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01/14/2004 Entry: "Is jealousy a sin?"

We had a little discussion here in the office about jealousy, and whether jealousy is a sin. My thoughts were that jealousy in and of itself is not a sin, while others thought it was a sin. Paddy, half jokingly (I think) said “I’ll have to see it in the original Hebrew.” So, I looked it up, and thought I’d post my findings here.

In the Hebrew, there are four words that get translated as jealous or jealousy. Of those four, two (annq and awnnq) are used only referencing God (“I the LORD thy God am a jealous God”), and are only translated jealousy or jealous. The other two (anq, hanq) are sometimes translated as zeal or envy, in addition to jealousy. It used by God to describe himself ("So will I make my fury toward thee to rest, and my jealousy shall depart from thee”), and it is also used to describe man’s envy towards another.

There’s also an interesting chapter in Numbers. Chapter 5 talks about a man having a “jealous” feeling towards his wife. If he feels she may have been unfaithful, but can’t prove it, he can take her to the priest. The priest has a ritual he performs, and at the end of it, the Lord will make it clear whether she’s been unfaithful or not. The man does not have to make any atonement for his “jealous feeling.” It seems clear that this form of jealousy—that being in the terms of husband and wife—is not a sin. So there is a holy form of jealousy, as well as a sinless form of jealousy.

However, as Paddy read on a website he was visiting, jealousy is the seed that leads to other sins. And I go along with that. It’s like anger. There is a holy and a sinless for of anger. But anger also leads to other things that do constitute sins.

Replies: 3 people have rocked the mic!

You know, I've always wondered about that myself. I don't think jealousy itself is a sin, but I think how a person acts on it can be.

Posted by Maria @ 01/14/2004 09:31 PM EST

Interesting. So jealousy, anger, lust and greed (among others) can be termed the "seeds" of sin. And me, with so much fertilizer ...

Posted by Paddy @ 01/15/2004 09:27 AM EST

So Paddy is the "seed of sin"?

I have been thinking about this post and I can't seem to think of a single instance where jealousy is a positive thing among humans. In fact between husband and wife jealousy can be terribly destructive. It seems like a husband and wife should have trust and not jealousy. I realize that wasn't the point of your post but it seems like an interesting side note.

Posted by Jim @ 01/15/2004 10:10 PM EST

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