Why Is God Called A “Jealous” God? (Exodus 34)

“But rather, you are to tear down their altars and smash their sacred pillars and cut down their Asherim —for you shall not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God—” (Exodus 34:13-14)

There are two statements in Exodus 34 which absolutely delight the skeptic and the Bible critic. The first of these I would like to address is God’s self-description as a “Jealous” God in Verse 14. In his documentary “Religulous“, a tirade against Christianity and organized religion in general, outspoken agnostic Bill Maher tells a Christian:

“But your God is jealous? That seems so un-godlike, that God would have such a petty human emotion…I know people who have gotten over jealousy, let alone God”

But is the Bible really saying that God possesses a “petty human emotion” and is given to emotional outbursts of envy? First of all, let us consider if it is really even possible for God to be jealous in the way that we understand jealousy.

“Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts:

‘I am the first and I am the last,
And there is no God besides Me.” (Isaiah 44:6)

The website “Dictionary.reference.com” gives 5 definitions for the adjective jealous.  Four of those pertain to a feeling of resentment because of the success or advantages of another. It is in this context that we normally think of jealousy and all of the “pettiness” that it entails. But how can a God Who has no equal be jealous of anyone in that sense? Is there anyone who has more success or advantage than the Creator of the Universe? Of course not. Anyone or anything else which might be called a “god” or idol is but a very poor substitution for the Living God. In fact, the idols worshipped by the pagans neighboring the Hebrews were nothing more than representations of fictitious deities dreamed up in man’s imagination. Would the true God really be jealous of these?

The fifth definition from the above mentioned website gives us a better idea of what Scripture is really telling us here:

“Solicitous or vigilant in maintaining or guarding something: The American people are jealous of their freedom.”

God is jealous of His people, not because “competing” deities are a threat to Him, but rather because He does not want His people to follow after imaginary idols. He is jealous because He loves His people and does not wish for them to be deceived. Verse 12 of Exodus 34 warns that making a covenant with the pagans living in Canaan would prove to be a snare to the Israelites. Part of making a covenant with them would involve recognizing and accepting their idols and worshipping them as their own. Anything which takes a person’s focus away from the true and living God and places it on an idol inevitably leads to that person’s destruction.

The Hebrew term rendered jealous can also mean excited, heated, or zealous.  In other words, God is passionate in His love for His people and desires for them to live and not be destroyed by their own idolatry. I, for one, am grateful that God is a “jealous” God.

Visiting Iniquity On Succeeding Generations

“[The Lord] keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.” (Exodus 34:7)

The second verse I would like to look at is Verse 7. For many skeptics, the phrase about God visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and grandchildren screams of injustice and tyranny. The image of God ruthlessly punishing little children for their parent’s and grandparent’s sins seems so unfair! But is that what the Scripture is actually saying?

First of all, let us consider that there are many verses which completely contradict the notion that God will punish anyone for someone else’s sin. Specifically, both Deuteronomy 24:16 and Ezekiel 18:20 plainly state that a son will not bear the punishment for his father’s sins. Ezekiel 18:4 says that it is the soul who sins that will die.

It is the guilty soul that will not be left unpunished, not the innocent. So then why is God visiting iniquity on the children and grandchildren? Because they’re guilty of the same sins! When a parent delves into idolatry, they will raise their children to be idolaters either through their direct teachings or their example. The succeeding generations will grow up and commit the very same sins that their parents were guilty of. And God will hold them accountable for their own actions just as He held their parents.

A contemporary example can be found in the tragedy of alcoholism. So often, children of alcoholics will grow up and become alcoholics themselves. Through a combination of genetic predisposition and poor behavior models, many children will grow up and become captive to the very same addictions which bound their parents. And even though their parents bear much of the blame, they are in no way innocent of the choices they themselves make which lead them down the path of destruction.

God will deal fairly and justly with every individual and no one will be condemned for the sins of others; though we often suffer consequences for the bad decisions others make. Even so, we should never entertain the idea that any of us are innocent and guiltless before a just and holy God. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) and we are all in need of a Savior.

To God goes all glory. In service to Him,



**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible  (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?”]


The God Of Second Chances (Exodus 34)

“Now the Lord said to Moses, “Cut out for yourself two stone tablets like the former ones, and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the former tablets which you shattered.” (Exodus 34:1)

After the incident with the Golden Calf back in Exodus 32, God could very easily have wiped out the Hebrew nation and started all over again with Moses. In fact, the Lord would have been justified in doing so. God had given His Law to the people and the people had agreed to its terms and pledged to obey it at all points (Exodus 19:8). Yet the first time Moses went away from the people in order to meet with the Lord they broke their promise and violated the Covenant they had been given.

But this is not where the story ends! God had mercy on the Israelites and did not destroy them all when they sinned. The Lord gave the people another chance and restored His Law to them even though they had broken it.

