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.

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[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.

Jealousy [N] [B]

suspicion of a wife's purity, one of the strongest passions ( Numbers 5:14 ; Proverbs 6:34 ; Cant 8:6 ); also an intense interest for another's honour or prosperity ( Psalms 79:5 ; 1 Corinthians 10:22 ; Zechariah 1:14 ).

These dictionary topics are from
M.G. Easton M.A., D.D., Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition,
published by Thomas Nelson, 1897. Public Domain, copy freely.

[N] indicates this entry was also found in Nave's Topical Bible
[B] indicates this entry was also found in Baker's Evangelical Dictionary

Bibliography Information

Easton, Matthew George. "Entry for Jealousy". "Easton's Bible Dictionary". .


jel'-us-i (qin'ah; zelos):

Doubtless, the root idea of both the Greek and the Hob translated "jealousy" is "warmth," "heat." Both are used in a good and a bad sense--to represent right and wrong passion.

When jealousy is attributed to God, the word is used in a good sense. The language is, of course, anthropomorphic; and it is based upon the feeling in a husband of exclusive right in his wife. God is conceived as having wedded Israel to Himself, and as claiming, therefore, exclusive devotion. Disloyalty on the part of Israel is represented as adultery, and as provoking God to jealousy. See, e.g., Deuteronomy 32:16,21; 1 Kings 14:22; Psalms 78:58; Ezekiel 8:3; 16:38,42; 23:25; 36:5; 38:19.

When jealousy is attributed to men, the sense is sometimes good, and sometimes bad. In the good sense, it refers to an ardent concern for God's honor. See, e.g., Numbers 25:11 (compare 1 Kings 19:10; 2 Kings 10:16); 2 Corinthians 11:2 (compare Romans 10:2). In the bad sense it is found in Acts 7:9; Romans 13:13; 1 Corinthians 3:3; 2 Corinthians 12:20; James 3:14,16.

The "law of jealousy" is given in Numbers 5:11-31. It provided that, when a man suspected his wife of conjugal infidelity, an offering should be brought to the priest, and the question of her guilt or innocence should be subjected to a test there carefully prescribed. The test was intended to be an appeal to God to decide the question at issue.


E. J. Forrester

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These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Entry for 'JEALOUSY'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". 1915.