Jealousy [N] [E]

Jealousy is used in the Scriptures in both a positive and a negative sense. When jealousyis used as an attribute of God, it is obviously used in a positive sense. Probably themost striking example of the anthropomorphic portrayal of God is in those passages wherehe is said to be jealous. The language is based upon the relationship of husband and wifeand is frequently associated with Israel's unfaithfulness to God.

The Hebrew word qana [a"n'q] and its cognates are the most extensivelyused words for jealousy in the Old Testament. In Exodus 34:14 we learn that "theLord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God." In Deuteronomy 4:24, God is describedas "a consuming fire, a jealous God, " giving the idea that he will judgebecause of his jealousy. In Joshua 24:19, Joshua challenges the people to serve the Lordbut reminds them that serving God will be difficult because "He is a holy God; he isa jealous God." In Zechariah 1:14, when the Lord is asked why he allows Jerusalem tobe down-trodden by the nations, he replies, "I am very jealous for Jerusalem andZion." In verse 15, he continues to explain that while he intended to punish Israelfor her sin, the nations have "added to the calamity." Because of his jealousy,God will restore Jerusalem to its rightful people and will build his temple there (v. 16).This concept is also brought out in context of the last days in joe 2:18: "the Lordwill be jealous for his land and take pity on his people." The Hebrew noun is alsoused to describe a man's jealousy for his wife ( Num 5:14-30 ) andGod's passionate anger against sin ( 1 Kings 14:22 ; Psalm 78:58 ). It isused in a negative sense in Proverbs 6:34, where a man is in a rage because of hisjealousy. In Song of Solomon 8:6 jealousy is described as being as "unyielding as thegrave." Ezekiel 8:3 describes an idol that was set up in the temple mount "thatprovokes to jealousy." This image, along with other idols, caused God to remove hisshekinah glory from the temple.

The Greek word zelos [zh'lo"] and its verb form zeloo [zhlovw] are onlyused five times in the New Testament. In Romans 10:19, Israel is said to be provoked tojealousy by Gentile nations that receive divine blessings. The same use of the word isrecorded in Romans 11:11 because "salvation has come to the Gentiles." In 2Corinthians 11:2, Paul declares his deep concern for the Corinthians when he says, "Iam jealous for you with a godly jealousy."

The Corinthian Christians are said to be provoking God to jealousy because of theworship of idols ( 1Cor 10:22 ). This is followed by the question, "Are we stronger than he?"meaning "Can we afford to defy his power?" Therefore, to arouse the jealousy ofGod is a very dangerous action on our part. On the other hand, God's jealousy is based onhis love and concern for us.

Alan N. Winkler

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Edited by Walter A. Elwell
Copyright © 1996 by Walter A. Elwell. Published by Baker Books, a division of
Baker Book House Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan USA.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

For usage information, please read the Baker Book House Copyright Statement.

[N] indicates this entry was also found in Nave's Topical Bible
[E] indicates this entry was also found in Easton's Bible Dictionary

Bibliography Information

Elwell, Walter A. "Entry for 'Jealousy'". "Evangelical Dictionary of Theology". . 1997.