One of the most wonderful attributes of our God is that He is a God of Second Chances. In actuality, He is a God of many chances. If the Lord were to deal “fairly” with us, He would have blotted us out long ago. If the Lord dealt with us based upon our own behavior, we would all be doomed. Thankfully, He does not.

At the sight of the Hebrews descent into depravity, Moses reacted by casting down the Tablets of the Law, shattering them to pieces (Exodus 32:19). This served as a physical breaking of a Law which the people had figuratively broken. It has been suggested that, not only was Moses’ response one of anger, but of fear and pity for the people. Moses was one of the only people among them who truly understood the reality of how terrible it would be to fall into the hands of the Living God! Were it that this Law in his hands be shattered into pieces rather than the Lord God carry out His judgments for violating it!

“Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying,” (Jonah 3:1)

Jonah 3:1 is one of my favorite verses in the entire Bible. The Word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time. How did Jonah respond when the Word of the Lord came to him the first time? He ran as fast as he could in the opposite direction! But the Lord was not finished with Jonah after the first time he rebelled against Him any more than He was finished with Israel when they abandoned Him for the Golden Calf. He is the God of Second Chances and His Word will return even to the heart which has turned against Him.

Where are you today? Have you rejected the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the point where you are not sure if any hope remains for you? Or are you a child of God who has backslidden time and time again and are wondering if you may have exhausted the patience of the Lord? If you have blown your first, second, or ten thousandth chance, God is not through with you. Even if you have turned away from Him, He has not given up on you. His Word is coming to you again. Behold, He stands knocking at the door (Revelation 3:20). Will you hear His voice and let Him in?

To God goes all glory. In service to Him,



**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible  (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?”]

The Glory Moses Beheld (Exodus 33)

“Then the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by Me, and you shall stand there on the rock;” (Exodus 33:21)

God granted to Moses his heartfelt petition, “Show me your glory!” Moses had walked a long time in obedience to God and knew somewhat of His Presence, yet he recognized that there was more to beholding the glory of God than what he had seen. As all who have tasted of the goodness of God, Moses, the great lawgiver, knew no deeper longing than to behold his Lord through unveiled eyes. The heart which has caught a glimpse of God’s glory is not satisfied in seeing the glorious Presence of the Lord in reflections or shadows.

But to look upon the face of God is something not permitted to those living on this Earth (verse 20), even such a one as Moses. For our sin-stained mortal flesh to look upon the full glory of God would result in our being consumed by it. Therefore, God provided two “filters” whereby Moses could look upon His glory.

First, God told Moses that He would cover him as He passed by and would allow Moses to see, not His face, but His back. God would allow Moses to see a partial glory, or representation of His glory after He had passed by. Though we may not know as much from looking upon someone’s back as we would by seeing their face, it is still possible to recognize someone that way. What we have here is an image of God’s glory; Moses saw the glory of God, but not in its fullness.

“[Jesus] being the brightness of [God’s] glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high:” (Hebrews 1:3 KJV)

“For in [Christ] all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9)

Jesus Christ is the express Image of God the Father’s glory and we see a foreshadowing of this in the Glory which Moses beheld. For just as both the Face and the Back belong to the same God, so does the second Person of the Trinity belong to the same “Body” as God the Father. Moses did not behold the Face (the Father) of the Godhead, but he did behold the Back (the Son). Moses looked upon a physical manifestation or Theophany of God and this is exactly what we find in the Person of Jesus Christ.

Secondly, God told Moses: “Behold, there is a place by Me, and you shall stand there on the rock.” Moses could behold the glory of God only so long as he was standing on the Rock. Fortunately, what a Rock symbolizes throughout much of the Old Testament we are not left to guess at. Paul, in Romans 9:33, refers to Jesus Christ in his quotation of Isaiah 28:16 and says of our Lord:

“Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense,
And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.”

Again, in 1 Corinthians 10:4, Paul declares Christ to be the Rock from which the Hebrews drank in the Wilderness. Peter, in 1 Peter 2:6-8, also identifies Jesus as the Rock to Whom Isaiah’s prophecy refers. Moses himself identifies God as The Rock in his great song of Deuteronomy 32. This gives the instructions of the Lord to Moses to “Stand on the Rock” great significance. Behold, there is a Place by Me, that is, Christ Who is seated beside the Father, and you shall stand on the Rock, that is, it is through the Person of Jesus Christ that we may behold the glory of God.

Not only is it through Christ that we behold the glory of God, Christ is the glory which we behold. We may be satisfied in beholding that glory because the glory of Christ is the glory of God.

“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14 KJV)

To Jesus Christ, the express Image of God’s eternal glory, goes all glory both now and forever,

In service to Him,



**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible  (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?”]