;Sunday School Lesson: September 6, 2020
Unit I: Struggles with Love
Lesson Topic: ‘When Love Is Lost’
Printed Passage: Genesis 37: 2-11, 23-24a; 28
Key Verse: His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind. (Genesis 37:11, NIV)
- Examine the circumstances of familial love and hatred between Jacob/Israel’s sons.
- Repent of times when they allowed jealousy and hatred to override a commitment to love.
- Develop strategies to allow a commitment to love to override feelings of jealously and hatred.
Material is taken from:
Faith Pathway Adult Studies and Teacher’s Guide, Townsend Press Sunday School Commentary, The KJV Bible, NIV Bible, NLT Bible, and Nelson’s Illustrated Dictionary of the Bible.
Our lesson today lends insight into the familial relationship between Joseph and his family. And, although circumstances differ, unfortunately, these same types of relationships are prevalent in families today. Many families struggle with the consequences of losing family love, particularly among siblings. This leads to resentment or animosity resulting from favoritism or indifference shown towards a particular member of the family. One of the primary contributors to sibling rivalry is overt parental favoritism. This conflict triggers division that was resulting in the loss of love among families. The irony of it all is that whatever may have begun as a minor conflict will soon escalate into violent acts of hatred as with Joseph and his brothers. Joseph was the 11th son of Jacob and the first child of Rachel whom he loved (Genesis 30:24). He was his father’s favorite son, and this favoritism eventually brought serious trouble for the whole family. Jacob had repeated the same type of favoritism that his mother showed to him, and that had led to distention between him and his brother Esau. The pattern of sibling rivalry crossed another generational divide when Joseph’s brothers sold him to descendants of their grandfather Isaac’s sibling rival, Ishmael, the first-born son of Father Abraham.
What should be an environment of mutual love and respect can become a physical and emotional war zone because of it. If left unchecked, parental favoritism and sibling rivalry can have long-lasting effects that are repeated across generations if not recognized and stopped. Spiritually, God is the creator of the family. If we build our family relationships on God’s Word and pattern our lives after the example of His love for His children through Jesus Christ, parents who are led by the Holy Spirit will teach and train their children to love and care for each other.
Point to Remember: Love is the central concept of Christianity. It refers to both the nature of God and to the divine nature of relationships. Without love to bind us together, disaster seems inevitable.
Parental Favoritism (Genesis 37: 2-4):
- This is the account of Jacob’s family line. Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpha, his father’s wives, and he brought their father a bad report about them.
- Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made an ornate robe for him.
- When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.
Genesis 37 begins the account of Joseph, and vividly illustrates how parental favoritism can damage sibling relationships. The tensions and grievances driving this story arise from the breakup of the family caused by favoritism, foolishness, jealousy, deceit, and rivalry. The brokenness in the family eventually leads to separation. As fore-mentioned, Joseph was the firstborn of Jacob’s beloved wife, Rachel, and as a youth of seventeen, he appears to have been elevated above his brother by his father. Jacob openly favored Joseph and even made and gave Joseph a distinctive multicolored tunic or coat that had long sleeves and reached his ankles. It was reflective of a garment worn by a supervisor rather than a worker. And, in this context, it identified Jacob’s intent of granting Joseph a larger portion of the inheritance than his brothers, which led to bitterness, animosity, and intense hatred against him and a refusal to speak a kind word to him. Jacob made unwise and ungodly decisions regarding relating to child-rearing. Parents are challenged to demonstrate unconditional love for each of their children while embracing their individual uniqueness.
Point to Remember: Parents are to demonstrate equitable love and acceptance for their children without showing partiality and favoritism.
A Dreamer’s Folly (Genesis 37: 5-11):
- Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more.
- He said to them, “Listen to this dream I had:
- We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.”
- His brothers said to him, “Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said.
- Then he had another dream, and he told it to his brothers. “Listen, “He said, “I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.”
- When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, “What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?”
- His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.
