Biblical Envy: 10 Key Examples in Scripture

Have you ever wondered how envy can shape the course of history? In the Bible, there are numerous gripping stories that shed light on the destructive power of envy and its repercussions.

From sibling rivalries to royal jealousy, these accounts provide profound insights into human nature and the consequences of coveting.

In this article, we will explore ten key examples of envy in the Bible that challenge common beliefs and may make you reflect on the effects of envy in your own life. Prepare to be captivated and enlightened as we dive into these gripping tales from Scripture.

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Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:1-8)

The story of Cain and Abel serves as a timeless reminder of the destructive consequences of envy. In this account, Cain’s envy of Abel’s favor with God leads to a tragic sequence of events, culminating in the first recorded murder in the Bible.

Cain and Abel were brothers, each offering sacrifices to God. While Abel’s offering, a lamb from his flock, found favor with God, Cain’s offering of fruits and vegetables did not receive the same divine acceptance. Filled with envy and resentment, Cain’s emotions began to consume him.

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

These words from God show that Cain had a choice to resist the destructive path of envy, but unfortunately, he allowed it to overpower him. The consequence of his envy soon unfolded.

As the story progresses, Cain invites Abel into a field and tragically kills him out of envy and anger. The blood of Abel cries out to God, revealing the devastating consequence of Cain’s envy-driven actions. God confronts Cain about the murder:

“What have you done? Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.” (Genesis 4:10)

The story of Cain and Abel serves as a cautionary tale, illustrating the destructive power of envy and the irreversible consequences it can bring. It highlights the importance of recognizing and curbing envy before it leads to tragic outcomes.

Next, we will explore another poignant example of envy in the Bible: Joseph’s brothers and the profound impact their envy had on their relationship and family dynamics.

Joseph’s Brothers (Genesis 37)

In the book of Genesis, the story of Joseph and his brothers presents a vivid illustration of the destructive power of envy. Joseph, the favored son of their father Jacob, receives a special coat that further intensifies his brothers’ envy and resentment.

Driven by their jealousy and bitterness, Joseph’s brothers hatch a treacherous plan. Instead of confronting and resolving their feelings of envy, they decide to sell Joseph into slavery, hoping to rid themselves of his presence and eliminate the reminder of their own inadequacy.

This act of selling their own flesh and blood into slavery demonstrates the drastic lengths to which envy can lead individuals. It reveals the profound impact envy can have on relationships and how it can tear apart families, leaving behind lasting scars.

Envy, when left unchecked, can transform into a destructive force that blinds individuals to reason and empathy. It drives them to commit unthinkable acts, unaware of the far-reaching consequences.

“And they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it.” (Genesis 37:24)

This event marks a pivotal turning point in Joseph’s life, as he is sold into slavery in Egypt and faces numerous challenges and trials.

Despite the darkness brought about by envy and betrayal, Joseph’s resilience and faith ultimately lead him to a position of power and authority, allowing him to demonstrate forgiveness and reunite with his family.

The tale of Joseph’s brothers serves as a cautionary reminder of the destructive nature of envy and the importance of addressing and resolving feelings of jealousy in healthy ways.

It encourages readers to examine their own hearts and seek to cultivate contentment, gratitude, and genuine happiness for the blessings and successes of others.

Lessons from Joseph’s Brothers:

  • Envy can lead to destructive actions and irreparable damage in relationships.
  • Unresolved envy can fester and intensify, blinding individuals to reason and empathy.
  • Addressing and resolving feelings of envy is crucial for personal growth and healthy relationships.
  • Forgiveness and reconciliation have the power to overcome the destructive consequences of envy.
See also  10 Examples of Unforgiveness in the Bible
Envy’s Impact on Joseph’s BrothersLessons Learned
Selling Joseph into slavery, tearing apart their familyEnvy can lead to drastic and irreversible actions
Blinded by envy, unable to recognize Joseph’s worth and potentialUnresolved envy blinds individuals to reason and empathy
Joseph’s forgiveness and eventual reconciliation with his brothersForgiveness and reconciliation can overcome the destructive consequences of envy

Through the story of Joseph’s brothers, we are reminded of the importance of cultivating contentment, gratitude, and genuine happiness for others’ success. By addressing and resolving feelings of envy, we can create healthier relationships and foster personal growth.

Joseph sold into slavery

Saul’s Envy of David (1 Samuel 18-20)

King Saul’s envy of David’s military victories and popularity drives him to seek David’s death. This account demonstrates the destructive power of envy within leadership and the detrimental effects it can have on relationships.

