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Bible Dictionaries

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology


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Jealousy is used in the Scriptures in both a positive and a negative sense. When jealousy is used as an attribute of God, it is obviously used in a positive sense. Probably the most striking example of the anthropomorphic portrayal of God is in those passages where he is said to be jealous. The language is based upon the relationship of husband and wife and is frequently associated with Israel's unfaithfulness to God.

The Hebrew word qana [ Numbers 5:14-30 ) and God's passionate anger against sin (1 Kings 14:22; Psalm 78:58 ). It is used in a negative sense in Proverbs 6:34 , where a man is in a rage because of his jealousy. In Song of Song of Solomon 8:6 jealousy is described as being as "unyielding as the grave." Ezekiel 8:3 describes an idol that was set up in the temple mount "that provokes to jealousy." This image, along with other idols, caused God to remove his shekinah glory from the temple.

The Greek word zelos [ ] and its verb form zeloo [ ] are only used five times in the New Testament. In Romans 10:19 , Israel is said to be provoked to jealousy by Gentile nations that receive divine blessings. The same use of the word is recorded in Romans 11:11 because "salvation has come to the Gentiles." In 2 Corinthians 11:2 , Paul declares his deep concern for the Corinthians when he says, "I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy."

The Corinthian Christians are said to be provoking God to jealousy because of the worship of idols (1 Corinthians 10:22 ). This is followed by the question, "Are we stronger than he?" meaning "Can we afford to defy his power?" Therefore, to arouse the jealousy of God is a very dangerous action on our part. On the other hand, God's jealousy is based on his love and concern for us.

Alan N. Winkler

Copyright Statement
Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Edited by Walter A. Elwell
Copyright © 1996 by Walter A. Elwell. Published by Baker Books, a division of Baker Book House Company, PO Box 6287, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49516-6287.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.
For usage information, please read the Baker Book House Copyright Statement.

Bibliography Information
Elwell, Walter A. Entry for 'Jealousy'. Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. 1996.

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