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    Jealous, Zealous — Judge

    Jealous, Zealous

    A. Verb. VED-OT Jealous, Zealous.2

    Qânâ' (קָנָא, Strong's #7065), “to be jealous; to be zealous.” This verb, derived from the noun qin’ah, occurs 34 times in the Old Testament. The root appears in several Semitic languages with the meaning “to be zealous” (Aramaic and Ethiopic). In Ugaritic and Arabic the root occurs, but it is questionable if the root is related to the meaning “to be zealous”; the meaning in Ugaritic text is uncertain, and the meaning in Arabic, “became intensely red,” is not to be explained etymologically. The verb qânâ' appears in rabbinic Hebrew.VED-OT Jealous, Zealous.3

    At the interhuman level qânâ' has a strongly competitive sense. In its most positive sense the word means “to be filled with righteous zeal or jealousy.” The law provides that a husband who suspects his wife of adultery can bring her to a priest, who will administer a test of adultery. Whether his accusation turns out to be grounded or not, the suspicious man has a legitimate means of ascertaining the truth. In his case a spirit of jealousy has come over him, as he “is jealous” of his wife (Numbers 5:30). However, even in this context (Numbers 5:12-31), the jealousy has arisen out of a spirit of rivalry which cannot be tolerated in a marriage relationship. The jealousy must be cleared by a means ordained by the law and administered by the priests. Qânâ', then, in its most basic sense is the act of advancing one’s rights to the exclusion of the rights of others: “… Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim” (Isaiah 11:13). Saul sought to murder the Gibeonite enclave “in his zeal to the children of Israel and Judah” (2 Samuel 21:2). Next, the word signifies the attitude of envy toward an opponent. Rachel in her barren state “envied her sister” (Genesis 30:1) and in the state of envy approached Jacob: “Give me children, or else I die.” The Philistines envied Isaac because of the multitude of his flocks and herds (Genesis 26:14).VED-OT Jealous, Zealous.4

    The Bible contains a strong warning against being envious of sinners, who might prosper and be powerful today, but will be no more tomorrow: “Do not envy a violent man or choose any of his ways” (Proverbs 3:31, NIV; cf. Psalms 37:1).VED-OT Jealous, Zealous.5

    In man’s relation to God, the act of zeal is more positively viewed as the act of the advancement of God and His glory over against substitutes. The tribe of Levi received the right to service because “he was zealous for his God” (Numbers 25:13). Elijah viewed himself as the only faithful servant left in Israel: “I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant … And I, even I only, am left …” (1 Kings 19:10). However, the sense of qânâ' is “to make jealous,” that is, “to provoke to anger”: “They provoked him to jealousy with strange gods, with abominations provoked they him to anger” (Deuteronomy 32:16).VED-OT Jealous, Zealous.6

    God is not tainted with the negative connotation of the verb. His holiness does not tolerate competitors or those who sin against Him. In no single passage in the whole Old Testament is God described as envious. Even in those texts where the adjective “jealous” is used, it might be more appropriate to understand it as “zealous.” When God is the subject of the verb qânâ', the meaning is “be zealous,” and the preposition le (“to, for”) is used before the object: His holy name (Ezekiel 39:25); His land (Joel 2:18); and His inheritance (Zechariah 1:14). Cf. Zechariah 8:2: “This is what the Lord Almighty says: I am very jealous for Zion; I am burning with jealousy for her” (NIV), where we must interpret “jealous[y]” as “zealous” and “zeal.”VED-OT Jealous, Zealous.7

    In the Septuagint the word zelos (“zeal; ardor; jealousy”) brings out the Hebrew usage. In the English versions similar translations are given: “to be jealous” or “to be zealous” (KJV, RSV, NASB, NIV) and to be envious (KJV and NIV)VED-OT Jealous, Zealous.8

    B. Noun. VED-OT Jealous, Zealous.9

    Qin'âh (קִנְאָה, Strong's #7068), “ardor; zeal; jealousy.” This noun occurs 43 times in biblical Hebrew. One occurrence is in Deuteronomy 29:20: “The Lord will not spare him, but then the anger of the Lord and his jealousy shall smoke against that man.…”VED-OT Jealous, Zealous.10

    C. Adjectives. VED-OT Jealous, Zealous.11

    Qannâ' (קַנָּא, Strong's #7067), “jealous.” This adjective occurs 6 times in the Old Testament. The word refers directly to the attributes of God’s justice and holiness, as He is the sole object of human worship and does not tolerate man’s sin. One appearance is in Exodus 20:5: “… For I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.” The adjective qannâ' also means “jealous.” This word appears only twice, with implications similar to qannâ'. Joshua 24:19 is one example: “And Joshua said unto the people, Ye cannot serve the Lord: for he is a holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins.” Nahum 1:2 contains the other occurrence of qannâ'.VED-OT Jealous, Zealous.12


