Unfavorable Favorite

Genesis 37:1-4

1Jacob lived in the land where his father had stayed, the land of Canaan.

2This 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 Zilpah, his father’s wives, and he brought their father a bad report about them.

3Now 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. 4When 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.

“Spoiled Brat”

Do you know a “spoiled brat” who obtained whatever he wanted as a child, he has never been asked to help with household chores, in short, his parents just let him to do whatever pleases him, and that person grew up a fine gentleman?

The children of Job were “spoiled brats.” They have material abundance that this world can offer most people would envy in their generation. Job was blameless and upright in the eyes of God. He feared God and stayed away from evil. He was wealthy and considered to be the greatest man in his community. And, his 7 sons and 3 daughters were party lovers and drinkers.

But one tragic day, Job lost all his children, lost his material possessions, lost the respect of his wife and friends, and his health had deteriorated. He was left skin and bones, and nobody was envious of him in that pitiful situation.

Yet, even with his most unpleasant and undesirable experiences, Job kept his integrity and continued to trust the Lord. It says in Job 42:12, 12The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part.

Have you been envious of children who were raised in a wealthy family? Remember what happened to the children of Job who were party lovers because of the material abundance of their parents. Wealth can’t assure life in its fullness.

In comparison, growing in scarcity or deprivation cannot prevent success. An orphan girl lost both her parents. She was taken care by his cousin, and they were forced to be exiled. She did not have material abundance yet she became a queen. It says in Esther 2:20, 20Esther had kept secret her family background and nationality just as Mordecai had told her to do, for she continued to follow Mordecai’s instructions as she had done when he was bringing her up.

Would you say that Job was bad father when his children died? Would you say that Mordecai was good guardian because Esther became queen? Job was blameless, upright, feared God and stayed away from evil. And God was pleased with Job and even boast about Job’s righteousness before his angels.

Jesus warned in Luke 12:15, 15“Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

Abundance or scarcity doesn’t control our future. God does! He loves us! He may allow undesirable experiences to test our faith and for His glory. It states in John 11:3-4, 3So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” 4When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”

Death is the most difficult problem of mankind. Yet, the Lord Jesus allowed his most beloved friend Lazarus to suffer and died. Didn’t Christ care about him?

Of course, He cared about him, but it was for His glory that God lets it happen.

The life story of Jacob as a believer, father, and husband may shed light through realistic incident why God may allow troubles for His glory. The Lord blessed Jacob abundantly but his children grew with different behaviors. Jacob may have favored Joseph because he was the only one he can rely upon. Joseph did not cover up but reported the bad behaviors of his half-brothers.

1. Report

1Jacob lived in the land where his father had stayed, the land of Canaan.

2This 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 Zilpah, his father’s wives, and he brought their father a bad report about them.

Among Jacob’s children, Joseph’s life story was given more significance than his other siblings. It so happened, that he also became his father’s favorite son. Nonetheless, he had the most exemplary character, he behaved properly, but his brothers hated him. In spite of his troubles, the Lord was with Joseph.

The bad report about his brothers that Joseph told his father was not elaborated in the narratives. Did the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah venture on a very naughty escapade? But why? They may have felt lesser love and care from their father. Their mothers Bilhah and Zilpah were servants of Jacob’s wives Rachel and Leah. Indeed, children explore mischievous stunts just to attract attention.

Did Joseph become arrogant being the favorite son? Did Joseph want his brothers to be punished? Probably! He may have reported their mischief so that they won’t repeat again, perhaps. Most of the time, we hate when others report bad things about us. We want others to tell only the good things we do, right?

It says in Proverbs 28:23, 23Whoever rebukes a person will in the end gain favor rather than one who has a flattering tongue.

To rebuke somebody, a friend or just a recent acquaintance, requires s discerning spirit. There’s proper timing for rebuke. We may say that we rebuke them because we care for them but they may not necessarily accept it. Mild or harsh, not everyone is ready to appreciate a rebuke. Why?

