God Is Jealous Part Three
God’s Purpose for Israel
When God established the Mosaic Covenant marriage relationship with Israel at Mount Sinai, He declared, “You shall worship no other god, for the Lᴏʀᴅ, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” (Ex. 34:14). God’s purposes for Israel are inextricably linked to this name, and some historical background is necessary to understand this name’s significance.
Rebellion After the Flood
Immediately after the Noahic flood, God commanded mankind to “fill the earth” (Gen. 9:1).
But several generations later, mankind rebelled against that command by starting the tower of Babel building project to prevent being “scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth” (11:4). Construction took place in the plain of Shinar, of which one division was Sumeria with its city of Ur. God ended this rebellion by shattering mankind’s universal language into many different languages (vv. 5–9), forcing people to separate and disperse throughout the earth and birth the nations.
False Religion After the Flood
As early as the 25th century B.C., people of Ur in Sumeria worshiped a mother goddess named Ishtar.1 The Babylonians conquered Sumeria around the 22nd century B.C.,2 adopted Ishtar worship,3 and called Ishtar “The Holy Virgin”4 and “Queen of Heaven and Earth.”5 This false religion spread,6 turning nations away from acknowledging and worshiping the one true God; and it became the fountainhead of the development of pagan, idolatrous religions.
Significantly, the same chapter that records humanity’s rebellion after the flood and God’s judgment also narrows down the human line of descent to one particular man: Abram, who left the city of Ur––the source of the original false religion after the flood––to go to the land of Canaan (vv. 10–32).
God had commanded Abram to go to Canaan and promised to make him “a great nation” (12:1–2). In light of how the world apostatized through false religions, God thereby revealed His intention to bring a new nation into existence through Abram’s biological line. This new nation would be great in significance because of how God would work through it to accomplish His purpose for history. That new nation would be Israel. Years later God emphasized that Israel is the nation “whom I have created for My glory; I have formed him, yes, I have made him” (Isa. 43:7).
God’s Preparation of Israel
God prepared Israel for the purpose of its existence, telling Abram,
Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions (Gen. 15:13–14).
The fact that God would permit Israel’s enslavement in Egypt implies He had reasons for it. It appears there were at least three.
- To have Israel experience firsthand through slavery the brutal, perverted practices of people who worship false, man-made gods.
- To demonstrate the futility of worshiping such gods. God’s 10 plagues on Egypt graphically displayed that Egypt’s gods were unable to react in any way against the plagues and, therefore, did not exist. They were figments of the imaginations of people unrelated to the true and living God.
- To prove the existence and power of the one true God who actually does exist. God demonstrated His existence and power through the plagues, as well as by bringing the Israelites out of bondage and delivering them from Pharaoh’s clutches at the Red Sea. After God’s Red Sea miracle, Moses and the people of Israel sang, “Who is like You, O Lᴏʀᴅ, among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness?” (Ex. 15:11). They recognized that the God who performed this feat for them is different from other gods.
In light of these three reasons, God said to Israel, “I am the Lᴏʀᴅ your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me” (20:2–3). As a result of His manifold powerful demonstration that He is different from other gods, the Israelites were to worship and serve Him exclusively.
God’s Purposes for Israel
Israel’s experience in Egypt was designed to prepare the nation for God’s purposes for bringing it into existence.
First Purpose: To have a permanent, unique relationship with God. God declared that He brought the people of Israel out of Egypt to be their God (Lev. 11:45). King David wrote,
And who is like Your people, like Israel, the one nation on the earth whom God went to redeem for Himself as a people,…Your people whom You redeemed for Yourself from Egypt, the nations, and their gods? For You have made Your people Israel Your very own people forever; and You, Lᴏʀᴅ, have become their God (2 Sam. 7:23–24).
Second Purpose: To be a holy nation. When God established the Mosaic Covenant marriage relationship with Israel at Mount Sinai, He declared, “You shall be to Me…a holy nation” (Ex. 19:6). God told the Israelites why He brought them out of Egypt to be their God: “You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy” (Lev. 11:45). The word holy means “to divide.”7 The fact that God is holy means He is divided (separate) from all other gods in the sense that He is the only God who actually exists. All others are false and nonexistent. God stated, “Now see that I, even I, am He, and there is no God besides Me” (Dt. 32:39).
