It is important to understand how the word “jealous’ is used in Exodus 20:5 to describe God is different from how it is used to describe the sin of jealousy (Galatians 5:29).
When we use the word “jealous,’ we use it in the sense of being envious of someone who has something we do not have. A person might be jealous or envious of another person because they have a nice car or home (possessions). Or a person might be jealous because of some ability or skill that other person has (such as playing a instrument or being athletic).
In Exodus 20:5, it is not that God is jealous or envious because someone has something He needs or wants. Exodus 20:4-5 says, “You shall not make for yourself a idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not now down and worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God… Notice that God is jealous when someone gives to another something that rightly belongs to Him.
In these verses, God is speaking of people making idols and bowing down and worshipping those idols instead of giving God the worship that be,ingest to Him alone. God is possessive of the worship and service that belong to Him. It is a sin (as God points out in this commandment) to worship or serve anything other than God. It is a sin when we desire, or we are envious, or jealous of so much because he has something that we do not have. It is a different use of the word “jealous” when God says He is jealous. What He is jealous of belongs to Him alone, and are to be given to Him alone.
A practical example will help us understand the difference. If a husband sees another man flirting with his wife, he is right to be jealous, for only he has the right to flirt with his wife. This type of jealousy is not sinful. It’s entirely appropriate. Jealousy is a sin when it’s a desire for something that doesn’t belong to you. Worship, praise, honor and adoration belong to God alone, for only He is truly worthy of it.
Therefore, God is rightly jealous when, worship, praise, honor or adoration is given to idols. This s precisely the jealousy the Apostle Paul described in 2 Corinthians 11:2, “I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy…”