Jealousy is used in three senses in Scripture; (1) as intolerance of rivalry or unfaithfulness; (2) as a disposition suspicious of rivalry or unfaithfulness; and (3) as hostility towards a rival or one believed to enjoy an advantage. Sense 3 approximates envy. God is jealous for His people Israel in sense 1, that is, God is intolerant of rival gods (Exodus 20:5;
Deuteronomy 5:9) One expression of God's jealousy for Israel is God's protection of His people from enemies. Thus God's jealousy includes avenging Israel (Ezekiel 36:6;
Zechariah 8:2). Phineas is described as jealous with God's jealousy (Numbers 25:11,Numbers 25:13, sometimes translated zealous for God). Elijah is similarly characterized as jealous (or zealous) for God (1 Kings 19:10,1 Kings 19:14). In the New Testament Paul speaks of his divine jealousy for the Christians at Corinth (2 Corinthians 11:2).
Numbers 5:11-30 concerns the process by which a husband suspicious of his wife's unfaithfulness might test her. Most often human jealousy involves hostility towards a rival. Joseph's brothers were jealous (Genesis 37:11) and thus sold their brother into slavery (Acts 7:9). In
Acts 17:5 a jealous group among the Jews incited the crowd against Paul. Jealousy, like envy, is common in vice lists (Romans 13:13;
2 Corinthians 12:20;
Galatians 5:20-21). Jealousy is regarded as worse than wrath or anger (Proverbs 27:4). James regarded jealousy (or bitter envy) as characteristic of earthy, demonic wisdom (Proverbs 3:14) and as the source of all disorder and wickedness (Proverbs 3:16). See Envy.
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.
Butler, Trent C. Editor.. "Entry for 'JEALOUSY'". "Holman Bible Dictionary".