Is God’s Jealousy a Negative Attribute?
by Brian Chilton
The Bible attributes several attributes to God. Many of the more popular attributes are God’s love, holiness, and grace. Any serious theologian will know the four core “omni” attributes: omniscience (all-knowing), omnipotence (all-powerful), omnipresence (all-presence), and omnibenevolence (all-loving). While these attributes are all positive, many critics pinpoint another attribute of God as being greatly problematic: God’s jealousy.
Critics charge that jealousy is a bad trait to hold. Famed atheist Richard Dawkins claims that God breaks “into a monumental rage whenever his chosen people flirted with a rival god.” Paul Copan notes that “Oprah Winfrey said that she was turned off to the Christian faith when she heard a preacher affirm that God is jealous.” Jealousy is condemned for the human being. One of the Ten Commandments states that a person should not “covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s” (Exodus 20:17). Thus, jealousy seems to be a negative trait. But wait! Doesn’t the Bible claim that God is jealous? It does.
The Bible states at least 13 times that God is jealous for His people. For instance, Moses notes that “the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God” (Deuteronomy 4:24). Later in Deuteronomy, God says, “They have made me jealous with what is no god; they have provoked me to anger with their idols. So I will make them jealous with those who are no people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation” (Deuteronomy 32:21).
What do we make of this? Jealousy seems to be a negative trait. The Bible presents God as jealous. Therefore, it would seem that God holds negative traits. One is left with three options…
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