    A. Verb.VED-OT Judge.2

    Shâphaṭ (שָׁפַט, Strong's #8199), “to judge, deliver, rule.” This verb also occurs in Ugaritic, Phoenician, Arabic, Akkadian, and post-biblical Hebrew. Biblical Hebrew attests shâphaṭ around 125 times and in all periods.VED-OT Judge.3

    In many contexts this root has a judicial sense. Shâphaṭ refers to the activity of a third party who sits over two parties at odds with one another. This third party hears their cases against one another and decides where the right is and what to do about it (he functions as both judge and jury). So Sarai said to Abram: “My wrong [outrage done me] be upon thee [in your lap]: I have given my maid into thy bosom; and when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her eyes: the Lord judge between me and thee” (Genesis 16:5—the first occurrence of the word). Sarai had given Hagar to Abram in her stead. This act was in keeping with ancient Nuzu law, which Abram apparently knew and followed. The legal rights to the child would be Sarai’s. This would mean that Hagar “did all the work” and received none of the privileges. Consequently she made things miserable for Sarai. As the tribal and family head Abram’s responsibility was to keep things in order. This he did not do. Thus Sarai declares that she is innocent of wrongdoing; she has done nothing to earn Hagar’s mistreatment, and Abram is at fault in not getting the household in order. Her appeal is: since Abram has not done his duty (normally he would be the judge of tribal matters), “the Lord decide” between us, that is, in a judicial sense, as to who is in the right. Abram granted the legitimacy of her case and handed Hagar over to her to be brought into line (Genesis 16:6).VED-OT Judge.4

    Shâphaṭ also speaks of the accomplishing of a sentence. Both this concept and those of hearing the case and rendering a decision are seen in Genesis 18:25, where Abraham speaks of “the Judge [literally, “One who judges”] of all the earth.” In 1 Samuel 3:13 the emphasis is solely on “delivering” the sentence: “For I have told him that I will judge his house for ever for the iniquity which he knoweth.…”VED-OT Judge.5

    In some cases “judging” really means delivering from injustice or oppression. David says to Saul: “The Lord therefore be judge and judge between me and thee, and see, and plead my cause, and deliver me out of thine hand” (1 Samuel 24:15). This sense (in addition to the judicial sense), “to deliver,” is to be understood when one speaks of the judges of Israel (Judges 2:16): “Nevertheless the Lord raised up judges, which delivered them out of the hand of those that [plundered] them.”VED-OT Judge.6

    Shâphaṭ can be used not only of an act of deliverance, but of a process whereby order and law are maintained within a group. This idea also is included in the concept of the judges of Israel: “And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time” (Judges 4:4). This activity was judicial and constituted a kind of ruling over Israel. Certainly ruling is in mind in Numbers 25:5: “And Moses said unto the judges of Israel, ‘Slay ye every one his men that were joined unto Baal-Peor’” (1 Samuel 8:1).VED-OT Judge.7

    The military deliverer was the head over a volunteer army summoned when danger threatened (militia). In the time of Samuel this procedure proved inadequate for Israel. They wanted a leader who would organize and lead a standing army. They asked Samuel, therefore, for a king such as the other nations had, one who was apt and trained in warfare, and whose successor (son) would be carefully trained, too. There would be more continuity in leadership as a result. Included in this idea of a king who would “judge” them like the other nations was the idea of a ruler; in order to sustain a permanent army and its training, the people had to be organized for taxation and conscription. This is what is in view in 1 Samuel 8:6-18 as Samuel explains.VED-OT Judge.8

    B. Nouns. VED-OT Judge.9

    Mishpâṭ (מִשְׁפָּט, Strong's #4941), “judgment; rights.” This noun, which appears around 420 times, also appears in Ugaritic.VED-OT Judge.10

    This word has two main senses; the first deals with the act of sitting as a judge, hearing a case, and rendering a proper verdict. Ecclesiastes 12:14 is one such occurrence: “For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.”VED-OT Judge.11

    Mishpâṭ can also refer to the “rights” belonging to someone (Exodus 23:6). This second sense carries several nuances: the sphere in which things are in proper relationship to one’s claims (Genesis 18:19—the first occurrence); a judicial verdict (Deuteronomy 17:9); the statement of the case for the accused (Numbers 27:5); and an established ordinance (Exodus 21:1).VED-OT Judge.12

    The noun shepatim refers to “acts of judgment.” One of the 16 occurrences is in Numbers 33:4: “For the Egyptians buried all their firstborn, which the Lord had smitten among them: upon their gods also the Lord executed judgments.”VED-OT Judge.13

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