The Jealousy of God and Calvinism

, posted by Kevin Jackson

Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. Exodus 34:14

A disturbing aspect of Calvinism is how it does damage to God’s character. By improperly defining the sovereignty of God, Calvinists cannot adequately account for other aspects of God’s character.

Calvinism is not compatible with the jealousy of God. If depraved humanity is doing what God has decreed, the jealousy of God is not real. If God’s jealousy is genuine, determinism must be false. God’s is jealous because his people, whom he loves, are not in relationship with him as he would prefer.

One of the Hebrew names for God is El Kanna (or El Qanna). Jealous God. El is a title, and indicates an intrinsic aspect of who God is.

El Shaddi – Mighty God
El Olam – Eternal God
El Elyon – Most High God
El Roi – All Seeing God
El Kanna – Jealous God

God’s jealousy is on the same level as his qualities that we typically associate with sovereignty – qualities like might and omnipresence.

God is jealous because he is sovereign and his people behave like he is not. God created us and sustains us. He is the only one worthy to be praised and worshiped. He does not settle for being one of many. He is THE one, there is no other. “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deut 6:5). When we fall short of this command, God is jealous. And rightfully so. Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you; for the LORD your God, who is among you, is a jealous God and his anger will burn against you, and he will destroy you from the face of the land. (Deut 6:13-15)

The prominence of the jealous God is apparent in the second commandment: “You shall not make for yourself an idol….You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God.(Literally: I Yahweh Elohim-of you El KannaExodus 20:4-5 Hebrew interlinear)

The jealous nature of the Lord is often spoken of in scripture (Ex 20:5, 34:14; Deut 4:24; 5:9; 6:15; Jos 24:19; Isa. 9:7; Zech. 1:14, 8:2.)

God’s jealousy indicates his commitment. He cannot be jealous if he does not care. God’s jealousy indicates his involvement. He cannot be jealous if he created a world that is on fatalistic auto-pilot.

God’s jealousy is active. Kanna communicates a sense of being committed to a course of action. It is sometimes translated as zealous. “Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end…The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.” (literally – kanna of Yahweh Isaiah 9:7 Hebrew interlinear).

In the New Testament, a zealot (like Simon the zealot) was called Kananaios. The zealots were willing to die to free Israel from Rome. God is willing to die to free us from sin. The jealousy of God is not the sort where he sits and pouts. God’s jealousy motivated him to send Jesus as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. God’s jealousy is always a catalyst to action.

Human jealousy is usually a bad thing. It is self-centered and covetous. We want something that is not ours. We selfishly desire someone who does not rightfully belong to us. In relationships, human jealousy is interested in self gratification and not the well being of the other. God desires our well being. He is jealous for our completeness in him. He knows that to be in relationship with him is the only thing that will ever truly fulfill us. God is jealous when we don’t follow him. He is jealous for us (Zech 8:2). He is jealous when our loyalties are divided. God wants us to be the people that he intended us to be.

The book of Hoesa gives insight into the jealousy of God. God’s relationship with Israel was likened to Hosea’s relationship with Gomer.

The LORD said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.” (Hosea 3:1)

The jealousy of God shows his vulnerability. The God of the Bible is hurt and experiences pain when we reject him. As Gomer was unfaithful to Hosea and caused him pain, Israel was unfaithful to God and caused him pain. God’s relationship with Israel was based in love, and was like a marriage covenant. When Israel violated its marriage vow, God was jealous. He was jealous because he was rejected by his covenant people whom he loved and cared for.

Jealousy does not make sense in the Calvinist system. Determinism mocks it. Detachment makes it impossible. Arbitrary wrath makes it irrelevant.

The jealousy of God is not genuine in a world where events are inevitably determined. A.W. Pink wrote that:

God did not merely decree to make man, place him upon the earth, and then leave him to his own uncontrolled guidance; instead, He fixed all the circumstances in the lot of individuals, and all the particulars which will comprise the history of the human race from its commencement to its close.

John Calvin wrote:

men do nothing save at the secret instigation of God, and do not discuss and deliberate on any thing but what he has previously decreed with himself and brings to pass by his secret direction.

Louis Berkhof wrote:

The decree of God however, carries with it necessity. God has decreed to effectuate all things or, if He has not decreed that, He has at least determined that they must come to pass. He has decided the course of man’s life for him.

In Calvinism, God becomes jealous of the course of man’s life that he has decided for him! God is jealous that his creatures are behaving in a way that he has inevitably caused. How absurd. Such a shallow concept of jealousy mocks the heart of God.

Jealousy is not genuine if God is detached. Just as Hosea was jealous when Gomer was unfaithful to him, God was jealous when Israel was unfaithful to him. If God was not concerned with Israel, or if God is not concerned with what or who we give affection to, he could not and cannot be jealous. God is jealous because he is affected by our rejection of him. If God is detached and aloof, if he does not participate in genuine relationship, he is not jealous.

Jealousy is not genuine if God’s wrath is arbitrary. God is wrathful because he is jealous, and he is jealous because we are separated from him. It is important to remember the active zeal of God’s jealousy. God’s wrath is displayed in his zealous pursuit of humanity, and is instigated by the possibility of reconciliation. When God punishes it comes about as a result to his spurned affection (Hosea 7:13). In Calvinism, God’s wrath is divorced from reality. It is based on secret arbitrary decrees rather than from the identifiable motivations given in scripture.

In summary, the jealousy of God is genuine. Jealousy is an intrinsic part of God’s character. In Calvinism, the jealousy of God is not genuine. Determinism, detachment, and arbitrary punishment make it impossible for God to have genuine jealousy. God’s jealousy occurs because he created people for genuine relationship with him, and those people have rejected him instead. The fact that Calvinism cannot account for the jealousy of God demonstrates that the system is false.

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