7 Godly Sins? – the Envy of God
If God punishes people for believing in a different God, is it Envy?
The Song of Moses
Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord:
“I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;
horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.
The Lord is my strength and my might,
and he has become my salvation;
this is my God, and I will praise him,
my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
The Lord is a warrior;
the Lord is his name.
“Pharaoh’s chariots and his army he cast into the sea;
his picked officers were sunk in the Red Sea.
The floods covered them;
they went down into the depths like a stone.
Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power—
your right hand, O Lord, shattered the enemy.
In the greatness of your majesty you overthrew your adversaries;
you sent out your fury, it consumed them like stubble.
At the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up,
the floods stood up in a heap;
the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea.
The enemy said, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake,
I will divide the spoil, my desire shall have its fill of them.
I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them.’
You blew with your wind, the sea covered them;
they sank like lead in the mighty waters.
“Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods?
Who is like you, majestic in holiness,
awesome in splendor, doing wonders?
You stretched out your right hand,
the earth swallowed them.
“In your steadfast love you led the people whom you redeemed;
you guided them by your strength to your holy abode.
The peoples heard, they trembled;
pangs seized the inhabitants of Philistia.
Then the chiefs of Edom were dismayed;
trembling seized the leaders of Moab;
all the inhabitants of Canaan melted away.
Terror and dread fell upon them;
by the might of your arm, they became still as a stone
until your people, O Lord, passed by,
until the people whom you acquired passed by.
You brought them in and planted them on the mountain of your own possession,
the place, O Lord, that you made your abode,
the sanctuary, O Lord, that your hands have established.
The Lord will reign forever and ever.”
Like many sins, love is often misconstrued as sin, and vice versa. Envy is one of those sins which is particularly susceptible to this misperception.
Looking at words or even watching actions from afar is often not enough to tell whether love is true or not. I can understand how someone could take a look at the 10 commandments and see envy present in God. After all, the first two commandments are about worshipping Him and Him alone. How could that not be envious?
Furthermore, the whole account of the Exodus of the Hebrew people from Egypt is like one giant example of God punishing people for not following Him, both from the Egyptians as well as among the Hebrew people themselves. Moses sings about this in his song that retells their experience escaping Egypt.
What exactly does it mean to belong to a God?
According to the Baal worship in Canaan, which was actually a collection of regional gods worshipped in similar ways, sacrifices were made in worship ceremonies. Most of these sacrifices were of grain or livestock. This was not unlike the sacrifices the Hebrews would offer YHWH. These sacrifices show that the Baal’s favor must be bought with regular offerings.
After the sacrifices the community would engage in sexual acts as a depiction of this God, and sometimes goddess of fertility. While I’m sure there were some that enjoyed this part of the service, I’m also sure that not everyone was their of their own choice. Young boys and girls were likely initiated into this practice against their will, the same way the are trafficked all over the world today.
In some cases, it was even worse. Gods like Dagon and Molech often demanded child sacrifices, burned along with their food offerings. Over time it would be understood by the people that everything they had, their bodies, and even their lives belonged to that God. They were slaves of a hungry, envious God.
YHWH was different though. He did not ask to have his favor earned ever. He asked only for gratitude for what He had already done. He forbade all human sacrifices and community sexual exploits. God’s laws were set up not so He would possess us, but so that His people would choose him each day.
Let’s look at those first two commandments from another perspective.
If a parent tells their children not to get into cars with strangers, we all understand that as a desire to keep the children safe, not to prevent them from possibly going home and being adopted by someone richer and/or more loving. We applaud that act and call it good parenting. Does that make them jealous of the affection of their children. Not necessarily. Or if a person sees children caught in an abusive situation or being neglected and wants to help them out by getting custody of them, does that make them envious? Not necessarily. In some cases it might be envy that is motivating the would-be caregivers, but often it is compassion instead.
I expect it is the term “caregiver” that makes the difference between envy and love. Is your God providing care or just asking for your devotion. Is your God demanding payment for services rendered, or merely looking for gratitude. This is what set God apart from all others in the Old Testament and it is what set Jesus apart from all the false teachers and messiahs in the New Testament as well.
What does your God ask of you?
What does your God provide for you?
- (Ex 14:13–14; Ps 78:12–14) ↩