The Impassioned God

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Yitroיתרו : “Jethro”
Torah : Exodus 18:1-20:23 (26)
Haftarah : Isaiah 6:1-7:6; 9:5-6
Gospel : Mark 7-8

Thought for the Week:

We should not think of them as rules imposed by an impersonal government. They are more like the wedding vows joyously taken by a blushing bride on her wedding day. If we understand the Torah as a ketubah (wedding contract), we see that it is far more than an ethical system or a moral list of dos and don’ts. Instead it functions as the sacred marriage covenant between God and His people.


You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me. (Exodus 20:5)

Jewish tradition maintains that the first commandment is the commandment to believe in God. Christian tradition has the first commandment as the prohibition on worshipping other gods. Eastern Orthodox reckoning agrees that the second commandment is a prohibition on idols. All of these commandments teach us to worship God alone and not to make representations of Him or any other gods. God explains these commandments by saying, “I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God” (Exodus 20:5).

Does this mean that God is jealous in the sense of a petty, selfish jealousy that takes offense when attention and affection are directed anywhere else? Of course not. God is jealous in the sense that a loving husband is jealous over his wife.

If your spouse told you, “I don’t care whether you see other people; it doesn’t bother me,” you would be alarmed that he or she no longer holds your wedding vows as sacrosanct. It would bother you that your spouse had such little affection for you that infidelity was not even an issue. It would be a clear and certain sign that your spouse cared little for you or for your relationship.

The Hebrew word for jealousy (kana, קנא) is also translated as “zeal.” The term “jealous God” could be translated as “zealous God” or even “impassioned God.” God is passionately in love with His people. He is like a steadfast and faithful husband who does not waver in his affection or commitment to his bride. Because of that, He will not tolerate the worship of other gods, nor will He allow for the worship of idols. He feels the same way about idolatry and paganism that a faithful husband would feel about his wife having an affair.

God’s fidelity should encourage us to adopt the same standard of jealous devotion to Him. Just as a faithful and steadfast wife would shun the affections of other men and refuse their flirtatious gifts and suggestive advances, we should be resolved to give no room to idolatry and paganism in our lives.

God is passionately in love with us. We should return that passion.


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