Genesis 37:4 – But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peacefully to him.
The incredible book of Genesis takes its name from its opening words, “In the beginning…” What we learn from the first pages of Genesis, before sin enters the world, are the two most important things we must learn before we can make sense of anyone or anything else:
- Who is God?
- Who am I?
In Genesis 3, sin enters the world, which infects and affects everyone as creation is cursed. The pain of sin is quickly felt in families as the first married couple turns on one another, and the first two brothers soon usher in the first human death as Cain kills Abel.
Throughout Genesis, the pain of sin is felt in every marriage and family from generation to generation. Sin includes the recurring favoritism parents play towards children, followed by sibling rivalry and conflict.
For example, Abraham loved his son Ishmael, born of his second wife Hagar, but Sarah despised that son and preferred their son Isaac. This has led to a breach between the Arabs and the Jews, who descend from these sons to this very day.
The problematic pattern then appears again in the next generation. Isaac refers to Esau whom he favors as “my son” (Genesis 27:1). His wife Rebekah refers to her favored son Jacob as “my son” (Genesis 27:8). The twin brothers started fighting in the womb, and that battle ensued for decades with Isaac and Rebekah successfully plotting to have the birthright and blessing stolen from Esau and given to Jacob. Esau was so angry he plotted to murder his brother as Cain did Abel, so Jacob ran for his life to live far away with Rebekah’s extended family.
The theme of parents playing favorites, and sibling rivalry ensuing, culminates in the story of Joseph and his brothers. Their story is the longest study in all of Genesis on how sin damages and destroys a family. In some ways, Genesis is a multi-generational case study on positive and negative life lessons regarding marriage, parenting, sibling relationships, and family. The story of Joseph is the story of hope, help, and healing for broken and beleaguered families if life in the Spirit and choosing to get better instead of bitter is the chosen path.
Have you seen favoritism in your own family? How can you change it or learn from it and not repeat it?