Why does the Bible call GOD a jealous God?
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In the Ten Commandments GOD, after giving the command not to make idols, describes himself as a “jealous GOD.”

“You shall not bow down before them or serve them, for I, the LORD, your GOD, am a jealous GOD, who punishes the ‘iniquity of the fathers on the children down to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but shows steadfast love toward thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.”
(Exodus 20:5-6)

But what does this jealousy mean? What kind of feeling is the Creator referring to in these words?
Very important first of all is to understand that GOD’s jealousy is different from human jealousy (which is then often tainted by sin and turns into anger and envy). GOD’s jealousy, on the other hand, is due to his loving relationship with his people, in that he loves them he does not want them to be destroyed because of idolatry, a sin that alienates not simply from GOD, but from Life. We speak of a human jealousy and feeling to make believers understand that if they choose someone else (or something else) to GOD, then they will be destined to be among the losers, both in life and after death.

Other Biblical passages

“Then Joshua said to the people, ‘You will not be able to serve the LORD, for he is a holy GOD. He is a jealous GOD; He will not forgive your transgression or your sins.'”
(Joshua 24:19)

“How long, O LORD ? Will you be angry forever? And shall your jealousy burn like fire?”
(Psalm 79:5)

Also in Proverbs 6:34 we find a father warning his son to avoid “accosting” a married woman because it would enrage her husband: “For jealousy enrages a man, and he does not spare himself when he takes revenge.” 

We understand from these Scriptures that the jealousy of which GOD “speaks” is a righteous feeling: the Creator is jealous of his relationship with the people because he loves them and does not want them destroyed by idolatry. Jealous of His greatest work, mankind, to avoid its doom, follow idols (false gods). Yet even today, how many are there who prostrate themselves (submit) and worship the new gods? Money, power, self-centeredness, over all, but the “Money God” remains one of the most worshiped of our times. Led to live a life of short and illusory joys, haloed by long and great evils, darkness, dissatisfaction, sins. Worshipping an idol will lead the believer to his own ruin, which is why the Creator warns against doing so by declaring himself “jealous.”

A human feeling assigned to GOD

Lest students misunderstand the notion of a “jealous and angry” GOD, we give a simplified summary of Rambam‘s approach and explanation of GOD’s emotions as formulated in his Guide of the Perplexed:

“To say that GOD is the wisest or most powerful implies that GOD’s wisdom or power somewhat resembles our own. In contrast to GOD’s, the power manifested by us is finite and measurable. Therefore, it is not true to say that GOD’s power is greater than ours, that GOD’s life is more permanent than ours, that GOD’s knowledge is broader than ours, or that GOD’s will is more universal than ours. If so, then GOD could be put on the same scale as ours, meaning that GOD is a bigger, stronger and better version of something in the created order, such as human beings. In that sense, GOD does not possess emotions similar to ours, but the effects of GOD’s actions resemble the effects of our emotions. 
(Guide of the Perplexed 1:56-67)

So when we say that GOD is “jealous” or “angry,” it is not human jealousy or anger, but simply a reflection of what we, as human beings, interpret as such. Those emotions control us, but nothing controls GOD. GOD’s jealousy and anger are not emotions parallel to what we might embody, but are a predetermined plan for the benefit of humanity.


Like a jealous lover, GOD insists that ours be a monogamous relationship. GOD wants to remind us that we are “married,” and the loyalty he expects is no less than what any believer expects from his spouse. GOD passionately loves his people because he has chosen them:

“It is not because you were more numerous or stronger than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the least of all the peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you.”
(Deuteronomy 7:7-8)

Worshipping and serving anything other than GOD is a sin, but when it comes to the jealousy triggered by belonging it is different. GOD is a God who is jealous of what belongs to Him, He loves us, and as in the example of a husband who sees another man courting his wife, he has the right to be jealous because he alone has reason to love her. This kind of jealousy is not sinful, but aimed at compliance with rules (in this example marriage).
GOD is therefore jealous when worship, praise and honor are given to idols, as these false gods divert the hearts and minds of men and women who forgive themselves by following their ways. Not because we necessarily “levitate” anything from GOD, but in that we remove ourselves from knowledge, and this is bad primarily for us and our lives.

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