It says in Proverbs 9:8, 8Do not rebuke mockers or they will hate you; rebuke the wise and they will love you.

Commander Naaman

Naaman the Aramean commander was a valiant, highly regarded soldier because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram but he had leprosy. His Israelite servant advised him to go and see Elisha to be healed. Namaan went and expected Prophet Elisha to perform some kind of healing ritual but did not.

Elisha did not even come out of his house to check on Naaman’s disease. It narrated in 2 Kings 5:10-12, 10Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.” 11But Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. 12Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage.

As commander of the Aramean army, Naaman felt disrespected. He was expecting Elisha to come out, and perhaps, perform spiritual ritual like other spiritual healers that he may have observed. He failed to see an opportunity to be healed. He just assumed that Elisha’s advice was a mockery of his ailment because the rivers of Damascus were far better than the Jordan River.

However, his servants may have sensed Naaman was just over sensitive, and they did not hesitate to rebuke him. They wanted him to be cured. It implies their great respect of him. In 2 Kings 5:13-15, 13Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” 14So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy. 15Then Naaman and all his attendants went back to the man of God. He stood before him and said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. So please accept a gift from your servant.”

If you sense that the person can’t appreciate a rebuke and you really care about your relationship with that person, would you dare? A rebuke can expose if a person is wise or not. A foolish person hates to be rebuked. In contrast, a wise person wants to learn from his mistake. He wants to improve. You’ll find out that a wise person will love you even more after a timely rebuke.

2. Love

3Now 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.

Why did Israel love Joseph more? Why not Benjamin the youngest son? Joseph was born when Jacob was 91 years old and Benjamin 7 years later. We can easily compute the age of Jacob by deducting from available biblical records. When Jacob went to Egypt, he told Pharaoh that he was 130 years old.

It says in Genesis 47:9, 9And Jacob said to Pharaoh, “The years of my pilgrimage are a hundred and thirty.

It also says in Genesis 41:46, 46Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

Jacob, who was also called Israel, had not traveled to Egypt yet when Pharaoh promoted Joseph because there was abundance for 7 years. And, when the 7 years of abundance had ended, Joseph was already 37 years old. It says in Genesis 41:53-54, 53The seven years of abundance in Egypt came to an end, 54and the seven years of famine began, just as Joseph had said. 

The severe famine affected not only the entire Egypt but also Canaan. And Jacob sent his sons to buy food when heard that there was food in Egypt. On their 2nd journey, Joseph revealed himself to his brothers and said that the famine will extend longer. In Genesis 45:6, 6For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping.

It’s been 2 years of famine when Joseph instructed his brothers to take to Egypt their father Jacob and their families. So, Joseph was 39 years old when Israel came to Egypt and told Pharaoh that he was 130 years old. To subtract or take away 39 from 130, it’s 91. Joseph was born when Jacob was 91-years old.

The computation of Jacob’s age based on the circumstances of Joseph, how does it relate to Joseph as Jacob’s favorite son? Joseph has an exceptional faith in God as compared to his siblings. His life story was very significant to know for certain the age of Jacob when Joseph was born.

When it says, “Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age,” did Jacob love Joseph more than his other sons because when he was very old when Joseph was born? If he favored Joseph more than his other sons because Joseph was born when he was an old man, then, why not Benjamin the youngest son?

Remarkably, verse 3 sparks curiosity to ask Jacob’s age when Joseph was born which could lead to a wider interest about the circumstances of Joseph, and come to know what the Lord has done in his life. And, it all ends to God’s glory.

It says in Genesis 39:2, 2The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master.

In Genesis 39:5, 5From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the Lord was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field.

In Genesis 39:23, 23The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did. 

The blessing that God has bestowed to Jacob transmitted in the life of his sons but more apparently in the life of Joseph. Probably, the love that Jacob had with Joseph must have been more obvious when they went to Egypt.

Anyway, the commentary part of the narratives that says, “Jacob loved Joseph more than any of his other sons,” was a description narrated not by his sons but his descendants, and more specifically Moses, the writer of Genesis.

