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A Jealous God?

By Thomas Thorne

McDowell CountyThomas Thorne, McDowell County, Blue Ridge Christian News


In Exodus chapter 20 we read of God divinely revealing the Ten Commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai. In verses 4-6, the third commandment is stated, You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments” (English Standard Version).

In common usage, jealous is not a virtue and God being jealous is a concept that is difficult for some.  The Hebrew word used for jealous in this instance is ka-nah. This Hebrew word is translated as simply “jealous.”  Logos Bible software adds a “sense” to the definition of this word as, “fiercely protective and unaccepting of disloyalty.”

Looking at the English language definition of the word jealous we have, “1. Hostile toward a rival or one believed to enjoy an advantage, 2. Intolerant of rivalry or unfaithfulness, 3. Disposed to suspect rivalry or unfaithfulness, 4. Vigilant in guarding a possession” (Webster’s Dictionary).

God is jealous in that He is intolerant of rivalry – there is no true rival to God.  God commands our complete loyalty as there is no competitor. He is also jealous in that He is vigilant in guarding a possession – that possession being His chosen people. God has great energy and enthusiasm toward mankind worshiping Him only, not fake, phony, or impure idols of any kind. God is enthusiastic about us doing right!

To paraphrase verse 5 (1st half), “You shall not worship them or serve them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, vigilant in guarding my people, fiercely protective of them. I have great energy and enthusiasm in pursuit of their righteous behavior and salvation, and that they worship me only.”

God, thank you for being a jealous God. Thank you for giving us a set of instructions that lead to peace and happiness in the pages of the Bible. Thank you for giving us insight into your truth. Thank you for your grace and mercy. Thank you that you will protect us from the evil one. Thank you for sharing your Holy Spirit with us so that we can have the power to do right and resist evil. Thank you for being vigilant in guarding your possession – your people.

Second Half of Exodus 20:5

Another question some have with this verse arises with its second half, “Visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.”

At first glance, this sentence sounds kind of harsh and to be in contradiction with other passages in the Bible such as Ezekiel 18:20 which says, “The soul who 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.” The seeming discrepancy here will be the subject of next month’s writing.

Shalom Shalom,

Tom Thorne


Tom Thorne and his wife (Amy) moved to Marion from Denver, NC almost a year and a half ago.  Thomas and Amy are fellowship leaders of a small congregation of Believers called “Servants of the Most High God.”  Tom can be reached at


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