But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him. Genesis 37:4 NRSV
I have a confession. For as long as I can remember I have always wanted people to like me, or better yet, to love me. I honestly try to like everyone and from a Christian standpoint I know I am called to love everyone. Consequently while I may hate things or situations, I do not typically use the word “hate” in reference to persons and I cannot really think of anyone I hate.
As an only child I did not have an older sibling, who would have been the first-born, and I did not have a younger sibling, who would have been the baby of the family. As the only one, I was the “favored” one. If something got broken or damaged, I could not blame the accident on someone else. If I got into trouble I could not attribute my actions to being lead astray by a sibling, but that did not sometimes prevent me from implicating some friends. An only child reaps the rewards and bears all the responsibilities of that status in the family. In a family where there are siblings, they often compete for their parent’s love and attention and also find themselves jealous of their older or younger brothers and/or sisters.
If we put ourselves into the story as siblings of Joseph, we must admit that it would be very difficult to come to terms with our father, Israel, favoring him with special gifts and privileges. It would be irritating to have this younger brother always putting us in our places by telling us how we would someday bow down to him. More than likely when Joseph’s brothers were not where they were expected to be, they must have thought to themselves when they saw Joseph coming in the distance, he will report back to our father our whereabouts and we will be in trouble once again. And they hated him … at first enough to kill him, and then to imprison him in a pit, and finally to sell him into slavery to some Ishmaelites. For all practical purposes, Joseph was now finally out of his brothers’ hair and this had been achieved without shedding his blood. Wouldn’t it be awful to hate a brother, or anyone for that matter, so much?! Some may say, “That’s easy for you to say … never having had an older or younger brother or sister!”
And putting myself in Joseph’s sandals, I think it would be awful to realize that my brothers or sisters hated me so much that they wished me dead! I would prefer to know whatever I was doing that caused them to hate me so. I would hope that I could change my behavior or perhaps be constructive in helping them to change their attitude toward me. Deep down I think we all want to be loved, and if that is true, then we all may need to be more diligent in demonstrating our love.
Dear God, it would be awful to hate and to be hated. We are so glad that we know what it is like to be loved and that You call us to love one another. When our closest relatives get on our nerves, help us to continue to show love to them even when we dislike what they say or do. Guard our hearts from bitterness and hatred so that we experience joy in life, inner peace and peace with all. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.