The sibling rivalry between Joseph and his brothers continues to escalate in verses 5-11. Joseph, at this point in his life, is spiritually immature in his relationship with God and lacks sensitivity towards his brothers. It is conjectured that Joseph’s attitude of arrogance and boastfulness and his naivety attributed to his youthful immaturity. Experiencing the resentment, his brothers should have caused him to be cautious about doing or saying anything to cause more division between them. However, his arrogant explanation of this dream to his brothers indicated that they would someday be subservient to him. During this time in human history, dreams were thought to offer divine revelations of coming events. God was the source of his dreams, but he had not yet developed an intimate relationship with Him and was clueless as to its divine origin and spiritual meaning. Because of his immaturity, Joseph did not realize the spiritual significance of his dreams, nor did he seem to care what his arrogance was doing to the family. The response of his brothers to his first dream should have been enough to prevent him from sharing the second dream. However, unwisely, he revealed a second dream to his brother and to his father, which predicted that the entire family would serve him. Emotionally, his brother’s hatred grew even more, and Jacob openly rebuked Joseph; but he did nothing to douse the spreading flames of envy and hatred. Hatred not only has the capacity to destroy the object of the hatred, but it eventually destroys the ones doing the hating. Likewise, jealousy has the capacity to simmer and sour every relationship in which it is allowed to fester. The only antidote is LOVE- where one lifts others as opposed to fuming over their good fortune. Verse 11b suggests that Jacob may have thought that God was revealing His will for Joseph’s life as His choice of unfolding His covenant promise for Abraham’s descendants. He would have remembered how God revealed His plans and the promises for his own life (Genesis 28: 12,15). Children of God can know God’s will for their lives by studying His Word, through prayer, and through submission to the Holy Spirit.
Thought to Remember: Parents need to be aware of the gifts and talents of their children and teach them how to use them humbly and how to prevent competition and rivalry within the family.
When Love is Lost (Genesis 37: 23-24a; 28):
- So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe—the ornate robe he was wearing—
- And they took him and threw him into the cistern….
- So, when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt.
Jealousy is like a disease. It often causes feelings of insecurity, fear, and concerns over what one might lack. These feelings lead to emotions of anger, resentment, or hatred, which can, in some cases, lead to murder.
Joseph’s own father, Jacob, had to leave his home during his youth because his brother, Esau, threatened to kill him. This was because Jacob tricked his brother into giving up his birthright (Genesis (25: 29-34). Hatred has no shame and knows no bounds. Because of Jacob’s favoritism for Joseph and Joseph’s immature attitude about his favored position, feelings of envy, jealousy, and hatred escalated to the point that his brothers wanted to kill him. They had no real personal relationship with their father’s God, and their hearts were void of compassion for others. They and their father had allowed the flesh to take control of them rather than a relationship with God. It is possible to know about God and still not know Him intimately. Having decided against murdering Joseph, they chose to sell him into slavery for twenty pieces of silver. They then devised a plan to explain his absence to their soon to be grieving father. This story of Joseph and the strife he incites seems to come to a sad ending.
However, what the brothers meant for evil, God intended for good. “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Genesis 50:20. Maintaining love in the family requires acknowledging God as its foundation and teaching and living His commands as parents and children. (Proverbs 22: 15; Ephesian 6: 4; Colossians 3: 19; Ephesians 4: 31-32).
Thought to Remember: Parents must accept their responsibility to teach their children to love and respect each other and to model these virtues before them. Additionally, the community of faith must accept the responsibility and the challenge to teach biblical principles of parenting, sibling relationship, and set the example for those yet to acknowledge Christ as Lord and Savior.
What Do You Think?
- How can parents demonstrate equitable love and acceptance for their children without showing parental favoritism?
- How can attitudes of superiority and pride be controlled within the family? Within the community of faith?
- What experiences have you had with sibling rivalry caused by parental favoritism? How does this lesson relate to our relationships as children of God?
- The media is replete with instances of family conflicts motivated by parental favoritism and sibling rivalry, many ending in tragedy. Take time this week to pray for the wholeness of families locally and universally and restoration of reciprocal love among their members.
- If you are a parent of more than one child, reflect on your treatment of each of them. Are you fostering a home environment of mutual love and respect? Are you ensuring that each child knows that he or she is loved for who he or she is rather than for what you want them to be?
- Jealousy is like a disease. It often causes feelings of insecurity, fear, and concern over what one might lack. These feelings often lead to the emotions of anger, resentment, or loathing. Joseph’s brothers were definitely suffering from the disease of jealousy. But thanks to God’s grace and mercy, it did not kill them and destroy a people. Grace and mercy are important parts of God’s character. Because of His grace and mercy, He forgives and blesses us abundantly with compassion in spite of ourselves.
- Scripture tells us that peacemakers are blessed because they will be called the children of God. Sometimes, making peace in our families can be a struggle, but during these times, we must remember to trust God and hold our peacemaker’s stance! Sibling rivalry has existed in families since the beginning of time. Joseph eventually realized that it was not the hurtful situation that deserved the attention but God’s working in the situation. No situation is too hard for God to turn around for our good.
- How did Jacob’s assignment to Joseph portray favoritism?
- Why did Jacob love Joseph more than all his other children?
- Was Joseph’s revelation of his dreams to his siblings and his parents boasting or naivete’?
- What were the tragic results of parental favoritism and sibling rivalry in Jacob’s family?