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21 They have made me jealous[a] with false gods,[b]
enraging me with their worthless gods;[c]
so I will make them jealous with a people they do not recognize,[d]
with a nation slow to learn[e] I will enrage them.

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  1. Deuteronomy 32:21 sn They have made me jealous. The “jealousy” of God is not a spirit of pettiness prompted by his insecurity, but righteous indignation caused by the disloyalty of his people to his covenant grace (see note on the word “God” in Deut 4:24). The jealousy of Israel, however (see next line), will be envy because of God’s lavish attention to another nation. This is an ironic wordplay. See H. Peels, NIDOTTE 3:938-39.
  2. Deuteronomy 32:21 tn Heb “what is not a god,” or a “nondeity.”
  3. Deuteronomy 32:21 tn Heb “their empty (things).” The Hebrew term used here to refer pejoratively to the false gods is הֶבֶל (hevel, “futile” or “futility”), used frequently in Ecclesiastes (e.g., Eccl 1:1, “Futile! Futile!” laments the Teacher, “Absolutely futile! Everything is futile!”).
  4. Deuteronomy 32:21 tn Heb “what is not a people,” or a “nonpeople.” The “nonpeople” (לֹא־עָם, loʾ ʿam) referred to here are Gentiles who someday would become God’s people in the fullest sense (cf. Hos 1:9; 2:23).
  5. Deuteronomy 32:21 tn Heb “a foolish nation” (so KJV, NAB, NRSV); NIV “a nation that has no understanding”; NLT “I will provoke their fury by blessing the foolish Gentiles.”