Biblical Fathers: Jacob

It's Father's Day on Sunday, and this week Bible Society is focusing on some biblical fathers. Some of them get it right, some don't – but they all tell us something about the challenges of fatherhood today.

2. Jacob

After his troubled relationship with his own father and his struggles with his brother Esau, Jacob becomes a father himself. He has 12 sons, as everyone knows, but he had daughters as well (Genesis 37.35); the only one whose name we know is Dinah.

Once again, favouritism was at the root of the problem. 'Jacob loved Joseph more than all his other sons, because he had been born to him when he was old' (Genesis 37.3). He singled him out for favours (the famous coat of many colours, for instance) and it looks as though Joseph didn't behave very wisely; he tells tales of his brothers (verse 2) and tells them all about his dreams of glory (verses 5–9). Not surprisingly perhaps, his brothers can't stand him. Joseph is sold into slavery in Egypt, where he rises to be Pharaoh's right-hand man and ends up rescuing his family from starvation.

Not all stories of family breakdown have happy endings. In this case, Jacob failed to act wisely with his gifted and talented son, and years of shame and sadness followed. But as well as the joy of reunion and reconciliation, there's another sign of grace. It looks as though Benjamin has replaced Joseph as his father's favourite. But rather than hating him, the brothers love him and value him for their father's sake (44.30–34). They have learned their lesson, and they aren't the same people they were.

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