So, when it says that, “Jacob loved Joseph more than any of his other sons because Joseph was born when Jacob was in his old age,” it should be the age of Jacob when Joseph was born and not because he was an old man that we might be curious about. Why? After Joseph was born, another son has been when Jacob was older, Benjamin-the only son of Jacob born in the promise land.

Yet, Jacob loved Joseph more than Benjamin. So, it was not about the being an old man that Jacob loved Joseph more than his brothers. Although, it was easier to view the phrase, “born him in his old age,” if you ask the question why Jacob loved Joseph more and not Benjamin who was the youngest, it invites interesting discussion about Joseph and his circumstance.

And more information was told about Joseph’s life story than Benjamin’s.

Nevertheless, Jacob practically showed his love for Joseph when he made an ornate robe for Joseph but didn’t make any for his other sons. An ornate robe may have been very desirable, and Joseph’s siblings hated him because of it.

3. Hate

4When 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.

Have you ever felt unloved by your parents because they gave your siblings something you desired but you’ve got nothing? The ornate robe that Jacob made for Joseph can be properly interpreted as colorful robe. It may not necessarily be the color that makes it special robe but it’s an extraordinary kind of robe that was rare or not commonly available in the market in those days.

Perhaps, to have such kind of robe would identify the owner as exceptional or belong to the elite class, if you would accept that. And, it’s only proper that Joseph’s brothers were envious, and they did not like that he had been given such special privilege. We can easily observe such envy not just among siblings.

It says in Proverbs 14:30, 30A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.

The Lord Jesus teaches in Mark 7:20-23, 20He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. 21For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”

Envy is related to murder, greed, and foolishness. When envy prevailed in the life of Jacob’s sons, they planned to kill Joseph but soon, they become greedy and foolish so that they sold Joseph to merchants going to Egypt.

Charlie Munger

          Are you envious of the wealth of rich people? Have you heard of the name Charlie Munger, yet? He is the 95-year-old right-hand man of billionaire Warren Buffett. Charlie is worth $1.7 billion, accordingly. When asked about his secret to life is, to a long and happy life, “it’s easy, because it’s so simple,” he said.

He advised: “Don’t have a lot of envy or resentment. Don’t overspend your income. Stay cheerful in spite of your troubles. Deal with reliable people. Do what you’re supposed to do. Staying cheerful is a wise thing to do. You have to let go of negative feelings. And can you be cheerful when you’re absolutely mired in deep hatred and resentment? Of course you can’t,” Munger said.

Interestingly, the comments posted under the article about Charlie Munger exposed envy from many readers. The envious readers viewed and commented that the wealth of Munger is the source of his long and happy life because he can hire good chef and eat delicious meals, and not worry about monthly bills.

Others have admitted and acknowledged what Munger advised that contentment with what one has and not envious what others have can add to happy life. It seems like Munger has read Proverbs 17:22, which says, 22A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

Worry, envy, or resentment would certainly crush the bones. A cheerful heart it what we all desire, and we can ask the Lord to give us cheerful heart. And, we are instructed to be filled with the Holy Spirit. The fruit of the Holy Spirit is the summary of the very basic element of satisfied life.

Joseph may have found the secret of satisfied life. Receiving an ornate robe from his father may not be the source of satisfied life but served as exhibit to the desirable life he had so that Jacob favored him more than his other sons.

The life story of Joseph is a narrative of unfavorable favorite person.

It’s paradoxical, a contrasting reality in life that we may experience. Of course, we like to be loved but we should not resent those who don’t favor us. And as long as the Lord is with us, sooner than we can realize, the Lord’s design for us is the best life we can ever experience in this world and in the next life.

Believers are unfavorable favorites also. In the eyes of non-believers, our Christian lifestyle is unfavorable, but with the Lord, we are favored.

><((‘> … ><(((‘> … tmec\2019… <‘)))>< … <‘))><

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.