The character of God is full of never-ending complexities. One of the characteristics we often wrestle with is the concept of His jealousy. God is not only described as exactly that, He is named Jealous in scripture.
As stated in Exodus 34:12-14, “Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land where you are going, or they will be a snare among you. Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and cut down their Asherah poles. Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.”
God is a jealous God. What does that actually mean and how does that impact our overall understanding of Him? We look to scripture to unlock the answer to this and more.
In the above passage, God is forming a covenant with Israel, expressing His desire for the often rebellious nation to remain loyal to Him. It’s within this covenant promise we can extract and unpack the relationship dynamics at play and ultimately dissect God’s jealousy.
Righteous jealousy is reflected in the justifiable frustration of a husband deeply in love with his wife who continues to flippantly reject him turning her heart to others.
The relationship between God and Israel is mirrored in the symbolism of marriage. The covenant God forms with Israel is the wedding—a lifelong promise of love and commitment. The illustration of God, the loyal husband pursuing Israel, the unfaithful wife is prominent throughout scripture. The Israelites would toggle between worshiping God then subsequently turning their allegiance to pagan gods. God’s response was often wrathful, and thus His jealousy on full display.
Jeremiah 3:6-8 states: “…Have you seen what faithless Israel has done? She has gone up on every high hill and under every spreading tree and has committed adultery there. I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of all her adulteries.”
When we observe the challenging and historically tattered relationship between God and—the marriage metaphor is clear. A husband who is deeply committed to a lifelong promise of love and security is betrayed continually by His fickle life long lover.
The reality is God’s jealousy is righteous, not selfish. Righteous jealousy is reflected in the justifiable frustration of a husband deeply in love with his wife who continues to flippantly reject him turning her heart to others. This is not the jealousy of an insecure man who projects His fears of abandonment by creating anxiety around His partner.
The wrath and sincerity of God’s righteous jealousy are as intense as His enduring love for us. Just like the well-known Crowder worship song How He Loves states: “He is jealous for me. Loves like a hurricane. I am a tree, bending beneath the weight of his love and mercy.”
God is jealous for us because He fiercely loves us and will accept nothing less. He’s not interested in sharing a shrine with our idols. Whether it be the pagan gods of the Israelites or our modern-day gods from money, vanity, peer approval, etc. We can all see ourselves in Israel’s cyclical betrayal. When we recognize God’s jealousy, rooted in love—we develop a greater respect and love for His pursuit of us. God’s righteous jealousy is in fact, a blessing.