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Question 115.


Dear Fr Christopher,
As we Orthodox Christians know, it is a sin to be jealous or to have jealousy, to have envy & to be envious......etc. Why is it then that God in the chapter of Exodus and in the Book of Ezekiel reveals that He is a jealous God? How are we suppose to interpret this? It appears there is some irony here. The 2 texts of the Old Testament below, were the only passages I knew of that describes God's jealousy. I don't know if there are any additional verses from other chapters either from the Old or New Testament that also gives an account of this.
According to The Second Commandment:
"Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven images... Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them." "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: 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: And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments." Ex. 20:4-6.
Furthermore, in the Book of Ezekiel chapter 36, verses 5-6 it is written: therefore thus says the Lord GOD: I speak in my hot jealousy against the rest of the nations, and against all Edom, who gave my land to themselves as a possession with wholehearted joy and utter contempt, that they might possess it and plunder it. 6Therefore prophesy concerning the land of Israel, and say to the mountains and hills, to the ravines and valleys, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I speak in my jealous wrath, because you have suffered the reproach of the nations;

Regards, John

Answer to Question 115.


Dear John,

There is human jealousy and there is a godly jealousy. Human jealousy is being envious of someone who has something we do not have. It is being resentful of a material possessions such as a nice car or home or a physical attribute like a special ability or beauty. Such jealousy is often associated with suspicion, envy, and rivalry, and it is always sinful. Godly jealousy is something completely different because it is not being envious of something that belongs to another person. God is jealous when someone gives to another something that rightly belongs to him. In the commandment, God is speaking of people making idols and bowing down and worshiping those idols instead of giving God the worship that belongs to Him alone. God is possessive of the worship and service that belong to Him. It is a sin (as God points out in this commandment) to worship or serve anything other than God. He will not tolerate the worship of other gods (a practice common in Egypt and other nations). God is "jealous" in the sense that He expects full devotion, not merely a partial, lukewarm commitment. Worship belongs to God, and He is right to be "jealous" of it. Here the word jealousy could be interpreted as protective.  

This is precisely the jealousy the apostle Paul describes in 2 Corinthians 11:2, "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."

Paul sought for the church to be fully devoted to Christ. His "jealousy" should be understood as "guarding" or protective of their relationship with God. He knew that the Corinthians’ faithfulness to the one true God was threatened by the prevalence of sin in their society and by the influence of false teachers. He spoke to the Corinthians as a father would to his children whom he loved and wanted to protect. Paul wanted the Corinthians to abandon the pursuit of anything that distracted from worshiping the Lord. This is not sinful jealousy, but godly jealousy.   

Of your quotes from Ezekiel the Septuagint does not use the word jealousy for the first quote and reads "Verily in the fire of My wrath have I spoken against the rest of the nations" The KJV reads "Surely in the fire of my jealousy have I spoken against the residue of the heathen" The use of jealousy is used here as wrath (anger) against the nations who took the land from his chosen people which he chose for them, and gave unto them; the land where he himself dwelt, and granted his presence; where his temple was, and he was worshipped.

In the second quote of jealousy "Behold, I have spoken in My jealousy and in My wrath" its use means zeal and refers to Gods zeal for his honour and the interest of his people Israel because they suffered the scorn and reproach of his and their enemies.

According to Cruden's Concordance of the Bible there are about forty uses of the word jealous or jealousy in the Bible but the majority refer to human jealousy. The following are quotes of the word jealousy which refer to godly jealousy according to western translations: Exodus. 20:4-6, Numbers 25:11, Deuteronomy 29:20, Deuteronomy 32:16, Deuteronomy 32:21, 1 Kings 14:22, Ezekiel 16:42, Ezekiel 23:25, Ezekiel 36:5-6, Ezekiel 38:19, Psalms 78:58, Psalms 79:5, Zechariah 1:14, Zechariah 8:2, Zephaniah 1:18, Zephaniah 3:8, Romans 10:19, 1 Corinthians 10:22. 2 Corinthians 11:2.


In Christ

Fr. Christopher