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Playing Favorites (Genesis 37:1-4)

September 3, 2020 | by: Gregg Hunter | 0 comments

Posted in: The Life of Joseph

We begin our new series on the Life of Joseph where most biographers would: with his childhood. Following the toledot (meaning “these are the generations of”) organization of Genesis, we see that Genesis 37:2 begins the final section of this great book: “these are the generations of Jacob.” This phrase does not exactly refer to Jacob, but rather to his son, Joseph.

Toledot is actually used in Genesis to refer to the descendant of the one named: “the book of the generations of Adam” (5:1) begins the section emphasizing Adam’s descendant, Noah; “these are the generations of Terah” (11:27) begins the section on Abraham; “these are the generations of Isaac” (25:19) begins the section on Isaac’s sons, Jacob and Esau; and here, “these are the generations of Jacob” begins the section on Jacob’s most treasured son, Joseph.


Please read Genesis 37:1-4.

As the youngest of Jacob’s children, except for Benjamin, Joseph should have had little standing in the family. The oldest son deserved more responsibility and authority, then the next oldest, then the next oldest, and so on. But Joseph is in the field with Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher, four brothers who are older than him and deserve more honor, and Joseph is the one who takes the position of authority by bringing a report of his older brothers to his father.

This doesn’t make any sense! Today, when a parent leaves the house, they usually leave the oldest child in charge. If you have a massive family, and you say to the baby before you leave, “now you let me know if your brothers and sisters behave while I’m gone, ok?”, then it is usually with a wink because everyone understands the joke and knows that one of the older children are really in charge.

But there is no joke here. Joseph takes the position of honor for himself, and this is accepted by his father because “Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his sons.” Israel then proclaims to the world his special love for Joseph by making him an expensive, flamboyant coat.

By treating Joseph with such love, and yet withholding his gracious affection from his other sons, Israel has now planted the seeds of dissension that will grow to break his family apart. Already, Joseph’s brothers “could not speak peacefully to him.” When those seeds of dissension grow, Joseph’s brothers will even contemplate murdering him and selling him into slavery.

As parents, we must treat each of our children uniquely, but we must also be adamant in demonstrating our unique love for each child.

God does this for us. God loves each one of His children with such passion that we know He would die for each one of us. In fact, He already did! Yet, He demonstrates His love to each one of us personally, in a unique way.

He demonstrated His love for us by sending His Son Jesus to die for us. In that way, He has proclaimed to the whole world that He loves His children.

But He also demonstrates His love for me as an individual in unique ways. I know that God loves me when I feel His love through my church family. I know that God loves me when I look at a sunset in the morning. I know that God loves me when I read His Word and He speaks to my heart. I know that God loves me uniquely, as if I’m His only child, but He also loves all of His children the same way. Every born-again believer knows that they are a child of God, and He loves them. If only Jacob had learned from our Heavenly Father how to love all of his children, maybe his precious son wouldn’t have been sent into slavery and prison.