God's Loving Jealousy 

Deuteronomy 4:24 states: “For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” In Hebrew, the word “jealous” above is “qanna”. Vine says of “qanna”: “The word refers directly to the attributes of God’s justice and holiness, as He is the sole object of human worship and does not tolerate man’s sin”. [1]

“Qanna” also appears in Exodus 20:5, 34:14, Deuteronomy 5:9 and 6:15 in the sense of “jealous (demanding exclusive service)”. [2] Exodus 34:14-16 says “(for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they play the harlot with their gods and make sacrifice to their gods, and one of them invites you and you eat of his sacrifice, and you take of his daughters for your sons, and his daughters play the harlot with their gods and make your sons play the harlot with their gods.” Note God says here His Name is “Jealous”. The various Names of God recorded in the Scriptures reveal different aspects of His character. [3]

Some people may misunderstand the concept of God being a jealous God by nature. They may wrongly think this means He is envious of other’s property. In other words, they might falsely imagine the jealousy of God refers to Him wanting to own people and things which He does not own. God permanently owns all people and all created things, even despite the Fall of the human race. God is jealous about what He owns already permanently.

In modern Western culture, the idea of a husband having a loving jealousy towards his wife and of a wife towards her husband is not mostly regarded now as a good quality. This is partly because of the increasing acceptance of adultery and the growing tendency to promote independence in the husband-wife relationship in Western culture. Recently, pollster George Barna wrote that about one-third of adults in the United States stated adultery was not wrong and about two-thirds said that a successful marriage is one in which both partners have total freedom to do as they want. [4] In Australia, many are following these same evil trends.

God is not jealous in a selfish sense. But because He totally owns every person He has created, He does not want them being owned or ruled by any other person in a higher sense than He does. Husbands and wives own each other and parents own their children only in a secondary delegated sense in comparison to God’s primary ownership of them.

God wants people to obey His delegated rulers (see Romans 13:1-5 and Hebrews 13:17) and children to obey their parents (see Ephesians 6:1-2). But this submission and obedience should only be in a secondary sense when compared to their primary surrender and obedience to Him. Also in His jealousy, God does not want any human to be owned or ruled by sin, idol-worship, Satan or demons.

God’s jealousy is linked to His anger against those who choose to serve sin in Numbers 25:11, Deuteronomy 29:18-21, Ezekiel 16:38, 16:42, 36:6, Zephaniah 1:18 and 3:8. But note God’s jealousy is also related to His love for people. Because He loves them more than others do and He owns them, He is jealously not wanting them to serve other people or things instead of Him.

Numbers 5:11-31 and Proverbs 6:34-35 refer to husbands being jealous in relation to the faithfulness of their wives about sexual matters. It is little wonder then that in Exodus 34:14-16, Ezekiel 16:35-43 and 23:11-31, God’s jealousy for people whom He owns is linked to Him being against them committing spiritual adultery against Him.

God’s character does not change. Just as God is revealed in the Old Testament as being jealous about people, He is shown to be the same in New Testament times. In 1 Corinthians 10:21-22, Paul says: “ You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons. Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than He?”

In 2 Corinthians 11:2, Paul refers to having a “godly jealousy”: “For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.” Paul shows here there is a godly type of jealousy which is related to believers being married to Jesus Christ as His bride. Do you realise God the Creator is jealous of all people He owns – unbelievers and believers alike – and He as Husband is jealous of all believers? As a result, He does not regard any unfaithfulness to Him as a light unimportant matter.


Bible Study Questions


1.         What does the Hebrew word “qanna” mean when referring to God’s jealousy?

2.         Does God’s jealousy refer to Him being envious of what other people own?

3.         Is God’s jealousy related to His holy anger or His love or both?

4.         Which verses refer to husbands being jealous in relation to the faithfulness of their wives about sexual matters?

5.         Which New Testament verse refers to God being jealous in New Covenant times?


[1] Vine, page 125.

[2] Brown, Driver and Briggs, page 888.

[3] The Hebrew adjective “qanna” means “Jealous” as an attribute of God’s nature in Joshua 24:19 and Nahum 1:2 (Vine, page 125 and Harris, Archer and Waltke, page 803). When used in the context of God’s attitudes to humans, the Hebrew word “qana”  means “be jealous” (Brown, Driver and Briggs, page 888; Harris, Archer and Waltke, page 802-803). This verb is used in Deuteronomy 32:16, 1 Kings 14:22, Psalm 78:58 and Ezekiel 8:3. When used in the context of God’s attitudes to people He owns, the Hebrew noun “qina” means “jealousy” (Brown, Driver and Briggs, page 888) and is used in Deuteronomy 29:20, Psalm 79:5, Ezekiel 16:38, 16:42, 23:25, 36:5, 36:6, 38:19, Zephaniah 1:18, 3:8 and Zechariah 1:14.

[4] George Barna, “Second Coming of the Church”, Word Publishing, Nashville, 1998, page 66.



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