Jealousy is a powerful and dangerous emotion that can lead to destructive behavior. Throughout the Bible, there are many examples of how jealousy leads to negative consequences. In this comprehensive blog post, we will explore the key stories and passages that demonstrate the outcomes of jealousy, and reflect on the lessons we can learn.
Jealousy stems from feelings of insecurity, fear of loss, envy of others, or an excessive desire to control. It can range from slight unease to outright hostility toward another person. Jealousy often arises in relationships when there is a threat – whether real or perceived – to the bond between two people.
While some jealousy in relationships is natural, excessive jealousy manifests itself through actions intended to limit a partner’s freedom or isolate them from others. This controlling behavior erodes trust, creates resentment, and damages the relationship.
In the Bible, jealousy leads to some of the most tragic events and severest punishments. As we examine biblical stories of jealousy gone wrong, several themes emerge:
- Jealousy can turn people against those they should love, such as family members or a spouse.
- Jealousy drives people to violate God’s commandments.
- Jealousy overrides reason and compassion, causing people to make foolish choices.
- God harshly judges those who harm others out of jealousy.
- Jealousy breeds more jealousy, creating cycles of destruction.
- Trusting in God’s providence is an antidote to jealousy.
With these lessons in mind, let us explore the biblical consequences of jealousy – as warnings to heed, and as inspiration to cultivate selfless love toward others.
Old Testament Examples
Cain and Abel
The first biblical example of jealousy leading to disastrous results is the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4:1-16. Cain grew jealous of his brother Abel because God accepted Abel’s animal sacrifice but rejected Cain’s offering from his harvest.
But for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell. (Genesis 4:5 NKJV)
Consumed by envy, Cain murdered his brother Abel out in a field. When confronted by God, Cain denied knowledge of Abel’s whereabouts.
Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9 NKJV)
For this brutal act, God punished Cain by cursing the ground he farmed and exiling him to be a wanderer. Cain feared that others would try to kill him in retaliation. His jealousy spawned the first murder, broke a family bond, and ruined Cain’s livelihood and home.
Sarah and Hagar
A jealousy-fueled conflict between Sarah and Hagar in Genesis 16 brings heartache to both women. As Sarah remained unable to bear children with her husband Abraham, she told Abraham to have a child with her Egyptian maidservant Hagar.
When Hagar conceived, she began to feel superior and contempt for barren Sarah. Meanwhile, Sarah grew jealous and mistreated Hagar. Hagar fled into the wilderness, where an angel intervened and instructed her to return and submit to Sarah. She gave birth to Ishmael, father of the Arab nations.
Later, in Genesis 21, Sarah bore Isaac, the child God promised to Abraham. At Isaac’s weaning feast, Sarah witnessed Ishmael mocking Isaac. She became jealous and demanded that Abraham banish Hagar and Ishmael, which greatly distressed Abraham. Nevertheless, God told Abraham to obey Sarah’s request.
Sarah’s jealousy toward Hagar caused lifelong strife between these two women’s offspring. Her demand to exile Hagar and Ishmael was cruel and tearful for all involved. This story illustrates how jealousy can turn us against others, override compassion, and breed more jealousy in return.
Joseph and His Brothers
One of the most vivid accounts of jealousy is the story of Joseph in Genesis 37. Joseph was the favorite son of Jacob, gifted with a beautiful coat and dreams of ruling over his brothers.
Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age. Also he made him a tunic of many colors. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peaceably to him. (Genesis 37:3-4 NKJV)
Consumed by jealousy, Joseph’s brothers plotted to kill him. Instead, they decided to sell him into slavery to passing traders and tell Jacob his son was killed by a wild animal. Their jealousy drove them to cruelly deceive their own father and destroy their brother’s freedom.
Joseph later became a powerful ruler in Egypt and forgave his brothers. But their jealousy forever damaged the family unity. This story shows how jealousy can fester into hatred between even close relatives. It leads people to violate God’s commandments without thinking clearly of the consequences.
Saul and David
One of the classic biblical examples of destructive jealousy is Israel’s first king Saul growing envious of young warrior David in 1 Samuel 18. David became a national hero after slaying the giant Goliath. Saul brought David into his service, where David continued to succeed in battle and earn the people’s love.
