i'm sure it's tempting for teachers of Exodus to mumble over the negative results of God's jealousy but articulate well the positive results. "Jealous" seems so petty and the NET Bible offers a clarification on the word,
The word “jealous” is the same word often translated “zeal” or “zealous.” The word describes a passionate intensity to protect or defend something that is jeopardized. The word can also have the sense of “envy,” but in that case the object is out of bounds. God’s zeal or jealousy is to protect his people or his institutions or his honor. Yahweh’s honor is bound up with the life of his people.
God isn't petty, it's simply that he's always right and he keeps the lights on and keeps everything running. God has set these people aside, partly because of the faith of their ancestor Abraham. He is showing his love to them, who are many generations removed from Abe, because of Abe's righteousness that came by faith (see Romans 4). They are being warned and encouraged, a stick and a carrot. Four generations is tough, but i think it is a key to understanding the atrocities God ordered Joshua to carry out against the inhabitants of the inheritance of Israel. Later on God told Jeremiah (ch. 31) and Ezekiel (ch. 18) that families would be off the hook for the sins of their parents, he now treats people individually. Some sins are so bad collectively that punishment lasted several hundred years. i read Nehemiah yesterday and at the end of the book they turn out certain foreigners,
Nehemiah 13:1 On that day the book of Moses was read aloud in the hearing 1 of the people. They found written in it that no Ammonite or Moabite may ever enter the assembly of God, 13:2 for they had not met the Israelites with food and water, but instead had hired Balaam to curse them. (Our God, however, turned the curse into blessing.) 13:3 When they heard the law, they removed from Israel all who were of mixed ancestry.Now this wasn't an idolatry issue, but the point is, God is consistent in punishing down through the generations. He did it to his own people. Achan (Joshua 7) and Eli (1 Sam 3:13-14) for example. Those of us who have lived under the new covenant for so long, who are justified by our own faith and not our parents', this punishment on succeeding generations is so wrong. But for those who are not part of this covenant, it only makes sense. An example of mercy by the enlightened Greeks before the time of Alexander the Great was after conquering a city to kill all the men and selling the women and children into slavery. That's moderation apart from God. When Joshua started wiping our cities and killing everything and everyone, no child was left behind, so to speak. no city marked for destruction by God was to have anything breathing by the time the Israelite army finished. Yes, it is abhorrent. there are many attempts to justify Joseph's total war philosophy. But really the only justification is God's direct instruction which God will never instruct again, because no longer are children directly judged for their parents or grandparents or great-grandparents sins. However, they will suffer the consequences of their sins. If a parent spends all their money on alcohol, the children suffer. If a grandparent spends time in jail, the generations that follow have a higher likelihood too. In the same way, families who live well often reproduce that in the subsequent generations, as long as those don't fall into a sinful path. It's not much unlike seeing families who produce lawyers or doctors or carpenters or musicians. Exposure conditions the easily molded children. It seems that idolatry never fully exited the fabric of the Israeli household. They fell back into it over and over again, even worshiping items that God used, including the Moses' snake (Numbers 21:9, 2 Kings 18:4). Even after the Babylonians sacked Jerusalem, those who were left fled to Egypt and started worshiping false gods again (Jeremiah 44). They reasoned,
44:16 “We will not listen to what you claim the Lord has spoken to us! 44:17 Instead we will do everything we vowed we would do. We will sacrifice and pour out drink offerings to the goddess called the Queen of Heaven just as we and our ancestors, our kings, and our leaders previously did in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. For then we had plenty of food, were well-off, and had no troubles. 44:18 But ever since we stopped sacrificing and pouring out drink offerings to the Queen of Heaven, we have been in great need. Our people have died in wars or of starvation.”Sigh. Egypt, in contrast to Israel, is a type of the world, tangible, immediate, easy, enslaving. The land of Israel is promised, comes with struggle, and is free as long as enemies are not allowed in, alot like the life of the Christian. Our struggle is the temptation to return to Egypt, a land of idols and abundance and slavery. We are called to a life of rejection, abundance, freedom, and true worship of the one God. In Egypt, even the children are enslaved and can be killed at whim of the king. In Israel, generations can thrive and blossom, as long as they stay away from Egypt. Egypt and Israel need to stay separate. In Israel, there is no other God and there are no images of Him. The reward of faithfulness is a blessing on our descendants, a much better inheritance than a chunk of corruptible stuff.