Summary: The roots, shoots and fruits of Joseph’s brothers’ biterness

Genesis 37c Joseph and his bitter brothers

There are many cases of bitterness and hatred that we can point to but the one that I came across is pretty depressing. It is about a man who died and here is what they read in his will when he died.

It says, "Unto my two daughters, Marie and Victoria, by reason of their bad attitude toward a doting father, . . . I leave the sum of $1.00 to each and a father’s curse. May their lives be fraught with misery, unhappiness, and poignant sorrow. May their deaths be soon and of a lingering malignant and torturous nature.

How sad, when bitterness and hatred become the driving forces in people’s lives! How sad when serenity, reason, love and compassion are replaced by bitterness and hatred.

It is no wonder that God instructed Paul to write in Ephesians 4:31 “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice”.

The reason for which I am talking about hatred, bitterness, jealousy, and envy is because these were the feelings that the brothers had towards Joseph.

I wonder how Joseph felt when the brothers repeatedly made known their feelings for him. If Joseph was a human, as we believe he was, he must have been very hurt.

It’s bad enough to be hated by strangers but to be hated by the ones you love, for whom you mean good and who are family, that must have been difficult for Joseph to cope with.

But how did all of these terrible feelings start in Jacob’s family and what can we learn from their mistakes.

Let’s look at:

1) The root of bitterness in their family.

The story of Joseph being hated and sold into slavery by his brothers begins with the story of his dreams in Genesis 37:5. But even before that there were problems.

Do you remember the rivalry that existed between Rachel and Leah? Both of them tried to outdo each other in producing babies. Not only that but they involved their maids as well: Zilpah and Bilhah.

It was obvious that that rivalry which was prevalent among the mothers would be passed on to the children. Because as they grew up there was probably, very much a sense of “your children and my children”. It was very much a situation of them and us.

The rivalry and the bitterness which came to fruition among Joseph’s brothers had the seeds sown by their mothers.

Like I said the last time, many times kids do and say that which the parents say and do. By this I don’t refer to the children’s obedience to what parents say, because kids are many times disobedient. I know this because I was a kid myself.

I am talking about the character traits, which, unknown to people, are passed on to kids. Sometimes we as adults are more concerned about telling kids what not to do rather than making sure of us not doing what we tell kids not to do.

You tell kids, don’t drink out of bottles! What happens? The pastor drinks right out of the bottle in the front of kids, right Marissa?

Very subtly that which we do or don’t do influences kids.

When I do any physical work I find myself whistling occasionally. When I realize what I am doing I smile. Do you know why? Each time when I was helping dad do any physical work dad would whistle. I am not doing it because I want to do it, but because unknown to both dad and myself, that was passed on to me.

This morning in SS we were talking about the examples that the early church left for us and Rich pointed out a very good issue concerning the parents and children attending church.

Here is what a statistic that I got says: If both Mom and Dad attend church regularly, 72% of their children remain faithful. If only Dad, 55% remain faithful.

If only Mom, 15%. If neither attended regularly, only 6% remain faithful. The statistics speak for themselves--the example of parents and adults is more important than all the efforts of the church and Sunday school.

So the bitterness and the rivalry of the mothers was part of that root which grew in the lives of the boys.

But it’s not only that. Favoritism was another cause that led to bitterness among the brothers. The fact that Joseph was favored by Jacob, above the rest of the brothers, was like a dagger in the heart for the rest of the boys.

Now let me give you a little bit of background detail to try and understand the family situation. Because favoritism was and wasn’t a cause of bitterness.

In Genesis 35:22 we are told that Ruben, Jacob’s first-born “slept with his father’s concubine Bilhah” and that Jacob heard about it. This was an offence for which Ruben lost not only his father’s favor but also his birthright as the firstborn.

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