God is jealous.
The Bible asserts that GOD is jealous. The Greek word that is translated jealous is ζηλωτής, οῦ, ὁ (zélótés) and it means zealous. Regarding this word, HELPS Word-studies observes "a person with zealous enthusiasm who (literally) 'boils over with passion'".
In Scripture, we learn that GOD is jealous for 3 things:
- His servants (Israel),
- His land, and ...
- His name, that it be treated holy.
Moses explained why GOD would be provoked to anger if Israel pursued other gods:
19 “Also do not act lawlessly when you lift your eyes to heaven and see the sun, the moon, and the stars, all the adornment of heaven, and you thus go astray and worship and serve them, which the Lord your God assigned to all the nations under heaven. 20 But the Lord took you and brought you out of the iron furnace, from Egypt, to be His people, an inheritance, as you are this day. 21 Furthermore, the Lord was angry with me about what you said, and swore I would not cross over the Jordan and enter the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance. 22 But I am going to die in this land, thus I am not going to cross over this Jordan; but you will cross over and inherit this good land. 23 Take heed to yourselves, lest you forget the covenant the Lord your God made with you and make for yourselves a carved form of anything, concerning which the Lord your God forbade you. 24 For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.
32 “For ask now concerning former days, before your day, in which God created man on the earth, and ask from one end of heaven to the other whether any great thing like this has happened, or anything like it has been heard. 33 Did any people ever hear the voice of the living God speaking from the midst of the fire, in the manner you heard, and live? 34 Or did God ever try to go and take for Himself a nation from the midst of another nation, in testing, signs, wonders, and war, and by a mighty hand and outstretched arm, and by great visions, according to all the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes? 35 To you it was shown that you might know the Lord your God is God; there is none other besides Him. 36 Out of heaven He let you hear His voice, that He might instruct you; and on earth He showed you His great fire, and you heard His words from the midst of the fire. 37 Because He loved your fathers, therefore, He chose you their seed after them; and He brought you out of Egypt with His great strength, 38 destroying from before your face nations greater and mightier than you, to bring you in, to give you their land as an inheritance, as you have it today. 39 Therefore know today and bear in mind, the Lord your God, this God, is in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other besides Him. 40 You shall therefore guard His ordinances and His commandments I command you today that it may be well with you and with your sons after you, and may prolong your days in the land the Lord your God is giving you to guard all the time.”
(Deuteronomy 4:19-24, 32-40 OSB)
We saw an example of this jealousy when GOD unleashed a plague upon Israel for their idolatry with Midian (the Balaam incident).
10 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 11 “Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, stopped My wrath from among the children of Israel when he was zealous with My zeal among them. So I did not utterly destroy the children of Israel in My zeal.
(Numbers 25:10-11 OSB)
Pointing forward to the end of Israel's first covenant with GOD, Moses wrote:
15 “So Jacob ate and was filled, and the beloved kicked;
He grew fat, he grew thick, he is obese.
Then he forsook God who made him
And stood back from God his Savior.
16 They provoked Me to wrath against foreign gods;
With their abominations they embittered Me.
17 They sacrificed to demons, and not to God,
To gods they did not know;
New ones, recent gods arrived,
Which their fathers did not know.
18 You abandoned the God who begot you,
And forgot the God who nourished you.
19 “So the Lord saw it, and was jealous;
And He was provoked to anger by His sons and daughters.
(Deuteronomy 32:15-19 OSB)
Despite these calamities, GOD would once more show His zealous love towards His faithful children, the true Israel, during the days of the Messiah:
10 “It shall come to pass in that day that there shall be a Root of Jesse who shall arise to rule nations. The Gentiles shall hope in Him, and His resting place shall be honorable.” 11 It shall come to pass in that day that the Lord will show His hand again to be zealous for the remnant left of His people: left by the Assyrians and by Egypt, Babylon and Ethiopia, and by the Elamites, and from the rising of the sun, and out of Arabia. 12 He shall set up a sign for the Gentiles and will assemble the lost ones of Israel. He shall gather together the dispersed of Judah, from the four corners of the earth. 13 Also the envy of Ephraim shall depart, and the enemies of Judah shall be destroyed. Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not afflict Ephraim.
(Isaiah 11:10-13 OSB)
GOD is zealous for the purity of His land, which is why Israel was not allowed to maintain possession of it in their wicked state:
18 But the Lord was zealous for His land and spared His people. 19 And the Lord answered His people and said, “Behold, I send you wheat, wine, and oil, and you will be satisfied with them. I will no longer make you a reproach among the nations, 20 and I will drive the army from the north away from you, and I shall force him into a dry land. I will drown his face in the eastern sea and his back in the western sea; its stench and foul smell will rise up, because he has done powerful works.”
(Joel 2:18-20 OSB)
14 And the angel speaking to me said to me, “Cry out, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord Almighty: “I have been jealous for both Jerusalem and Zion with great jealousy, 15 and I am exceedingly angry with the nations joining together against her, with whom I was only a little angry, but then they joined together with evil intent.” 16 Therefore, thus says the Lord: “I shall return to Jerusalem with compassion, and in her My house shall be rebuilt,” says the Lord Almighty, “and a measuring line shall indeed be stretched out over Jerusalem.”’” 17 And the angel talking to me said to me, “Cry out again, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord Almighty: “Cities shall yet overflow with prosperity, and hereafter the Lord will have mercy on Zion and will choose Jerusalem.”’”
(Zechariah 1:14-17 OSB)
1 And the word of the Lord Almighty came, saying, 2 “Thus says the Lord Almighty: ‘I have been zealous for Jerusalem and for Zion, zealous for her with great zeal and fervor.’
(Zechariah 8:1-2 OSB)
GOD also maintains a zeal for the holiness of His name, which is why He told Israel not to take His name in vain (which most of them did):
25 ‘Therefore thus says the Lord and Master: “Now I will turn back the captivity of Jacob and have mercy on the house of Israel; and I will be jealous for the sake of My holy name.
(Ezekiel 39:25 OSB)