So David went out wherever Saul sent him, and behaved wisely. And Saul set him over the men of war…Then the women sang as they danced, and said: “Saul has slain his thousands, And David his ten thousands.” (1 Samuel 18:5,7 NKJV)
The chorus praising David as superior to Saul “was displeasing in the eyes of Saul” (1 Samuel 18:8 NKJV). Jealousy took root, breeding fear in Saul that David would take away his kingship. This irrational fear drove Saul to repeatedly attempt to murder David, his former faithful servant.
Now Saul was afraid of David, because the LORD was with him, but had departed from Saul. (1 Samuel 18:12 NKJV)
Saul’s jealousy produced years of living as a fugitive for David and deepened Saul’s alienation from God. This story exemplifies how jealousy distorts our perception of reality, prompting irrational efforts to destroy whatever we perceive as threatening.
New Testament Examples
Pharisees and Jesus
In the Gospels, the Pharisees epitomize misguided jealousy toward Jesus that hardens hearts. Pharisees were respected Jewish religious leaders. As Jesus gathered crowds and performed miracles, the Pharisees grew envious of His popularity and authority.
For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes…But the Pharisees were filled with rage, and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus. (Mark 1:22, Luke 6:11 ESV)
The Pharisees tried to challenge and discredit Jesus, accusing Him of performing miracles using the devil’s power. Their jealousy blinded them to Christ’s true identity and the loving purpose behind His signs and wonders.
But the Pharisees said, “He casts out demons by the ruler of the demons.” (Matthew 9:34 NKJV)
This jealousy-fueled hatred led the Pharisees to eventually plot Jesus’ crucifixion. The Pharisees’ story serves as a grave lesson that jealousy corrupts our judgment and can prevent us from seeing God at work.
A deadly episode of jealousy comes from Herodias, wife of Herod Antipas, in Mark 6:14-29. Herod imprisoned John the Baptist for criticizing Herod’s unlawful marriage to Herodias, his brother’s former wife.
During Herod’s banquet, Herodias’s daughter Salome delighted Herod with her dancing. In his drunkenness, Herod rashly promised to grant anything she desired. Herodias told her daughter:
“Ask for the head of John the Baptist!” (Mark 6:24 NLT)
Herod reluctantly ordered John executed and his head delivered on a platter to satisfy Herodias’s petty jealousy. Herodias, jealous of John’s influence and his condemnation of her actions, used her power to silence the prophet.
This horrific episode warns against how jealousy can override conscience and rationality. Herodias’s jealousy led her to take a man’s life and deprive the world of a godly teacher.
Lessons and Warnings
These biblical accounts depict jealousy’s dangerous consequences across centuries and cultures. While the circumstances vary, core themes emerge that we must heed.
Jealousy makes us perceive loved ones – even family – as enemies. It drives us to harm others, deceiving ourselves to justify cruel deeds. Jealousy spreads like fire, infecting relationships and future generations. It overrides ethics, reason and compassion.
The jealous believe they have been deprived of power, love or status by the other person’s superiority or favor. This scarcity mindset can make people desperate to tear others down or hoard blessings meant to be shared.
God condemns jealousy for good reason. Scripture instructs us:
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful. (1 Corinthians 13:4-5 ESV)
Rather than envy, the Bible calls us to rejoice in others’ gifts and happiness:
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. (Romans 12:15 ESV)
Our security rests in God’s unconditional love for each of us as His children. He knows our needs before we ask:
Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. (Matthew 6:31-32 NKJV)
With faith in God’s providence, we can cultivate selfless love and find joy in others’ wellbeing. Then we will stop seeing other people as threats to be eliminated. Instead, we can see brothers and sisters whose gifts enrich the world.
Throughout Scripture, jealousy provokes people to inflict harm, rupture bonds, act unethically, foster resentment, and create enduring strife. Unchecked jealousy corrodes communities, families and souls.
Yet by rooting ourselves in God’s love, we can break free of jealousy’s grip. The abundant grace of God provides the antidote. His love liberates us from viewing life as a ruthless competition, or believing we need to tear others down to lift ourselves up.
With God as our secure foundation, we gain freedom to appreciate each person’s worth and celebrate their achievements. We can replace jealousy with compassion for others’ weaknesses born of our shared human frailty. And we can build relationships defined by patience, forgiveness and unconditional love.