In 1 Samuel 18-20, we witness Saul, the first king of Israel, growing increasingly envious of David, a young shepherd who has gained favor with both the people and God. Saul’s envy is fueled by David’s successful military campaigns, as well as his widespread popularity among the Israelites.

This envy leads Saul down a treacherous path, as he becomes consumed with thoughts of eliminating David. He makes several attempts to kill David, including hurling a spear at him during a would-be celebration and orchestrating dangerous military missions in hopes that David will meet his demise on the battlefield.

“So Saul eyed David from that day forward” (1 Samuel 18:9)

Despite Saul’s relentless pursuit, David manages to escape and elude him time and again. The contrasting actions and character of Saul and David reveal the devastating consequences of envy and the importance of humility and integrity.

This biblical account serves as a cautionary tale, highlighting the destructive nature of envy within leadership. Saul’s envy not only drives him to seek the death of an innocent man but also tarnishes his own reign and legacy. It showcases how envy can cloud judgment, breed hostility, and ultimately lead to downfall.

Saul’s envy of David serves as a striking reminder of the destructive power of jealousy and the importance of cultivating a heart that rejoices in the success and blessings of others.

Key Takeaways

  • Saul’s envy of David’s military victories and popularity drives him to seek David’s death.
  • Saul’s envy leads to multiple attempts on David’s life.
  • The story underscores the destructive nature of envy within leadership.
  • Envy can cloud judgment, breed hostility, and lead to downfall.

Rachel and Leah (Genesis 29-30)

The story of Rachel and Leah in the book of Genesis showcases the destructive consequences of envy and marital competition. These two sisters find themselves locked in a toxic dynamic driven by jealousy and a desire for Jacob’s affection and children.

Rachel, the younger sister, is initially favored by Jacob and desired by him. However, she faces the challenge of infertility. Meanwhile, Leah, the older sister, is able to conceive children, but she lacks the love and attention of Jacob.

The envy between Rachel and Leah intensifies as they each strive to have children with Jacob. Rachel, desperate for a child, grows increasingly envious of Leah’s fruitful womb. In her envy, Rachel turns to desperate measures, even offering her handmaid, Bilhah, to Jacob as a surrogate mother.

Leah, on the other hand, finds herself caught in a cycle of seeking Jacob’s affection through bearing him children. Each time she conceives, she sees it as an opportunity to win Jacob’s love. This creates a constant atmosphere of competition between the sisters, fueled by envy and the desire for validation from Jacob.

“And when the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren” – Genesis 29:31

This quote emphasizes the contrasting experiences of Rachel and Leah and highlights the destructive power of envy in their relationship. Rachel’s barrenness intensifies her envy, while Leah’s fertility fuels her desire for love and attention.

The story of Rachel and Leah serves as a cautionary tale about the damaging effects of envy and the length people may go to fulfill their desires. The consequences of their envy and marital competition extend beyond their own happiness, impacting their relationship with Jacob and the overall harmony of their extended family.

Rachel and Leah

Through the story of Rachel and Leah, we learn valuable lessons about the destructive nature of envy and the importance of embracing contentment and gratitude within our own relationships.

Miriam and Aaron’s Envy of Moses (Numbers 12:1-15)

Miriam and Aaron, siblings of Moses, had a unique relationship with God, yet envy crept into their hearts. In the book of Numbers, Miriam and Aaron expressed resentment towards Moses for his special connection with God, leading them to speak against him.

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Envy can poison relationships and hinder spiritual growth. Miriam and Aaron’s jealousy blinded them to the significance of Moses’ role as a leader chosen by God. Their envy led to conflict within the community and resulted in Miriam being struck with leprosy.

It serves as a powerful reminder of the destructive nature of envy and the need for gratitude and contentment in our own lives. Rather than harboring envy, we should celebrate the unique strengths and blessings of others, recognizing that each of us has a special relationship with God.

“Do you think the LORD speaks only through Moses?” they asked. “Doesn’t He also speak through us?” And the LORD heard this.

Envy can blind us to the value and importance of others, distorting our perspective and damaging relationships. Let us guard against the poison of envy, embracing gratitude and celebrating the unique relationships each individual has with God.

Lessons from Miriam and Aaron’s Envy:

  • Recognize the destructive power of envy in relationships
  • Cultivate gratitude and contentment in our own lives
  • Celebrate the unique strengths and blessings of others
  • Guard against envy and its poisonous effects

By learning from Miriam and Aaron’s experience, we can strive to cultivate healthier relationships, foster spiritual growth, and embrace the unique gifts and callings of each individual.

