Family Feuds & Favouritism

22nd February 2024

At Breakfast Church on Sunday we are continuing our series on Old Testament characters, as we engage with the first part of the story of Joseph.

Joseph was the son of Jacob, grandson of Isaac and great grandson of Abraham.

Joseph’s family situation was very complex.

His father had two wives, Leah and Rachel and he favoured Rachel. Leah longed for Jacob’s love and hoped that having children (she initially had four sons) would change his attitude towards her. Rachel was unable to conceive and so she gave her maid (concubine) to Jacob and then adopted the two resulting sons. Leah thought she would not have any more children, so she gave Jacob her maid (concubine) who also had two sons. Leah then gave birth to two more sons and a daughter before Rachel had Joseph and later, very sadly, died giving birth to Benjamin.

Two things strike me as I think about this story.

The first is that the culture of this part of the bible is so different to ours. In Genesis, we find ourselves in a world with very different attitudes, a world of arranged marriages, polygamy and concubines. And another difference is the prominence given to male characters. It feels uncomfortable to be so focussed on patriarchs, sons and brothers.

And yet, as well as these differences, it is also a world with many similarities to ours. A world in which people want to be loved and valued. A world of flawed characters where families experience joy, deep sorrow, disappointment, and tragedy.

Our challenge is to see where the bible material is tied to its cultural context and where it is teaching us universal truths. On Sunday we are going to focus on three things from the story of Joseph that are true across cultures. We find that a parent’s favouritism is disastrous, that boasting is unwise, and that jealousy is destructive. Our understanding of marriage and family would probably appear very odd to Joseph, but given all that he experienced, I think he would agree that it is best to love all equally, it is wise to choose humility, and that love celebrates other people’s successes rather than envying them.

Do have a look at the story in Genesis and see what you think.

Revd Stephen