Prosperity is the condition of being successful or thriving.
We derive success from a favorable or desired outcome, often involving the attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence.
Success or prosperity characterizes thriving.
As a result, we typically consider prosperity a positive situation.
Yet, prosperity for one person or people group can stir envy from those who are nearby.
Envy is a painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage or to cause pain, injury, or distress to the one envied.
Join me in looking at Genesis 26:14-16, when Isaac’s prosperity brought envy to the Philistines.
14[Isaac] had possessions of flocks and herds and many servants, so that the Philistines envied him. 15 (Now the Philistines had stopped and filled with earth all the wells that his father’s servants had dug in the days of Abraham his father.) 16 And Abimelech said to Isaac, “Go away from us, for you are much mightier than we.” (Gen 26:14-16 ESV)
Even though Isaac obeyed God by staying in Gerar, a Philistine territory, he lied to the Gerarites, saying his wife was his sister out of fear the men might kill him because Rebekah was beautiful. (Gen 26:7)
Isaac and Rebekah maintained this lie for a long time, according to Gen 26:8. But the king of Gerar, Abimelech, discovered the lie and confronted Isaac. (Gen 26:8-9)
Abimelech recognized that Isaac’s lie could have brought guilt upon the men of Gerar if they had taken Rebekah for themselves. (Gen 26:10) Yet Abimelech extended mercy and even gave an order that “Anyone who molests this man, or his wife shall surely be put to death.” (Gen 26:11)
After Abimelech held Isaac accountable for his lie about Rebekah, Isaac experienced an unusual increase in provision from the Lord. His crops yielded a hundredfold in one year and he grew very wealthy. (Gen 26:12-13)
As seen in Gen 26:14, Isaac’s rising prosperity stirred envy in the hearts of the Philistines. Remember, envy is a painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage or to cause pain, injury, or distress to the one envied.
Since Abimelech had ordered the Philistines not to molest Isaac or Rebekah under penalty of death (Gen 26:11), they resorted to filling water wells Isaac was using with dirt. (Gen 26:15) This would cause pain and distress for Isaac and his servants when they went out to get water for their crops, animals, or themselves. They would have to re-dig the wells to get to the water.
Read Genesis 26:15 again:
(Now the Philistines had stopped and filled with earth all the wells that his father’s servants had dug in the days of Abraham his father.) (Gen 26:15 ESV)
Isaac’s father, Abraham, originally dug the wells the Philistines filled with dirt out of envy toward Isaac. The interaction between Abraham and the Abimelech of his day also involved a dispute over Abraham’s lie about Sarah and later these same water wells. (See Gen 20:1-17 and Gen 21:22-34)
Read the agreement between Abraham and the Abimelech of his day.
22 At that time, Abimelech and Phicol, the commander of his army, said to Abraham, “God is with you in all that you do. 23 Now, therefore, swear to me here by God that you will not deal falsely with me or with my descendants or with my posterity, but as I have dealt kindly with you, so you will deal with me and with the land where you have sojourned.” 24 And Abraham said, “I will swear.” (Gen 21:22-24 ESV)
Abraham also gave a gift of seven lambs to this Abimelech as a witness that the wells being disputed over had been dug by Abraham. (Gen 21:25-31)
What reason do Abimelech and Phicol state for requesting transparency with Abraham?
Who did Abimelech and Phicol request this transparency to include?
How did Abraham respond to Abimelech and Phicol’s request?
Contrast this interaction between Abraham and the Philistines with the request made by the Abimelech of Isaac’s day.
And Abimelech said to Isaac, “Go away from us, for you are much mightier than we.” (Gen 26:16 ESV)
What is the reason King Abimelech gives for asking Isaac to move away?
How does King Abimelech’s reason for asking Isaac to move away from them add to your understanding of why the Philistines, in their envy, resorted to filling the water wells with dirt?
Is God only working in the lives of Abraham and Isaac’s family? Why or why not?
Describe when you have experienced a season or longer of unusual prosperity like Isaac.
How did people who knew you respond to your season of unusual prosperity?
Perhaps you have been in the Philistine’s shoes, envious of someone else’s unusual prosperity. How did you behave toward the person you envied?
What happened because of your envy?
What do the following scriptures teach about envy?
Wrath is cruel, anger is overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy? (Pro 27:4 ESV)
Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man’s envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after wind. (Ecc 4:4 ESV)
Why is it important to guard your heart against envy?
What things can you do or say to prevent becoming envious of others?
Is there anything you can do or say to prevent someone from becoming envious of you? Why or why not?
Share how this storyline encourages you or other questions you have about it in the comments.