How can God be “jealous” and not be guilty of sin?

HOW CAN GOD BE “JEALOUS” AND NOT BE GUILTY OF SIN?

by Shawn Brasseaux

“They [Israel] provoked him to jealousy with strange gods, with abominations provoked they him to anger. They sacrificed unto devils, not to God; to gods whom they knew not, to new gods that came newly up, whom your fathers feared not. Of the Rock that begat thee thou art unmindful, and hast forgotten God that formed thee” (Deuteronomy 32:16-18).

Scripture uses the title “jealous God” six times for JEHOVAH:

  • Exodus 20:4-5: “[4] Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. [5] Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;”
  • Exodus 34:14: “For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God:”
  • Deuteronomy 4:24: “For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God.”
  • Deuteronomy 5:8-9: “[8] Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth: [9] Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me,”
  • Deuteronomy 6:15: “(For the LORD thy God is a jealous God among you) lest the anger of the Lord thy God be kindled against thee, and destroy thee from off the face of the earth.”
  • Joshua 24:19: “And Joshua said unto the people, Ye cannot serve the LORD: for he is an holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins.”

Envy (not the same as “jealousy”) is a sin when we commit it (Romans 1:29; Romans 13:13; 1 Corinthians 3:3; Galatians 5:21; et al.). Wanting what others have—envy, coveting—is a sin. Jealously, however, involves wanting what belongs to you when someone else is using it for his or her pleasure.

Just as there is a godly anger (Matthew 5:22; Mark 3:5; Ephesians 4:26), there is a godly jealousy, God’s righteous jealousy. In the Old Testament, God continually reminded Israel that He was “jealous” over her. Prior to going into the Promised Land under Joshua, Moses warned Israel of her previous idolatrous ways. Once Israel went into that land, they were to destroy the pagan heathens and their idols (Exodus 34:11-17). Yet, even in God’s Promised Land, the Jews established pagan shrines to worthless idols (1 Kings 14:22-24; Psalm 78:58)! The LORD wanted Israel to Himself, and yet they ignored Him and adored vain, inanimate idols.

The Apostle Paul, filled with the Holy Ghost, warned members of the Body of Christ in Corinth about provoking the Lord to “jealousy” by fellowshipping with devils (1 Corinthians 10:20-22). Paul was “jealous” over the Body of Christ, instructing us to avoid satanic deception by holding to the doctrine in his epistles. Second Corinthians 11:1-4: “[1] Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me. [2] For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. [3] But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. [4] For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.”

Throughout the Holy Scriptures, we see references to God as “jealous:”

  • Deuteronomy 32:16: “They provoked him to jealousy with strange gods, with abominations provoked they him to anger.”
  • Deuteronomy 32:21: “They have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God; they have provoked me to anger with their vanities: and I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.”
  • Ezekiel 8:3: “And he put forth the form of an hand, and took me by a lock of mine head; and the spirit lifted me up between the earth and the heaven, and brought me in the visions of God to Jerusalem, to the door of the inner gate that looketh toward the north; where was the seat of the image of jealousy, which provoketh to jealousy.”
  • Ezekiel 36:5: “Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Surely in the fire of my jealousy have I spoken against the residue of the heathen, and against all Idumea, which have appointed my land into their possession with the joy of all their heart, with despiteful minds, to cast it out for a prey.”
  • Ezekiel 36:6: “Prophesy therefore concerning the land of Israel, and say unto the mountains, and to the hills, to the rivers, and to the valleys, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I have spoken in my jealousy and in my fury, because ye have borne the shame of the heathen:”
  • Ezekiel 39:25: “Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Now will I bring again the captivity of Jacob, and have mercy upon the whole house of Israel, and will be jealous for my holy name;”
  • Nahum 1:2: “God is jealous, and the LORD revengeth; the LORD revengeth, and is furious; the LORD will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies.”

God wants His people all to Himself—He does not want us mingling with the world’s idols (crucifixes, statues, religious paintings, selfishness, materialism, et cetera). In His omnipotence and omniscience, God is justified in being jealous over us because He alone deserves our praise, worship, dedication, and honor. After all, He is our Creator and our Saviour (if we have trusted in Him for salvation!).

SUPPLEMENTAL: THE LAW OF JEALOUSIES

In Numbers 5:11-31, part of the Mosaic Law, we read about something called “The Law of Jealousies.” To better understand how God being “jealous” is justified and not sin, we see what the (non-sinning) “jealous” husband was to do in the Mosaic system when he suspected his wife as being unfaithful.

Numbers chapter 5: “[11] And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, [12] Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, If any man’s wife go aside, and commit a trespass against him, [13] And a man lie with her carnally, and it be hid from the eyes of her husband, and be kept close, and she be defiled, and there be no witness against her, neither she be taken with the manner; [14] And the spirit of jealousy come upon him, and he be jealous of his wife, and she be defiled: or if the spirit of jealousy come upon him, and he be jealous of his wife, and she be not defiled: [15] Then shall the man bring his wife unto the priest, and he shall bring her offering for her, the tenth part of an ephah of barley meal; he shall pour no oil upon it, nor put frankincense thereon; for it is an offering of jealousy, an offering of memorial, bringing iniquity to remembrance.”

Numbers chapter 5: “[16] And the priest shall bring her near, and set her before the LORD: [17] And the priest shall take holy water in an earthen vessel; and of the dust that is in the floor of the tabernacle the priest shall take, and put it into the water: [18] And the priest shall set the woman before the LORD, and uncover the woman’s head, and put the offering of memorial in her hands, which is the jealousy offering: and the priest shall have in his hand the bitter water that causeth the curse: [19] And the priest shall charge her by an oath, and say unto the woman, If no man have lain with thee, and if thou hast not gone aside to uncleanness with another instead of thy husband, be thou free from this bitter water that causeth the curse: [20] But if thou hast gone aside to another instead of thy husband, and if thou be defiled, and some man have lain with thee beside thine husband: [21] Then the priest shall charge the woman with an oath of cursing, and the priest shall say unto the woman, The LORD make thee a curse and an oath among thy people, when the LORD doth make thy thigh to rot, and thy belly to swell; [22] And this water that causeth the curse shall go into thy bowels, to make thy belly to swell, and thy thigh to rot: And the woman shall say, Amen, amen. [23] And the priest shall write these curses in a book, and he shall blot them out with the bitter water: [24] And he shall cause the woman to drink the bitter water that causeth the curse: and the water that causeth the curse shall enter into her, and become bitter.”

Numbers chapter 5: “[25] Then the priest shall take the jealousy offering out of the woman’s hand, and shall wave the offering before the LORD, and offer it upon the altar: [26] And the priest shall take an handful of the offering, even the memorial thereof, and burn it upon the altar, and afterward shall cause the woman to drink the water. [27] And when he hath made her to drink the water, then it shall come to pass, that, if she be defiled, and have done trespass against her husband, that the water that causeth the curse shall enter into her, and become bitter, and her belly shall swell, and her thigh shall rot: and the woman shall be a curse among her people. [28] And if the woman be not defiled, but be clean; then she shall be free, and shall conceive seed.”

Numbers chapter 5: “[29] This is the law of jealousies, when a wife goeth aside to another instead of her husband, and is defiled; [30] Or when the spirit of jealousy cometh upon him, and he be jealous over his wife, and shall set the woman before the LORD, and the priest shall execute upon her all this law. [31] Then shall the man be guiltless from iniquity, and this woman shall bear her iniquity.”

Also see:
» Was God unfair to punish us for Adam’s sin?
» Was God unfair in striking Uzzah dead?
» Why did God get angry with Balaam in Numbers 22?

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