Genesis 34-37: 3 Tips for Avoiding Family Conflict

bible genesis old testament commentary genesis 34 35 36 37 joseph jacob

Hello there! Hope everyone is having a wonderful week. Welcome back to our scripture commentary series.

Today’s four focus chapters are filled with many interesting happenings. The events described show us the parenting mistakes that lead to family conflict. By learning from these mistakes, we can avoid strife in our own homes.

A Quick Summary

In chapter 34, Jacob’s daughter Dinah is raped and kidnapped by Schechem the Hivite. In retaliation, Simeon and Levi cruelly slaughter the men of that city.

In Chapter 35, Jacob travels to Beth-el, where he builds an altar and sees God. The Lord renews his promises and confirms the change of Jacob’s name to Israel. Rachel dies giving birth to Benjamin. Reuben loses his birthright after sleeping with Bilhah. Jacob sees Isaac one last time before he passes away.

In Chapter 36, we read about Esau’s descendants.

Chapter 37 describes Joseph’s dreams and his sale into Egypt.

Here are the main takeaways:

Provide Firm Leadership

The incident with Simeon and Levi at Schechem demonstrates the cruel nature of these two men. But Jacob allows that to happen due to his inaction.

The sons of Jacob are rightfully grieved. Their sister had been raped and kidnapped! Rather than coming up with some kind of measure to fix the situation, Jacob “held his peace until [Schechem and his father Hamor] were come” (Genesis 34: 5).

The most likely explanation is that Jacob let his fears influence his judgment. Notice that at the end of the chapter, after Simeon and Levi have killed the men of Schechem and taken captive “all their little ones, and their wives” (Genesis 34: 29), Jacob is less concerned about the wrongness of the massacre than about angering the inhabitants of the region and making them rise against him (see verse 30).

While Schechem and Hamor seem like nice guys, what they did is very wrong. Jacob would have been justified in at least procuring his daughter’s safe return. If he had taken righteous action under the Lord’s guidance, he wouldn’t have given his sons opportunity to take matters into their own hands in a sinful way.

At home, parental leadership is vital. Rules, curefews, and limitations help keep children within the moral bounds God has set. In the absence of these, children create their own morality and inevitably go astray.

Eliminate Wordly Influences

After God commands Jacob and his house to go to Beth-el, Jacob curiously tells his family to “Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments” (Genesis 35: 2).

While it’s great that Jacob got to cleaning his house upon receiving important word from the Lord, it’s really something he should have done long before.

The presence of idols among Jacob’s family indicates that their hearts weren’t completely set in the Lord. Is it any wonder, then, that jealousies, betrayals, and discord continually followed them?

What unGodly influences are we permitting in our home? Unholy attitudes? Inappropriate media? Casual commandment-breaking?

Let’s have the determination and the character to make changes where necessary.

Discourage Inter-family Competition

The point of family is that love is unconditional, abundant, and free-flowing. But that’s the exact opposite of the family environment present in Jacob’s household.

Jacob’s wives compete for his affection by trying to outbreed one another. His sons fight over the birthright issue. At one point they want to kill Joseph. They end up selling him into slavery.

Unfortunately, the persistence of these feelings of competition is largely on Jacob.

For instance, he “loved also Rachel more than Leah” (Genesis 29: 30) and leaves Leah alone and lonely in bed most nights unless forced to go with her (see Genesis 30: 15-16).

Jacob also encourages the envyings among his sons by prizing Joseph so highly. He gives Joseph the coat of many colors and essentially set him on pedestal above his brothers.

Here, Joseph also takes some of the blame. While the dreams of prominence he has are true and from God, he lacks a lot of tact in saying things that would clearly make his brothers jealous.

Of course, Joseph’s brothers are in no way justified in conspiring against him. But Joseph does make the situation worse.

At home, we should make sure everyone feel equally loved, appreciated, cared about, and important. While competition is a natural part of many aspects of life (business, academics, sports), it has no place within a family. Our loved ones should never feel they have to compete for our affection.

Giving our spouse and each of our children one-on-one quality time makes a huge difference. So does organizing family service activities, projects, recreation, and other opportunities where children get to work together as a team.

Conclusion

Life is too short and our families are too precious to succumb to the petty jealousies and backstabbings common in Old Testament families.

By providing firm parental leadership, eliminating worldly influences, and doing our best to discourage feelings of competition, we can create a truly harmonious home–one that’s a bit of Heaven on Earth.

About the Author

Luis Miguel

Luis Antonio Miguel is a writer, marketer, and family man from South Florida. He started World Light Review as a way of promoting Gospel living in our modern world.

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