Since He is holy, divided from all other gods because He is the only true God, then Israel is to be holy, divided from all other nations in that it worships exclusively the only true God.
Third Purpose: To be God’s witness. Those who worship false gods are spiritually blind and deaf regarding the existence of the only true God (Isa. 43:8–9). Consequently, God told Israel,
“You are My witnesses,” says the Lᴏʀᴅ, “and My servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe Me, and understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, nor shall there be after Me. I, even I, am the Lᴏʀᴅ, and besides Me there is no savior. I have declared and saved, I have proclaimed, and there was no foreign god among you; therefore you are My witnesses,” says the Lᴏʀᴅ, “that I am God” (vv. 10–12).
Again He said, “You are My witnesses. Is there a God besides Me? Indeed there is no other Rock; I know not one” (44:8).
These statements indicate that God brought Israel into existence to open the eyes and ears of other nations to the fact that the God who brought Israel out of Egypt is the only God who actually exists; all others are false and nonexistent.
The word for “witness” is derived from the root that means “return” or “repeat, do again.”8 Thus, “a witness is one, who by reiteration, emphatically affirms his testimony.”9 God intended Israel to open the eyes and ears of the spiritually blind and deaf Gentile nations to the reality of God’s existence by repeatedly and emphatically testifying to them that the God who supernaturally delivered them from slavery in Egypt is the only true God.
Fourth Purpose: To be God’s servant. “The children of Israel are servants to Me; they are My servants whom I brought out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lᴏʀᴅ your God” (Lev. 25:55), and “you, Israel, are My servant” (Isa. 41:8). Through forced slavery, the Israelites served the Egyptians for many years: “Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt” (Dt. 5:15). God delivered them so they could serve Him. “Yahweh demands the total obedience of” Israel His servant, and Israel owes total “allegiance to this one Lord.”10
Fifth Purpose: To be God’s “glory.” Concerning Israel, God said, “I have created” him “for My glory” (Isa. 43:7), and “the LORD has…glorified Himself in Israel” (44:23). In addition, God called the nation “Israel My glory” (46:13).
Glory is what is impressive or influential concerning someone. God glorifies Himself through His historic dealings with Israel. He promised to bless Israel greatly and set it high above all nations when it diligently obeyed all His commandments, which He revealed specifically to that nation (Dt. 28:1–14). But He also promised that many curses would overtake the nation if it failed to obey (vv. 15–68).
Through this twofold way of dealing historically with Israel, God would use the nation as an object lesson (vv. 10, 37) to impress the world with two truths concerning Himself: He (1) will bless those who will heed and obey the revelation He has given to mankind but (2) will curse those who will not. Through Israel, He intends to have life-changing influence on the rest of mankind.
In light of this purpose for Israel, God placed the nation in the most strategic geographical location on the earth. Canaan was the crossroads of three great continents: Africa, Europe, and Asia. People who traveled by land from Africa to the other two continents, or from the other two continents to Africa, traveled through Israel. They could observe the blessings and cursings and thereby be exposed to revelation concerning the existence and ways of the one true God.
It is no mistake that God has placed Israel in that same strategic location today for the same purpose. Note how the entire world’s attention is repeatedly drawn to that same nation in a way that is extremely out of proportion for Israel’s size.
The next article will examine another purpose God has for Israel and the significance that all these purposes have for His name Jealous.
- Will Durant, Our Oriental Heritage (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1954), 123–24, 1045.
- Ibid., 219.
- Ibid., 256.
- Ibid., 235.
- Ibid., 236.
- Ibid., 235, 266, 288, 294–95.
- Otto Procksch, “hagios,” Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (hereafter cited as TDNT), ed. Gerhard Kittel, trans./ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, translated from Theologisches Worterbuch zum Neuen Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964), 1:89.
- Carl Schultz, “ed,” Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Jr. and Bruce K. Waltke (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), 2:648.
- Walther Zimmerli, “pais theou,” TDNT, ed. Gerhard Friedrich, trans./ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1967), 5:660.