Miriam and Aaron's Envy of Moses
Envy of MosesLessons Learned
Envy blinded Miriam and Aaron to Moses’ significance as a chosen leader.We should value and respect the roles and callings of others.
Envy led to conflict and division within the community.Envy can damage relationships and hinder unity.
Miriam was struck with leprosy as a consequence of her envy.Envy can have severe consequences for individuals.

The Elders and Teachers of the Law Envy Jesus (Mark 15:10; Matthew 27:18)

In the Gospels of Mark and Matthew, we encounter the troubling account of the religious leaders’ envy of Jesus. As Elders and Teachers of the Law, their position and authority were threatened by Jesus’ teachings and growing popularity among the people. This envy ultimately leads them to conspire against Jesus and hand him over to be crucified, resulting in his ultimate sacrifice for humanity.


This example highlights the destructive consequences of envy, even within esteemed religious and societal structures. The religious leaders, driven by their envy towards Jesus, were willing to betray a man known for his compassion, wisdom, and miraculous works.

Envy blinds us to the truth and distorts our judgment. It can cause us to act out of malice and seek harm towards those who possess qualities or achievements we desire. The envy displayed by the Elders and Teachers of the Law in this story serves as a cautionary tale for us all.

“For he knew it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up.” (Mark 15:10)

Let us reflect on the destructive nature of envy and strive to cultivate a mindset of gratitude and contentment. Instead of being consumed by envy, may we celebrate the accomplishments and blessings of others, recognizing that their success does not diminish our own.

In Summary:

  • The religious leaders’ envy of Jesus’ teachings and popularity motivates them to hand him over to be crucified.
  • This example highlights the destructive consequences of envy within religious and societal structures.
  • Envy blinds us to the truth and distorts our judgment, leading to harmful actions.
  • We should strive to cultivate a mindset of gratitude and contentment, celebrating the success of others.
Envy ConsequencesLessons Learned
Envy led to betrayal and the crucifixion of JesusEnvy can blind us to the truth and drive us to harm others
Envy within esteemed religious and societal structuresWe must guard against envy, even in positions of authority
Cultivating gratitude and contentmentCelebrating the success of others and avoiding destructive envy

King Ahab’s Envy of Naboth’s Vineyard (1 Kings 21)

In the biblical account of King Ahab’s envy of Naboth’s vineyard, we witness the destructive power of jealousy and the lengths to which it can drive someone. King Ahab, ruling over Israel, became obsessed with the vineyard owned by Naboth, as it was located conveniently near the royal palace.

Ahab coveted the lush vineyard, desiring it for himself, but Naboth remained steadfast in his refusal to sell or exchange his inheritance. This refusal to meet Ahab’s desires intensified the king’s envy, plunging him into a state of sullenness and self-pity.

“Why are you so sad?”, Ahab’s wife Jezebel asked him.

“Because I asked Naboth to sell me his vineyard, but he refused. I cannot have what I desire”, Ahab lamented.

Jezebel, known for her cunning and manipulation, devised a plot to satisfy Ahab’s envy. She orchestrated a false accusation against Naboth and plotted his death, ensuring the vineyard would be seized by the king.

“Is this how you reign over Israel? Arise, eat food, and let your heart be cheerful; I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite”, Jezebel proclaimed to Ahab.

Ahab eagerly agreed to Jezebel’s plot, leading to Naboth’s unjust execution and the tragic acquisition of the coveted vineyard. However, the consequences of Ahab’s envy did not stop there.

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After Ahab claimed Naboth’s vineyard as his own, the prophet Elijah confronted him, delivering a divine message of judgment:

“Thus says the Lord: ‘In the place where dogs licked up the blood of Naboth, dogs shall lick your blood, even yours'”, Elijah declared to Ahab.

True to the prophecy, Ahab’s reign came to an end, and his blood was indeed licked by the dogs, marking the culmination of his envy-driven pursuit.

This tale serves as a cautionary reminder of the destructive nature and far-reaching consequences of envy. It reveals that envy can blind us to ethical boundaries and lead to acts of cruelty and manipulation. King Ahab’s envy of Naboth’s vineyard, coupled with Jezebel’s plot, showcases the lengths to which envy drove them and the catastrophic outcomes it brought upon them.

Key Takeaways
Envy can lead to self-destructive behavior and unethical actions.
Jealousy can blind individuals to the consequences of their actions and drive them to manipulate others.
The desire to possess what others have can cloud one’s judgment and lead to tragic outcomes.
The story of King Ahab and Naboth’s vineyard serves as a cautionary tale about the destructive power of envy.
King Ahab's Envy of Naboth's Vineyard

Haman’s Envy of Mordecai (Esther 3-7)

In the book of Esther, the intriguing story unfolds of Haman’s envy towards Mordecai, a Jewish man who refuses to bow down to him. Consumed by his jealousy, Haman develops a sinister plot to annihilate all Jews in the Persian Empire. This narrative vividly illustrates the devastating power of envy and the dire consequences it can have.

