Favoritism turns out to be a common theme in the Old Testament, especially in the lives of Isaac and Jacob.
Isaac had twin sons named Jacob, the younger, and Esau, his favorite. Esau was a man’s man, a skillful hunter, captain of the football team and homecoming king. Jacob was smaller than Esau, quiet, unassuming, a computer whiz and captain of the chess team. Instead of hunting wild game, Jacob would rather work in the kitchen all with his mother, Rebekah. Most fathers would have a difficult time not favoring Esau over Jacob. Tragedy unveils when fathers like Isaac openly display their feelings towards sons who are acclaimed with public distinction. The problem only intensifies within the family when Rebekah manipulates and interacts on behalf of her favored son.
Jacob soon outsmarts Esau and tricks him out of his birthright. Then with Rebekah serving as an accomplice, steals his father’s blessing from him as well. An angered Esau sought bloody vengeance, causing Jacob to flee for his life. Sounds like the perfect storyline for a TV movie, but God shows His infinite wisdom by working beyond Isaac’s preference and Jacob’s deceitfulness and still uses their lives to further His kingdom on earth.
And favoritism doesn’t end with Jacob.
In fact, the book of Genesis continues to evoke favoritism and seethe with fierce sibling rivalry. Jacob patterns his father’s behavior by displaying strong feelings toward his son, Joseph. He is the one born from his dearly departed Rachel. Jacob’s other wife, Leah, bore many sons who grew up to hate and despise Joseph. One day, the young Joseph had the gall to proudly prophesy to his older stepbrothers that he would eventually rule over them. A beautiful new coat given to Joseph by Jacob, further enraged the envious brothers. They plotted to kill him, but instead decided to sell the young boy as a slave to a travelling tradesman and be rid of him forever. The blood of an animal was carefully poured into the shredded gift to serve as evidence of Joseph’s gruesome death from the jaws of a wild beast. Jacob was overcome with grief when he clutched the blood garment thinking he lost his beloved son.
Once again, God turns a tragedy into a blessing. The inspirational and hope-filled story of Joseph’s life in Egypt revealed God’s wonderful plan for His people. Joseph eventually was placed in a position of high authority, second in command to Pharaoh, and saved the lives of his family and all Jewish people during a time of severe famine.
Even the hero King David struggled in his role of being a father.
David was a great soldier, talented musician, a might leaders, but historically more well known for succumbing to temptation. He was the proud father of the wise Solomon, son of Bathsheba, and was also father of sons who brought him nothing but grief. The Scriptures reveal David’s abilities as a father by proclaiming point blank, “His father [David] had never interfered with [his son] by asking, ‘Why do you behave as you do?’” (1 Kings 1:6) This verse specifically refers to one of David’s sons named Adonijah.
Adonijah was handsome and popular throughout the kingdom and very full of himself. He was the Old Testament version of Gaston in the old Disney animated movie, “Beauty and the Beast.” He secretly positioned himself to be the next king with an authoritative coup. Word of his son’s plot reached David’s ailing ears and he quickly fulfilled his oath by proclaiming Solomon as successor to his throne. Adonijah’s followers heard the news and quickly scattered with fear and trembling. With no chance of victory, Adonijah submitted to Solomon’s authority and pleaded for mercy. Another son by the name of Absalom would also carry out a successful coup only to overthrown by David’s loyal friends.
David could have been spared from heartache and disappointment if he would have taken the time to “interfere” with his sons. The world “interfere” is boldly used to describe a father’s important role of teaching and disciplining his children. The whole first chapter of 1 Kings vividly portrays an example of how a father’s neglect in raising his sons properly can create a large dividend of grief.