If you’ve never received “the robe” of love and acceptance from the most important people in your life, learn how to receive that love and acceptance from God! Do you realize how completely and perfectly your Heavenly Father prizes you? 1 John 3:1 says, “See what love the Father has given us that we should be called children of God. And that is what we are.” Yes, that is what you are—thank God!
Going Deep // Focus: Genesis 37:3-4
Now 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. When 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.
Jealousy! That’s the not-so-silent killer in families of all types: the nuclear family, extended families, small groups, churches and the family of mankind. It always has been, it always will be—unless you call a stop to it in yours.
Genesis 37 contains the ongoing account of Jacob’s family, which through his twelve sons, has been singled out as the progenitor of the people of God. But this family is rife with all kinds of dysfunction—especially favoritism that has now passed through four generations—and sibling rivalry which ensues, that spawns animosity and hatred to levels that almost destroy this family.
What we find in Jacob’s unique love for Joseph is an imperfect love with which all parents—including your parents, and you as a parent—inadequately love their kids. I am sure there was more to the story than just one thing, but it was the special robe that Jacob gave Joseph that seems to unleash this torrent of jealousy in the eleven siblings against Joseph.
The robe is the expression of a father’s love and affection for his child. It represents what every child inherently wants, and desperately needs: the sense that they are special and valued. But when another child learns that they’ll never wear the robe, never have their parent’s favor, a hope in that child dies and typically, an unhealthy way of responding to the world is created. And favoritism—deliberate or not—unleashes currents of jealousy and envy that will erode the peace and harmony God intends for that little community.
What’s going on in Jacob’s family isn’t unusual. It happens in most every home to some degree. Joseph is favored because he’s the son of Jacob’s old age—and his favoritism takes a very concrete form when Jacob gave Joseph a robe—the NIV calls it, “a richly ornamented robe”, while other translations say “a robe with long sleeves”, but the King James famously translates it, “a coat of many colors.”
Every time Joseph wears the robe it reminds his brothers that their father will never love them like he loves Joseph. The text tells us three times of their growing “hatred” for Joseph. Interestingly they hate Joseph, but who’s at fault? Jacob! He’s the one that has played favorites, but they take it out on Joseph. Verse 11 says, “So his brothers were jealous of him.”
What’s interesting about this story is that Jacob knew the pain of not being dad’s favorite, of what it was like not to wear the robe, yet he recycles this dysfunction, favoring Joseph but leaving his other sons to know the pain he once knew. And out of jealousy they sell Joseph into slavery and deceive their dad into thinking that Joseph is dead. Yet their deception gets them no closer to what they desperately want: they haven’t won their father’s love; they’ve only lost their brother.
What about you, and your family? Perhaps sibling rivalry, envy and jealousy have broken the shalom of God in your little community. If you are a parent, I would challenge you to think about how you can give twelve robes instead of just one—to love each person uniquely as a special creation of God.
And if you are one who has never worn the robe in your family, and likely never will, I would suggest to you that in the place of envy, you learn to receive love and acceptance in new ways. Cultivate relationships in your faith community. Imperfect as they are, your Christian brothers and sisters will do their best to give the kind of affirmation and love you need.
But mostly, learn how to receive love from God! Do you realize how completely and perfectly your Heavenly Father loves and prizes you? One of my favorite verses, 1 John 3:1 says, “See what love the Father has given us that we should be called children of God. And that is what we are.”
Personalize and memorize this truth: “See what love the Father has given me, that I should be called a child of God, and that is what I am.”
Do that—because that is what you are!