“When Haman saw that Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor, he was enraged. Yet having learned who Mordecai’s people were, he scorned the idea of killing only Mordecai. Instead, Haman looked for a way to destroy all Mordecai’s people, the Jews, throughout the whole kingdom of Xerxes.”

Haman’s envy blinds him to reason, leading him to devise a devious plan to exterminate an entire group of people. In the face of Haman’s wickedness, Esther, a Jewish queen, risks her own life to expose Haman’s plot and save her people.

Haman's envy of Mordecai

This gripping tale serves as a cautionary reminder of the destructive nature of envy and the importance of embracing tolerance, understanding, and acceptance. It highlights the bravery and resilience of individuals who, even in the face of great danger, stand up against injustice and fight for what is right.

Key Lessons from Haman’s Envy of Mordecai:

  • Envy can lead to irrational and harmful actions.
  • Jealousy blinds individuals to reason and empathy.
  • Standing against injustice requires courage and sacrifice.
  • Tolerance and acceptance are essential in fostering harmonious relationships.

The Prodigal Son’s Older Brother (Luke 15:25-32)

In the parable of the prodigal son, the older brother’s envy of the celebration and attention given to his wayward sibling upon his return demonstrates the destructive nature of envy within family dynamics.

The Prodigal Son’s Return

After squandering his inheritance, the prodigal son realizes the error of his ways and returns home, hoping for forgiveness and a place among his father’s servants. The father, filled with compassion, not only welcomes him back but also throws a grand celebration to rejoice in his return.

“But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!”

The Older Brother’s Envy

The prodigal son’s older brother, who had faithfully served his father all along, becomes envious of the attention and celebration bestowed upon his younger sibling. He confronts his father, expressing his frustration and questioning the fairness of the situation.

“Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends.”

The older brother’s envy blinds him to the significance of his brother’s redemption and the father’s boundless love. His focus on his own sacrifices and perceived lack of recognition causes bitterness and discord within the family.

A Lesson on Love and Forgiveness

This parable serves as a powerful reminder of the destructive impact of envy within family relationships. It highlights the importance of recognizing and addressing feelings of envy, and the need for love, forgiveness, and compassion in overcoming these destructive emotions.

The story challenges us to examine our own hearts and attitudes towards others’ successes and blessings. Instead of allowing envy to divide and breed resentment, it encourages us to celebrate the victories and blessings of our loved ones, fostering unity and a sense of familial support.

Lessons Learned from the Prodigal Son’s Older Brother
Envy can blind us to the value of reconciliation and redemption.
Comparing ourselves to others can lead to bitterness and resentment.
Love, forgiveness, and compassion are essential for maintaining healthy family dynamics.
Celebrating the successes and blessings of others fosters unity and support within the family.
Prodigal Son's Older Brother

In the next section, we will explore another biblical example of envy and its destructive consequences.

How Can Acts of Neighborly Love Contrast with Examples of Envy in the Bible?

In the Bible, there are powerful examples of biblical acts of neighborly love, such as the story of the Good Samaritan. This contrasts sharply with examples of envy, like Cain’s jealousy of his brother Abel. These contrasting examples serve as timeless lessons on the importance of compassion and the destructive nature of envy.

The Workers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16)

In this parable, Jesus tells the story of the workers in the vineyard to illustrate an important lesson about envy and equal pay. The parable begins with a landowner who hires laborers early in the morning and agrees to pay them a denarius for their work.

Throughout the day, the landowner hires more workers at different hours, and when the time comes to pay them, he gives everyone the same denarius, regardless of how many hours they worked.

This act of equal pay sparks envy among the workers who were hired early in the day. They become resentful, thinking that they should receive more than those who worked fewer hours. However, the landowner speaks to them, reminding them that they received exactly what they agreed upon.

He questions their envy, asking if they are not satisfied with what they received. In this way, the parable challenges the notion of entitlement and highlights the destructive nature of envy.

The story concludes with the landowner’s declaration that he has the right to be generous with his own money. By granting the same wage to all workers, he demonstrates his sense of fairness and magnanimity.

This parable teaches us that envy can poison relationships and lead to feelings of injustice. It urges us to cultivate gratitude and contentment, recognizing that equality and fairness require a shift in perspective.