Family drama. None of your families have drama, right? Yeah, mine neither.
(I hope you don’t believe that.)
Actually, family drama is the stuff of life. We all have it.
Think about all the words we use to describe it. Some of you might remember the classic line from the sitcom Friends, “We were on a break!” Broken. It is a word that points to relationships that used to be close, but something happened. It isn’t just boyfriends and girlfriends that break up. It is sadly, also parents, kids, siblings.
Another word commonly used to describe family drama is calling a person the black sheep. Do you have black sheep in your family? Have you ever been the black sheep? Today we’re going to meet someone whose brothers treated him like a black sheep. How did he handle it?
We’ve started a series called Characters, looking at how God uses flawed people. This week we are looking at a guy named Joseph.
Last week we met Joseph’s father, Jacob. We skimmed very quickly over the section where Joseph was born. Imagine with me for a minute what it would be like for Joseph to be born into his specific family. He’s got 10 older brothers. But they’re not all from the same mom. In fact, there are actually four moms in the family. And all four moms live together in the same family! That’s right, his father Jacob had four wives. That’s called polygamy. As I mentioned last week, polygamy happens in the Old Testament. Not that God approves of it. There it was in Joseph’s family. What you need to know is that Joseph’s mom was Rachel, and of his father Jacob’s four wives, Rachel was Jacob’s first love and favorite. Joseph was their first son. Joseph also has a younger brother, Benjamin, but get this: during Benjamin’s birth, sadly, their mother Rachel dies. That is family Joseph grows up in. Imagine Joseph, growing up with no mom, a younger baby brother, three step moms (if you can call them that), 10 older half-brothers, and at least one half-sister in there too. And you think your family has issues! Believe it or not, the drama is about to get even worse for Joseph.
If you want to follow along in your Bible, open it to Genesis 37. In the beginning of chapter 37, we learn that Joseph is now 17 years old, and he is his father’s favorite son. Why? Well, remember that Jacob loved Joseph’s mom, Rachel, more than any of his other three wives, and Joseph was Rachel’s firstborn. So even though Joseph has a whole bunch of older brothers, Jacob looks to Joseph as the special one. He even gives Joseph a special cloak to wear.
We often refer to this as the coat of many colors. What kind of coat was this? Rainbow colored? Richly ornamented? Likely, Joseph’s coat was long-sleeved and had skirts, which was not conducive for work, and thus a sign that he might have been exempted from work, or didn’t do much work. His brothers had coats too, but theirs would have been short-sleeved, with no skirts, thus suitable for work. The special coat would normally have been given to the firstborn as sign of honor. In this case Jacob gave the coat to his 11th born, and that’s a recipe for family drama.
In Genesis 37:2-11 we see numerous story elements that set up a great divide between Joseph and his brothers. Read this passage and look for the family drama.
Did you see them? I see four.
First in verse 2, Joseph brings to his father a negative report about his brothers. He’s tattling! And when the one who is younger and isn’t working tells on the older ones who are working, what happens? Good feelings?
Next in verse 3 we read how their father Jacob (also named Israel) loved Joseph. The brothers saw it. I suspect most families have conversations where the children say to the parents, “So and so is your favorite,” and the parents disagree, of course. In this case, it was obvious. There was no disagreeing.
Third, in verse 4 we read that the brothers are very angry about Joseph being the favorite, even hating him. They were unable to speak to him on friendly terms. There was a lot of intense emotion.
Finally, and here is the kicker, look at verses 5-11 again. Joseph has multiple dreams and he tells the dreams to his family explaining that they describe his superiority over his brothers and father. None of them, including his father, are happy about this.
As I read this, I have to ask, was Joseph arrogant? You know how a favorite child can own their favoritism and get a big head about it? Is that happening inside Joseph? Does the fact that he revealed such a confrontational kind of dream, and not once, but multiple times, show that Joseph is prideful? Possibly. We don’t know for sure. Or was he just angry at his brothers’ meanness to him, trying to be vengeful to them? We don’t know. At the very least, I don’t believe he handled this right. He could have kept the dreams quiet. Or he could have told them only to his father, asking for advice on how to handle it. We would counsel people in a similar situation to handle their families differently from how Joseph handled his brothers. But we have to remember that he was 17, and he probably struggled with their anger toward him. Younger siblings often look up to their older siblings, and here is Joseph getting nothing but bitter anger from them? That would be hard to take, even for someone much older than a 17 year old.
Clearly, there was family drama, and Joseph doesn’t seem to be helping things. As a result the drama is far from over, and actually only gets worse. How do we decrease the drama? If you want to remove drama from your family’s life, check back in to the next post as we follow what happens in Joseph’s family.