“Now Israel (Jacob) loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colours.”
Genesis 37: 3
King James Version
“Favoritism in Overdrive”
The Price of a Brother
“No family can hang out the sign, ‘Nothing the matter here.’”
Is there an issue in my family life that is fracturing relationships?
“The greatest thing in family life is to take a hint when a hint is intended – and not take a hint when a hint isn’t intended.”
“Comparison is a death knell to sibling harmony.”
Not long ago, a friend was telling me about her family. Her parents had divorced when she was young, then years later, her dad remarried and had another child with a much younger wife. My friend described the situation like this:
“When my brother and I were young, dad was always working. We rarely saw him because his focus was on his career. Now that he is financially secure, you should see all the time he has for his new baby boy. He’s always doing something with his child and frankly, I resent it.”
Don’t get me wrong. This girl loved her father, but somewhere along the line, she felt she missed out on the affection he now showered on a younger sibling.
In Genesis, we find that what my friend was feeling certainly wasn’t anything new. Thousands of years ago, Jacob’s family was going through the same situation. First, there were two wives, Rachel the favorite and Leah, the wife who was given to Jacob by trickery. Rachel had two sons, Joseph and Benjamin. Leah had six sons and a daughter, Dinah, that we know about. But Jacob had also fathered children by Rachel and Leah’s handmaidens. As we have seen, when Esau came charging after his brother, Jacob placed his handmaidens, along with their children, at the forefront, then came Leah and her children, and finally Rachel and Joseph, who were in the most protected spot. If I had been any child but Joseph, I would not have been happy with my father and his obvious preferential treatment.
As time passed, and Rachel died, Jacob’s protectiveness of Joseph and Benjamin only increased. But it was Joseph who was on the top of the heap in the sibling stack.
The all time, over-the-top, special treatment came when Jacob made his little darling, Joseph a coat of many colors.
Genesis 37: 4 (K.J.V.) gives us a very clear vision of how Joseph’s brothers felt about this act: “And when his brethren saw that their father loved him (Joseph) more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him.”
At this point in time, if I had been Joseph, I believe I would have kept my head down and my mouth shut. Instead, after dreaming about ruling over his family, Joseph unwisely began to tell his brothers about his “rulership” dreams. His brothers basically said, “Who does this little punk think he is?” They pointedly asked Joseph… “Shalt thou indeed reign over us?” (Genesis 37: 8, K.J.V.).
Even Joseph’s father “rebuked” him, but the Bible says it was his brothers who “envied” Joseph. And envy is a powerful force that has led to deceit, thievery and murder.
One day Jacob, called Joseph into his tent and asked him if he would go see how his brothers were doing out with the flocks. Joseph took off on one of the most ill-fated journeys recorded in the Bible. After finally getting local assistance, Joseph found his brothers in Dothan and this is what we are told about his encounter with his siblings:
“And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay him.” (Genesis 37: 18, K.J.V.).
Remember the word “slay” from the story of Dinah? In this context it is again used to mean, “a lamb to the slaughter.” It is an innocent person walking into a trap. The Hebrew says the brothers “wrestled” with the idea of murder.
Reuben, the oldest, heard what was going on and immediately vetoed the murder plot. Instead, he suggested they toss Joseph into a pit, with the idea that later he (Reuben) would come and be the big hero and rescue Joseph.
But guess who came up with a substitute plan? Mr. Morality himself-- Judah. The same Judah who lied to Tamar. The same Judah who “used” a prostitute. His dastardly plan now was to sell Joseph to a band of Midianite merchantmen. And the other brothers, who were present, agreed. For 20 pieces of silver, these brothers got rid of the thorn in their side – or so they thought!
When Reuben returned, to his horror, Joseph was long gone and so another deceitful act was concocted and Joseph’s beautiful coat was smeared with goat’s blood and presented to their father, Jacob, as evidence that a wild beast had ripped their brother to shreds.
What the children of Jacob didn’t seem to realize, was that this evil act would put a knife through the heart of Jacob, who would not be comforted, no matter how hard everyone tried.
Every day the ruthless sons of Jacob had to see the sorrow that enveloped their father. Every day they were reminded of their act of treachery. Every day the guilt of ruining an innocent life rained down upon them like a flood.
What a way to have to live. And all because the seeds of favoritism took root in this family and when fully-developed, filled this family garden with the weeds of envy, jealousy, and murder.
In describing her family relationship with siblings, author Jessica Mitford paints this vivid word picture, “We were like ill-assorted animals tied to a common tethering post.” I can certainly see how siblings with one father and 4 different mothers could easily feel this way.
Author Kathleen Norris wrote: “Unkindness is death to the home. One unkind, unsocial, critical, eternally dissatisfied member can destroy any family.”
While the deceit and lies and favoritism in Jacob’s home nearly tore it apart, we will find out that the golden thread winding through Joseph’s path of pain, was the ability of God to work out “all things” for not only Joseph’s good, but for his family, as well.
Many years ago, my father wrote a letter to my sister and me. It was one of those “life instruction” letters. Godly advice from a great dad. One line in that letter has held my sister and me together like super-glue even during some very difficult times. Here’s what Daddy wrote: “You have only one sister, never let anything divide you. Not people or possessions. Nothing is worth it.”
Great advice for any brothers and sisters. I believe my dad’s words are an antidote for favoritism and division.
“We know one another’s faults, virtues, catastrophes, mortifications, triumphs, rivalries, desires, and how long we can each hang by our hands to a bar. We have been banded together under pack codes and tribal laws.”
“Father of all mankind, make the roof of my house wide enough for all opinions, oil the door of my house so it opens easily to friend and stranger and set such a table in my house that my whole family may speak kindly and freely around it.
Source Unknown (Hawaii)
Dorothy Valcarcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus