The Down Side of being the Favorite Son

September 27, 2010 at 1:16 pm | Posted in Genesis | 5 Comments
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Joseph didn’t create problems in Jacob’s home. Joseph’s presence revealed problems that were already there. Unlike his brothers, Joseph couldn’t stomach disobedience to his father. When Joseph brought back to Jacob a bad report of his other sons’ dealings with the flocks, Joseph’s way of handling the matter did not so much reveal him to be a snitch as it did to reveal that he was naïve.

As a father, I can sympathize a little with Jacob. It is a challenge to train one child, and an even bigger challenge to train siblings. Part of the challenge is training them to be loyal to their friends and siblings, while still maintaining their integrity in exposing right and wrong.

Jacob repeated the sin of Isaac in having a favorite son. The problem with Joseph’s coat wasn’t the colors so much as that it looked like the coat of a ruler. Reuben and Levi had fallen out of favor with Jacob (Reuben because of his affair with Bilhah, and Levi because of the incident at Shechem), and Jacob may have seen Joseph as the firstborn of his favorite wife.

And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more. And he said unto them, Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed:

Genesis 37:5-6

We can probably sympathize with the brothers’ annoyance for one who shares his dreams.

And he told it to his father, and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth?

Genesis 37:10

Jacob’s reference to Joseph’s mother does not seem to make sense at this point since Rachel was dead, but Jacob is referring to Leah, even though she is not Joseph’s biological mother.

Dreams were one of the ways that God communicated with people in the Old Testament. The only recorded actual prophetic dreams in the New Testament are Joseph’s in Matthew 1 and 2, and Pilate’s wife in Matthew 27. Acts 2:17 says that in the last days “…your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:” We would do well to be cautious of dreams, but probably foolish to ignore them altogether. Jeremiah 23 is a good place to find out what God has to say about people who say, “God spoke to me in dream. I have a prophecy from the Lord for you. God told me this or that. God told me to tell you this or that.”

And Israel said unto Joseph, Do not thy brethren feed the flock in Shechem? come, and I will send thee unto them. And he said to him, Here am I.

Genesis 37:13

It did not make a lot of sense for Jacob to send Joseph, knowing how the brothers felt about him, but God’s hand was at work. Note that God calls Jacob “Israel” in this passage. Jospeh’s “here am I, send me” reminds us of Isaiah’s response to the Lord in Isaiah 6.

We are left to speculate as to what Jacob’s sons were doing near Shechem after all the trouble they had experienced there.

And they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer cometh.

Genesis 37:19

This verse in Hebrew gives the connotation that when Joseph’s brothers referred to him as “this dreamer” they were sarcastically calling him “the dream expert.” And, as it turned out, Joseph’s skill as a dream expert would serve him better than any shepherd’s skill. Warren Wiersbe likes to say that an “expert” is a regular “spurt” under pressure.

When it came time to decide what to do with Joseph, Reuben did not get his way even though he was the first born. It is probable that Simeon and Levi were feared after the Shechem incident. In any case, it is clear that this was a family that walked disorderly.

Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.

II Thessalonians 3:6

“Disorderly” means “out of rank.” It is important that we establish order in church and in our homes.

The outcome of the brothers’ discussion was Joseph being thrown into the pit, only to be raised up, sold into slavery, and ultimately to rule.

Look at how Jacob’s sons “comforted” Jacob:

And they sent the coat of many colours, and they brought it to their father; and said, This have we found: know now whether it be thy son’s coat or no. And he knew it, and said, It is my son’s coat; an evil beast hath devoured him; Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces. And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days. And all his sons and all his daughters [*] rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted; and he said, For I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning. Thus his father wept for him.

Genesis 37:32-35

Proverbs 12:10 says the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.

* The “daughters” in Genesis 37:35 are “daughters-in-law.”

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  1. […] of Joseph, we see yet another Biblical “first.” In Genesis Chapter 40, Joseph, the “dream expert” (Genesis 37:19) is in prison. The Pharaoh’s chief butler and chief baker happen to be […]

  2. […] showing favor to the younger over the elder: Abel over Cain; Isaac over Ishmael; Jacob over Esau; Joseph over Reuben; Rachel over Leah; Zarah and Pharez (Judah’s sons by Tamar). And Joseph said unto his father, Not […]

  3. […] The Dangers of Fatherhood The Son of Suffering and Glory The Best Representative of a Generation The Down Side of being the Favorite Son Beware of Fabrics, Frolicking, and Friends Don’t Get Too Attached To Your Coat The First […]

  4. […] in general. Think of some instances in the Bible where envy caused problems: Joseph’s brothers in Genesis 37; Haman against Mordecai in Esther 5; Jonah at Nineveh after the Ninevites repented; Lucifer, […]

  5. […] Managers must please the owner – even when it makes them unpopular. […]


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