Summary: Favouritism bred jealousy and hatred in a family
Limavady Reformed Presbyterian Church
Studies in The Life of Joseph
We began a series of studies last week on the life of Joseph by looking together at his family background. And what a family background it proved to be. We hear a lot today about dysfunctional families. People who have had several partners in life living together with each other; a house full of kids some of them belonging to one of the partners, others of them to the other and some of them the product of the present relationship. Families with major problems when it comes to the area of interpersonal relationships and behavioural patterns with many of the parents vices being reproduced in their children. Well Joseph’s family as we saw last week would not have been in the least bit out of place among the dysfunctional familes of modern day society. His dad had four women living in the house all of whom he had sexual relationships with and who between them had produced 13 children. It was a family that had a long history of deceit, favoritism, rivalry and ill-feeling between and among its members and growing up in such an atmosphere modern day Psycologists would no doubt have expected and predicted that Jospeh’s character and conduct would very much reflect the environment in which he grew up. Such however was not the case as we see from the subsequent narrative. As I pointed out last week a person’s family background and the influences that are brought to bear upon them in their childhood can and often do shape and mould their future character and conduct and that being the case it is important for us as parents to pay diligent attention to the sort of atmosphere and sort of standards we are setting within our family environment as we raise our children. However I also pointed out that that whilst such things can and very of ten do influence the future character and conduct of a child they do not dictate it. Many a good parent who has created a godly family environment for their children to grow up in, in the hope that they will turn out to be fine Christian men and women has witnessed with brokenness of heart their son, their daughter turning ut to be quite the opposite. And there are parents who if the example they had set were followed and the moral and spiritual atmosphere of the home that they had created had been fully imbibed would never have expected their son or their daughter to turn out to be a godly young Christian man or woman and yet despite their family background that is exactly what happened. And so we concluded last week by stressing the principle of individual repsonsibility before God for ones personal character and conduct and acknowledging the sovereign grace of God in shaping and moulding us according to his purposes.
Now this evening as we continue our study of the life of Joseph we are going to return once again to the family home and we are going to trace the factors and the events which eventually led to Joseph being sold as a slave to the Ishmaelities.
As we return to Jospeh’s home life once again notice with me first of all this evening
1) Jospeh – Favoured by his Father
We learn from v3 of chapter 37 that Jacob “loved Joseph more than any of his other sons...”
This was a family in which favoritism was shown by the father towards at least one of his sons over and above the others. Jacob had a deeper affection for Jospeh than he had for his other children. The Bible gives us one reason why this was so but I am sure that this was not the only reason. We are told that he loved Jospeh more than the rest of his sons because “he had been born to him in his old age.” Now if we accept for a moment that this is the best way to translate the original Hebrew wording here, and I will come back to this in a minute, then it seems that one of the reasons why Jacob had a preferetial love for Jospeh over and above his other sons was because baby Jospeh came along very late in Jacob’s life, perhaps at a time when he thought he had reached his full quota of children and unlikely to father any more. It must have been a great disappointment to Jacob that he had not been able to Father any children through Rachel, the woman that he really and truly loved. Year after year she remained barren. Her infertility must have been as much a source of distress to him as it was to rachel herself. And well now Jacob was getting well on in years and of course the older he got the less likely it became that Rachel would ever have a child. But then the day arrived when Rachel no doubt ecstatic with excitement and with joy broke the news to him that she was pregnant and over the ensuing months Jacob eagerly awaited the birth of this child. It was a boy. Just what he wanted. What Joy it must have brought to him. How special this little child was in his eyes. This was the frist child that was conceived as a result of true love, and Jacob, now an old man, just adored him. So part of Jacob’s favoritism towards Jospeh was rooted in the fact that he was the child that Jacob never expected to have both because he himelf was getting on in years and humanly speaking thought that he was at the stage where he was unlikely to be able to father any more children and also because his beloved wife was unable ever to have children. The fact that he went on to have one other child by Rachel, Benjamin, did not take away from the fact that this first child of theirs was very special, an unexpected son in his old age to the woman he loved.