) and rejoices at the zeal of the Corinthians both for him (2 Corinthians. 7:7, 11) and for the ministry of giving financially (2 Corinthians. 9:2). In fact, Paul claims that he himself is jealous of the Corinthians with a godly jealousy (2 Corinthians. 11:2)! Even more strikingly, Hebrews 10:27 implies that God himself is zealous in his fury at his enemies.

    Mounce, W. D. (2006). Mounce's complete expository dictionary of Old & New Testament words (816–817). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
    and
    Zealous - Verb: ζηλόω (zēloō), GK 2420 (S 2206), 11x. zēloō means to be “zealous” or “jealous.” It is related to the noun zēlos (“jealousy, zeal,” GK 2419). In classical Greek this word group sometimes carried a positive sense (eager striving, enthusiasm, or praise) and sometimes a negative sense (jealously, ill will, or envy). The same applies to the NT.
    (1) The NT uses zēloō in a positive sense. Paul is deeply concerned about the church of Corinth and declares, “I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy [zēlos]” (2 Corinthians. 11:2). Just as a husband is appropriately jealous if his wife flirts with another man, so Paul is jealous because the Corinthians, whom he intended to present to Christ “as a pure virgin,” were going astray after false prophets and apostles. zēloō can also refer to eagerly desiring something, as Paul challenges, “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts” (1 Corinthians. 14:1, 12, 39). Note too what Paul wrote about good zeal in Galations 4:18, “It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good.”

    Mounce, W. D. (2006). Mounce's complete expository dictionary of Old & New Testament words (817). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
    The problem with the critic's argument is that it makes no distinction between the two types of jealousy and it completely ignores meaning that is found throughout Scripture.

    Additional Sources:

    http://sermonplayer.com/c/carmanroad...5570_14008.pdf
    http://bible.org/seriespage/jealous-god


    Click here for the discussion of this article
    -=]Apokalupsis[=-
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    I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend. - Thomas Jefferson




  2. #2
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    Re: Is God Jealous?

    Kong...this is not a debate forum. Please see our announcements. Also, if you wish to respond to the post, please do so in the thread that is referenced.

    Your post has been removed, but not deleted. If you would like to repost it in the appropriate thread, I'll send your post to you via pm.
    -=]Apokalupsis[=-
    Senior Administrator
    -------------------------

    I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend. - Thomas Jefferson




  3. #3
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    Re: Is God Jealous?

    Excellent article. My only criticism is that after pointing out "There are examples of good (zeal) and bad (envy) jealousy throughout the Bible, not just the OT. The language in both Hebrew and Greek support the distinction", only an explanation of the Greek follows. There are lots of people in what I take to be your target audience who don't know the Septuagint is a Greek translation of the Old Testament. I think including a similar explanation of the Hebrew as you did the Greek would make an excellent article better and more impervious to superficial, time wasting objections.

  4. #4
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    Re: Is God Jealous?

    I have seen the statement that everything belongs to God sadly abused among the faithful.
    Dip your hand deeply into your pocket and give to the church for after all all that you have including your very life belongs to God.
    In my opinion such all embracing teaching is dangerous for it implies a man is nothing a bubble of existence.
    It is what the monastics sought by deprevation and making their lives as harsh as possible so that God became all in all to them, and it is what the sucicide bomber has in his demented mind as he kill the innocent.

 

 

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