Entrepreneurship is only made possible by the creative impulse that God gave us. I asked myself if scripture had any examples of successful business owners or entrepreneurs and in fact, it provides several examples. We’ll start with Abraham. An amazing leader, trainer and a person who knew how to make the best of his situation. ⠀
We know from Genesis 13 that Abram was very wealthy in livestock, gold, and silver. By the time he had to rescue Lot in Genesis 14, he had over 300 trained men, presumably trained in the use of arms. A team of 300 is no joke. ⠀
Regarding Abraham, there are two scriptures that speak specifically about his wealth. The first one is in Genesis 12:5 which says, “Then Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his brother’s son and all their possessions that they had gathered…and they came to the land of Canaan” (NKJV). We aren’t told exactly what these “possessions” were, but they possibly included cattle and many servants. The second reference is in Genesis 13:1–2, “Then Abram went up from Egypt, he and his wife and all that he had, and Lot with him, to the South. Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold.” Here we are told that Abram was “very rich,” not only in livestock but silver and gold. Verses 5–6 also tell us that Abram and Lot were so rich, that the land couldn’t support them both: “Lot also, who went with Abram, had flocks and herds and tents. Now the land was not able to support them, that they might dwell together, for their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together.”
We learn in these two passages that God blessed Abram in Haran and in Egypt. The possessions he had when he journeyed to Canaan were a blessing from God as were the livestock, silver, and gold obtained in Egypt, for as we shall see when we consider Job, it is the Lord who causes one to prosper. It is obvious that in Egypt, there must have been suitable land for raising livestock (centuries later Jacob and his family settled in Goshen because of they too raised cattle and sheep (see Genesis 46:28–34). But the fact is an entrepreneur is traditionally someone who has built something from nothing. Abraham was likely born into wealth. But I have considered him so not because he was born wealthy and managed to keep it but because he managed to grow it substantially.
Apparently Abram’s wealth came from a combination of various factors — a good financial start, hard work, good connections, and God’s blessing.
When we first meet Abram, we are told that he set off from his homeland as God had told him and that he took his wife and his nephew, “and all of the property that they had acquired, and the people (servants, hired workers, admirers) they had made in Haran” (Genesis 12:5). Thus he was already a wealthy livestock owner, who had many shepherds and household staff working for him (these were major measures of wealth in those days — assets that increase in number and value over the years, and for which there is steady demand — wool, milk products, animal skins, meat). We are not told how he got this wealth.
It makes sense that some of it may have been from his parents (the legends of his father’s having been a dealer in idols may indicate that his family was well-to-do). In any event, it was not an inheritance from his father, because he was still alive when Abram left Haran. The expressions “that they had acquired” and “that they had made” imply that he had worked for his wealth. Sarai, according to tradition, was Abram’s half-sister (same father, different mothers), and she had an unusual combination of good traits — including an independent spirit, insightful, knowing her own mind, a keen sense of justice and fair play, hard-working, generous, and sharing Abram’s high ideals. Abram was ten when Sarai was born, so he knew her from childhood, and apparently the match was a natural one for the two of them.
Later, when drought forced Abram and Sarai to relocate temporarily to Egypt, Abram presented Sarai as his sister. He knew that in some places people — particularly powerful people like Pharaoh — respected a brother’s right to protect his sister who was under his patronage more than they respected a marital relationship. Abram feared that as Sara’s husband he might face being killed by someone powerful (Pharaoh) who would want her — and would take her against her will after killing him — a combined tragedy for both of them, and the end of their shared idealistic missions in life. As Sarai’s brother, both would be allowed to live, and Sarai would be protected — whoever might want her would have to speak to Abram and to give generous gifts in order to persuade him to agree to give her as a wife to the right person (including, everyone would understand, depending on her agreement). Indeed, as Elke Weiss pointed out, later in Genesis chapter 12 we read that Abram’s wealth was augmented further in Egypt.
Presumably, not only Pharaoh gave him generous gifts, but Abram also established good connections with other wealthy livestock owners, which helped him increase his own holdings.
Abram was apparently also a good manager of all his property, bringing blessing to others wherever he went. Some of the story is mentioned only matter-of-factly: When we read in the story of Isaac’s life (Abraham and Sarah’s son) that the Philistines had blocked (filled in) the wells that Abraham had dug, we are exposed to the fact that Abraham had dug wells in the land of the Philistines (There’s a parallel to this in our times: we struggle to bring blessing to our surroundings in Israel, but some people are so antagonistic that they prefer to block the blessing; for example, the Arabs of Gaza destroyed the huge area of immensely productive greenhouses we left behind after Israel destroyed the Jewish communities of the Katif Block). We also read of Abraham’s covenants with local leaders, and, when Sarah died, of the high respect the locals showed him, which must also have been helpful in the management of his property.
Finally, at the beginning of Genesis chapter 24, we read: “And Abraham was old, well stricken in age; and the LORD had blessed Abraham in all things.” This was God’s fulfillment of His promise to bless Abraham (the plain meaning of “to bless” in Biblical Hebrew is to give plenty of possessions) when he left his father’s land to go to the Land of Canaan.
Beyond his wealth, Abram was an entrepreneur. The evidence for this is in Genesis 13 when Abram and Lot separate and Lot chooses to go to the fertile plain. This was an area favorably compared to the Garden of Eden. Presumably, Abram got a less attractive, less fertile area, yet he continued to prosper. Lot’s material and spiritual condition both deteriorated due to his choice. He started out as wealthy as his uncle Abram but ended up living in a cave (Genesis 19).⠀
After getting the lesser land, Abram’s wealth grew, as did his faith and walk with the Lord. He accepted challenges and worked diligently to conquer them. By Genesis 21 Abraham (as God had renamed him by this time) was making treaties with kings and generals. Abraham had faith, a God-given vision of the future, and the perseverance to leave his home, obey, and see tasks through.⠀
Abraham is not only an amazing example of faith but of entrepreneurship. ⠀
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