A Jealous God!


In the first Commandment, Exodus 20:3, God states, ‘You shall no other gods besides Me’, and then in verse 5, He says, ‘I, Yahweh, am a jealous God’.

In what sense is God a ‘jealous’ God?

1. With regards to the passage in Exodus 20, we have to admit that it’s easy to see how some readers and some who, at school, had to learn to recite the Ten Commandments, as I did, might gain the impression from that verse that God isn’t only a jealous God but is also a vindictive God, who punishes the children for the sins of their fathers. And that is an entirely erroneous impression.

If you look up the word ‘jealous’ in a concordance you will also come across the word ‘jealousy’, and you will be led to that striking verse which states, ‘Yahweh, whose name is Jealousy, is a jealous God’. Exodus 34:14

The problem arises because these two words today don’t mean what they meant in Old Testament times; and sustain a meaning which is different, even, from 16ll, when the Authorized Version was produced.

I am sure that we have all discovered, in reading the older version that problems arise because, over the years, many words have acquired very different meanings. If we had the space to spare, this fact could very easily be demonstrated.

Today we list ‘jealousy’ among such sins as ‘envy’, ‘malice’ and ‘pride’. ln fact, the Oxford Dictionary defines the word ‘jealous’ as, resentful towards another on account of known or suspected rivalry, envious. Because of this, jealousy is the motivation behind a great many of the sins that people commit.

The Biblical meaning of ‘jealous’

The Old Testament word at which we are looking is ‘quanno’ and its basic meaning is, quite simply, ‘zeal’ and to be ‘jealous’, in the Old Testament sense was, with one or two rare exceptions, to be ‘zealous’ or enthusiastic or passionate.

It is in this sense that the prophet Elijah uses the word when he declares his enthusiasm for God, in 1 Kings 19:10. Similarly, when God declares that He is jealous, He tells us for what it is that He is jealous. Several times He states, ‘I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion’.

There is no resentfulness in His jealousy for Jerusalem, but the expression of a deep and powerful love and concern for the city in which He ‘caused His name to dwell’.

This means that when, in Exodus 20:5, He says, ‘I am a jealous God’, He is declaring His zealousness for the protection of His own honour as the ‘one True God’. In Isaiah 42:80 He states, ‘I am Yahweh; that is My Name; My glory I give to no other, nor My praise to graven image.’

Visiting the Sins of the Fathers.

1. As for the supposed vindictiveness of God, which some think they see in that verse, it should be noted that the verse doesn’t teach that children bear the guilt of the iniquities of their parents. The word ‘aven’ meaning iniquity means perverseness in error, or waywardness.

If God had wanted His people to understand that children bear the ‘guilt’ of the sins of their parents, He could have caused that very word to be used. ‘Asham’ is the word for guilt, and there is a world of difference between the guilt of sin and the consequences of sin.

The Bible doesn’t teach the errors of inherited guilt, or total inherited depravity. The truth is much simpler than that, and something which faces us every day of our lives. The truth is that children suffer because of the sins of their parents. It’s a sad fact that all too often the innocent has to suffer the consequences of the sins of the guilty.

Within the last few days, as of write this, the world has been saddened by the news of the death of a small, courageous African boy, who died of Aids, the scourge of our modern world, it’s a disease with which he was born because of the sin of others.

The Stain of Sin Spreads

The reality is that sin always brings appalling consequences and its effects are borne, not only by those who are responsible for committing it, but also by their children and their children’s children. And, remember also, that since children learn from the behaviour of their parents, whether it be good or bad, the sins of the fathers are very often reproduced and copied by their offspring.

There are families in which criminality, lawlessness, immorality, violence and addiction have become a way of life and accepted as normal. And, sooner or later, they bear consequences of such a life style.

But, as for the matter of guilt, the prophet Ezekiel has the definitive word, in Ezekiel 18:20, ‘The soul that sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son; the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself’.



"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect."