Scripture describes God as jealous and jealousy, as sin. The second commandment explicitly says that God is a jealous God (Exodus 20:4–5; cf. 34:14); yet in Galatians Paul condemned jealousy in the same breath as idolatry (Galatians 5:19–20). How can this be?

First, there is such a thing as sanctified jealousy. As such, jealousy is the proper response of a husband or wife whose trust has been violated through infidelity. Indeed, when an exclusive covenant relationship is dishonored, sanctified jealousy is the passionate zeal that fights to restore that holy union. The jealousy of God for His holy name and for the exclusive worship of His people as such is sanctified.

Furthermore, as there is sanctified jealousy, so, too, there is sinful jealousy. In this sense, jealousy is painfully coveting another’s advantages. Accordingly, the apostle Paul listed jealousy as an act of the sinful nature: “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissentions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like” (Galatians 5:19–21).

Finally, as God personifies sanctified jealousy, so those who reflect His character must be zealous for the things of God. The Bible is replete with heroes such as Elijah (1 Kings 19:10, 14), David (Psalm 69:9), and Paul (2 Corinthians 11:2), whose jealousy for God’s glory motivated self-sacrifice and radical reform. The quintessential example, however, is found in the incarnate Christ who exercised the epitome of sanctified jealousy by overturning the tables of the moneychangers in the temple—a symbolic gesture condemning the Jewish leaders of His day for dishonoring God through their contemptible religiosity (Matthew 21:12–13; John 2:17; cf. Jeremiah 7:9–15).

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.

2 Corinthians 11:2 NKJV

***Note the preceding text is adapted from a new Revised and Updated version of The Complete Bible Answer Book that is forthcoming in Fall 2023. When available for pre-order we will update this page with corresponding information. Until then you can still purchase or receive for your partnering gift the current version by clicking here for purchase or here for partnering gift. ***