Exodus 34:14: Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.
I am a jealous God. Really?
This verse has always baffled me. How can God who is perfect display an attribute that seems, well, pretty imperfect? A variety of good answers exist to this question; however, I’d like to highlight one aspect of the answer related to the context of the religious world of the Ancient Near East.
This culture was a polytheistic, pluralistic, and synchronistic society. The gods they worshiped, from their perspective, did not mind being worshiped alongside other gods. Various gods had various purposes, and it was customary for them to worship the god they needed.
God, in Exodus 34:14, is demanding singular devotion from his people, and declaring that he is the one true God. He is above all gods and is their “one stop shop.” He is their greatest need and he will not be placed alongside false gods.
So, his statement is an indictment against their religious systems while also revealing the heart of God to have them experience the one true God in all of his glory. Thus, the statement that God is a jealous God who will not share his affections with false gods is both a correction and a gracious plea for them to enter in to a relationship that is like no other.