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“The Bosom Serpent!” Genesis 26: 12-16 Key verse(s): 16: “Then Abimelech said to Isaac, ‘Move away from us; you have become too powerful for us.’”

There is but one force on earth that has the power to swell the small into the great; which has the peculiar nature to make something out of nothing and replace wisdom with foolishness. It is known by many names. Some call it envy and others have named it want. But it is know to most of us as jealousy, that “green-eyed monster” that lurks within the recesses of every heart waiting for just the right opportunity to spring from hibernation into an eating frenzy right before our very eyes.

That’s the peculiar thing about jealousy. It comes on so innocently even when its intent is always nefarious. Some have described it as a possession. They simply don’t know where it came from or where it went but it was there for an instant and then gone again. In Nathanael Hawthorne’s story, “The Bosom Serpent”, he describes jealousy in like manner. The story is about a man, once happy in marriage, who had been separated from his wife because of jealous suspicions. He would sometimes hold his had to his bosom and lowly chant, “It gnaws! It gnaws!” Over time the people in the town where he lived came to know him as the “man with a snake in his breast.” To make things worse, he had the habit of stopping other men in the street as he was out walking and ask them “how their serpent was.” This caused no end of alarm and concern among the town folk. Finally, one day, his wife confronted him with this challenge. “Forget his jealousy and demonstrate his love for her.” With those words he fell to the ground and it is said that a hissing noise was heard “like the passing of a serpent.” Finally, a gentle “tinkling” sound was heard in a nearby fountain. The main arose, freed from the serpent in his breast. (from The Bosom Serpent, Nathanael Hawthorne)

Such is the danger and cunning of jealousy. Like a spider it lurks within the darkest recesses of our hearts. As a snake it coils to strike, hissing its venomous charges and striking without warning. Isaac experienced it when, blessed by the Lord, his neighbor Abimelech decided that he could not live with his own feelings of envy. Where he had once blessed Isaac and counted him as a friend, he now regarded him as a danger and someone to be outcast. He watched everything go right for Isaac while he was not blessed as such. So, he plugged up Isaac’s wells and forced a good friend to move on. Like the serpent that it is, jealousy has the power to inject the poison of hate into even the best of friendships. Perhaps if Abimelech had thanked God for blessing his good friend, his serpent would have been removed as well.

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