Joseph knew about dysfunctional families. It had already started with his great-grandparents, Abraham and Sarah. When Sarah realized that she was barren, she had convinced Abraham to go to her servant Hagar. As soon as Hagar was pregnant, the rivalry began. Growing up in this atmosphere, Ishmael and Isaac took the tension into their own families. Isaac made a point of favoring Esau, and Jacob spent his life trying to earn his father’s love and respect. Later on, Jacob was tricked into marrying two sisters who did not get along and competed with each other through a childbearing race, even enlisting their maids to bear Jacob’s children.
Review the incident detailed in Genesis 34:1-31. What kind of emotional and relational impact would all this incident have had on the family as a whole and on young Joseph, as well?
The rivalry between the mothers obviously spilled over to the children, who grew up ready to pick a fight. As young adults, Joseph’s older brothers already had massacred all the males in the town of Shechem. The oldest brother Reuben displayed dominance and defiance to his aging father by sleeping with Bilhah, Rachel’s maid and the mother of several of Jacob’s children (Genesis 35:22). Meanwhile, Joseph’s brother Judah mistook his widowed daughter-in-law for a prostitute and ended up having twins with her (Genesis 38).
Jacob added fuel to the fire of all this family tension by his obvious favoritism toward Joseph in giving him an expensive colorful coat (Genesis 37:3). If ever there was a dysfunctional family, the patriarch’s family could have competed with it.
Why do you think that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are all listed as faith heroes in Hebrews 11:17-22 when you consider their messy family relationships?
God’s faith champions often fall short of their own and God’s expectations. These men are listed in Hebrews 11 not because of their messy family relationships but in spite of them. They learned — often the hard way — about faith, love, and trust in God as they wrestled with these family issues.
|What family dysfunction have you inherited? How can surrendering yourself to the Lord and His ways help break that pattern, at least for the future?|